By Laurence Louër
Columbia University Press, $24.95, 176 pages
The Middle East is a region in turmoil, beset by winds of change. The people are clamoring for something different, but can the elites of society deliver or will they be swept away by a popular revolution? In this book Laurence Louër examines the role that politics plays in Shiism, one of the two main sects of Islam. Shiism is felt in the policies of Iran as it tries to control its neighbors. But politics and Shiism have a long history, where clerics get involved in politics to control the populace and bring everyone over to the proper form of Islam, which is Shiism.
This book looks through the recent history of the Middle East, from the birth of modern Saudi Arabia, to the fall of the Shah in Iran, to the more modern movements in Kuwait, Bahrain and other countries. The role of the clerics can be important, but at other times the people ignore them. This book has some good moments, but at other times it just falls flat. It seems out of place, as if it belongs more in a world before the Arab Spring where many countries were ruled by strong men. This book makes some interesting points. It just belongs to a different time.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter