Peter Oborne in The Telegraph:
As British politicians take the decision whether to bomb Iraq yet again, Patrick Cockburn has produced the first history of the rise of the Islamic State or Isil. No one is better equipped for this task. Cockburn, one of our greatest war correspondents, has charted the Iraqi insurrection and the Syrian civil war. His book makes compelling reading. He traces the roots of the Islamic State to the Western invasion of Iraq 11 years ago, when Saddam’s army was disbanded by its American conquerors. With nowhere else to go, some joined forces with al-Qaeda in a brutal rebellion against what they saw as a foreign occupation. AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) was defeated by General Petraeus’s “surge” of 2008, but this partial victory was not consolidated. When the Americans left Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki led a Shia administration that made no serious attempt to bring the Sunnis into government. The marginalisation of the Sunni tribes might have had limited consequences but for the Syrian insurrection, which started in the summer of 2011. This insurgency was backed by the West, but militants soon took over the fighting, controlling tracts of eastern Syria and western Iraq. National borders were effectively abolished.
In this powerful book, Cockburn shows how a series of errors by the United States and its Western allies created the conditions for the rise of Isil. First, the 2003 invasion of Iraq left behind a disenfranchised and embittered Sunni minority. Second, Western sponsorship of the Syrian insurrection created the perfect playground for Baghdadi’s bloodthirsty warriors. Cockburn shows that Western intelligence agencies were heavily involved at every level. However they appear to have been clueless about what was really happening.