Monday, June 30, 2014

Tracking Al Qaeda in Iraq's Zarqawi Interview With Ex-CIA Analyst Nada Bakos


Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was most famous for leading Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In fact, his first organization was called Tawhid wal Jihad, which he formed in the 1990s before he had joined al Qaeda. In 2002, Zarqawi travelled to Iraq to prepare for the U.S. invasion. It wasn’t until January 2004 that he asked for assistance from Al Qaeda central, and then in October 2004 he finally pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi proved to be a much more bloodthirsty terrorist than even bin Laden was used to as AQI became committed to attacking Iraqis, and especially Shiites to start a civil war, which was hoped would destabilize the country and lead to the failure of the American effort in Iraq. To help explain Zarqawi’s career in Iraq is former CIA analyst Nada Bakos. She was part of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center who was sent to Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion to track Zarqawi’s activities.
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi turned his Tawhid wal Jihad into Al Qaeda In Iraq in 2004 (Institute for the Study of Violent Groups)

1. When did the CIA send you to Iraq?

That was right after the invasion in May 2003.

2. When you were sent there were you tasked with following the insurgency or just intelligence gathering in general?

Remember in May 2003 we hadn’t experienced an increase in violence yet. The uptick started while I was there.

I was sent to Iraq as an expert for my team [the CIA’s Iraq Counterterrorism unit] because they needed someone who could evaluate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s network, and if he had a connection to Al Qaeda. They wanted at least one expert on the ground in case something came up, but also at that point the CIA was just trying to find out what Zarqawi’s network was doing.

3. Zarqawi had his own group Tawhid wal Jihad that he started in the 1990s. After he came to Iraq in January 2004 he asked Al Qaeda for aid, and then in October 2004 pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Why did he decide to make that connection to Al Qaeda?

At the time everyone thought of course Zarqawi was going to join Al Qaeda, because it’s Al Qaeda, it’s a bigger brand. Yet he had all the money. He was galvanizing all this support and new recruits because he was gaining ground, not unlike what the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is doing now. Al Qaeda at the time was still the big dog on the block. They were worth joining from his perspective because they would have more consistent funding, weapons, people, and give him a broader reach. Yet, he managed to do it on his terms.

4. In the HBO documentary “Manhunt, The Search for Bin Laden” you said that Zarqawi was different from others leaders in Al Qaeda. What was the big difference that led AQ to criticize him in 2005-2006 in two letters saying that he was hurting their cause?

The tactics that ISIS are using today stem from Zarqawi’s strategy. He took advantage of the sectarian divide, using it purposely to cause more destruction. He knew that was going to cause a huge disruption for U.S. troops, which it did.

The differences that emerged with Al Qaeda was how Zarqawi was waging jihad. Al Qaeda was disgruntled with how he was going about killing Muslims and civilians seemingly at random. They wanted to reign him in, but he wasn’t having it. He had figured out his strategy early on, and this was how he was going to approach jihad, and he was actually going to take advantage of the insurgency. That’s what ISIS is doing now.

5. It seems like ISIS is trying to do the same things Zarqawi did. ISIS cooperates with different insurgent groups, and it sees itself as the vanguard leading all these other organizations. What kind of cooperation did Zarqawi have with other militant groups?

Zarqawi ran a very different organization than core Al Qaeda. He wasn’t as stringent about the hierarchy in his organization. He started out with what we termed as a network. His nodules of contact were more like concentric circles whereas Al Qaeda has a hierarchy. He wasn’t as concerned with that. He ended up working with random insurgent groups just from an opportunist perspective versus worrying about whether they were pledging allegiance to him or really why they were fighting. His concern wasn’t the same as what Al Qaeda does when they join allegiance with someone. He was taking advantage of the insurgency just depending upon the territory. That was a big distinction. That was a strength and a drawback. When you look at ISIS today it appears that they are more military like in the way that they approach what they’re doing. They seem to have more of a structure, more of a hierarchy. In large part probably because these are Iraqis that were probably in the military or the Baathist regime at one point, so that’s their background and experience.

6. Did Zarqawi get into arguments with other insurgent groups as well?

Yes, I think I vaguely remember some. It wasn’t on the scale of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Not even remotely close. There were certainly plenty of arguments. Look at the arguments between him and core Al Qaeda, Zarqawi wasn’t someone who was going to give up his stance. How much inter-jihadi violence there was I’m not really sure.

7. How about Zarqawi’s funding. Today a lot of Iraqis talk about how ISIS is funded from donations from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Where did Zarqawi’s money mostly come from?

ISIS has a lot of its own funding. I don’t think even the U.S. government thinks most of their funding is coming from the Gulf States. Zarqawi began his start up in the 1990s, it was a $200,000 loan from bin Laden. He continued to galvanize more support as time went on because he was focusing on the Jordanian government. He was getting support from people that supported that cause. He was really looking at the Levant at that time. Then of course once Iraq popped up that was an opportunity for him. He ended up getting a lot of money from different sources and donors because he was the main player. Al Qaeda wasn’t doing anything on the same scale as Zarqawi after 9/11. So he ended up attracting a lot more funding at that time.

