King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life

Nigel Ashton, Author . Yale Univ. $35 (431p) ISBN 978-0-300-09167-0

In this respectful and measured scholarly evaluation, Ashton (Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cold War ) builds on unprecedented access to the late king's entire correspondence and more than two dozen interviews to lend valuable insight into how Hussein's shrewdness and empathy kept him politically (and literally) alive as well as casting light on many a foreign policy enigma—notably a confirmation that Ronald Regan personally authorized what became the Iran-Contra scandal. While Hussein's uneasy alliance with the socialist brand of Arab nationalism under Egypt's Nasser led him into “the greatest calamity of his reign,” the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel, he remained “ever alert to the shifting power dynamics of the Arab world,” often maintaining a precarious balance between the Western powers, the Arab states and Israelwhile wielding influence disproportionate to Jordan's relatively modest assets. Ashton reveals Hussein's longstanding covert contact with Israel and his clandestine communications with Israelis in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 warto suggest the possibilities and missed opportunities (including by the U.S.) for a peaceful settlement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict—just one reason this book feels so timely and relevant. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/14/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 431 pages - 978-0-300-16395-7
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