False Prophets

British Leaders' Fateful Fascination with the Middle East from Suez to Syria

Nigel Ashton

RRP: £20.00

3 March 2022

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781786493255

RRP: £10.99

3 March 2022

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781786493279

Britain shaped the modern Middle East through the lines that it drew in the sand after the First World War and through the League of Nation mandates over the fledgling states which followed. Since the Second World War, oil interests, Arab nationalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, militant Islam and the Anglo-American special relationship have all drawn Britain back into the Middle East.

While Anthony Eden and Tony Blair are the two most prominent examples of prime ministers whose reputations have been ruined by their interventions in the region, they were not alone in taking significant risks in deploying British forces to the Middle East. The sense that Britain knew the region, understood its people and could help solve its problems, even if only for the reason that British imperialism had created the problems in the first place, was an unspoken assumption of successive prime ministers. One way or another, every post-war prime minister has entertained strong views about the Middle East and their actions have often compounded the very evils in the region they sought to combat.

Drawing these threads together, Nigel Ashton explores the reasons why British leaders have been unable to resist returning to the mire of the Middle East, while highlighting the misconceptions about the region which have helped shape their interventions, and the legacy of history which has fuelled their pride and arrogance. It shows that their fears and insecurities have made them into false prophets who have conjured existential threats out of the Middle East.