A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) holds an Isis flag and a weapon on a street in the city of MosulReuters
Al-Qaeda’s official offshoot in Syria has pledged allegiance to Isis at a flashpoint town on the Iraqi border, according to a monitoring group.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the merger between the two rival groups will allow Isis – an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – to control both sides of the border: Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq.
Al-Nusra Front, the official Syrian franchise for the global terror network, has “pledged loyalty to Isis”, according to the Observatory.
“The pledge comes amid advances by Isis in Deir Ezzor province,” in eastern Syria, the group told AFP.
A jihadist twitter account confirmed the reports and posted a picture showing an Egyptian al-Nusra commander shaking hands with Omar al-Shishani, the Isis leader of Chechen origin.
The two jihadist groups both have al-Qaeda links but have been fighting each other for months, since Isis became involved in the civil war.
An activist explained that the merger took place days after local rebel brigades, who had been working with the al-Nusra front, signed a declaration excluding the al-Qaeda branch from the Islamic court.
The jihadist group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly disobeyed orders from network leader Ayman al-Zawahri not to operate independently from al-Nusra in the country. Baghdadi reportedly dismissed Zawahri’s orders and attempted to merge the two branches.
Isis and al-Nusra emerged as the two main militant Islamic groups in Syria. Over time, Isis eclipsed al-Nusra in many areas in the north of the country.
As opposed to fighters from Al-Qaeda’s official offshoot in Syria, the al-Nusra front, members of Isis have been described by Syrian refugees as “foreign ‘occupiers'” whose only goal is creating a caliphate, a proto-state that straddles Syria and Iraq.
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian troops celebrating in the town of Kasab, on June 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA
BEIRUT: Government forces flushed opposition fighters from their last strongholds in northwestern Syria near the Turkish frontier Sunday, seizing the Armenian town of Kasab and restoring government control over a nearby border crossing, activists and state media said.
The developments came as regime airstrikes pounded bases in eastern Syria belonging to the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS in coordination with the Baghdad government, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The military’s advances fully reversed the gains rebels had made during their three-month campaign in Latakia province, the rugged coastal region that is the ancestral heartland of President Bashar Assad.
The counteroffensive’s success is the latest blow to the rebels, who have suffered a string of recent setbacks.
Islamist rebel factions along with the jihadist Al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front launched their surprise assault in Latakia in March, pushing south from the Turkish border to seize a string of villages in the mountainous terrain. The military, nervous about an incursion in a bastion of government support, dispatched reinforcements to blunt the rebel advance and eventually turn the tide.
After months of bloody clashes, army troops backed by fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah Sunday seized the seaside hamlet of Samra before also taking the town of Kasab and its adjacent border crossing, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the director of the Observatory, an anti-regime group.
He said there were minor clashes still taking place west of Kasab, a predominantly Armenian Christian resort town whose residents fled after the rebels seized control.
The Syrian army command issued a statement saying that it “restored security and stability to Kasab.” It also said the operation “smashes the illusions” of the rebels securing a sea port in Samra or a buffer zone along the border to use as “a base for launching terrorist acts against the Syrian people.”
Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which has a reporter embedded with Syrian troops, broadcast live footage from Kasab that showed a blown-out stone building with a smoldering wooden staircase. Soldiers in camouflage uniforms milled in the streets, and the rocky hills typical of the area could be seen in the background.
Engineering units were clearing mines and dismantling booby traps in Kasab, Syria’s pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV said.
The regime made dislodging rebels from Latakia a priority for strategic as well as symbolic areas. The province is a stronghold of Assad’s minority Alawite sect and losing control of even a portion of it was an embarrassment to the government.
Pro-opposition media outlets said the rebels blamed the loss of territory in Latakia on inadequate ammunition supplies, while pro-regime media countered this claim by showing significant quantities of rockets and other materiel that were seized when the positions in Kasab were overrun.In eastern Syria, the airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which has spearheaded a weeklong jihadist offensive in Iraq, have been more intense than ever, the Observatory said. “The regime air force has been pounding ISIS’ bases, including those in the northern province of Raqqa and Hassakeh in the northeast,” which borders Iraq.
The regime was responding to the fact that ISIS “brought into Syria heavy weapons including tanks” captured from the Iraqi army.
