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In the same conversation, Arafat confided:

There are 250,000 Palestinians living in the US. 8,000 of them are university lecturers. Palestinians are highly educated people. Our level of education is higher than the Israelis’.22

May I be so bold as to suggest: the high proportion of American university lecturers among the long-suffering Palestinian people is a factor which needs much more attention from analysts of the Middle East. It may explain a lot.

Under the Soviet and Arab pressure, the PLO was internationally recognized as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” (imagine al-Qaeda being recognized today as the sole legitimate representative of the world’s Muslims).

Stroilov, Pavel. Behind the Desert Storm: A Secret Archive Stolen From the Kremlin that Sheds New Light on the Arab Revolutions in the Middle East (p. 45). Price World Publishing. Kindle Edition, 2011,

If a secret gets out but no one hears it or reads about it, does it count?


The key is in the “if no one”.

In fact, the professional politico in or around Russian studies knows of, say, the Mitrokhin Archive, Ion Mihai Pacepa, the volumes listed in the “Russian Section” of this blog, and doubtless Russian as well plus an enormous “much else”.

The public at large?

Perhaps not so much.

For that, Pavel Stroilov proves easily read, delightfully illuminating, and reliably provocative.

Here’s where he begins:

 This book, I am proud to say, proceeds from a grand theft aggravated by high treason.

To be more precise, it concludes a whole series of crimes—and puts a stop to it.

I have stolen these secrets from Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet dictator, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I covertly copied thousands of secret Politburo documents from the Gorbachev Foundation Archive, and then smuggled them out of Russia.

Who among the enthused for liberal democracy would not be charmed?

And here within the virtual pages of the Kindle edition, the past catches up with the present:

Chapter 3:
Comrades and Ayatollahs

…The movement continues in the right direction: the resistance to imperialist forces. Very important roles belong to Syria and even to Iran. In this sense, Iran is our ally, even though we are very different.

Mikhail Gorbachev to Hafez Assad, 28 April 1990

BackChannels joyously recommends reading “Pavel” to Cold War beginners, and, as may be glimpsed from more critical reviews cited, as a way on to the bridge between Cold War history and today Middle East conflicts.

Additional Reference




General Reading Online

Berlinski, Claire.  “The Cold War’s Arab Spring: How the Soviets Created Today’s Middle East.”  Tablet, June 20, 2012.

Kalinovsky, Artemy.  “On the (supposedly) sensational documents from the Gorbachev Foundation Archives.”  Critical review.  LSE Ideas, May 17, 2010.

National Security Archive, George Washington University (portal).

Radchenko, Sergey.  “Behind the Desert Storm: A Secret Archive Stolen from the Kremlin That Sheds New Light on the Arab Revolutions in the Middle East by Pavel Stroilov (review).  Journal of Cold War Studies, pp. 266-268, 14:4, Fall 2012:

Devoid of any scholarly analysis, the book is full of nonsense, some of it derived from far-fetched interpretations of Stroilov’s source material and some borrowed from popular conspiracy theories. Fortunately, Stroilov is relatively brief with his own comments. Most of the book is made up of verbatim transcripts of documents, including memoranda of Gorbachev’s conversations with foreign leaders, Politburo transcripts, and various enlightening notes penned by Gorbachev’s chief foreign policy aide, Anatolii Chernyaev, and by other officials. Although excerpted and often cited out of context, these documents offer an interesting glimpse into the dynamic of Gorbachev’s policymaking and disclose hitherto unknown aspects of Soviet diplomacy during the first Gulf War.

Wilson Center.  Cold War International History Project (portal).