05 October 2011

Book Review

An Economic Analysis of the Financial Records of al-Qaida in Iraq by Benjamin Bahney et al.

In a short but informative monograph, Bahney and his team of contributors provide a highly technical analysis of how al-Qaida operates in Iraq, as the title of the book would suggest.  The writing is highly technical, poorly organized, and very sluggish, and the book does not lend itself to being read by anyone other than academics or individuals who are extremely interested in the details of a terrorist organization’s spreadsheets.

The book appears to be well-researched and well-documented, so if one is interested in reading the book but not interested in getting bogged down in the technical aspects of the research, simply stick to chapter six, which provides a rather clear summary of al-Qaida operates in Iraq.  Naturally enough, al-Qaida does lots of business in cash, in order to avoid having their assets frozen.  Intriguingly, the Iraq “branch” of al-Qaida is mostly self-funded, only receiving small amounts of money from donors and transfers from other sectors.  Al-Qaida funds itself by stealing from and looting the immediate community and then reselling the stolen goods.  So far, this has proven to be a fairly stable source of revenue.

Again, it should be noted that this book is written by academics for academics, so the book is very dry.  It’s also very short, running 92 pages, 14 of which are citations.  If one were to take away the footnotes as well, the book would probably run around sixty pages.  Even with that, because of the way the book is written, it still feels like an incredibly long read.  Thus, the book is only recommended for the academic-minded.  Alternatively, if one simply wants an overview, just stick to reading chapter 6.

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