In Raqqa, the air force bombed the area surrounding ISIS’ main headquarters in Syria, as well as the group’s religious courts, said the Observatory, adding there were no reported casualties.
Photographs sent by activists in Raqqa that could not be independently verified showed craters in the ground and rubble in front of the main gates of the headquarters, a former town hall.
The Syrian regime Saturday also bombarded ISIS’ headquarters at Shaddadi in Hassakeh, home to a frontier crossing from Iraq that is under the jihadists’ control.
Abdel-Rahman said the strikes were the regime’s most “intense” against ISIS and they were being carried out “in coordination with the Iraqi authorities.”
The government in Baghdad has been gearing up for a counteroffensive against ISIS in areas where it and other Islamist militants have advanced in northern Iraq in the past week. ISIS espouses a radical interpretation of Islam, and aims to set up a state stretching across the Syria- Iraq border. It has been accused of committing widespread human rights abuses in Syria.
Once welcomed in Syria by rebels seeking Assad’s overthrow, the well-armed and well-organized ISIS soon gained the opposition’s wrath because of its quest for hegemony and systematic abuses, against both rebels and civilian populations under its control.
A war pitting Syrian rebels against ISIS has killed more than 6,000 people, mostly fighters, since it broke out in January.
Pro-opposition media also reported a series of gains by rebels in recent days. In Deraa’s Tal Jammou, a coalition of rebel groups overran a military post and killed or captured dozens of regime troops Friday, according to statements and video footage posted on the Internet. The Observatory said 10 rebels were killed in the attack.
Also, insurgents claimed they killed 40 regime troops Saturday when they detonated a building in the east Damascus neighborhood of Jobar. Pro-opposition groups released a video purporting to show Zahran Alloush, the head of a leading Islamist militia, exhorting rebels to press ahead with their offensive against government forces there.
Alloush heads the Islam Army, one of seven members of the Islamic Front alliance. The “break the walls” campaign is meant to put pressure on regime forces in the eastern part of the capital.
In the nearby Qalamoun region, rebels also claimed the takeover of the village of Aasal al-Ward while fierce clashes raged Sunday around the village of Rankous, the Observatory said.
[Yesterday unidentified aircraft bombed the crap out of a gang of ISIS terrorists at al-Qa’im, Iraq, approximately 433km from Balad Base (formerly known as Camp Anaconda). Today ISIS militants allegedly have the place surrounded on three sides (one side is criss-crossed with irrigation canals), even though the place is huge, has hundreds of helicopters on site and dozens of underground bunkers for attack aircraft. If anybody is even paying attention a little bit, this seem like an excellent opportunity to wipe-out a bunch of these assholes.]
Members of a newly formed brigade of Iraqi Shiite fighters parade in military fatigues with their weapons on June 24, 2014 in the southern city of Basra. (AFP PHOTO/HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)
BAGHDAD: Militants attacked one of Iraq’s largest air bases Wednesday as the first U.S. teams arrived to assess the Iraqi security forces and decide how to help counter a mounting Sunni insurgency.
Two weeks of advances by militants spearheaded by Al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) has threatened to rupture the country two and a half years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region Tuesday to stand with Baghdad in the face of the onslaught.
Militants including ISIS and allied Sunni tribes battled Iraqi forces in the town of Yathrib, 90 km north of Baghdad, into the early hours of Wednesday, witnesses and the deputy head of the municipality said. Four militants were killed, they said.
Insurgents have surrounded a massive air base nearby, which was known as “Camp Anaconda” under U.S. occupation, and struck it with mortars. Eyewitnesses said that the air base had been surrounded on three sides.
More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in less than three weeks, the United Nations has said, calling the figure “very much a minimum.”
The figure includes unarmed government troops machine gunned in mass graves by insurgents, as well as several reported incidents of prisoners killed in their cells by retreating government forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama has offered up to 300 American advisers to Iraq but held off granting a request by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government for air strikes.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said late Tuesday that 130 of the advisers had now been deployed, with the initial group sent to establish the operations centre included intelligence analysts, logistics experts and special operations forces.
Kirby said that about 40 special operations personnel already in the country and assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation had been deployed as part of the first two assessment teams.
About 90 additional troops arrived in Iraq to begin helping establish a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad with Iraqi forces. Another 50 U.S. military personnel working in the region are expected to arrive within the next few days to create four additional assessment teams, Kirby said.
