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Zarqawi began by directing terror attacks from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By falsely identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, U.S. officials inadvertently spurred like-minded radicals to rally to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings persisted until American and Jordanian intelligence discovered clues that led to a lethal airstrike on Zarqawi's hideout in 2006.
His movement, however, endured. First calling themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq, then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, his followers sought refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and as the U.S. largely stood by, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi's dream of an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate.
Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today's most dangerous extremist threat.
- ISBN-13: 9780385538213
- ISBN-10: 0385538219
- Publisher: Doubleday Books
- Publish Date: September 2015
- Page Count: 368
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-31
- Reviewer: Staff
Pulitzer-winner Warrick (The Triple Agent) examines the origins of ISIS in this incisive, horrifying, and eminently readable work. Though the group was officially founded in 2006, Warrick traces its roots back to the recruitment of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by al-Qaeda in 1999. Warrick follows Zarqawi’s unlikely rise from lowly Jordanian street thug to Afghan mujahideen, to brilliant strategist and charismatic leader. With surgical precision, the author details how a perfect storm of circumstances—Zarqawi’s friendship with a noted radical Muslim scholar who was in prison with him, the king of Jordan’s sudden death and his son’s reluctant acceptance of the crown, and, most notably and disastrously, the U.S. occupation of Iraq—led to Zarqawi’s ascent. Readers trying to keep track of the heads of state, CIA operatives, tribal leaders, clerics, and diplomats will be glad for the list of principal characters in the book’s front matter, but they’ll rarely need to consult it, thanks to Warrick’s firm grasp and skillful explanation of the complicated subject matter. This is an eye-opening read for general audiences seeking to learn more about the current crisis in the Middle East. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Oct.)