The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East by Partick Cockburn

“Even so, I never conceived that Isis was going to capture Mosul and most of northern and western Iraq. I had forgotten a golden rule when predicting the future in Iraq, which is to forecast the worst possible outcome.”, writes Partick Cockburn in his book The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East.

National identity, the sense of belonging to one nation, acts as a unifying force that gives social cohesion and maintains the identity and autonomy of a nation. If this cohesion no longer exists, the society collapses.  This can happen for different reasons, some have to do with ideology, some to do with the “Paradox of Plenty”, which shapes both the economic structure and political systems, especially in oil states like Iraq where a large-scale distributive and patronage – based system led to systemic corruption and instability.  A failed state increases sectarianism, it creates a fractionalised society that leaves a vacuum that can be filled by fanatical and violent movements.  Religion becomes a vehicle of protest and revolutionary change. Chaos and violence becomes unstoppable.

Since 2001, Partick Cockburn, a veteran war journalist, has written extensively about the Middle East in the Independent and the London Review of Books. He has provided reporting of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, wars that have torn apart the Middle East and created the conditions in which Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have grown and flourished. He explains why Iraq was different from Afghanistan and how  what happened there since 2003 was going to transform the politics of all its neighbours.

Patrick Cockburn give us a brilliant narrative history through writings starting from 2001 to date. It is a thorough diary of events on the ground from the overthrow of the Taliban to the rise of the Islamic State group.