War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History by Avi Shlaim
War and Peace in the Middle East is a brief but suggestive overview of the US role in the Middle East. Shlaim holds that American policy has repeated British mistakes by viewing the region through "the distorting prism of the Cold War." He focuses on the period since 1919 and on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq war and the Persian Gulf war. This book is an excellent primer for understanding the politics of the region.