8. Was he getting most of that money from within Iraq or from foreign sources?

The majority of his network was foreign fighters. He pulled from all sorts of areas. He pulled guys from the Maghreb, from the Levant. He had some fighters from the Caucuses. He had a global network not unlike Al Qaeda, so they were tapping into a lot of the same sources.

9. Zarqawi had a plan called the Baghdad Belts. It seems like ISIS is trying to follow the same thing today, get into Babil province, Anbar, etc. surround Baghdad and head for the capital. Did you get any information about Zarqawi’s strategy?

We didn’t have the same open source visibility that you have today about ISIS. It was not like that with Zarqawi. It was much more clandestine and compartmented. The basic information that ISIS shares all over social media was treated as classified by Zarqawi’s organization. Zarqawi released videos that revealed some of his political messages, and military capabilities, but not on the same scale as ISIS. Obviously we had clandestine sources as well.  Zarqawi’s battle plan looks very similar to what ISIS is doing today.

10. Could you tell the story of how the U.S. finally tracked down Zarqawi?  

This is the ironic part of my experience, I spent five years focusing on Zarqawi and two months before he was killed I decided to move onto another assignment. I was just ready to go. Everyone I had known who had worked on this topic had largely moved onto something else, so I decided to do the same at that time too. In the end it doesn’t matter, it was a team effort from the beginning and I was relieved after hearing the news.

SOURCES

Benjamin, Daniel and Simon, Steven, The Next Attack, New York: Times Books, 2005

Debat, Alexis, “Vivisecting the Jihad,” National Interest, 6/23/04

Filkins, Dexter, “Intercepted memo seeks al Qaeda aid,” San Francisco Chronicle, 2/9/04

Gambill, Gary, “Abu Musaib Al-Zarqawi: A Biographical Sketch,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 12/16/04

HBO, “Manhunt, The Search For Bin Laden” May 2013

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi group ‘splits’ from al-Qaeda,” 4/12/07

Reid, Robert, “U.S. planes, tanks batter insurgent stronghold,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18/04

Roggio, Bill, “Dear Zarqawi: A Letter from Zawahiri, and a Constitutional Compromise,” Long War Journal, 10/12/05
- “Harmony: The Attyia – Zarqawi Letter,” Long War Journal, 9/27/06
- “Islamic Army of Iraq splits from Al Qaeda,” Long War Journal, 4/12/07

Ware, Michael, “The Enemy With Many Faces,” Time, 9/27/04

Saturday, June 28, 2014

RADIO FREE IRAQ VIDEO: Christians Displaced From Mosul


Musings On Iraq In The News


I was quoted in “ISIL funding becomes increasingly self-sufficient” in Today’s Zaman and Andrew Sullivan's "The Ever-Expanding ISIS, Ctd" in the Daily Dish.

CHATHAM HOUSE VIDEO: Iraq: Tensions Mounting

RADIO FREE IRAQ: Iraqis Inspect Aftermath Of Syrian Air Strike


REUTERS VIDEO: Displaced People In Kurdistan


RADIO FREE IRAQ VIDEO: ISIL Fighters Patrol Streets Of Mosul


VIDEO: Mahdi Army's Peace Brigades In Iraq


CNN VIDEO: Secret Video of ISIS Smuggled Out of Iraq


Friday, June 27, 2014

Iraq’s Northern Front Stalemate In Salahaddin


Salahaddin was where the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and militias stopped the insurgent’s surge south from Mosul. That was not before nearly half of the province fell to militants. Salahaddin became where the government drew the line because it contains the Askari shrine in Samarra, which is important not only for Baghdad, but the militias and Iran. Since that time the fight in the governorate has settled into a war of attrition, foreshadowing what the battle against the militants will be like in the entire country. 

 ISIS destroying an ISF outpost in Salahaddin (via Alexandre Massimo)


Islamic Army of Iraq in Salahaddin (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)




ISIS victory parade in Baiji after its fall featuring captured ISF HUMVEES (via Alexandre Massimo)
 ISIS fighter in front of a destroyed HUMVEE in Tuz Kharmoto district (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)

Images released by ISIS of its massacre of captured soldiers in Tikrit (via Alexandre Massimo)
 Burnt out HUMVEE destroyed in Tikrit by Naqshibandi (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)
 HUMVEE captured at army base in Tikrit by Naqshibandi (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)

