Lords of the Desert

The Battle Between the United States and Great Britain for Supremacy in the Modern Middle East


By James Barr

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A path-breaking history of how the United States superseded Great Britain as the preeminent power in the Middle East, with urgent lessons for the present day

We usually assume that Arab nationalism brought about the end of the British Empire in the Middle East — that Gamal Abdel Nasser and other Arab leaders led popular uprisings against colonial rule that forced the overstretched British from the region.

In Lords of the Desert, historian James Barr draws on newly declassified archives to argue instead that the US was the driving force behind the British exit. Though the two nations were allies, they found themselves at odds over just about every question, from who owned Saudi Arabia’s oil to who should control the Suez Canal. Encouraging and exploiting widespread opposition to the British, the US intrigued its way to power — ultimately becoming as resented as the British had been. As Barr shows, it is impossible to understand the region today without first grappling with this little-known prehistory.



“AH ENOCH, DEAR ENOCH! HE ONCE SAID SOMETHING TO ME I NEVER understood,” Anthony Eden admitted in retirement. The former British prime minister was recalling a conversation that he and Enoch Powell had had during the late 1940s. The Conservative Party was then in opposition; Eden, at that stage widely regarded as the best foreign secretary Britain had ever had, had been picking his formidably intelligent colleague’s brains about housing policy before giving a speech.

“I’ve told you all I know about housing, and you can make your speech accordingly,” said Powell. “Can I talk to you about something that you know all about and I know nothing?” he continued. “I want to tell you that in the Middle East our great enemies are the Americans.”

“You know, I had no idea what he meant,” Eden reflected all those years later. “I do now.”

With his chilly stare Powell came across as slightly unhinged, an impression that his incendiary later prophecy about immigration would only reinforce. But on this, at least, there is no question that Powell was right. Powell had spent the pivotal years of the war in the Middle East. He had witnessed the fraught Casablanca conference between Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943 where, the president’s chief of staff admitted, “there was too much anti-British feeling on our side.” And he was by no means the only man to see Britain and the United States as rivals in the region. His political opponent Richard Crossman wrote that the Americans represented “the greatest danger to British rule in the Middle East today,” after visiting Palestine in 1946. Nor was the feeling confined to the British. Two years later the American spy Kim Roosevelt, who had also served in Cairo in the war, remembered “times when British representatives on the spot were, in defiance of London’s instructions, doing all in their power to knife their American opposite numbers and… Americans on the scene whose every act was inspired by a desire to ‘do the British in’.” A further, postwar tour of the area reinforced his view that “actually Americans and British in the Middle East get along rather badly.”

All this is now forgotten history. During the Cold War, Britain and the United States tried not to draw attention to their differences, and to this day the British government retains over a hundred-meters-worth of files about its ally that it would rather not declassify. It is clearly best not to let too much light in upon the magic. This policy of secrecy and the Anglo-American coalitions in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and in Iraq again after 2003 have helped obscure a fact that was once common knowledge: from 1942 until Britain’s exit from the Gulf in 1971, Britain and the United States were invariably competitors in the Middle East and often outright rivals. As this book will show, the joint Anglo-American effort to oust the Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953—so often produced as evidence of Anglo-American collusion—was the exception, not the rule.

THIS IS A fascinating chapter in a long-running story because the Middle East has served as an arena for great power conflict since the beginning of recorded time. In the first half of the twentieth century, Britain and France were the great powers of the day. Midway through the First World War they carved up the Ottomans’ Arab territory between them and, once they had won the war, then subdivided it into mandates, which they went on to rule for the best part of thirty years. The French left in 1946, chased out by Lebanese and Syrian nationalists who had had surreptitious British help. Any British sense of victory was short-lived because a new contest, with the United States, then followed.

Britain’s original motive for wanting to control the Middle East was primarily strategic: by dominating a belt of territory stretching from Egypt to Iran it could control the route between Europe and India. Yet, by the time that Indian independence in 1947 rendered that rationale redundant, the British had already seized on a new reason to remain there—oil. British companies’ domination of Middle Eastern oil production generated vital revenues for the Crown, improved Britain’s perennially poor balance of payments, and enabled the country to defend itself in the event of a war with Soviet Russia. The belief that oil was, as one minister put it, a “wasting asset” that would run out by about the end of the century—if it had not already been superseded by atomic energy (which many people at that time expected would be powering cars by now)—encouraged short-term thinking and one hope in particular: the British might manage to resist mounting nationalist pressures for longer than the oil flowed out the ground.

