Review of Priya Satia’s Spies in Arabia: the Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East

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In Priya Satia’s book Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East, Satia states without the advanced network fostered by Britain’s intelligence agency and the exploitation of the Bureaus in the Arab world World War I would not have been as successful and swift in defeating Axis powers. Another point Satia makes is that knowledge of a region and its history are what can make or break a mission, war, or other actions. She follows this up by saying, to spies perception is everything and good perception by the locals enabled them to collect more information. Spies in Arabia starts off with Satia explaining why she is writing the book stating that she is going to explore the “fascination with Arabia as a spy-space”(pg4) After this she goes on to give a history of British Intelligence. After detailed account of British Intelligence Satia delves into British Intelligence in the Middle and the effect it had on agents. One of the big points that Satia is quick to point out is Spies during World War I should be compared to mercenaries, as they were always working for the highest bidder. When I say highest bidder I mean both countries and people there was not distinct black and white there were only shades of grey. These shades of grey can be seen through out the book. As time went on the Middle East became not just a venue forgather information but also for influence and riches. Spying became a quick source of wealth and presented many paths to corruption. In addition, Satia includes not only the corruption but also the turmoil foreigner living and working in the region had to face with the uprisings and constant political changing. These eventually culminated in Iraqi British Mandate which only served to worsen matters with the locals stopping any goodwill that they previously had with the spies in the area. Satia’s ending that focused on T.E. Lawrence and his manipulation of Faisal and the disaster that...
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