U.S. military personnel also are flying regular manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over Iraq – about 30 to 35 per day – to give better insight about the situation on the ground and help the assessment teams, he said.
Baghdad is racing against time as the insurgents consolidate their grip on Sunni provinces.
The Baiji refinery, a strategic industrial complex 200 km north of Baghdad, remained a frontline early Wednesday. State TV showed troop reinforcements flying into the compound by helicopter to fend off the assault.
Local tribal leaders said that they were negotiating with both the Shiite-led government and Sunni fighters to allow the tribes to run the plant if Iraqi forces withdraw. One government official said that Baghdad wanted the tribes to break with ISIS and other Sunni armed factions, and help defend the compound.
The plant has been fought over since last Wednesday, with sudden reversals for both sides and no clear winner so far.
In recent days, Baghdad’s grip on the Western frontier with Syria and Jordan has also been challenged.
One post on the Syrian border has fallen to Sunni militants and another has been taken over by the Kurds. A third crossing with Syria and the only crossing with Jordan are contested, with anti-government fighters and Baghdad both claiming control.
For ISIS, capturing the frontier is a step towards the goal of erasing the modern border altogether and building a caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria.
An Iraqi military spokesman said Tuesday that the government had carried out air strikes on a militant gathering in the town of Al-Qaim near the Syrian border, which is under the control of the coalition of Sunni armed groups, including ISIS.
Washington has placed its hopes in forming a new, more inclusive government in Baghdad that would undermine the insurgency. Kerry aims to convince Kurdish leaders to join it.
In Baghdad Monday Kerry said that Maliki assured him the new parliament, elected two months ago, would sit by a July 1 deadline to start forming a new government. Maliki is fighting to stay in power, under criticism for the ISIS-led advance.
Q: On the immunity — legal protections deal that was announced yesterday, I think you indicated that what you have now in the diplomatic note is just going to cover these 300 that the president talked about last week. Is there any further discussion about either seeking some approval from the Iraqi parliament or providing further protections for either these 300 or additional troops? Was there any further talk about these legal protections? Or is this done for now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We believe that the protections that we secured through this exchange of notes is adequate to provide the protections we need for our troops for this short-term limited-duration mission. So in essence, we’re satisfied with the arrangement and we believe the arrangement provides, again, the necessary protections that our troops will need for this mission.
Q: Follow on that, please? On that subject, while we’re on it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: Back in 2011, President Obama insisted strongly that whatever troops remained in Iraq after the withdrawal would have a blanket immunity. And your statement yesterday avoided using the word immunity. Am I reading too much into it? Or did they — did the troops — these up to 300 troops, are they getting the full blanket immunity that was sought in 2011 by the Obama administration? Or is it something short of that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They’re getting — as I said yesterday, they’re getting the same level of assurances and protections that diplomatic personnel in Iraq currently enjoy. So the same level of what we would consider privileges and immunities are offered to these additional troops as were offered and as are offered to the diplomatic community in Baghdad. It’s the same.
Q: But just a quick follow-up. Diplomatic personnel don’t usually do the sorts of things that sometimes get viewed in a bad light, accused of being potential war crimes, those sorts of things? I mean, they do — they don’t usually get down and dirty with people as occasionally happens with armed troops. Is there a reason you’re not using the word “immunity”?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I just did in my answer. They’re getting the same privileges and immunity…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I said — the same privileges and immunities that are offered to the diplomatic core there in Baghdad. And then, you know, look, this mission is not about getting down and dirty, to use your phrase. These are assessors and eventually they will be advisers, and they will assess and advise at a higher headquarters level down to about the brigade level, so — so, again, back to Andrew’s question, we are comfortable that the protections that they — that we have secured for them are going to be adequate to the limited and short-term duration of this mission.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: When you say short-term limited duration of this mission, what is this mission?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Initially to provide assessments and then eventually to advise and assist.
Q: Okay. Now, Secretary Kerry said today in Iraq that the U.S. effort would be…
Q: Sustained and intense.
Q: … sustained and intense. Is there a disconnect between DOD and State? Or are you talking about two different missions?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I mean, I won’t speak for Secretary Kerry. My impression of his remarks were talking about the sense of urgency and the level of effort, not necessarily the duration of time. This is a limited, short-term duration mission. I’ve — we’ve been saying that since the beginning. That has not changed.
