High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
By Emma Sky
Published by Atlantic Books; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
RRP $39.99 in hardcover
As Emma Sky writes in the preface to this book, this memoir recounts her experiences in Iraq over more than a decade. It started when she responded to the British government’s request for volunteers to help rebuild the country after the fall of Sadam Hussein in 2003.
She initially found herself responsible for Kirkuk, trying to diffuse tensions between the different Iraqis scrambling to control the province. It continued through the Surge when she served as the political adviser to General Ray Odierno, goes through the drawdown of US troops and ends with the takeover of a third of Iraq by the Islamic State.
It is a tale, she says, of unintended consequences, both of President Bush’s efforts to impose democracy and of President Obama’s detachment; of action as well as non-action.
As Robin Yassin-Kassab writes in his review (The Guardian, 6/6/15)
In November 2013, Obama praised “a strong, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq”. By July 2014, Islamic State had driven the Iraqi army out of Mosul and set about cleansing religious minorities from the north. The confused response has so far been led by Iranian-backed Shia militias. The US airforce is back in theatre – and until now failing miserably. The Unravelling is an indispensable tool for understanding the background to this failure.
With the present situation in the Middle East, the more we understand the background and how we arrived at the current instability, the better, in my opinion. Perhaps better understanding will prevent more misguided intervention, but perhaps it is too late for that.
This book is certainly worth reading if this is your sphere of interest. And particularly if this is your sphere of policy influence.