“Syria Burning” by Charles Glass

By Allston Mitchell, February 7, 2016

Charles Glass and the cover of "Syria Burning"

Charles Glass and the cover of “Syria Burning”

A timely and eminently understandable guide to what is happening to Syria by Charles Glass who brings decades of front-line expertise to the problem. Using reportage, analysis and history he offers a well-informed and amazingly concise analysis of the war.

As Patrick Coburn, the eminent Middle Eastern correspondent, states in his preface to the book “: “The war in Syria has long-needed a good book to explain what and why it is happening.”  This is it.

Charles Glass’s book takes us from March 2011 when the government cracked down on local demonstrations that transformed into a mass civil uprising to the situation we have today. By 2012 the situation had turned into a civil war with foreign governments and players fuelling the violence by using the opportunity to conduct proxy wars within the country.

The local opposition groups leading the mass uprising began to be taken over by Jihadi groups by 2013 and the government of Bashar al Asad  had begun a military crackdown on the groups. This was fuelled by the dithering of the Obama administration who were more than happy to create political monsters in the region and more than delighted to abandon them and the region to their fate when they became uncontrollable.

"Syria Burning - ISIS and the death of the Arab Spring" by Charles Glass - published by OR Books"

“Syria Burning – ISIS and the death of the Arab Spring” by Charles Glass – published by OR Books”

What began as an Arab Spring in Syria has degenerated into  war and the initial goals of freedom and an end to corruption, arbitrary arrest and torture were replaced by the objective of installing a dictatorial theocracy in Syria.

Glass talks us through the differences between ISIS and  Jebhat an-Nusra and the complexities of a war where “The rebels, using weapons made in America, paid for by Saudi Arabia and funnelled through Turkey imposed a vision of society that took no account of Syrian diversity and mutual respect among its peoples.”

We are taken back to the sources of the problem lying in Ottoman governance and the post WW1 carve up of the region by the British and the French that created problems, the symptoms of which we are still seeing played out today.

Charles Glass’s book is the perfect place to start for a lucid and unbiased (although he has little time for the double standards and mendacity of the western powers involved) account of what is happening.  The situation has now degenerated into tragedy in which Syria was initially being used as a stick with which to humiliate and curb the interests of Iran in the Middle East but which has now taken on a terrifying logic of its own.

In 140 pages he has condensed reams of news-reel, history and personal experience.  It is an enlightening read and highly recommended. Start here.


Charles Glass is a broadcaster, journalist and writer, who began his journalistic career in 1973 at the ABC News Beirut bureau with Peter Jennings. He covered the October Arab-Israeli War on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. He also covered civil war in Lebanon, where artillery fire wounded him in 1976. He was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent from 1983 to 1993. Since 1993, he has been a freelance writer in Paris, Tuscany, Venice and London, regularly covering the Middle East, the Balkans, southeast Asia and the Mediterranean region. He has also published books, short stories, essays and articles in the United States and Europe.  For more information see his webite

The book can be purchased at OR Books

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