Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World

Joby Warrick. Doubleday, $29.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-54446-7
Pulitzer winner Warrick (Black Flags) explores America’s scramble to neutralize war-torn Syria’s chemical weapons in this vigorous true-life thriller. Warrick traces the decadeslong buildup of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile; its sporadic use against rebels, including a 2013 sarin attack near Damascus that may have killed 1,429 people; the American diplomatic push—after President Obama called chemical attacks a “red line” that Syria’s government must not cross—that yielded an agreement to destroy the country’s “declared” stockpile; its shipboard destruction in 2014 by a portable hydrolysis device nicknamed the “Margarita Machine” by “a Pentagon wag”; and later chemical weapons programs and chlorine-gas attacks by ISIS militants. Warrick balances harrowing reports of poisoned children dying of paralysis and asphyxiation with vibrant character sketches of Syrian spies and medical workers, UN chemical-weapons investigators braving sniper fire, and American engineers facing toxic spills, hostile environmentalist flotillas, and the possible capsizing of their ship. The focus on chemical weapons somewhat obscures the much larger toll of death and destruction taken by conventional weapons in Syria, but Warrick delivers a comprehensive and electric tale. Espionage fans and military history buffs will be enthralled. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 08/04/2020
Release date: 02/23/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 565 pages - 978-0-593-29521-2
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