Revolt on the Tigris

The Al Sadr Uprising and the Governing of Iraq

Part of the Crises in World Politics series
June 2005 9781850657736 250pp
Temporarily out of stock


A former paratrooper in the British Army with extensive experience of conflict and post-conflict management in the countries of former Yugoslavia, Mark Etherington had just completed a degree in international relations at Cambridge University in 2003 when the British Foreign Office asked him to assume the administration of Wasit Province in southern Iraq on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA. He established a small team in the provincial capital of al-Kut on the banks of the Tigris in order to begin the process of reconstruction––both political and physical––of a province with a predominantly Shi’ia population of 900,000 and a long border with Iran. The province was plagued by poverty and beset by social paralysis. A demoralised and sometimes corrupt police force was incapable of imposing the rule of law. Ba’ath party functionaries had been purged, local municipal authority was weak, and basic services were lacking. More challenging still was an escalating armed insurgency by the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr that culminated in a sixteen-hour firefight for control of the CPA’s base in Kut. This gritty and compelling firsthand account of post-conflict Iraq describes the turmoil visited on the country by outside intervention and the difficulties faced by the Coalition in fashioning a new political and civil apparatus.


‘This is an extraordinary story, brilliantly told … [Etherington’s] courage, intelligence, empathy, intellectual rigour, scepticism and even idealism shine through. His understanding of the region, the reconstruction process and—crucially—the uses and limitations of military power, make him a superb guide through the complexities of occupied Iraq … His account should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Iraq the headlines never cover.’ — Dominick Donald, The Guardian

‘A tour-de-force of war reporting; at times a comedy of errors and, at others, a terrifying drama of suspense, it brings the surrealism of the twenty-first-century battlefield sharply to life … Etherington provides a measured and intelligent critique of almost every aspect of the coalition’s postwar planning … Anyone seriously interested either in the future of that beleaguered nation or the possibilities of intelligent diplomacy would do well to read this firsthand account.’ — Publishers Weekly

‘Revolt on the Tigris is the best account from the ground of the high intent of many of those sent forth by Paul Bremer, the American proconsul of the hour, to set things straight in post-Saddam Iraq, and where it went wrong.’ — Robert Fox, Times Literary Supplement


Mark Etherington was brought up in Kuwait and Qatar and educated at York and Cambridge Universities and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He served six years in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, including two tours of Northern Ireland. He was seconded to the European Community’s Monitor Mission in former Yugoslavia during the 1992-1995 war and has worked in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was appointed CBE in December 2004.

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