After the Fall of Mosul the insurgents charged south for Baghdad, but were stopped in Salahaddin. June 10, 2014 the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) collapsed in Ninewa province, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and other insurgent groups immediately went for the capital. They took Highway 2 south taking Shirqat and Baiji in northern Salahaddin, while another force went through western Kirkuk and ended up taking Sulaiman Bek in the western part of the province. They stopped outside the provincial capital of Tikrit. Like in Ninewa most of the ISF fled, sometimes without putting up a fight. The army depot in Baiji for example was abandoned leaving behind all the weapons and supplies for the insurgents. This also led the peshmerga to move into the Tuz Khurmato district in the west to fill the security vacuum left by the retreating security forces. The Tuz area is also a disputed area that the Kurdish regional government has long claimed. The next day the militants took Tikrit, and launched an assault upon Samarra, which was repulsed. It was during this period that ISIS released pictures on social media claiming that it had executed 1,700 soldiers who were captured in Tikrit. That was made for propaganda purposes, and Human Rights Watch believes that around 160-190 men were actually killed in two locations in the city. By June 14 the ISF had rallied a bit and were able to clear Dhuluiya, which is to the east of Samarra, and Ishaqi that is to the west of Balad, while holding onto the Tikrit air base. By that time there was a general mobilization in the country after Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani called on the public to support the security services. Militias also moved into Samarra to help the army and police protect the Askari shrine there.
Smoke billowing from the Baiji refinery which the ISF has been able to hold after several ISIS attacks

Army and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia units operating outside of Samarra (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)
Funeral in Najaf for a Badr militiamen killed in Samarra (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)

Today Salahaddin represents how even if the ISF and militias stand and fight it will be a long and bloody war ahead of them to defeat the insurgency. Neither the militants nor the government have been able to make much headway since June 14. Ishaqi for example was cleared that day, then again on June 19, and then a third time on June 25. To the west ISIS has repeatedly clashed with the peshmerga and Turkmen units in the Tuz Kharmato area, but have gained no ground. Militants have also attacked Balad air base. The real point of contention has been the Baiji refinery, which is one of the largest producers of fuel in the country. Despite continued assaults by tribes and ISIS and most of the guards and army units withdrawing the ISF were able to hold onto the facility. Ishaqi shows how even if the government is able to retake an area it lacks the capability to hold it. This has been repeated again and again in Anbar for the last six months where the ISF has cleared a town and then left allowing the insurgents to move right back in, requiring another operation and another and another. In western Salahaddin ISIS has run into the Kurdish and Turkmen forces and made little headway, but Irbil is content with just holding onto the disputed areas and not moving forward. That means there will be constant clashes along this area between Sulaiman Bek and Tuz Kharmato but nothing decisive. Baiji refinery has been held for now due to some valiant fighting by a SWAT unit, but the Islamic State is not going to give up as the facility could provide a huge source of fuel for Mosul and other territory it has captured in northern Iraq. Finally, Samarra is too important for Baghdad, the militias or Iran to let it fall. That has led to the current stalemate in the province.

Salahaddin is one area of Iraq where the Iraqi forces have stopped running and put up a fight. They have been able to hold onto roughly the southern half of the province with the Kurds securing the western section. In the future some new towns may fall to the insurgents, and others could be taken back, but the battle lines are pretty much set and the two sides are facing a long war ahead of them. Samarra has become a rallying cry for the government, the militias, and Iran, and the government has been able to hold onto the Baiji refinery. Those have both blunted the militants’ fast war of maneuver. At the same time, the ISF and militias have not proven successful at retaking and holding any territory as has happened in Ishaqi. The larger problem is that Baghdad has no strategy on how to turn around the security situation. That has left it and its militia allies to simply shoot it out with the insurgents, which will be a very long and costly endeavor.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Jihadists take areas in Iraq’s Salaheddin province,” 6/10/14
- “Iraq’s Tikrit falls to militants: police,” 6/11/14

AIN, "Samara Operations Command, 100 security elements besieged inside air base in Tikrit," 6/14/14
- “Security forces supported by tribes free Baiji district from ISIL elements,” 6/11/14

Buratha News, “Army regains control of Ishaqi Saladin after being cleared,” 6/25/14
- “Daash terrorists control Mosul and battles in the east of Tikrit,” 6/11/14
- “Defense Announces cleansing ISHAQI and grab large quantities of weapons and wheels,” 6/19/14
- “Terrorists seize weapon caches belonging to the army in northern Baiji,” 6/10/14

Daily Star, “Iraq forces repel militant assault on Samarra: witnesses,” 6/11/14

Al Forat, “Salah al-Din: Big ISIL military show in Sheikh Hamad village,” 6/10/14
- “Tuz Khormato freed of ISIL control,” 6/17/14

Fox News, “Sunni militants reportedly take control of small oil fields, attack air base in Iraq,” 6/25/14

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: ISIS Execution Site Located,” 6/27/14

Hussein, Muhammed, van den Toorn, Christine, and Osgood, Patrick, “Clashes and tension along Kurdistan’s new border,” Iraq Oil Report, 6/26/14

