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A French Expert Surveys the Entire Middle East



Photo of fighters with Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces
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In 2016, the French political scientist Gilles Kepel was condemned to die for being “an experienced Arabist.”
Immediately after the French-born terrorist Larossi Abballa murdered a police officer and his wife, he took to Facebook Live to call for the murder of seven public figures in France, with Kepel’s name nearing the top of the list. A government security team guarded Kepel round the clock. His crime? Railing against ISIS on television.
The French public knows Kepel well. A public intellectual in a country that still celebrates public intellectuals, he spent years making the rounds on chat shows as a Middle East expert when he wasn’t busy teaching and researching at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. His latest book, “Away From Chaos,” comprehensively surveys the turmoil in the Middle East over the past four decades. While there isn’t much new or groundbreaking here, it’s an excellent primer for anyone wanting to get up to speed on the region, and it’s devoid of the crippling ideological blinders that sometimes disfigure books about a part of the world so rife with ideology.
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