No, I don’t have a fixed date for you as a deadline or an end date, but it’s very clear. The commander-in-chief couldn’t have been more clear that this will be a limited, short-term mission.
Q: So what elements, then, would bring the mission to an end? What’s the end goal here? What does the DOD see as a time when this mission will end?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can’t give you — I can’t give you a date certain. And I — and I don’t — I understand, Mik. I don’t have a list of criteria here for you.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: But — but we’ve been ordered very clearly to go in and assess the situation on the ground and then eventually to move to an advisory role to help Iraqi security forces deal with this threat internal to their country. And then and then we’ll — we’ll go from there, but it’s not meant to be a long-term permanent mission of any kind, which is why — back to the question about protections — we’re comfortable with the arrangement that we — that we have, because you don’t need a status-of-forces agreement unless you’re going to be permanently based somewhere. And there’s no intention to stay in Iraq in this capacity for a long period of time.
France confirmed Tuesday one of its nationals had been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of planning an attack.
Lebanese security forces on Friday detained 17 people in two hotels in Beirut following a tip-off that attacks by a “terrorist group” were being planned in the capital and other parts of the country.
A judicial source told AFP Monday that all had been released except a Frenchman originally from the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean.
French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal confirmed Tuesday that “a French national was arrested in Beirut.”
Al-Akhbar on Monday reported that the suspect was part of a group of four would-be suicide bombers who had come to Lebanon.
The suspect had admitted coming to the country with a view of committing a suicide attack under the influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has overran major areas of five provinces in Iraq and is currently pressing onto Baghdad.
Another of the four may have been behind a suicide attack that actually took place in east Lebanon on Friday, killing one person and wounding at least 30 others.
The French government is concerned about the radicalization of its nationals after several citizens have gone to fight with jihadists in Syria, where ISIS is very powerful.
It unveiled an anti-terrorism plan in April to prevent radicalization, thwart online recruitment and make it more difficult for aspiring jihadists to leave the country.
Since then, authorities have arrested a French suspect called Medhi Nemmouche suspected of carrying out the Brussels Jewish Museum killings last month after spending a year fighting in Syria.
They have also deported a Tunisian accused of recruiting young jihadists to fight in Syria.
The U.S. is trying to derail a project to build a gas pipeline that bypasses Ukraine to supply Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday after Russian and Austrian energy firms agreed to build the pipeline’s western end.
Austria’s OMV and Russia’s Gazprom signed a contract for the construction of the pipeline’s Austrian section hours before Putin arrived on his second trip to the West since tensions spiraled over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, a crisis that has prompted calls for Europe to lessen its reliance on Russian gas.
OMV general director Gerhard Roiss said the South Stream pipeline will “ensure energy security for Europe, particularly for Austria.” Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who met with Putin, noted that large sections of the pipeline will cross NATO and European Union members Bulgaria and Hungary.
“No one can tell me why … a gas pipeline that crosses NATO and EU states can’t touch 50 kilometers (31 miles) of Austrian territory,” he said.
Asked about American criticism of the pipeline, which is expected to start running in late 2016, Putin said that “our American friends … want to supply Europe with gas themselves.”
“They do everything to derail this contract. There is nothing unusual about it. It’s competition, and political means are used in this competition,” he said.
Bulgaria this month froze work on its section of the pipeline on orders from the EU Commission, which said Bulgaria hadn’t respected rules on awarding public contracts. The Commission has also delayed some political talks on the pipeline amid the crisis in Ukraine.
Austria is a member of the EU, which along with the U.S. has imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of Russian officials.
The U.S. Embassy in Vienna said earlier Tuesday that trans-Atlantic unity has been essential to “discouraging further Russian aggression” and that the Austrians “should consider carefully whether today’s events contribute to that effort.”
The Iraqis are no longer talking alone about a Gulf-Turkish financing of terrorism. After the events of Mosul and the subsequent security developments in Iraq, terrorism, has identified itself, just as its financers did.
The events of Mosul were led by the groups of the so-called the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) organization, allying with elites and high-ranking officers belonging to the Baathist – Iraqi man Izzat al-Douri; the second man in the era of Saddam Hussein, who is wanted in Iraq for his involvement in committing genocide in the era of decadence.