Lando, Ben, Van Heuvelen, ben, Najm, Jamal, and Tahir, Rawaz, “Baiji refinery nearly falls to insurgents,” Iraq Oil Report, 6/25/14

Al Mada, “Daash attacking army barracks east of Tikrit and its members are fleeing checkpoints in the region,” 6/10/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “The armed forces prepare to launch an operation of cleansing the road Baghdad-Samarar,” 6/25/14
- “BREAKING NEWS. Daash gunmen burning building of Salhuddin provincial council,” 6/11/14
- “Breaking News..Gunmen occupy Sulaiman Bek district, south of Kirkuk,” 6/10/14
- “Breaking News..Iraqi flag was raised over the building of the University of Tikrit after cleansing it from the ISIS elements,” 6/26/14
- “Breaking News..ISIS elements escape from al-Alam district in Salah al-Din and the police regain control it,” 6/26/14
- “The ISIS gunmen seize control on a checkpoint north of Tikrit and violent clashes in Tikrit Air Base,” 6/10/14
- “The militants control al-Dour district,” 6/11/14
- “Samarra Operations Command regains control (Ishaqi) area north of Baghdad,” 6/14/14

Al Rayy, “Cleansing Mutassim south of Tikrit of elements of Daash,” 6/20/14
- “Security forces and the support of tribes liberate Dhuluiya from elements of Daash,” 6/14/14

Shafaq News, “Daash control villages north of Tikrit, violent battles to control others,” 6/10/14

Sly, Liz and Hauslohner, Abigail, “Shiite militia seizes control of Iraqi town, slowing ISIS drive toward Baghdad,” Washington Post, 6/14/14

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Iraq’s Western Front Is Anbar Next To Fall?

 
Back in December 2013 Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik instigated the current fighting in Iraq by making a poor political decision in Anbar. In the middle of December the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) ambushed the leadership of the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division and killed all the commanding officers along the Anbar-Ninewa border. The premier announced a security operation to clear the province of insurgents, which rallied most of the country behind it. Maliki decided to take the opportunity to arrest Parliamentarian Ahmed Alwani from the Iraqi Islamic Party who had been one of the more vitriolic speakers at the Anbar protests, and then shut down the Ramadi demonstration site. Immediately afterward gunmen were seen in many of the provinces’ cities. Fighting quickly ensued and Fallujah and much of the surrounding area fell to militants. Since that time Baghdad has continuously claimed that it has the situation under control and that the insurgency is losing the fight there. The reality has been much different. Since ISIS’s surge across much of northern Iraq in June 2014 the security situation in Anbar has gotten worse and it appears that it could be the next province to fall.
The insurgency is pushing from Qaim and Rawa in the west and Fallujah in the east to squeeze out the government forces in between in places like Haditha, Hit, and Ramadi (Institute for the Study of War)

There has been heavy fighting in Anbar throughout June with the insurgency holding the upper hand. Starting on June 7, 2014 20 Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) gunmen stormed the Anbar University campus in Ramadi and held thousands of students hostage. They were repelled, but not before they raided the school’s treasury of 15 billion dinars. The insurgents then continued their campaign to cut off the major thoroughfares in the province to limit the mobility of the security forces (ISF). June 9 the bridge from Fallujah to neighboring Amiriya Fallujah in the south was blown up. The next day the bridge from Amiriya Fallujah to Baghdad was detonated. Starting in May the ISF said that it was launching a major operation to clear Fallujah, but it has gone nowhere. That’s because it has not been able to secure the insurgent bases and supply lines surrounding the city and has had its own cut by the bombings of these bridges. Things really turned for the worse starting on June 12 when the security forces began collapsing. The ISF withdrew from Kubaisa near Hit after a short gunfight, lost Saqlawiya to the north of Fallujah after a determined attack, almost lost Baghdadi, which is between Haditha and Hit, and suddenly withdrew from the Anbar-Syrian border near the town of Qaim and the major entrances to Fallujah with no provocation. That included fleeing the Mazra army base and leaving most if not all of its equipment behind. That was followed by the ISF fleeing Rawa, Ana, and Qaim on June 14. ISIS also took the border crossing from Qaim into Syria. That secured all the major towns in western Anbar along Highway 12 the major travel route through the province. The next day insurgents tried to storm the Tahadi power plant that supplies electricity for most of province, fired rockets at the Al-Asad army base the home of the 7th Division, and started fighting in Garma to the east of Fallujah. June 16 insurgents laid siege to Habaniya air base. The ISF responded with a security operation in southern Ramadi, retook Qaim, and sent in reinforcements, while the deputy head of the council Faleh Issawi claimed Rawa, Anan, Saqlawiya, Amiriya Fallujah, and Khalidiya had all been cleared. Those victories were short lived as the militants quickly recaptured Qaim, Rawa, Ana, Rutba, two small towns outside of Haditha, and the major border crossings to Syria and Jordan. The governing council was so alarmed by these advances that it told the press it was afraid the entire province was about to fall, while the Iraqi command claimed that these reversals were in fact a tactical withdrawal so that the security forces could regroup and attack again. By June 25, Haditha, which is the next major town on Highway 12 was nearly surrounded, and officials were afraid Ramadi might go next. Radio Free Iraq, which has been keeping track of the security situation in Anbar estimated that up to 85% of the province is now under insurgent control. It is important to note that while the Islamic State has done plenty of fighting in Anbar there are several other major groups involved as well, such as the Baathist Naqshibandi and its Military Councils, Jaysh al-Mujahadeen, many tribes, and others. Together they have made the security forces chase them across Anbar, while seizing town after town. 
Military Council firing mortar in Anbar (via Jawad Aymenn al-Tamimi)
Captured tanks and armored personnel carriers at Mazra army base (via Jawad Aymenn al-Tamimi)
 Insurgents taking down security barriers in Saqlawiya (via Alexandre Massimo)
Captured army equipment in Qaim (via Alexandre Massimo)
Captured border police vehicles in Qaim (via Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi)