Oil and the vast profits that it generated influenced almost everything that happened after 1947 in this story: they were a constant source of tension between Washington and London. Compared to the British government—which owned a majority of the biggest oil company operating in the region and, through it, held a stake in another—the United States seemed far less organized. The goals of its government and oil industry were frequently at odds. Once the Americans had realized the sheer scale of likely regional oil reserves, the speculative concession acquired by a U.S. company, the Arabian American Oil Company or Aramco, to hunt for oil in Saudi Arabia acquired a new, strategic significance.

Whereas short-termism led the British to defend their own interests aggressively, the Americans’ prime interest was initially commercial, which made them more realistic and flexible. Under pressure from the Saudis from the late 1940s onward, but knowing it could count on its own government’s support, Aramco agreed to split its profits fifty-fifty with the Saudi government. Not only did this suddenly increase the money that the Saudis could spend to advance their own regional ambitions—which caused huge political instability—but it also set a precedent that the American company’s British rivals refused to follow. That miscalculation triggered a series of events, starting with Iran’s nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s assets in Iran, which first stripped Britain of that crucial imperial asset and prestige, and left the region’s once-great and now-denuded power fighting increasingly desperately to cling on.

The Americans knowingly abetted this process, a fact that Eden, despite his later claim of ignorance, knew full well at the time. Six months after El Alamein—at a time when the British still directly ruled Palestine and occupied half of Persia and whispered in the ears of the kings of Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq—the foreign secretary wrote a memorandum in which he acknowledged how difficult the Anglo-American relationship in the Middle East had become. In it, he summed up the threat to Britain’s position in the region as being “a major nationalistic revival… of two contending forces, Arabism and Zionism” stoked by “Zionist propagandists in the United States.” As Eden’s use of the word revival implied, the British had seen both before. What was new, and ominous, in the foreign secretary’s eyes, was how the Zionists were now successfully courting the support of the United States. And in due course the leading Arab nationalist of the era, Eden’s nemesis Gamal Abdel Nasser, would as well.

The British intended to enlist the Americans to deal with both these threats. They hoped to thwart Zionist ambitions by persuading the U.S. government to recognize their privileged position in Palestine. If they could also convince Washington to support the postwar economic system for the region that they had dreamed up, they reasoned that they might prolong their dominance of the Middle East as a whole.

Today, this strategy seems obviously flawed, but in 1945 the British did not have the advantage of hindsight. They expected their counterparts to lapse into their prewar state of isolation, just as they had done after the First World War. When this did not happen, the British then found themselves in competition with a formidable rival—the very ally they had assumed would be their closest friend. This is the story of their struggle.





The Beginning of the End

FLANKED BY THE LORD MAYOR OF LONDON AND THE ARCHBISHOP OF Canterbury, Winston Churchill stood up in the Mansion House on November 10, 1942, to deliver some good news: Britain had at last won a decisive victory in the Middle East. Rightly, the prime minister sensed that the war had reached a turning point, but he was determined that his words should not encourage complacency. “Now this is not the end,” he went on to warn, before turning the phrase for which his speech is famous. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”1

Whatever the moment represented, it had certainly been a long time coming. For three whole years the news had invariably been bad. “In our wars the episodes are largely adverse, but the final results have hitherto been satisfactory,” Churchill reflected, before reminding his audience how “in the last war we were uphill almost to the end.” Then he quoted a former Greek prime minister who had once observed that Britain always won one battle—the last. “It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time,” he suggested, to laughter. It was the sound not of hilarity but of relief.

