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Shia intelligence

Patrick Cockburn's politics may be misguided, but he is a reporter and analyst of the first order. His biography of Iraq's foremost Shia power-broker is by far the most useful book about post-Saddam Iraq, and helps us to better understand the country's faltering progress towards democracy

By Bartle Bull   May 2008

Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq by Patrick Cockburn (Faber, £16.99)

In late August 2004, I found myself among about 2,000 poor Shia Iraqis in the ancient mosque at Kufa, near Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad. The second siege of Najaf—the first had been in April—was winding down after three weeks of intense fighting. The Kufa mosque had been struck by an American missile a few days earlier, outraging Shia believers across the world. Just inside the mosque’s entrance was a pile of the shoes of dead fighters. In the small office where I had taken refuge…

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