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Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq Hardcover – April 8, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cockburn (The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq), a veteran Middle East correspondent for The Independent, knew the Iraq occupation was doomed when, in 2004, his Irish passport saved him from certain death at the hands of Mehdi Army militiamen convinced he was an American spy: "Bush and Blair never seemed to understand that the problem was not training or equipment, but legitimacy and loyalty." Building on this idea, Cockburn takes a close look at Muqtada al-Sadr, the country's major Shi'ite opposition leader, who has been consistently demonized and belittled by U.S. authorities even as he gains legitimacy among Iraqis. Calling him "the most important and surprising figure to emerge" in post-invasion Iraq, Cockburn details Muqtada's rise, beginning in 1999 when he took his assassinated father's place as head of the Sadrists, a populist religious movement. Mounting frustration toward the U.S. led many to join the Sadrists, the only Shia group to oppose outright the occupation, quickly making Muqtada the political representative of millions. Cockburn's incisive critique of U.S. policy mistakes in Iraq goes back to the first invasion, and draws some dire conclusions, among them that it's too late for Iraq "to exist as anything more than a loose federation." This probing look at a singularly divisive, undoubtedly important figure makes an invaluable resource for anyone weighing U.S. policy in Iraq.
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"Authoritative.... Americans need to learn more about [Muqtada al-Sadr], and Cockburn's empathetic, insightful study is a good place to start." ---The Washington Post --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416551476
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551478
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Fenwick on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
General Petraeus' recent report to Congress contained the name of only one person. It was not Nouri Al-Maliki (Prime Minister of Iraq) or Abu Ayyub Al-Masri (head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq), but Muqtada Al-Sadr, the subject of this book. That, combined with the fact that it is the only biography of Sadr on the market establishes its importance.

In the first chapter, the author establishes his bona fides showing that he is not a journalist that never ventures out of the Green Zone. He gives a dramatic account of an incident with Sadr supporters at a check-point as he was attempting to travel to Najaf to interview an official within the Sadrist movement.

In the subsequent chapters, the reader receives a thumbnail sketch of the Shia in Iraq and offers a biography of Muqtada's predecessors in leading the movement, who were his father and his father's cousin. While seemingly sparse, it is actually the fullest account of their lives that can be found (in English, at least). Also, while some may balk that there are so many chapters that do not deal with Muqtada himself, it is absolutely vital context that allows the reader to understand the nature of the movement that Muqtada became the leader of.

Most of the balance of the book is devoted to Muqtada's role in the events following the invasion of Iraq. As was the case with the first chapter, the coverage is enhanced due to Cockburn's 'outside the safe zone' reporting.

The strength of the book lies in the biographical details on the Sadr's gained from personal interviews. They are to be found nowhere else and will certainly be a building block for any subsequent biographies. The book makes for lively reading and because of that, can easily be read in the span of an evening or two.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author provides both a first hand account of the Shia poltical environment after the fall of Saddam's regime as well as a history of the unique and bitter relationship between the Shia and Saddam that is most interesting for westerners as the author explains not only the conflicts between the Shia and Sunni but also between the Shia themselves. The book is not intended to be a bio of Muqtada al-Sadr but to underline his role in the Shia political conflicts within Iraq today. The most interesting aspects of the book is the telling of how the Shia were punished and killed during Saddam regime particularly Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. In summary yet informative detail, the author explains how the murder of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr caused a split among the Shia particularly those leaders that fled the country and then returned after Saddam's fall. The best example of this violent split is when Sayyid Abdul Majid al-Khoei returns to Iraq to assume a leadership role among the Shia but then is brutally murdered almost at Muqtada al-Sadr's door step. The slaughter of the Shia after the coalition stopped during Deset Storm, after encouraging an uprising, is well discussed with the bitterness it invoked along with the post Iraq war misunderstandings by the U.S. occupation most noted by Paul Bremmer. This is a very concise but well written educational look at the political situation in Iraq. My only criticism is that books in detail on the middle east should have a glossary of terms and a defined character list, for those less familar with middle east terms and titles, and I include myself, to assist the reader.
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"Stalingrad in Iraq" deserves to be a subtitle of this thin but illuminating volume. The US Army is as entombed in Iraq as the German 6th Army was in the Soviet city along the Volga. The end results are the same in both cases: strategic defeat. Not defeat yet to come, but defeat that is already an accomplished fact: none of the Army's tactical victories can or will alter the fact. I suspect much of the Iraqi resistance knows this while the US refuses to admit it; the Germans never did until it was too late to matter. Interestingly, the book's main character, Muqtada Al-Sadr, doesn't really make an appearance until the end. The author justifies this by stating that the man cannot be understood apart from his family history and the history of Shia Islam. Even before the war began I never believed that the US or its British poodle would have a snowball's chance in Hell of succeeding. Certainly the US experience in Vietnam, the French experience in Vietnam and Algeria, and the British experience in Iraq should have provided some clue to the Coalition's clueless leaders. The religious dimension is crucial to understanding the unfolding catastrophe. The emergence of Shia Islam in Iraq as THE major player alters the region's whole balance of power and threatens to destroy American predominance there for good or certainly for the foreseeable future. The Shias have a very long memory, as this book well explains: what happened 1400 years ago is as current to them as yesterday's news is to us. They never forget and know that their moment has come. Iraq is the spiritual and historical heart of Shia Islam. More than anyone else, so millions believe, Muqtada Al-Sadr exemplifies this conjunction of faith, power and political savvy. The US demonizes him as they demonized Saddam.Read more ›
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