Leaving almost half a million dead and displacing an estimated twelve million people, the Syrian Civil War is a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable scale. Syrian Requiem analyzes the causes and course of this bitter conflict—from its first spark in a peaceful Arab Spring protest to the tenuous victory of the Asad dictatorship—and traces how the fighting has reduced Syria to a crisis-ridden vassal state with little prospect of political reform, national reconciliation, or economic reconstruction.
Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria during the mid-1990s, Itamar Rabinovich brings unmatched expertise and insight to the politics of the Middle East. Drawing on more than two hundred specially conducted interviews with key players, Rabinovich and Carmit Valensi assess the roles of local, regional, and global interests in the war. Local sectarian divisions established the fault lines of the initial conflict, ultimately leading to the rise of the brutal Islamic State. However, Syria rapidly became the stage for proxy warfare between contending regional powers, including Israel, Turkey, and Iran. At the same time, while a war-weary United States attempted to reduce its military involvement in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia regained regional influence by supporting Syrian government forces. Telling the story of the war and its aftermath, Rabinovich and Valensi also examine the considerable potential for renewed conflict and the difficult policy choices facing the United States, Russia, and other powers.
A compact and incisive history of one of the defining wars of our times, Syrian Requiem is a vivid and timely account of a conflict that continues to reverberate today.
Itamar Rabinovich is professor and president emeritus at Tel Aviv University and vice chair of the Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He was Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s chief negotiator with Syria and is a former Israeli ambassador to the United States. His books include Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman and Waging Peace: Israel and the Arabs, 1948–2003 (Princeton). Twitter @ItamarRabinovi Carmit Valensi is a senior fellow and the director of the Syria research program at the Institute for National Security Studies. Twitter @CarmitValensi
“This is an illuminating book, combining a rich narrative and a profound analysis of Syrian history and politics from the country’s early days to the present crisis.”—Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister of Israel
“The Syrian Civil War is one of the tragedies of our age. Syrian Requiem offers a masterful introduction to this complex topic.”—Henry Kissinger
"In the modern era, there have been few greater national humanitarian catastrophes than Syria. Few observers of the situation in Syria are better qualified to dissect the causes and recommend the potential solutions than Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich. His rich experience as a diplomat and his sustained scholarship of the region make this book a must-read."—John R. Allen, President, Brookings Institution, retired U.S. Marine Corps general, and former Special Presidential Envoy, Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State
“An excellent and important book, Syrian Requiem places the mass murder and unspeakable brutality of the Syrian Civil War in historical and political context, illuminating the causes of the conflict and the daunting obstacles to a new beginning for those who have suffered at the hands of the Asad regime and its sponsors. This comprehensive and insightful book should be foundational to all efforts to imagine a path to peace.”—H. R. McMaster, former U.S. National Security Advisor, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, and author of Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World
“An important contribution to our understanding of the Syrian Civil War, Syrian Requiem finds the right balance between serious scholarship and readability for a broader audience.”—Frederic C. Hof, Bard College
“Syrian Requiem provides an excellent overview and analysis of the factors that have shaped the war in Syria, as well as the deeper historical forces that have produced an outcome of destruction and incalculable human loss.”—Seth Anziska, University College London
“Combining crisp prose and clear analysis, this is a comprehensive and highly readable account of the Syrian Civil War. It is critical and at times unsparing, but also very balanced.”—Daniel Byman, Georgetown University