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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Informed and Perceptive View of Iraq - Book Review of Night Draws Near by Anthony Shadid

This is easily the best book I can recommend to anyone on the Iraq war. Anthony Shadid, a third generation Arab American, who speaks fluent Arabic was on the ground before the Iraq war and lived through its phases all the way to the full blown insurgency.

Shadid demonstrates an excellent understanding of the people and the culture, this understanding makes his analysis very valuable indeed. A very important point that Shadid makes is the desire of the people for justice over democracy.

Shadid's understanding of Iraqi society makes his analysis on the insurgency, its roots and its nature very convincing. The analysis of the power structure with the Shiite religious leadership and the diverging loyalties as well as the Iranian versus Arab orientation of the leadership is very well explained. It is remarkable how ill informed much of the media in the US referring to the Mahdi Army, the Sader militia, as Iranian influenced when Shadid explains clearly their roots being as populist & nationalist counter movement to the Iranian dominated Shiite religion leadership.

Through countless daily interactions with Iraqis from all classes, all sects and all political views Shedid offers tremendous insight on the factors that shaped the views of the Iraqis and how these changed over time as the country sunk deeper into a depressing war. Shedid equally well covered the American troops, their perception of their role and of the Iraqis around them.

Can't say enough about this book except I wish it becomes mandatory reading for political and military readers. Shadid's Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the war is very well deserved!