Read "The Shia Revival" by Vali Nasr

Few books have taught me than Vali Nasr's new book, The Shia Revival.  It has influenced a great deal of my writing in recent weeks, and is essential reading for those wanting to better understand what is happening in the Middle East today.  From its closing chapter:

It is clear today the America cannot take comfort in an imagined future for the Middle East, and cannot force the realization of that future.  Such an approach guided the path to war in Iraq and has proven to be unworkable.   The lesson of Iraq is that trying to force a future of its liking will hasten the advent of those outcomes that the United States most wishes to avoid.   Through occupation of Iraq, America has actually made the case for radical Islam – that ours is a war on Islam – encouraging anti-Americanism and fueling extremism and terrorism.  The reality that will shape the future of the Middle East is not the debates over democracy or globalization that the Iraq war was supposed to have jump-started but the conflicts between Shias and Sunnis that it precipitated.  In time we will come to see this as a central legacy of the Iraq war.  

You can buy it now on Amazon or at your local book store, and is a very strong complement to the new Iraq Study Group report.  It can be a little dense at times, but it is well worth the effort.