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Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State.

Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State. By Andrew Hosken. London: Oneworld Publications, 2015. Photographs. Maps. Notes. Index. Pp. xiv, 321. $15.99 ISBN: 178074-806-1

Islamic State (IS), previously known as ISIS and ISIL, is now commanding the full attention of people everywhere who are otherwise unfamiliar with the inner workings of the group, the basis for its successes, and its philosophy. This book, written by a highly experienced BBC correspondent, makes it all clear in easy-to-read joumalistic-styled prose. This is, however, not a scholarly work with weighty philosophical arguments or comprehensive discussions of radical Islam and the Salafist movement. Having said that, it is to the point and captures all the relevant information for anyone who wishes to read a primer on the extremist and ultraviolent IS.

Hosken covers in some detail the key background information explaining the how and why of IS. He reaches back to the genesis of the organization, examines its philosophical foundation, its key personalities, its antecedents, and its seven step "national" security plan. His connecting of the dots makes clear the relationship and influence of important ideologues central to the emergence of the ruthlessly violent and intolerant IS.

The chapters devoted to the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal extremist and leader of A1 Qaida in Iraq (AQI)--subsequently called Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and the progenitor of IS--are illuminating in that they explain how a Jordanian street thug became the evil genius behind AQI's strategy for victory. During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, it was Zarqawi who orchestrated the most successful attacks against the coalition and the Shi'ites. His car bombers killed the head of the United Nations mission in Iraq and most of his staff. In turn he had the Ayatollah al-Hakim, a very important Shia leader and intended conduit between the U.S. occupation and the Shi'ites, assassinated. His two goals were to provoke the Shia into a civil war with the Sunnis--a war he would exploit to AQI's advantage-and to drive the U.S. out. The book revisits the ill-conceived policies of U.S. leadership in Iraq that practically hand delivered successes to AQI and paved the way for the emergence of IS. Even the death of Zarqawi, at the hands of U.S. forces, proved to be a temporary and hollow victory.

Hosken is not reluctant to express criticism of those whom he believes made a viable AQI possible with irrational policies or inexcusable ignorance. Paul Bremer, President Bush's man in charge in Iraq during the early phase of the occupation, implemented poorly developed edicts that fueled the insurgency against the US-led occupation. With his de-Ba'athification program and the dismantling of the Iraqi army, he managed to alienate the technocrats, who were vital to running the country, and turned thousands of ex-soldiers into ready-to-fight insurgents. Saddam Hussein's former vice president, Field Marshal al-Douri, found his new niche as a leading figure in the insurgency and later developed the military strategy of IS, central to its sweeping conquests in Iraq.

The book contrasts the efforts of two leaders: one who nearly destroyed the Islamist terrorists and the other who is most responsible, through his anti-Sunni, Shia-centric, and pro-Iranian policies, for unwittingly bringing them back from the brink. The two are General David Petraeus and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, respectively.

Hosken's work is also valuable in providing an understanding of jihadist terminology, an explanation of the formal titles used by its membership, and the significance of noms de guerre. It is this kind of detail that should be important for anyone interested in truly "knowing" the enemy.

One minor criticism relates to the occasional repetition of information. I suspect this is a consequence of the apparent haste to get this timely book into print. Otherwise, Empire of Fear should be read by all at the earliest opportunity.

Col. John Cirafici, USAF (Ret.), Milford Delaware
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Author:Cirafici, John
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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