What is being propagated by some people regarding that the looting practices by the armed terrorist groups are only what funded their activities seems to be not convincing. The (ISIL) organization, which looted 429 million dollars from the Central Bank in Mosul (an equivalent of half a billion dollars) to become the richest terrorist organization surpassing al-Qaeda itself, is known for its multiple sources of funding. Its groups that consist predominantly of foreign fighters are infiltrated by several intelligence services, and the same goes for Izzat al-Douri’s militants, who are under the command of the so-called the “Men of the Naqshbandi Order”*. The man, who is chased in Iraq, was able to form an armed organization that has a doctrinal basis, too. “BBC” supposed probably that al-Douri played a key role in financing the “Sunni insurgents in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government”. The sources of funding al-Douri’s militants have never been mentioned in media before, but the movements and positions of the Baathist official are enough to imply that.
Iraq: Terrorism is funded by Saudi Arabia
In an explicit position, the Iraqi government – in a statement – considered that Saudi Arabia is responsible for supporting the terrorist groups financially and morally, “including the resulting crimes that amount to genocide”, arguing that the position of Riyadh on Iraq “is not only an interference in the internal affairs, but rather indicates a type of appeasement of terrorism”.
In fact, this was consistent with the accusations by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in previous positions, when he accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of “declaring war on Iraq”, held them responsible for the security crisis in this country, and considered that they have political and sectarian backgrounds”. According to him, they both recruit the fighters and radical groups to send them to Iraq.
In an interview with Al-Manar TV, the MP for the State of Law Coalition, Zainab Waheed Salman, said that the destructive role played by Saudi Arabia in Syria is being repeated in Iraq. The Iraqi media, quoting from the security committee in the province, reported that a Saudi officer was killed at the hands of the Peninsula Shield forces on the Iraqi territory a few days ago, and that other Saudis were arrested in the southern province of Dhi Qar, and this demonstrates the involvement of the Kingdom.
Most of the fighters who have been arrested are Saudis or have pointed during investigations being conducted with them that the Kingdom facilitated their crossing into Iraq. The Iraqi parliament’s MP was not the only one who said this, but the Political activist Fuad Ibrahim mentioned in the Lebanese “Al-Akhbar Newspaper” videos on “YouTube” showing Saudi fighters in Iraq being disclosed by their “Saudi Najdi Arabic and Jenubi Arabic (southern) dialects”. He added: “Narratives about the presence of Saudi fighters in Mosul, Salahuddin, Diyala, and others are overflowing the social networking websites. Yet, the coming days will unfold the number and the roles of the Saudis in the organizational and military structure of the (ISIL)”.
MP Salman, after giving information, wondered what Saudi Arabia would want in Iraq. “Does it want to control the entire region at the expense of the peoples of the region? Saudi Arabia never felt satisfied with its interference in the affairs of Bahrain and Syrian, so that is why it is today leading a fierce war using the terrorist groups against the political process and the democratic project in Iraq”.
Izzat al-Douri: the Kingdom’s man in Iraq
In late 2012, one of the leaders of the State of Law Coalition, Sami al-Askari, revealed that al-Douri left to Saudi Arabia through the airport in Irbil, criticizing that the airport is not subject to the central authority.
Few months before the Iraqi elections, in an interview with “al-Ahram Al-Arabi” magazine, Izzat al-Douri’s positions were identical in full with the statements of the officials of the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia represents the base of steadfastness and of repelling all the conspiracies and attempts targeting the nation’s identity and presence. The Safavid Iran would have dominated the Gulf absolutely and would have striven to make mischief in this vital region of our country and our nation, if the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had not been on the alert”.
Al-Douri said: “Long live the Kingdom, and long live its respectable role and its thoroughbred Arabian faithful positions on the revolution of the Syrian people, on Bahrain, and on the Gulf in general, as well as on the people of Iraq and their revolution, on the people of Egypt and their army and revolution, on Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, and on any country where there is a real threat to the nation and its core interests”.
Flirting with the Saudi affection, the wanted man attacked the Islamic Republic of Iran, describing what is happening in Iraq as a “valiant resistance” to the project of the “hegemony of Iran”. Al-Douri did not mention the terrorist groups in Iraq, but spoke about the “rebels”, and these terminologies are used by the Saudi media.
