It was gratifying to read that David Cameron has taken my book Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq with him as one of a number of works on current affairs to peruse during his holiday in Cornwall.
It was especially encouraging to learn that Mr Cameron wanted to know more about Iraq at a moment when many are under the quite false impression that the crisis there is at last drawing to a close. "Is it better? Is the surge working?" people keep asking me and in a certain sense, it is "better", but only compared to the bloodbath of 2006-7. American military casualties may be down, but 851 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed last month.
As for "the surge", the extra 30,000 US troops sent last year, it is curious that, despite claims for its great success, more American troops are needed to hold the line in Iraq today than before the surge began.
I was asked to write a book on the anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr by Scribner in New York in the late summer of 2006. After thinking the idea over carefully I turned it down on the grounds that it was simply too dangerous.
But, on reflection, I became more and more attracted by the idea. There have been many books on Iraq since the US invaded and overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003, but most are about what Americans did in Iraq. Iraqis appear sporadically and often only as bit players. Yet, if there is one lesson I would like Mr Cameron to learn, it is that the US does not control the political weather in Iraq.
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