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September 2021

"A Line in the Sand"

by James Barr

Simon & Schuster

"A Line in the Sand" is a book about the power struggle between Britain and France for influence in the Middle East, starting from roughly WWI to the post-WWII period. The book mainly takes into account the relations between Britain and France, but it also explores topics such as Zionism and the creation of Palestine and the Arab Revolt of WWI. The book describes the actions of diplomats, politicians and army officers on all sides. These prominent figures include; Mark Sykes, Georges Picot, LLoyd George, Winston Churchill, T.E Lawrence, Colonel Stirling, King Abdullah of Jordan and David Ben Gurion. The events are presented in a chronological order and the most interesting periods are described in detail.  There are many factors that render the topic of the book and its contents of great value. First, the interraction of local nations with squabbling interntional powers. The motivations of these powers, however, are varied. France has a "sentimental" interest in Syria (from the crusades), whilst in Britain the military urges the government to take control of the oil in Iraq, a valuable commodity for the army and a navy  that was abandoning coal. The most important element to this book is that it explains much of the current situation in the Middle East. This includes the state of Israel, the formation of many modern middle eastern states, the importance of the region's oil and the legacy of the period of colonisation. As is the case with the other book from this author about the Middle East (Lords of the Dessert), these books provide a very good account of modern geopolitics for the middle eastern region. 

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