POLITICAL SCIENCE

The Spymaster of Baghdad: A True Story of Bravery, Family, and Patriotism in the Battle Against ISIS

Dey St. Feb. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780062947420. $28.99. POL SCI
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The Iraq War is often told through the lenses of the U.S. military and media, which credited U.S. efforts with success in the confusing and sometimes aimless conflict. Coker, Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times in 2017–2018, shows that an Iraqi security agency was also instrumental in foiling terrorist activities and capturing numerous al-Qaeda and ISIS operatives. Her book focuses on three Shiite Iraqis: Abu Ali al-Basri, head of an elite intelligence unit, as well as Harith and Munaf al-Sudani, who worked with al-Basri to infiltrate and inform on an ISIS cell. Coker’s engaging writing provides enlightening descriptions of the complexity of Iraqi social and religious elements that affected the conflict. She shows that, without Iraqi security forces, dozens more terrorist attacks would have occurred and even more suicide bombers would have succeeded. Readers wishing to better understand the complexities of the Iraq War will appreciate her insight into Iraqi society.
VERDICT Fans of spy stories will gravitate toward Coker’s use of intrigue and suspense. Her book is an important addition to the history of the Iraq War, and shows how Iraqi security and intelligence agencies made significant contributions in restoring order during and especially since the end of the conflict.

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