The spymaster of Baghdad A true story of bravery, family, and patriotism in the battle against ISIS

Margaret Coker

Book - 2021

"From the former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad comes the gripping and heroic story of an elite, top-secret team of unlikely spies who triumphed over ISIS"--

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956.70443/Coker
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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 956.70443/Coker Due Aug 27, 2022
Subjects
Published
[New York, New York] : Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xv, 309 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [289]-296) and index.
ISBN
9780062947420
0062947427
9780062947413
0062947419
9780063063204
0063063204
Main Author
Margaret Coker (author)
  • Blessings of an Oldest Child
  • A Chance for Freedom
  • Breaking with the Past
  • Return of the Exiles
  • Ache for Paradise
  • Murder Capital of the World
  • Education of a Radical
  • Building a Cover Story
  • Learning From Misinformation
  • Hunting for Prey
  • Living Your Best Life
  • Alone in the Wilderness
  • Awakening the Beast
  • War Hits Home
  • Volunteering for Danger
  • Launching the Mission
  • Inside the Lion's Den
  • Caught in a Trap
  • Coming Home Again
  • Racing Against Time
  • Stretched to the Breaking Point
  • Unraveling.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Building a top-notch intelligence service of capable, patriotic agents is a strong marker of statesmanship and sovereignty in a new nation, especially when the previous regime's spies and secret police were focused on protecting the ruling party over the good of the nation. The titular player, Abu Ali al-Basri, spent much of his life avoiding the latter, then, after Saddam Hussein's fall, realizing the former by establishing a government espionage unit called the Falcons. To confront Iraq's enemies, Abu Ali relied on traditional methods, using networks of spies and informants who could do the intricate and dangerous work that high-tech surveillance could not. Coker delves deeply into the spymaster's life, along with that of two of his heroic agents, brothers Harith and Munaf al-Sudani, and tracks their daring, secret fight against Al Qaeda and ISIS. She also paints a detailed picture of life in Iraq, from family traditions and culture to politics and intrigue, providing an informative and invaluable perspective for Western readers within an intensely suspenseful, superbly well-reported, and significant tale of brave and essential covert counterintelligence operations. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad, Coker shows how a group of ordinary Iraqis with little relevant training came together as a covert intelligence unit called the Falcons and successfully infiltrated ISIS, breaking its power. With a 75,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

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.—Jill Ortner, SUNY Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Coker debuts with a fascinating, character-driven chronicle of the battle against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq. She centers her account on Abu Ali al-Basri, leader of an elite Iraqi intelligence unit known as "the Falcons," and two young men under his command. Framing the book with the joint Iraqi-American raid that resulted in the death of ISIS mastermind Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019, Coker follows brothers Harith and Munaf al-Sudani as they endure family strife, the fall of Saddam Hussein, and the violence of the postinvasion insurgency before finally settling into vital roles on al-Basri's spy team. Coker juxtaposes their heroic journey with the descent of Abrar al-Kubaisi, a young Sunni woman whose despair over the American occupation of Iraq led to her radicalization by ISIS. Coker ties the threads of the narrative together in a gripping and well-crafted conclusion worthy of a spy novel. Though she paints a vivid and harrowing picture of the fallout from the Iraq War, it is Coker's focus on the resilience and bravery of Iraqis who are leading the fight to rebuild their country that lifts this book above other accounts of the war on terror. The result is a dramatic and edifying must-read for espionage fans and anyone interested in Middle Eastern affairs. (Feb.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"From the former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad comes the gripping and heroic story of an elite, top-secret team of unlikely spies who triumphed over ISIS"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A former New York Times Baghdad bureau chief tells the story of a covert Iraqi intelligence unit who infiltrated ISIS and helped turned the tide of war against the terrorist organization. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From the former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad comes the gripping and heroic story of an elite, top-secret team of unlikely spies who triumphed over ISIS. The Spymaster of Baghdad tells the dramatic yet intimate account of how a covert Iraqi intelligence unit called “the Falcons” came together against all odds to defeat ISIS. The Falcons, comprising ordinary men with little conventional espionage background, infiltrated the world’s most powerful terrorist organization, ultimately turning the tide of war against the terrorist group and bringing safety to millions of Iraqis and the broader world. Centered around the relationship between two brothers, Harith al-Sudani, a rudderless college dropout who was recruited to the Falcons by his all-star younger brother Munaf, and their eponymous unit commander Abu Ali, The Spymaster of Baghdad follows their emotional journey as Harith volunteers for the most dangerous mission imaginable. With piercing lyricism and thrilling prose, Coker’s deeply-reported account interweaves heartfelt portraits of these and other unforgettable characters as they navigate the streets of war-torn Baghdad and perform heroic feats of cunning and courage.The Falcons’ path crosses with that of Abrar, a young, radicalized university student who, after being snubbed by the head of the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program, plots her own attack. At the near-final moment, the Falcons intercept Abrar’s deadly plan to poison Baghdad’s drinking water and arrest her in the middle of the night—just one of many covert counterterrorism operations revealed for the first time in the book. Ultimately, The Spymaster of Baghdad is a page-turning account of wartime espionage in which ordinary people make extraordinary sacrifices for the greater good. Challenging our perceptions of terrorism and counterterrorism, war and peace, Iraq and the wider Middle East, American occupation and foreign intervention, The Spymaster of Baghdad is a testament to the power of personal choice and individual action to change the course of history—in a time when we need such stories more than ever.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From the former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad comes the gripping and heroic story of an elite, top-secret team of unlikely spies who triumphed over ISIS. The Spymaster of Baghdad tells the dramatic yet intimate account of how a covert Iraqi intelligence unit called 'the Falcons' came together against all odds to defeat ISIS. The Falcons, comprised of ordinary men with little conventional espionage background, infiltrated the world's most powerful terrorist organization, ultimately turning the tide of war against the terrorist group and bringing safety to millions of Iraqis and the broader world. Centered around the relationship between two brothers, Harith al-Sudani, a rudderless college dropout who was recruited to the Falcons by his all-star younger brother Munaf, and their eponymous unit commander Abu Ali, The Spymaster of Baghdad follows their emotional journey as Harith volunteers for the most dangerous mission imaginable. With piercing lyricism and thrilling prose, Coker's deeply-reported account interweaves heartfelt portraits of these and other unforgettable characters as they navigate the streets of war-torn Baghdad and perform heroic feats of cunning and courage.The Falcons' path crosses with that of Abrar, a young, radicalized university student who, after being snubbed by the head of the Islamic State's chemical weapons program, plots her own attack. At the near-final moment, the Falcons intercept Abrar's deadly plan to poison Baghdad's drinking water and arrest her in the middle of the night'just one of many covert counterterrorism operations revealed for the first time in the book. Ultimately, The Spymaster of Baghdad is a page-turning account of wartime espionage in which ordinary people make extraordinary sacrifices for the greater good. Challenging our perceptions of terrorism and counterterrorism, war and peace, Iraq and the wider Middle East, American occupation and foreign intervention, The Spymaster of Baghdad is a testament to the power of personal choice and individual action to change the course of history'in a time when we need such stories more than ever.