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Although the author is a political scientist and his first book has all the trappings of a political science treatise, it's actually a solid history book drawing on many published (but virtually no unpublished) sources. Gerges chose his starting and ending points because "1955 signaled the birth of a new Arab order, 1967 marked its demise." Despite the title, his topic is less the Middle East than it is the Arabic-speaking countries of that region: Turkey, Israel, and Iran enter on his state only as external forces. In many ways, The Superpowers and the Middle East complements Malcolm Kerr's The Arab Cold War (1965), stressing the external dimension where Kerr looks at the intra-Arab one.

Gerges finds three main themes rising above the welter of his well-marshalled detail: First, superpowers had great difficulty controlling their Middle Eastern clients, leading to the odd sight of tails wagging dogs. Second, as U.S.-Soviet tensions sharpened, Arab states carved out more freedom of action for themselves. Third, and most counterintuitive, the conflict with Israel did not unify Arabs but sundered them worse than any other issue they faced during those twelve years.