For “largely adverse” was a typically British understatement when used to describe a war in which disaster had pursued disaster. After Norway and Dunkirk in 1940, and Greece and Crete in 1941, there was no hiding the fact that 1942 had also been calamitous so far. In February the German pocket battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had steamed through the Straits of Dover unopposed. A few days later Singapore surrendered, and the Japanese marched eighty-five thousand British Empire troops into a captivity many of them would not survive. Churchill had depicted the thirty-three-thousand-strong garrison of the Libyan port of Tobruk as the linchpin of British resistance to Hitler. But in June, while he was in Washington to confer with Franklin D. Roosevelt, it too had capitulated. He would not forget how the president had wordlessly passed him a pink slip of paper bearing the news before solicitously enquiring if there was anything he could do to help. “Defeat is one thing;” Churchill wrote in his memoirs, “disgrace is another.”2

The beleaguered prime minister had returned from Washington to London to face down criticisms that his strategy was failing as well as calls to resign his role as minister of defence—a tactic that he reckoned was the first step along the road to forcing him out altogether. He was a man who “wins debate after debate and loses battle after battle,” claimed one skeptic during a parliamentary debate on his direction of the war. Although Churchill easily survived the vote of confidence that followed the debate and set off soon afterward to see the situation in Egypt for himself, it was hard to deny that his critics had a point, not least when the Dieppe Raid proved a fiasco that August.3

At the Mansion House, Churchill now finally had something he could brandish at his critics. “Now we have a new experience. We have victory—a remarkable and definite victory,” he announced, to cheers. At the end of October, a predominantly British force had attacked the Germans at El Alamein; a few days later, once the midterm elections had passed, United States troops landed at the other end of North Africa. The German army, now in a headlong retreat to avoid being pinched between the Americans and British, had been “very largely destroyed as a fighting force,” the prime minister declared.

If, in the first half of his speech, Churchill sounded cautiously optimistic, in the second half, he bristled with defiance because he knew what would come next. Having been a minister during the previous war, he knew from personal experience that the prospect of the end of the current one—no matter how long the final victory might be in coming—would again trigger a debate between Britain and the United States about the shape of the peace.

The signs were that history was repeating itself. From the safety of the other side of the Atlantic, Roosevelt was already arguing that there was no room for empire in the postwar world, just as his predecessor Woodrow Wilson had done during and after the last war, resisted by the British all the way. When, at the armistice in 1918, Churchill’s private secretary declared that he was so grateful for the American contribution to the victory that he wanted to kiss Uncle Sam “on both cheeks,” Churchill had retorted: “But not on all four.”4

By November 1942 Churchill must have feared that, were Uncle Sam to present his other two cheeks to him, it might be difficult to say no. Over a year earlier, after Britain allied herself with Stalin following Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, he had received a summons to a meeting off Newfoundland from Roosevelt: he crossed the ocean half hoping that the president might declare war there and then. He was to be disappointed, for over dinner on August 9, 1941, Roosevelt, who was wondering what secret deal the British might have stitched up with the Russians, instead asked him to commit to a joint declaration respecting the principles of self-determination and free trade for “all peoples.” Churchill knew that both concepts had ominous implications for Britain and her empire, but he did not dare annoy the man on whom his hopes of victory depended. He and his advisers hurriedly drafted the declaration, which Roosevelt then significantly rewrote, but Churchill then managed to dilute the rewrite somewhat by deleting the president’s reference to trade “discrimination”—the practice on which imperial preference* hinged. But he had no choice but to agree to what would become known as the Atlantic Charter, and it was clear the issues that it broached were not going to go away, particularly once the United States started footing the bill for Britain’s war effort and then, after Pearl Harbor, joined battle herself.

Knowing that he could not win the war single-handedly, Churchill had tried from the outset to “drag the Americans in.” Now that he had managed to do so, he was having to confront the consequences of that strategy’s success. It was only at the Mansion House after the victory at El Alamein that he felt strong enough to mount a sturdy public defense of the empire against the incoming American assault. Although he readily acknowledged that it was American weapons and equipment that had finally enabled a fight with the Germans at El Alamein on equal terms, he emphasized that the battle had been “fought throughout almost entirely by men of British blood.” For a year the British Empire had provided the only resistance to Hitler, he argued, and he had no plans to acquiesce to its breakup now. Britain was not fighting “for profit or expansion,” he insisted, rebutting an accusation that was regularly made—and not just by the enemy—and the time had come to make something else very clear. “We mean to hold our own,” he stated, to cheers. “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire… I am proud to be a member of that vast commonwealth and society of nations and communities gathered in and around the ancient British monarchy, without which the good cause might well have perished from the earth. Here we are, and here we stand, a veritable rock of salvation in this drifting world.” It is often assumed that these pointed remarks were aimed at Roosevelt. But in fact, Churchill had another American in mind.