Asking al-Douri whether he expects any change in the Iraqi situation after the elections, he stressed that the situation “will get worse”. He offered the people of Iraq one single advice “to be unified, to embrace their valiant resistance, and to hold their national, nationalist, and Islamic forces so as to sweep this political process”.
These words explain the mechanism of implementing what the head of the Saudi intelligence Turki al-Faisal has previously promised during the Plenary Session of the Security Conference, which was organized by the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies on April 22 this year, when he warned: “If Nouri al-Maliki, the current Prime Minister who finished his term, won the elections, which are being prepared in the current period, Iraq will be divided”.
Saudi Arabia’s war on Iran
“The Battle for Iraq is a Saudi War on Iran”, under this title the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Simon Henderson, tried to interpret the events witnessed in the Iraqi arena. He wrote about the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz: “He has no doubt realized that- with his policy of delivering a strategic setback to Iran by orchestrating the overthrow of al-Assad in Damascus showing little sign of any imminent success- events in Iraq offer a new opportunity”.
Henderson added that what happened in Iraq “represents the dream of Saudi’s monarch King Abdullah for years”. He assumed that the activity of the terrorist organization “ISIL”, which he described as “a killing machine that shows no mercy”, is considered in Iraq “a response to al-Maliki’s support for al-Assad”.
He pointed out that there is a substantial dimension in the Saudi policy represented by its “willingness to support radical Sunnis abroad while containing their activities at home”. He continued: “Hence, Riyadh’s arms-length support for Osama bin Laden when he was leading jihadists in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan, and tolerance for jihadists in Chechnya, Bosnia and Syria”.
In Syria, according to Henderson, “Saudi intelligence reopened its playbook and started supporting the Sunni opposition, particularly its more radical elements”. Despite the resignation of the head of its intelligence Bandar bin Sultan, “the Saudi support for jihadi fighters appears to be continuing”.
Henderson explains the Kingdom’s support for the terrorist groups and its fear of the extension of these groups as witnessed in the twenties of the last century. “The religious fanatic (Ikhwan) fighters were helping Ibn Saud to conquer the Arabian Peninsula and were also threatening the British protectorates of Iraq and Transjordan. Ibn Saud, the father of the current Saudi King, gave carte blanche to the British to massacre the (Ikhwan) with machine-gun equipped biplanes, personally leading his own forces to finish the job, when the (Ikhwan) threatened him at the battle of “Sabilla” in 1929”.
*The Naqshbandi Order: is the largest Sufi order and is spread in Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Kurdistan, and the rest of the countries of northern Iraq. Although Sufism focused on the spiritual relationship, but the “Men of the Naqshbandi Order” were differentiated in Mosul after the fall of Saddam Hussein and after Izzat al-Douri resorted to logic, so they carried the weapon and later adopted many of the armed operations.
There is a huge difference between the conspiratorial interpretation of events and the interpretation of an actual conspiracy, which many tend to overlook, namely, that the former is a subjective view that holds everything is a plot by the enemies – where even sand storms that hit Iraq could be a conspiracy – while explaining an actual conspiracy, entails a realistic analysis of causes, effects, and evidence thereof, with the intention of understanding a real conspiracy that has been planned and executed by one side against another. Major conspiracies are not rare throughout history, and some historians have even stated that history is nothing but a long series of plots.
In a recent speech, hours after Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to radical Islamic insurgents, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the collapse of the government forces in the city was a conspiracy. Some on social media, including myself, saw this as a continuation of the old tradition adopted by the defeated, though I had reservations about this view in the end.
Indeed, when Maliki used the terms “deception” and “coordinated rumors” to describe what had happened, I recalled immediately what the late Baathist leader Hani al-Fekaiki once revealed. Fekaiki was one of the masterminds of the military coup of February 8, 1963. In his book, the “Dens of Defeat,” he wrote, “We have toppled the regime of Abdul Karim Kassem with the weapon of rumors.” In truth, the Baath regime used psychological warfare very skillfully, as many experts assert.
