In August 2012, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was clinging to power in a vicious civil war. When secret intelligence revealed that the dictator might resort to using chemical weapons, President Obama warned that doing so would cross “a red line.” Assad did it anyway, bombing the Damascus suburb of Ghouta with sarin gas, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing Obama to decide if he would mire America in another unpopular Middle Eastern war. When Russia offered to broker the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama leapt at the out.
So begins an electrifying race to find, remove, and destroy 1,300 tons of chemical weapons in the midst of a raging civil war. The extraordinary little-known effort is a triumph for the Americans, but soon Russia’s long game becomes clear: it will do anything to preserve Assad’s rule. As America’s ability to control events in Syria shrinks, the White House learns that ISIS, building its caliphate in Syria’s war-tossed territory, is seeking chemical weapons for itself, with an eye to attacking the West.
In Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria, Joby Warrick, tells the unknown story of America’s mission in Syria: to find and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and keep them out of the hands of the Islamic State. Drawing on astonishing original reporting, Warrick reveals how the United States embarked on a bold adventure to prevent one catastrophe but could not avoid a tragic chain of events that empowered America’s enemies.
Joby Warrick is a best-selling author and a national security reporter for The Washington Post. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he served for 22 years with the Post’s national and investigative staffs, focusing primarily on intelligence, diplomacy and security in the Middle East and South Asia. He is the author of two nonfiction books, including The Triple Agent (Doubleday, 2011), a New York Times best-seller about a disastrous CIA operation in Afghanistan; as well as Black Flags (Doubleday, 2015), a narrative account of the personalities and events that gave rise to the Islamic State. Black Flags was listed as one of the best books of 2015 by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and numerous other publications, and was the recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.
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