Enemies and Allies – Joel Rosenberg

Enemies and Allies Joel Rosenberg
Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey Inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East by Joel C. Rosenberg
Also by this author: The Beirut Protocol
Published by Tyndale on September 7, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Politics
Buy on Amazon

Do recent changes in the Middle East signal peace? One Arab country after another is signing historic, game-changing peace, trade, investment, and tourism deals with Israel. At the same time, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are forming a highly dangerous alliance that could threaten the Western powers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is drawing down its military forces in the Mideast and focusing on matters closer to home. Where's it all heading?
New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, based in Jerusalem, skillfully and clearly explains the sometimes-encouraging, sometimes-violent, yet rapidly shifting landscape in Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. Enemies and Allies will take readers behind closed doors in the Middle East and introduce them to the very kings and crown princes, presidents and prime ministers who are leading the change.
Includes exclusive, never-before-published quotes, insights, and analysis from the author's conversations with some of the most complex and controversial leaders in the world:Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-SisiJordan's King Abdullah IIUnited Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ)Israeli prime minister Benjamin NetanyahuIsraeli president Reuven Rivlin

For twenty years, Joel Rosenberg has had his finger on the pulse of the Middle East. His fiction career began with The Last Jihad where the opening scene depicts terrorists hijacking an airplane—published nine months before 9/11. The Third Target had its mid-2015 release date pushed up by a few months because the book’s mostly obscure antagonists—a group calling themselves ISIS—had suddenly burst onto the scene in reality. His fiction has been so prescient that it’s opened doors into some real-life halls of power. Enemies and Allies is the story of those conversations.

To give one example of what I mean, it was Rosenberg’s fiction that led to a friendship with the King of Jordan. A consultant to the king picked up one of Rosenberg’s books in an airport, not knowing that a fictionalized version of his boss was heavily featured (or that the Jordanian palace would be bombed). He gave a copy to the king and things moved into place from there. Next thing you know, Rosenberg is a leading a delegation of evangelical Christians for a series of meetings with the king and his senior staff.

Perhaps the most exclusive part of Enemies and Allies is Rosenberg’s interview with Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. MBS does not typically speak to Western media and no Western biographies of him actually contain interviews with him. Rosenberg spends three chapters on his experiences in Saudi Arabia and conversations with MBS.

Other figures that Rosenberg interviews include Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, king of the United Arab Emirates Mohammad bin Zayed, Jordanian King Abdullah II, American President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. These interviews range from the casual and friendly to the formal and limited.

One criticism that I do have is that many of the interviews lack substance or critical analysis. Rosenberg is usually content to report what was said without scrutinizing it or offering critical commentary. The most egregious and well-known instance of this is simply accepting that MBS had nothing to do with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, and highlighting Khashoggi’s friendly past with Muslim extremists. I understand that Rosenberg likely has to be very careful about his portrayal of controversial figures, but those who are wanting hard-hitting journalism that incisively critiques and comments on the claims are going to be left wanting.

It’s not that Rosenberg and his team only offer softball questions. Some are very pointed and contentious, though always polite. But little more is done than to simply report the answers as given. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s important to note that the book is more memoir than political expose.

Enemies and Allies offers a look into the Middle East that many readers haven’t seen before. It has an obvious bias toward Israel and Saudi Arabia and against Palestine. Rosenberg also speaks out in support of Jordan and Egypt and against Iran, but those criticisms are more well-founded. Rosenberg’s limitations are that he only features leaders and nations he has interviewed, so key pieces—like chapters on Palestine and Iran—are conspicuously absent.

Enemies and Allies is sure to have its uncritical fans and immediate detractors. While Rosenberg does seem to push the evangelical narrative, he’s open and honest about it. I do wish that he had played a bit more hardball with some interviews, that they had a bit more substance, and that he hadn’t felt the need to hype his entire team for every interview. At the same point, I do understand the political intricacies of doing reporting like this and understand that not everything is on the record. My biggest personal takeaway was a better understanding of el-Sisi in Egypt and the Obama administration’s unfortunate connection with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The most important aspect of Enemies and Allies is how it humanizes many of the current leaders of the Middle East, helping readers see them as real people and not vague stereotypes or caricatures. I’m hopeful that this book will help evangelical Christian readers understand the Middle East in a deeper and more impactful way.