The facts are starting to unfold. What happened in Mosul was a “special kind of military coup” that the faction led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri had been working on silently, patiently, and cunningly for a long time, until it finally managed to plant a complex and formidable network of former officers who had been excluded during the de-Baathification from the military in favor of more favored officers according to the sectarian quota system, especially in the provinces of Nineveh and Salah al-Din. ISIS was used as a “husk” in which their move was embedded, in order to terrorize their opponents, as part of a cynical nihilistic alliance.
Nihilistic because the time when the Baath can plan, execute, and triumph then rule the country for decades is behind us for good. The facts on the ground in Mosul and Tikrit will no doubt dispel the dreams of Douri and his militias in a matter of months, if not weeks, though this unfortunately will be very bitter and painful for the Iraqis in those regions.
The first nightmare that Douri will have to deal with is the inevitable clash between his men and the jihadis from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other groups. In effect, clashes as such almost erupted very recently when portraits of Douri were put up for display in the areas seized by the insurgents. Ultimately, however, what is certain is that this coup has moved to implement the plan for the partition of Iraq in earnest, and opened the door wide to direct intervention by regional powers Iran and Turkey, as well as Western and other world powers.
Maliki’s speech was inconsistent, superficial, and betrayed his confusion. It seems that his primary goal was to increase the morale of his allies and partners in government, with no signs that he has any regrets, or that he could ever tire of the misinformation and lies of his military leaders and advisers, even when he is facing a dangerous and earthshaking military defeat.
Maliki said there was a conspiracy behind the fall of Mosul, claiming that he knew the names and details of those who launched rumors and ordered troops to withdraw, even though they were more than capable to repel the attack on the city. Yet hours later, Tikrit – no less – fell to the insurgents as well. So did Maliki know the details there too, but did not have enough time to avoid the second strike? It is not clear.
Maliki’s remarks suggest there was a security breach in the army command in Mosul, engineered by ISIS and Douri’s faction in the Baath Party. This is very plausible if not very likely, but the problem and the cause of the defeat in Nineveh at the hands of ISIS and the Baath insurgency does not lie there, but with the prime minister and his partners in the sectarian political process. For one thing, Maliki and his partners have failed to end this process or at least make it viable, because it was created by the U.S. occupation as an antithesis to the pluralism and diversity of Iraqi society.
Maliki failed to achieve real national and communal reconciliation. He failed on services, he failed on security, and he became an enabler of corruption and a protector of the corrupt in his government. His government exacerbated sectarian and ethnic polarization in the country, and as a result of all of this, the political process continued to rot and decay. Patriotic and democratic Iraqis opposed to the occupation and sectarianism had warned against the consequences of this for Iraq’s unity and existence so many times that their voices went hoarse.
ISIS and its allies’ takeover of the capital of northern Iraq and other cities, and the events of the past few days, is an official death certificate for the sectarian political process. Maliki has only two options now: Drown Iraq in a devastating and protracted civil war that no side will win; or – and this is the second option that I believe Maliki does not have the courage to pursue – end the sectarian political process and call a constitutional convention with the participation of all political forces and community leaders to amend the constitution and launch a national political process that would criminalize political sectarianism, and declare a secular and civil state based on the principles of citizenship rather than on confessional foundations, as the occupiers and their allies wanted.
Otherwise, in a month or two, Maliki will still be peddling the same claims, except that thousands more Iraqis will have been killed, injured, or driven out from their homes, and many more cities will have been razed to the ground, while the unity of Iraq and its people will be up in the air.
But, how was the Mosul coup executed?
According to events on the ground, and an analysis of testimonials and news reports, we believe that two main factions took part in the attack: Douri’s Baath faction, which was in charge of planning and planting Baathist officers in the government troops leadership and preparing hundreds of fighters as part of the Naqshbandi militias, to replace the Baath’s defunct militias, and Takfiri groups like ISIS, Ansar al-Sunna, and others, who provided well-trained fighters. This is in addition to tribal-sectarian forces led by people like Harith al-Dhari, who gave his blessings to the coup from Amman, Ali Hatem, and clerics like Rafi Rifai and Abdul Malik al-Saadi, who have always claimed that the Iraqi army is an “occupation army” in the Western regions. Meanwhile, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to the news website Al-Badil Al-Iraqi, the gunmen who first stormed Mosul were mostly non-Iraqis. Later on, those gunmen were replaced by Iraqi militants spotted protecting banks and public installations, while the foreign fighters moved on to other battlefronts.
