The Spymaster of Baghdad :  Character List

The Spymaster of Baghdad follows the lives of four Iraqis, three heroes and one villain, through the shadowy, espionage wars that since 2003 made their Middle East nation ground zero in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The Spymaster: Abu Ali al-Basri

Abu Ali al-Basri spent most of his adult life on the run from Saddam Hussein’s secret police as part of the political opposition that had worked to bring down his dictatorial regime. During his years in the Iraqi underground, he honed an expertise in surveillance, cover stories, and dead drops, and especially for cultivating agents who might be in a position to relay lifesaving information. When al-Basri returned from a long exile to work for Iraq’s first democratically elected prime minister after 2003, he was well-equipped with skills that could help counter the nation’s newest national security threat.

 

Quietly, and controversially, al-Basri used his authority within the Iraqi government to stitch together an elite intelligence unit called al-Suquor, or the Falcons. Over the course of sixteen months, the Falcons stopped thirty suicide bombers and eighteen separate massive terror attacks on Baghdad, each of which would have had the equivalent destructive capacity of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Due to operational concerns,  no published photographs of the spymaster's face exist.

The Oldest Son: Harith al-Sudani

As the oldest boy in a family from the poor district called Saddam City, Harith al-Sudani was expected to absorb the aches, pains, and worries of his siblings. His father resolved to toughen up his son, focusing on discipline, reasoning that if Harith could endure what he inflicted on him, he could survive life in Iraq. Harith was the smartest boy in the class and as child he sold poetry to his classmates wanting to impress girls. As a teenager, before school, he worked in one of Baghdad’s open-air markets to help support his family, and became known as the guy who could sell dates to a date farmer or a rug to a carpet merchant.

 

Harith earned the best marks in Saddam City in his final exams, guaranteeing him acceptance in college, but poor marks in his first year and a disagreement with his father over a girl left him a rudderless dropout in his twenties. Eventually, Harith was recruited by his younger brother and joined the Falcons where he found a measure of belonging. And after his son was nearly caught in a bombing, Harith volunteers for the most dangerous mission imaginable—infiltrating ISIS.

Harith al-Sudani  on vacation in Lebanon.

The All-Star Brother: Munaf al-Sudani

Ever since he was little, Munaf al-Sudani had harbored a secret dream about what he wanted to do with his life: he wanted to become a policeman. Yet for just as long, Munaf had been taught that people of his station couldn’t achieve their dreams. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Munaf enrolled in the new Iraqi police academy, and was on track to becoming one of the first cadets of the nation’s young democracy.

 

Meanwhile, Abu Ali was looking for recruits for the Falcons, young men who were performing at the top of their classes at the military and police academies and older men whose names he had overheard from commanders when they discussed operations. Abu Ali dusted off his tradecraft acquired from his years living on the run in Baghdad and went undercover at the police academy disguised as a trash collector, a visit memorable because it was when he first heard about Munaf al-Sudani. On his graduation day from the police academy, Munaf was invited to join the Falcons.

Munaf al-Sudani 

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Abrar al-Kubaisi

The Daughter of Iraq: Abrar al-Kubaisi

Born into a family of academics, Abrar al-Kubaisi grew up playing in the garden of a two-story home in the leafy west Baghdad neighborhood of Amariya. As members of Baghdad’s middle class, the al-Kubaisis lived a relatively comfortable existence, and Abrar had inherited the family talent for learning. Her parents valued education in their daughters as well as their sons, and Abrar pursued a PhD in chemistry at Baghdad University.

 

But as sectarian violence intrudes on her once protected life, Abrar pours more and more of herself into her internet avatar, Bint al-Iraq, the Daughter of Iraq. Radicalized after a family tragedy, she travels to Mosul to join the Islamic State. After being snubbed by the head of ISIS’s chemical weapons program, Abrar plans a solo mission: a deadly chemical attack on Baghdad’s drinking water before the Falcons can stop her.  

Map of Baghdad, Iraq

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Map Citation: "Map of Baghdad," Institute for the Study of War, August 10, 2012.

Key

1. Sadr City on the far eastern side of Baghdad

2. Army Canal, the half crescent water drainage system on the east side of town that separates Sadr City from downtown Baghdad

3. Baghdad University in the Karrada neighborhood

4. Baghdad Green Zone, the area on the west side of the Tigris River opposite Karrada neighborhood

5. Tigris River

6. Amariyah neighborhood between the Green Zone and Baghdad Airport

7. Baghdad railway station, in Karkh neighborhood in the center of the city

8. Baghdad Airport, in the far west side of town

9. Baghdad Al-Jadeideh, the neighborhood south of Sadr City and south of Karrada