In This Review

By Samer N. Abboud
Polity, 2015, 248 pp

The subtitle of this survey of the crisis in Syria could be It’s Complicated. Abboud relies mainly on secondary sources, and he offers no unconventional insights, but he covers all the bases, and the whole of the book is greater than the sum of its parts. The stronger sections detail the Local Coordination Committees, which helped organize the 2011 uprising against the Assad regime and have managed to survive during the subsequent civil war, and the so-far fruitless missions of the un envoys Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Staffan de Mistura. Abboud offers little new information on the machinations of outside actors in the Syrian conflict, such as Hezbollah, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, none of which has achieved anything that could be seen as beneficial to the Syrian people. He eschews the idea of a peace plan built on strengthening central state institutions and instead calls for one that would rely on the decentralization of social services and investment, the repatriation of refugees, a push for job creation, and a transitional government that would include the Alawite-dominated Baath Party, the Kurds, and the Sunni jihadist al-Nusra Front—but not ISIS. Those with better ideas, please step forward.