NINE WEEKS EARLIER, when the victory proclaimed by Churchill was only a distant and uncertain prospect, a four-engine American bomber had landed at Cairo airport with an important passenger aboard. Once it had taxied to a halt, its padded side door swung open to reveal a large, familiar-looking man dressed in a rumpled suit and pith helmet, who then half raised a hand to acknowledge the small crowd that had turned out to greet him.

Wall-to-wall press coverage of the U.S. presidential election two years earlier made Wendell C. Willkie instantly recognizable: he was the Republican candidate, the dark horse from Ellwood, Indiana, with the booming voice and seismic handshake who had challenged Roosevelt for the presidency but lost. Now made a special envoy by the very man who had defeated him, he had come to Egypt on a thirty-one-thousand-mile odyssey around the world.

This journey was to be a formative experience for Willkie—and one that had dramatic implications for Britain, for when the American politician set out from the East Coast at the end of August 1942, he was one of the most energetic American supporters of Britain. But by the time he reached the West Coast forty-nine days later, he had turned into one of her most outspoken critics. With hindsight it is clear that Willkie helped to trigger the beginning of the end of Britain’s empire in the Middle East.

After posing for press photographs beside his aircraft, Willkie left for the American embassy where the ambassador briefed him on the fragile situation. Ten weeks had passed since the German general Erwin Rommel captured Tobruk and chased the British back to their prepared defenses at El Alamein, just seventy-five miles west of Alexandria. Until that point, Cairo had escaped the rigors of the conflict. The atmosphere of easygoing calm was shattered on July 1. On what was soon dubbed Ash Wednesday, the British embassy and military headquarters, in anticipation of an imminent German attack, incompetently burned their files, scattering charred fragments of secret information and seeding panic across the city.

Willkie and Montgomery study a map, August 1942.

It was soon after this that Churchill had appeared in Cairo. Having survived the vote of confidence in Parliament, he then flew to Egypt so that he could visit the front, fire the general in command, and insist that his order to fight to the last man must, if necessary, be carried out. All the same the American ambassador was “not hopeful about the future,” Willkie recollected. He blamed “British bungling.”5

The precarious military situation was made worse by the fact that relations between the British and the Egyptians were awful. The British had invaded Egypt in 1882 in order to take over the Suez Canal and safeguard the route to India, and they had never left. “We do not govern Egypt,” Britain’s first consul-general in the country would claim, “we only govern the governors of Egypt.” It was a subtlety lost on the general population. The British let Egypt remain part of the Ottoman Empire, run by a khedive who paid homage to the Ottoman sultan, an arrangement that lasted until the Ottomans declared war on Britain in November 1914. At that point the British dismissed the khedive, declared his uncle sultan, and made Egypt a protectorate. That lasted until 1922, when the sultan declared himself king and the country independent.6

Egyptian independence had come at a cost that made it meaningless, however. To gain their freedom, the Egyptians were obliged to acquiesce to a treaty that granted Britain the right to station ten thousand troops along the Suez Canal and made her responsible for defending the country in the event of an attack, an arrangement that sowed the seeds of the 1956 Suez crisis. The outbreak of war in 1939 brought hundreds of thousands of British imperial troops back to Egypt and with them roaring inflation and food shortages. The invasiveness of the measures required to defend the country would cause endless friction between the Egyptians and the British.

The man at the center of this trouble, whom Willkie met after his briefing from the United States ambassador, was the current British ambassador to Egypt, Sir Miles Lampson. A six-foot-five-inch bully who had long believed Egypt should simply be sucked into the British Empire, he operated out of an office at 10 Sharia Tolumbat in the city, which was known for short as Number Ten. Willkie soon realized why. Although nominally the most senior diplomat in Egypt, Lampson was “for all practical purposes its actual ruler.”7

What riled Lampson most was the way in which Egypt’s king, Farouq, allowed pro-Axis sentiment in his country to flourish. Six months earlier, on February 4, 1942, he had tried unsuccessfully to lance the boil, causing an incident that had only made the situation worse. Following the resignation of the then Egyptian prime minister, the ambassador had issued an ultimatum to Farouq to ask a more compliant politician to take charge or else to abdicate. When, at six o’clock that evening, the king declined to do as he was told, the burly British pro-consul then paid a visit to the royal residence, the Abdeen Palace, with soldiers, tanks, and a letter of resignation, which he presented to Farouq for signature.

