Randal tells several well-told stories—Iraq and the Kurds, Turkey and the Kurds, Iran and the Kurds, the United States and the Kurds, Israel and the Kurds—combined in one. He presents the internal reasons for the Kurds' failure to become a nation-state, and the role played in this by the international powers, which repeatedly betrayed their promises to help. Randal tells what others did to the Kurds and what they did to themselves, with an emphasis on events of the past quarter century. He rightly concludes that the Kurds themselves are mainly responsible for their problems, due to what Randal calls "a rogue chromosome in Kurdish genetics." His picture is perhaps unique in its detail; also impressive is his ability to penetrated the murk of regional and international politics and uncover hitherto unknown facts. As a correspondent of The Washington Post, he witnessed and reported on the birth, collapse, rebirth and fragmentation of the Kurdish entity in northern Iraq; he allows major players to tell their side of the story.
Randal's well documented book makes an important contribution to understanding a very complicated issue; he shows that it is bound to explode in a way that will compel regional and great powers to intervene.