In The Gamble, Thomas E Ricks picks up where Fiasco, his impressive broadside against the failures of planning and implementation that characterised the invasion and occupation of Iraq, left off. As 2005 turns to 2006 we are confronted with a profoundly pessimistic view: the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra on 22 February sparks unprecedented levels of violence; by mid-2006 insurgents are detonating 1,000 IEDs (improvised explosive devices – one of the most lethal and demoralising weapons used against Coalition forces) a week; and two large offensive operations to bring security to Baghdad, optimistically codenamed Together Forward and Together Forward II, fail to stem the violence. The anger that brimmed beneath the surface in Fiasco can still be felt, with the two senior men – Lt Gen Sanchez and L Paul Bremer III – standing accused respectively of ‘blustery incompetence’ and ‘breezy mismanagement’. Iraq is on the verge of collapse. Then, into the chaos is introduced General David Petraeus, and The Gamble charts the slow and painful but increasingly promising recovery he leads.