Farouq backed down, and Lampson confessed in his diary at the end of a long evening that he “could not have more enjoyed” the confrontation, but the cathartic effect of what would become known as the Abdeen Palace incident was brief. The following day he noted how “we are still faced with the fact that we have a rotter on the Throne and if things go badly with us he will be liable to stab us in the back.” His relationship with the king was a write-off.8

Willkie met both Lampson and Farouq and then headed to the front to see General Bernard Montgomery, who had just taken charge. Given the American ambassador’s views on British military prowess, Willkie’s own expectations were low, but he found Montgomery’s “wiry, scholarly, intense, almost fanatical personality” most impressive. Egged on by the British general, who had repelled an attack by Rommel six days earlier, he declared to the reporters who were accompanying him that they were witnessing “the turning point of the war.”9

For Willkie the burning question was what the British thought would happen once the war was won. Between Cairo and the frontline, he broached it with a group of British officials over dinner in Alexandria. “I tried to draw out these men… on what they saw in the future, and especially in the future of the colonial system and of our joint relations with the many peoples of the East,” he later wrote. Their answers unsettled him. “What I got was Rudyard Kipling, untainted even with the liberalism of Cecil Rhodes.… these men, executing policies made in London, had no idea that the world was changing.… The Atlantic Charter most of them had read about. That it might affect their careers or their thinking had never occurred to any of them.” It was just as he had feared, and he was in no doubt that the British prime minister was to blame.10

WILLKIE HAD BEEN skeptical about Winston Churchill ever since his first encounter with the British prime minister in early 1941, ten months before the United States entered the war. His defeat by Roosevelt was recent, but his presidential ambitions were undimmed. After all, he reminded himself, he had won more votes than any previous Republican candidate; he might now be president were it not for six hundred thousand voters spread across ten states. Although he was already hoping to stand again in 1944, he was an outsider with no political office: he needed to find other ways to stay in the public eye. That was why, in January 1941, he had decided to make sending military aid to Britain his next cause.

By doing so, Willkie threw himself into the greatest political controversy of the moment in the United States. When isolationism was at its height during the 1930s, Roosevelt had been obliged by public pressure to pass a series of Neutrality Acts, which aimed to make America’s embroilment in another world war less likely. The laws stopped the administration from selling arms or lending money to belligerent foreign states. Following the outbreak of war, Roosevelt managed to persuade Congress to dilute the restrictions, allowing arms purchases on cash-and-carry terms, but he was unable to end the veto on loans. By the end of 1940, this was a pressing problem. “The moment approaches,” Churchill warned the president in a letter, “when we shall no longer be able to pay cash for shipping and other supplies.”11

Although Churchill regarded the Atlantic as the bond uniting Britain and America, Willkie and Roosevelt each saw it as a rather useful moat. They knew that the longer Britain held out, the later America would have to enter the conflict, if at all. Churchill’s letter therefore alarmed Roosevelt: at the end of December 1940, the president declared his country “the arsenal of democracy” and proposed a workaround to Congress. Under the Lend-Lease Act, the United States would lend Britain the equipment she needed to fight, in expectation not of payment but the return of the materiel or a like-for-like replacement at the end of the war. Willkie came out in support of this measure midway through the following month and announced that he was going to London to investigate. “Appeasers, isolationists, lip-service friends of Britain will seek to sabotage the program,” he warned, “behind the screen of opposition to this bill.”12

Ever searching for consensus, Roosevelt thoroughly approved of Willkie’s mission. The passage of Lend-Lease through Congress was no foregone conclusion, as isolationism was widespread and cut across party lines; the president was keen to show that there were Republicans who felt the same way that he did. He also wanted his old rival to deliver an encouraging message to Churchill. The prime minister had been seeking reassurance since late December, but until very recently, Roosevelt had been reluctant to give it.

That delay reflected an uncomfortable fact. Not only were there political grounds for Roosevelt’s silence, there were personal ones as well. Churchill’s behavior at a dinner in 1918 (when, said Roosevelt, he had “acted like a stinker… lording it over us”) and several hostile articles that he had then written about the New Deal in the 1930s had left the president with the impression that the prime minister profoundly disliked him. It took a visit to London by his trusted, spiky adviser Harry Hopkins to convince him that this was not the case. Finally, on January 20, Roosevelt wrote a letter for Willkie to give to Churchill, including in it some lines of Longfellow, which, he offered, applied “to you people as it does to us”:

Sail on, Oh Ship of State

Sail on, Oh Union strong and great

Humanity with all its fears

With all the hope of future years

Is hanging breathless on thy fate.

