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New Left Review 53, September-October 2008

Vijay Prashad on Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq. Perceptive portrait of the Occupation’s single most elusive foe, and of the traditions of Shia militancy from which he descends.



On 7 April 2003, Iraqi guerrillas in Amara, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, threw Ba’ath Party officials out of their offices and seized control of the city—the first, and only, act of indigenous rebellion in that region during the usuk invasion of Iraq. [1] Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, Faber, London 2008, £16.99, hardback, 289 pp, 978 0 571 23974 0. The occupying forces soon obliged the guerrillas to turn the city over to them, under threat of bombardment. The man who handed the British the keys to the city was Abdel Karim Mahmoud al-Mohammedawi, a veteran of struggle against the Ba’ath regime who had spent seven years in Abu Ghraib, and many more fighting the Iraqi Army in the marshlands of southern Iraq. Known as Abu Hatem—‘father of justice’—he commanded much respect locally, and securing his participation in the Iraqi Governing Council in the summer of 2003 was something of a coup for the Occupation. But by mid-2004, he had resigned from the igc in protest at the us pursuit of a thirty-one-year-old cleric from Najaf, whose anti-Occupation, nationalist stance had attracted massive popular support. The shift in Abu Hatem’s position not only demonstrates the growing unpopularity of the Occupation, even among those initially willing to work with it; it is also indicative of the surprisingly central role played in the fortunes of post-Saddam Iraq by Muqtada al-Sadr.

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Vijay Prashad, ‘Sadrist Stratagems’, NLR 53: £3

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