Just as the Iraqi forces collapsed in Ninewa and parts of Kirkuk and Salahaddin in June, it has done the same in much of Anbar. The border crossings with Syria and Jordan are now under insurgent control, along with much of the area around Fallujah. The militants are now attempting to seize the remaining towns and cities between those two points such as Ramadi, Haditha, and Hit. The security forces, allied tribes, and the militias were already doing a bad job in holding the province before the June offensive started. They have repeatedly gone into the same towns again and again, but then leave allowing the insurgents to move right back in. Now they are fleeing like they have in the rest of the country. That could lead to the fall of Anbar, and another huge setback for the Iraqi government. The fact that it has not come up with any clear strategy to reverse the advances of the insurgency helps explain why these failures continue to occur.

SOURCES

BBC, “Iraq violence: Dozens killed by Baghdad bombings,” 6/7/14

Buratha News, “Combat and logistical reinforcements to Anbar for security forces after achieving great victories with clans in 7 areas,” 6/17/14
- “Start the process of an extensive security campaign in the district of Rawa, west of Ramadi cleared of “Daash,”” 6/16/14

Al Forat, “ISF liberate Saadan area in Anbar province,” 6/20/14

El-Hamed, “ISIS and the Anbar Crisis,” Sada, 6/12/14

Independent Press Agency, “Army regains control of the areas west of Ramadi,” 6/19/14

Al Jazeera, “Sunni rebels seize more towns in Iraq,” 6/22/14

Al Mada, “Anbar Operations regain control of Qaim after the storming of Daash,” 6/17/14
- “Anbar police declared an emergency to send three regiments to fight Daash in the western regions of the province,” 6/18/14
- “Armed groups re-open ports Fallujah after the withdrawal of the army surrounding the city,” 6/12/14
- “Army forces preparing to storm the center of Saqlawiyah to purify it from Daash,” 6/19/14
- “Expectations of the armed seizure of Anbar due to the withdrawal of the army and the provincial council says state control of over 80% of cities,” 6/14/14
- “The start of a major military operation to cleanse the western regions and border crossings in Anbar,” 6/24/14

Namaa, Kamal, “Iran rejects U.S. action in Iraq, ISIL tightens Syria border grip,” Reuters, 6/22/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “Breaking News..The army is launching a violent attack on militants west of Falluja,” 6/17/14
- “Clashes between the Awakening and the ISIS in al-Qaim east-west Anbar,” 6/19/14
- “Defense Ministry confirms that the security forces control Alwaleed and Trebil border ports,” 6/23/14
- “Helicopters bombed the military oil depot in Habbaniyah after being controlled by ISIS,” 6/16/14
- “Security forces and the sons of the tribes in Ramadi control al-Tash area and Street 60 after the expulsion of the terrorists,” 6/21/14
- “The withdrawal of the army from Kubaisa district western Anbar,” 6/12/14

Radio Free Iraq, “09 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/9/14
- “10 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/10/14
- “12 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/12/14
- “13 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar,” 6/13/14
- “14 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar,” 6/14/14
- “15 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/15/14
- “21 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/21/14
- “22 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/22/14
- “25 June 2014,” Daily Updates from Iraq, 6/25/14

Al Rafidayn, “Daash holding 15 employees hostage at the University of Anbar and steal $ 15 billion from its treasury,” 6/9/14
- “The fight against terrorism: Ninety percent of the city of Ramadi became freed,” 5/9/14

Al Rayy, “The start of a military operation to regain control of the area in Karabilah based Western Anbar,” 6/17/14

Xinhua, “Iraqi security forces withdraw fro border with Syria,” 6/12/14
- “Iraqi troops withdraw form three cities in Anbar,” 6/22/14

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Precarious Relationship Between The Islamic State of Iraq And The Baathist Naqshibandi


Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshibandi (JRTN) is the Baathist insurgent group led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s former number two. After the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) the Baathists are one of the largest insurgent groups in the country. Those two organizations have had a very rough relationship. For years the two have cooperated in carrying out attacks in Iraq with one usually providing the money and planning, while the other launches the operation. Now however ISIS is demanding that JRTN units pledge allegiance to it, which has been resisted. That has led to several clashes between the two in Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Diyala provinces. These cracks in the insurgency have continued in the midst of their uprising against Baghdad, and are likely to grow in the future.
The Baathist Naqshibandi have had a difficult relationship with ISIS over the last few months leading to constant clashes between the two (Wikipedia)

Starting this spring there have been continued reports of clashes between the JRTN and ISIS. The latest lasted several days in Kirkuk province. The fighting started in Riyad on June 20 when ISIS allegedly confiscated the weapons of a Naqshibandi unit and kidnapped one of its leaders, and told it that it had to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. When the JRTN refused there was a gunfight that left 9 Naqshibandi and 8 ISIS fighters dead. An alternative story emerged that the two might have been fighting over money that would come from a number of fuel tankers that JRTN was using. Two days later shooting broke out again in the same area leaving 10 dead, and the next day an IED was set off against an ISIS convoy killing one and wounding two. These were just the most recent incidents between the two. On June 16 for example, 12 insurgents died in Mosul after the JRTN’s Military Council criticized the Islamic State’s code of conduct for the city. Control over the money seized in Mosul might have been an issue as well. Those all occurred after the current uprising started, but the two had been arguing over the same issues for months beforehand. On May 28 ISIS killed 8 Naqshibandi fighters in Baiji, Salahaddin because the Islamic State told them they had to follow its lead. JRTN retaliated by setting up an ambush for an ISIS leader and two of his aides in the Hamrin area of Diyala. Earlier on May 2 there was a news report that the Baathists had authorized the killing of ISIS members in Diyala after it had killed six of its leaders since January 2014. For instance, the Islamic State murdered a Naqshibandi commander and his son in Hamrin on April 7. A member of the Diyala provincial council claimed that the conflict between the two cost ISIS up to 70 fighters a not insignificant number. Publicly the Baathists have denied that there are any problems between it and the Islamic State. That shows the basic inequality between the insurgent organizations. ISIS is by far the most well armed and organized militant group in Iraq. The JRTN is in effect living in its shadow willing to cooperate with it, but not give its loyalty since the two have diametrically opposed worldviews. ISIS wants to create an Islamic State across the Muslim world, while the Naqshibandi want to restore Baathist rule in Iraq. These differences will persist in the future, and likely grow in intensity as the insurgency spreads to new areas of the country.

As ISIS takes more territory and attempts to administer it more examples of these conflicts with not only JRTN but other insurgent groups will emerge. ISIS and its predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq have a long history of trying to impose itself upon others. That’s especially true of the Islamic State who sees itself as a vanguard in the jihadist movement, which all others should follow. Already in Syria it has fought not only the Assad government, but various other opponents of the regime. The Americans were able to play upon these divisions with the insurgency with the Anbar Awakening and Sons of Iraq that were instrumental in turning the tide during the civil war years. Now it is nearly impossible to imagine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or any other Shiite premier making a deal with Baathists or other Islamist groups to turn on ISIS since all are seen as existential threats to the state and Shiite rule. The results are a lost opportunity to turn the militants upon themselves, which will mean more fighting in the long run.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Sunni militant infighting kills 17 in Iraq’s Kirkuk,” 6/21/14

Alsumaria, “Intelligence source in Diyala: Naqshibandi allow the killing of leaders and members of Daash and describe them as apostates,” 5/2/14

Buratha News, “Diyala Council reveals the existence of the terrorist al-Baghdad, and confirms the existence of problems between Daash and Naqshbandi,” 6/1/14
- “The killing of a leader in the terrorist organization “Naqshibandi” and his son at the hands of the elements of “Daash” terrorists northeast of Baquba,” 4/7/14
- “Naqshbandi executed terrorist organization leader in Daash and two of his aides in Diyala in response to executions in Salahuddin,” 6/1/14
- “Sharp differences between Daash gangs and leaders of Saddam’s Baath Party over the looted money in Mosul,” 6/14/14

Al Masalah, “Organization “Naqshibandi” deny entry in an armed conflict with “Daash,”” 6/3/14

Namaa, Kamal, “Iran rejects U.S. action in Iraq, ISIL tightens Syria border grip,” Reuters, 6/22/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “Clashes erupt between ISIS and other armed groups in Kirkuk,” 6/23/14
- “ISIS executes eight people for not swear allegiance to ISIS,” 5/31/14

New Sabah, “Council Diyala: sharp differences between armed groups,” 5/5/14

Al Rafidayn, “Diyala announce the deaths of more than two dozen in armed infighting going on between Daash and Naqshbandi,” 6/3/14