On January 26, 1941, Willkie flew to London; he handed over the missive when he had lunch with the prime minister the following day.


  • "Excellent...Mr. Barr draws on a rich and varied trove of sources to knit a sequence of dramatic episodes into an elegant whole...What is greatly to his credit...is the total absence of moral posturing and ideological partisanship...The 1953 coup against Mosaddegh...reads like a page-turning spy thriller."—Wall Street Journal
  • "Barr has mined memoirs and archives to add fresh detail to his remarkable and dispiriting story...[His] canvas is large, and he daubs it with colour and human interest...Admirably researched."—Economist
  • "Beautifully written and deeply researched...Lords of the Desert goes far beyond classic diplomatic history...superbly illustrating the constraints of Britain's decline and America's inexorable rise."—Guardian
  • "If you're wondering why things are so intractably turbulent in places like Syria and Iraq, some suggestive answers emerge from Barr's book...[Barr] explains much about America's relations with the Arab world-and with Britain."—Kirkus
  • "Brilliant, detached and eye-opening...A gripping tale of diplomatic legerdemain, political hypocrisy and, once the intelligence boys got going, derring-do."—Times
  • "A stern indictment of imperial shenanigans in the region...Lords of the Desert bustles impressively with detail and anecdote."—Sunday Times
  • "Barr contrasts the bumbling self-importance of the British officials with the ignorant over-confidence of their American counterparts...Consistently fascinating."—Spectator
  • "If your'e wondering why things are so intractably turbulent in places like Syria and Iraq, some suggestive answers emerge from Barr's book.... Of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, one that explains much about America's relations with the Arab world--and with Britain."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "With its oil and its waterways, the Middle East was and remains a first step for any rising world power, and also the final trap for empires on the decline. In this lively page-turner, Barr unearths the obscure history of our disastrous engagement with the Middle East today--and of our own imperial decline."—Elizabeth F. Thompson, Mohamed S. Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace, American University
  • "Many of the events in this book will be familiar, but instead of presenting them from the more usual perspectives of the Cold war confrontation between the US and Russia, or Imperial withdrawal, James Barr considers them instead from the angle of US-British rivalry. This is refreshing, but it is perhaps also closer to the angle from which many contemporaries would have considered the Suez canal crisis of 1956 or the coup that removed Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, for example. This book is therefore not just an excellent, lively account of salient events in this period in the history of the Middle East; it also opens up some new ways to think about them."—Michael Axworthy, author of A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind
  • "In this compelling new book, James Barr recalls a now forgotten story of British-American competition for power in the Middle East during and after their victory in the Second World War. This is essential, gripping history with major relevance for those who wish to understand that tortured region today."—Nicholas Burns, professor, Harvard University and former Under Secretary of State
  • "High adventure and covert action meet in this account of a momentous power shift that decisively shaped today's world. Lords of the Desert reshapes our understanding of the modern Middle East--and also helps explain how the United States became a global power."—Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men and Overthrow
  • "James Barr lifts the curtain on British plotting and intrigue in the Middle East. A wonderful raconteur, Barr brings to life the characters whose schemes and miscalculations brought an end to Britain as a great power. Meticulously researched, Lords of the Desert provides ample evidence as to why people in Middle Eastern countries remain so suspicious of Western intentions. A superb book."—Emma Sky, author of The Unraveling
  • "An essential book for understanding the modern Middle East--and a thrilling read to boot."—Alex von Tunzelmann, author of Blood and Sand
  • "A masterful account of Anglo-American rivalries that shaped the modern Middle East after WWII--brilliant storytelling with a rich cast of characters, Lords of the Desert is irresistible reading."—Eugene Rogan, author of The Fall of the Ottomans

On Sale
Sep 11, 2018
Page Count
464 pages
Basic Books

James Barr

About the Author

James Barr is a visiting fellow at King’s College London and the author of A Line in the Sand and Setting the Desert on Fire. He lives in London.

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