In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria

Andrew Tabler. Lawrence Hill, $16.95 paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-56976-843-3
Tabler, a fellow in the Arab politics program at the Washington Institute, offers a firsthand account of U.S. relations with Syria during the Bush administration in this timely and objective memoir. A journalist and fluent Arabist, the author resided in Damascus from 2001 to 2008, where he cofounded—with the support and encouragement of Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad—Syria Today, a quarterly magazine on Syrian affairs. From his unique perch, the author watched as U.S.-Syrian relations that historically "oscillated between isolation and engagement" took a decided turn for the worse, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on Syria in 2004. The ensuing cold war between Washington and Damascus was exacerbated by Syria's implication in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, the spreading Iranian influence in Syria, and revelations about Syria's secret nuclear aspirations. Despite his language skills, long residency in Syria, and insider connections, Tabler has limited success penetrating the opaque Syrian regime and remains a frustrated witness to the end, able to eloquently describe what happened, but unable to explain why with any confidence. But with the Assad dictatorship now facing widespread internal protests and reliable information scarce, Tabler's frontline report offers readers a chilling glimpse of an enigmatic regime. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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