Al Rayy, “Clashes between the Naqshibandi and Daash in Mosul,” 6/16/14

Shafaq News, “ISIL kidnap Nashbandi leader in Kirkuk due to influence conflict,” 6/21/14

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Iraq’s Central Front Attacks Upon Baghdad Continue While ISIS Fights In Rest Of Country

 
Most of the attention on Iraq’s security situation right now is focused upon the fighting in Salahaddin, Anbar and Ninewa, and to a lesser extent Diyala and Kirkuk. Little has been said about the continued attacks upon Baghdad province. The ultimate goal of the insurgency is to reach the capital and overthrow the government. Right now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is the only group that has the capability to hit the central governorate. It has kept up a steady dose of shootings and bombings there showing that its networks continue to operate in Baghdad despite its commitments to other parts of the country.

Despite heavy fighting across central Iraq the Islamic State has been able to maintain its operating in Baghdad province. On June 6 ISIS and other insurgent groups launched its assault upon Mosul. After the fall of that city the militants charged across half of Salahaddin and western Kirkuk. Since then it has made more advances in Anbar and across western Ninewa, along with continued fighting in Diyala and northern Babil. None of that has stopped ISIS’s operations in Baghdad. The average number of attacks per day has not changed from the beginning of the year to June, and casualties are some of the highest seen so far this year. From June 1-21 there were an average of 7.5 attacks per day reported in the press, which compared to February’s 7.2, March’s 7.5, April’s 7.1, and May’s 7.8. The average number of dead was at 15.2 so far in June, which is the third highest of the year only behind May’s 15.9 and January’s 17.9. Likewise there have been 36.7 wounded per day in the first three weeks of June with only January’s 38.2 being higher. This has been caused by a steady stream of shootings, 2.3 per day, and bombings, 4.8 per day. Surprisingly these casualties have not ben the result of car bombs. There have been the same average number of those types of attacks at 0.8 in April, 0.9 in May, and 0.8 in June, but they have not been launched in the consistent waves as seen in previous periods. From June 1-23 vehicle born IEDs (VBIEDs) have been spread out with June 7 the only exception when there were 6 across Baghdad resulting in 23 killed and 91 injured. Otherwise there has only been one or two about every other day during the month. In previous months there were one to two days off and then a couple days of 1-3 car bombs followed by a huge number on one or two days before ramping down and repeating the pattern. The series of VBIEDs is the only change in violence in Baghdad governorate since fighting started in other parts of Iraq.

Violence In Baghdad Province 2014
Date
Attacks
Killed
Wounded
Shootings
Bombs
Car Bombs
Jan 1-7
57
105
181
28
30
5
Jan 8-14
56
145
297
22
29
9
Jan 15-21
67
170
383
16
49
24
Jan 22-28
56
89
185
21
32
6
Jan 29-31
15
48
141
4
15
5
Jan Total
251
557
1,187
91
155
49
Feb 1-7
59
133
300
18
40
24
Feb 8-14
45
48
121
20
25
4
Feb 15-21
49
71
199
19
30
7
Feb 22-28
51
111
231
24
28
3
Feb Total
204
363
851
81
123
38
Mar 1-7
68
114
284
21
47
10
Mar 8-14
41
46
130
5
27
5
Mar 15-21
48
102
244
10
38
8
Mar 22-27
47
83
208
17
32
6
Mar 28-31
29
40
81
8
21
2
Mar Total
233
385
947
61
165
31
Apr 1-7
61
69
123
26
33
-
Apr 8-14
48
87
212
16
31
12
Apr 15-21
61
131
289
11
37
8
Apr 22-28
37
120
264
14
23
4
Apr 29-30
8
17
36
1
4
-
Apr Total
215
424
924
68
128
24
May 1-7
42
49
63
25
15
-
May 8-14
88
171
329
31
48
18
May 15-21
56
100
187
24
31
3
May 22-28
45
159
404
13
33
8
May 29-31
13
14
37
1
10
1
May Total
244
493
1,020
93
137
30
Jun 1-7
58
114
288
18
34
11
Jun 8-14
54
100
242
22
34
3
Jun 15-21
47
106
242
9
34
3

Average Levels Of Violence Per Day In Baghdad 2014
Month
Attacks
Killed
Wounded
Shootings
Bombs
Car
Bombs
Jan
8.0
17.9
38.2
2.9
5.0
1.5
Feb
7.2
12.9
30.3
2.8
4.3
1.3
Mar
7.5
12.4
30.5
1.9
5.3
1.0
Apr
7.1
14.1
30.8
2.2
4.2
0.8
May
7.8
15.9
32.9
3.0
4.4
0.9
Jun 1-21
7.5
15.2
36.7
2.3
4.8
0.8

