Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

AuthorMyers, Paul D.
PositionBook review

Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq. New York: Scribner, 2008, 226 pages. Hardcover $24.00.

IN THE WORDS OF GENERAL PETRAEUS, the situation in Iraq is now "hard but hopeful." For the first time in five years, the turmoil in the country appears to be abating with some attributing recent successes to the "Surge." In his book, Patrick Cockburn was not able to foretell how the increase in US military power he was witnessing would affect Iraq's security. He was able, however, to provide a detailed view of one of the country's most important players--Muqtada al-Sadr--and his rise to prominence. This leader not only molded one of the most powerful groups in the country based on a shared religious identity, but the restraint shown by him and his followers may be another reason, if not the main reason, for Iraq's return to a sense of calm.

The book, not only gives an account of Muqtada's life, but also details the origins and history of the Shi'a faith, its survival against oppression, and Muqtada's family lineage. As the author points out, an understanding of these issues is needed if the reader is to fully appreciate how Muqtada emerged from the latest war in Iraq to achieve so much political and military might. While the author is not an Iraqi national, he has shown his commitment to reporting the facts by living and working in the country for three decades. During this time he wrote two other books, Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq and Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.

Cockburn initially lays out how the recurring themes of martyrdom and oppression in the Shi'a faith can be traced back to the death of Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680AD. Any major political dominance that the community did achieve then ended with their defeat in Egypt at the hands of Saladin, a Sunni Kurd from Tikrit. Since then, the Shi'a endured continued subjection by the hegemony. In more recent times the group endured increased oppression by Saddam Hussein's regime, particularly through the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and into the Gulf War. At the close of these hostilities, and hoping for support from the US that never came, the Shi'a rose up against Saddam in the Sha'aban Intifada. This insurrection was brutally put down at the cost of approximately 150,000 Shi'a lives.

In the hope of creating a more loyal following after these events, Saddam Hussein installed Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr...

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