The plot was carried out smoothly and easily at the predetermined zero hour, which the coup leadership had relayed to its “moles” inside the Iraqi army in the provinces of Nineveh and Salah al-Din. Thus, senior army commanders such as the Deputy Chief of Staff Abboud Qanbar and Land Forces Commander Ali Ghaidan found themselves without an army or middle-ranking officers, and their only option was to request to be evacuated by Kurdish militias to the nearby city of Erbil.
The commander of Nineveh Operations Mahdi Gharrawi was able to escape a similar fate, as he had at the time been at the headquarters of one of his brigades on the outskirts of Mosul, in al-Khazer region. Kurdish parties have attempted to smear the man and forged a picture showing him with the Peshmerga militia behind him, but he succeeded in proving that he had not left his position and that he was in the process of regrouping his forces.
It is worth noting that the Peshmerga have played a suspicious role in the events in Mosul, with reports that the Kurdish militia was forcing retreating Iraqi soldiers to undress and put on civilian clothes, before photographing them in a manner that suggested they were fleeing from the battle.
Consequences of the Mosul coup
Of the major consequences on the medium and long terms for the Mosul coup orchestrated by Douri and his allies in the suicidal Salafi groups, we highlight the following:
Iraq is on the path to being partitioned into sectarian mini-states, or at least, the provinces of Nineveh, Tikrit, and parts of Diyala could be carved out of Iraq by force of arms. However, Anbar’s special tribal circumstances make it difficult to implement a similar plan there. Indeed, in Anbar, an Iraqi national identity remains strongly rooted, and a plan to turn the province into an autonomous region was thwarted despite all the clamoring by strong parties to this end. Hostility to Takfiri groups is strong throughout the province as well, with the exception of Fallujah perhaps, though there are local frictions that were not visible in the recent past, and which now mar relations between communities and clans in Anbar and Nineveh.
The door is now wide open to regional intervention, especially by Iran, with its sectarian calculations and concerns regarding Western belligerence, and Turkey, which has similar calculations in addition to its old ambitions in the “Province of Mosul” of the Ottoman Empire. The door is also open to Western intervention, which could take the form of a direct albeit gradual comeback by U.S. occupation forces into Iraq, or at least, the form of substantial backing for the sectarian system in a way that would ensure further dependency on the United States.
The Mosul coup has put an end to the idea of stopping or even tapering de-Baathification in the context of the Accountability and Justice law. Instead, the current government might launch a violent and comprehensive campaign against Baathists, and it will no longer be easy for democratic and left-wing voices demanding an end to or a tapering of de-Baathification – or to have it deemed a criminal rather than a political process – to restate these demands. For one thing, it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Baath’s chronic obsession with plots and coups is incurable, which will mean that thousands of innocents are set to pay the price for Douri’s folly and power hunger […].
The coup will be the final nail in the coffin of “Saddamism” and militia-minded forces in Iraq, and will strengthen the flames of sectarian polarization and open the door to sectarian fighting among Iraq’s Arabs. In the process, a new disgraceful episode has been added to the record of Saddam’s Baath Party, while its enemies will note that the Baath had cooperated with Western intelligence in the past to carry out its coups, the Baath under Douri is collaborating with extremist groups who have killed scores of his people, and suicide bombers who blew up Iraqi civilians in the streets and houses […]. This may push some Iraqi Baathists loyal to their ideas and experience to oppose what happened, although we are not very optimistic about this.
The coup will cause the loss of the oil-rich and ethnically diverse province of Kirkuk to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The province has been practically under occupation by the Kurdish Peshmerga since June 12. Not many Sunni Arabs will rush to defend it after what happened in Mosul and Tikrit. However, the Anbar province may reach out to the provinces of the center and the south to form the nucleus of a different Iraq that would end the sectarian militia-led mini-states in Mosul and elsewhere, if the sectarian system in Baghdad falls.
On the flip side of this gloomy picture, the coup could also spell the end for the era of sectarian power-sharing and the constitution drafted by the occupation, having proven its threat to the unity of Iraq, its territorial integrity, and the wellbeing of its people. The question now is this: How can this era be practically ended, to launch the process to build an Iraq based on citizenship and equality, atop the ruins of the Iraq of sects and quotas?
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.