Car Bombs In Baghdad June 1-23 2014
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Jun 1
-
-
-
Jun 2
8
19
Jun 3
-
-
-
Jun 4
4
12
Jun 5
5
15
Jun 6
-
-
-
Jun 7
23
91
Jun 8
-
-
-
Jun 9
-
-
-
Jun 10
6
10
Jun 11
18
45
Jun 12
-
-
-
Jun 13
3
7
Jun 14
-
-
-
Jun 15
12
29
Jun 16
-
-
-
Jun 17
11
40
Jun 18
-
-
-
Jun 19
2
8
Jun 20
-
-
-
Jun 21
-
-
-
Jun 22
-
-
-
Jun 23
-
-
-
Total
17
92
276


Insurgents also continue to infiltrate into the capital city. On June 16 for example Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) said that it had killed 56 ISIS members and wounded another 21 as they were trying to infiltrate from Anbar in the west, Babil in the south, and from the north as well. June 21 the Operations Command reported 10 dead militants who were trying to sneak into the capital or plant improvised explosive devices. Then on June 23 the BOC told the press that another 12 insurgents lost their lives in various outskirts of the capital province. ISIS’s charge from the north has been blunted in central Salahaddin, but the Islamic State has been building up its networks in the Baghdad Belts that surround the capital for months now. It is currently trying to move more people into the capital from Anbar in the west, Diyala in the east, and Babil in the south. Obviously the supply lines into and throughout Baghdad continue to operate with no slackening due to the current offensive as the security incident statistics show.

Baghdad and overthrowing the government is the goal of all of Iraq’s insurgent groups. So far only the Islamic State of Iraq has been able to carry out attacks in that province. It has an extensive network of safe houses and supply lines going throughout the governorate and extending into the surrounding areas that pass fighters, ammunition and explosives into the center to carry out operations. These have shown no let up since June 4 when Mosul was attacked. That means ISIS has maintained its manpower in the Baghdad Belts and not diverted them to other areas to carry out fighting there. The only thing that has seemingly decreased is the constant wave of car bombs, but the overall number of them has remained steady. The sad fact is that violence in Baghdad could actually get worse as the militants want to restart street fighting there just as it did before to threaten the authorities. When that will happen is not known but events have metastasized much quicker than anyone thought so gun battles in the capital could be a reality sooner rather than later.

SOURCES

Buratha News, "Martyrdom and wounding 42 people, the preliminary outcome of a suicide bombing in Bab al-Sheikh district in central Baghdad," 6/15/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding seven people blown up in a car bomb in Shaab district in northeastern Baghdad," 6/5/14

Al Forat, "9 civilians killed, injured northern Baghdad," 6/7/14

Iraq Times, "Martyrdom and wounding 13 people, the bombing targeting Alwa eastern Baghdad," 6/5/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding 20 worshippers targeting Shiite shrine in the neighborhood of Ur," 6/7/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding 21 civilians by a car bomb in western Baghdad Bayaa," 6/7/14
- "martyrs and wounded toll initial burst of Sadr City 51," 6/17/14

Al-Khafaji, Osama, "Killing two soldiers and wounding nine others, suicide bombing on checkpoint north of Baghdad," Alsumaria, 6/2/14

Al Mada, "Killing and wounding at least eight soldiers blown up by a suicide car bomb north of Baghdad," 6/2/14

Al Masalah, "18 dead and 45 wounded..final outcome of the suicide bombing which targeted a checkpoint in Kazemiya," 6/11/14
- "Killing one civilian and a lieutenant colonel and wounding eight by a roadside bomb in New Baghdad," 6/19/14
- "Killing six civilians and wounding 10 others by a car bomb in the neighborhood of Ur," 6/10/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “56 terrorists killed, 21 others wounded in last 24 hours in Baghdad,” 6/16/14
- “Baghdad Operations: /10/ terrorists killed, others injured and improvised explosive devices dismantled in the capital,” 6/21/14
- "Breaking News..Death toll of the car bomb in al- Amil district rose to 3 killed and 11 wounded," 6/7/14
- "Breaking News…Seventeen people killed and wounded in a car bomb attack in eastern Baghdad," 6/7/14
- “A number of terrorists killed and injured along with seizing of explosives in Baghdad,” 6/23/14
- "Two policeman killed, two others injured in a car bomb explosion south of Baghdad," 6/19/14

Radio Nawa, "Baghdad bombings toll rises to 13 dead and 79 wounded," 6/7/14
- "Killing and wounding 10 people in the bombing of the village seen north of Baghdad," 6/14/14

Salaheddin, Sinan, "Attacks across Iraq kill at least 15 people," Associated Press, 6/2/14
- "Car bombs strike Iraq's Kirkuk as attacks kill 17," Associated Press, 6/4/14

Post Mosul Liberation Day 16 Jul 26 2017

UN installing power transformer in east Mosul to deliver electricity to neighborhoods (UNDP) Iraqi army cleari...