Time magazine listed him as one of its "100 People Who Shape Our World." Newsweek featured him on its cover under the headline "How Al-Sadr May Control U.S. Fate in Iraq." Paul Bremer denounced him as a "Bolshevik Islamist" and ordered that he be captured "dead or alive." Who is Muqtada al-Sadr, and why is he so vital to the future of Iraq and, arguably, the entire Middle East?
In this compellingly readable account, prize-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn tells the story of Muqtada's rise to become the leader of Iraq's poor Shi'ites and the resistance to the occupation. Cockburn looks at the killings by Saddam's executioners and hit men of the young cleric's father, two brothers, and father-in-law; his leadership of the seventy-thousand-strong Mehdi Army; the fierce rivalries between him and other Shia religious leaders; his complex relationship with the Iraqi government; and his frequent confrontations with the American military, including battles that took place in Najaf in 2004. The portrait that emerges is of a complex man and a sophisticated politician, who engages with religious and nationalist aspirations in a manner unlike any other Iraqi leader.
Cockburn, who was among the very few Western journalists to remain in Baghdad during the Gulf War and has been an intrepid reporter of Iraq ever since, draws on his extensive firsthand experience in the country to produce a book that is richly interwoven with the voices of Iraqis themselves. His personal encounters with the Mehdi Army include a tense occasion when he was nearly killed at a roadblock outside the city of Kufa.
Though it often reads like an adventure story, Muqtada is also a work of painstaking research and measured analysis that leads to a deeper understanding both of one of the most critical conflicts in the world today and of the man who may well be a decisive voice in determining the future of Iraq when the Americans eventually leave.
Patrick Cockburn is Iraq correspondent for the Independent in London. He has received the Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting, the James Cameron Award, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism. He is the author of Muqtada, about war and rebellion in Iraq;The Occupation (shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2007); The Broken Boy, a memoir; and with Andrew Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.
"Patrick Cockburn is, quite simply, the best Western journalist at work in Iraq today. And now he comes forward to warn us that the end game there is near, and we'd better pay much more attention to Muqtada al-Sadr. Cockburn takes us behind the clichŽs and half-truths to describe a complicated political operative who will play a huge role in the power struggle that is sure to come." -- Seymour Hersh
"Muqtada is the story of Iraq's least known political figure who, unfortunately for the United States, is arguably its most important. Patrick Cockburn draws on thirty years' experience covering Iraq and his own extraordinary courage to produce this gripping account of the Shiite cleric and his Sadrist movement." -- Peter W. Galbraith
"No serious student of Iraq has failed to incur a debt to the intrepid and intelligent Patrick Cockburn." -- Christopher Hitchens
"Patrick Cockburn is one of the few journalists who has covered the Iraq crisis almost from its beginning. His peerless reporting has been instrumental in uncovering the true dimensions of the tragedy of Iraq. His new book on Muqtada al-Sadr and the radical Shia of Iraq is probing and perceptive." -- Ali Allawi
"No subject could be more important and, of course, Patrick Cockburn knows Iraq as few foreigners do. The right writer and the right book." -- David Rieff
"It is hard to imagine anyone, I mean any other Westerner, getting a clearer take on this slippery and moody character." -- Dexter Filkins, The New Republic
"Americans need to learn more about [Muqtada], and Cockburn's empathetic, thoughtful study is a good place to start." -- Vali Nasr, The Washington Post
"What other Western journalist writes about Iraq with the intimacy and feel of Patrick Cockburn? This is a brilliant book." -- Martin Amis