In This Review

Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam
Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam
By Robert Dreyfuss
Metropolitan Books, 2005, 400 pp

The United States, Dreyfuss argues, has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, "sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly," and is thus "partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon." To flesh out this interpretation, he writes of U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood against Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, the U.S. role in lining up religious radicals in the coup ousting Prime Minister Muhammad Mosaddeq in Iran, the decades-long ties between Washington and the House of Saud, the U.S. backing of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and even the Reagan administration's tentative ties with Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Republic, illuminated by the Iran-contra affair. (Dreyfuss even criticizes the Bush administration for working with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in post-Saddam Iraq.) The cases cited in this very different take on U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East since the 1940s seem, however, slightly askew when set in a broader context. The United States has often supported those opposed to the Islamists (such as Hosni Mubarak and Saddam Hussein) and has taken forceful positions in many other instances in which Islam or Islamism was not a major factor. The Islamic Revolution in Iran is best explained by U.S. ties to the shah's regime. Dreyfuss would have a more cogent case if he had simply faulted U.S. diplomacy for its excessively intrusive, regime-changing approach to the Middle East. Ironically, that is the thrust of his remarks on pages 15-17 of the introduction.