The title says it all: Deeb, an instructor of Middle East politics at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, has broken ranks with the pieties of his field and asserted that the Syrian regime is engaged in a "terrorist war" on Lebanon. Nor does he mince words in the text of his book:
- "The ‘Alawi regime in Syria never had any intention of making peace with Israel."
- "Syria has deliberately kept Lebanon in an artificial domestic conflict at war with Israel for over a quarter of a century, for the interests of its own regime."
Deeb even has the temerity to cast aspersions at the "latter-day post-Orientalist scholars on the Middle East," a declaration of intellectual war on his fellow specialists.
In a furious but meticulous, well-grounded, and powerful analysis, Deeb then establishes the above points, recounting the era 1974-2000, showing how in the course of this era, using many devious means, Hafez al-Assad gradually took over the once independent country of Lebanon and turned the "Switzerland of the Middle East" into a viper's den of extremism. It is not only an ugly tale but from an American viewpoint, an embarrassing one, as he shows how U.S. diplomats and politicians consistently misunderstood Assad's methods and goals.
Thoughts on two specifics: first, while Deeb devotes plentiful attention to the Israeli Labor governments' diplomacy with Syria, he flies through the Netanyahu years as though nothing took place then, when in fact, it witnessed some of the most dramatic developments in Syrian-Israeli relations. Second, even though the Libyan government has finally acknowledged responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Scotland in 1988, Deeb continues to believe that this atrocity "was linked to groups with strong ties to Syria and Iran," and sees the Libyan culprit as a "much needed punch bag to get Syria off the hook" and into the anti-Saddam Hussein coalition two years later.