[The following is an article written by Dr. Akram Hijaazee regarding the conflict between the Islaamic State of ‘Iraaq and the Islaamic Army of ‘Iraaq. It is quite profound as it exposes and questions the actions and statements of the Islaamic Army of ‘Iraaq. This translation is quite good, but has spelling/grammatical errors which can be overlooked. Finally, make du’aa for the Islaamic State of ‘Iraaq.]
Few if any Al-Qaeda supporters (a propaganda term used by the media and the US military to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq that is made up of several different Mujahideen groups, scholars and ordinary Muslims) or the Islamic State of Iraq (State) would have the desire to listen to the news of the Islamic Army of Iraq (Army) following its fierce attack on the State and in particular on its Amir, Sheikh Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi. The Army has accused Sheikh Al-Baghdadi of killing thirty of its members, claiming all Sunnis are unbelievers and carrying out executions on the basis of mere suspicion. The Army has done this because of their desire to become the sovereign leader; as well as making other accusations that congested the infamous Army’s statement. Few, if any, would believe the official statement put out bu the that the Al-Jihad and Al-Islah (jihad and reform) front that brings together the Army and the Mujahideen Army, who also accused Al-Qaeda of killing twelve of its members in the Al-Doura district, even before the blood of those killed has dried!
The truth is that mistrust, trepidation and wariness towards the Islamic Army have become the dominant factors in the minds of the supporters who consecutively are finding their way to the jihadi corridors and gathering places while the areas of struggle witness indifference or lack of interest at times and violence and roughness at others.
Ever since Al-Baghdadi’s last statement “Years Of Harvest In The State Of Tawhid” where he commented on the events including the Islamic Army’s statement; an absolute silence has ruled over the gathering places. A single article commenting on the conflict between the two sides, could not be found; in particular, from heavy weight writers and observers such as Yaman Mukhaddab, Louis Attiya, Abu Dujana Al-Kharasani, Ata Najd Al-Rawi, Sheikh Attiyatallah or others who have previously been active in responding to the charges of the Islamic Army. It may well be that these individuals are complying with Al-Baghdadi’s call to refrain from responding to any charges, regardless of their magnitude or content to prevent such articles from being exploited by opportunity hunters who seek to further aggravate the situation out of ignorance, revenge or simply to cause trouble.
This article intends to probe deeply into the serious conflict between the State and the Army. Its content is strongly supported by statements, responses and information from reliable sources or those close to them. The information in this article may very well cause anger, mistrust and allegations by some while on the other hand it may as succeed in exposing and clarifying the hidden side of the crisis which has preoccupied everyone.
Most of this articles’ content has been previously published and most of the information has proven to be factual even though its denied by certain parties and despite its wide circulation throughout the media circles. Nevertheless, the article shall not, in any way, interfere with the Mujahideen on both sides; in as much as it challenges the level of leadership that controls and direct the crisis.
What really is the truth regarding the alliance between the Army and what is know the Al-Souri movement? What are the facts of the communications and the relationship which the Army is weaving with the political and religious powers both regionally and internationally? And what are its objectives and ambitions? What really is the conflict the Islamic State of Iraq? What is the position of the Scholars vis-à-vis Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq? Did the Army succeed in its attempt to obtain a fatwa [religious sentence] condemning Al-Qaeda? What about the size of the Army compared with its political size abroad? And who are the powers that are rejecting unity and instigating the unrest from within and from outside the Army?
The Alliance Between The Army And Al-Souri
We’re not here to define what some have conventionally called the Al-Souri movement; it’s a conventional designation and not a strict connotation; particularly, that those of concern reject the characterization. Nonetheless, here, in order avert any ambiguity use the terminology in its conventional designation or more specifically, in its procedural significance.
The question is what has prompted Al-Souri to align itself with the Islamic Army? And what privileges does this alliance provide to both sides?
Al-Souri has an acknowledged revolutionary history against the Saudi regime that began in the nineties. It did however turn peaceful, unlike Al-Qaeda. Rather, the figures of Al-Souri have distanced themselves from the ideology of the Salafi al jihadi’s with respect to their position pertaining to the Saudi Arabia regime and those of other Arab and Islamic countries.
In comparison, Al-Qaeda considers these regimes as oppressive infidels based on several facts and considerations including the absence of authority, the approval of usury, advocacy with the West as well as other matters Al-Qaeda considers contradictory to the concept of Islam and its exigency. Nevertheless, on the basis of its priorities, it does not see an immediate need to fight those regimes in as much as it is determined to fight the enemy who is attacking the Muslim States on the basis that he is the foremost foe of the (Muslim) State, and should be expelled first.
Bin Laden considers this as the guaranteed means to bring down what he calls the body as represented by the oppressive regimes. This theory was previously articulated by Abu Musab Al Souri when he defined the front to friends and foes. He objected to making any attacks against the regimes in these countries, except in situations of self defense; deeming it futile to be absorbed in fighting submissive regimes. Ultimately, the Western interests are the priority and the legitimate targets; accordingly, Bin Laden has always insisted on severing the “head of the snake” first, and its interests next.
As for Souri, it characterizes these regimes in a variety of terms except disbelievers. They could be immoral, corruptive, oppressive or mutinous but not dissidents. Perhaps its history in opposing the government has been void of the straight and explicit accusation of it straying from the right path; in contrast with the Salafi al jihadis that openly proclaim accusations of deviancy. Consequently, Al-Souri does not support nor stand with Al-Qaeda. The members of Al-Souri have a wide network of relationships and interests that they run in various Arab countries including Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait and others. As a matter of course, these affairs and businesses require travel, presence in different places, connections and continuity; subsequently, such activities would not be possible if they took a positive stand towards Al-Qaeda in particular, or the Salafi al jihadi’s in general.
As for their position with respect to jihad, they have their own explanation in relation to the young men going for jihad and engaging in fights that they have claim to have nothing to do with!! They also make the argument that these matters put strain on the State’s good elements – a justification that is more palatable among its members!
It’s not exactly clear how the relationship begin the Army and Al-Souri began however, its attitude towards jihad has caused the departure of several of its supporters who subsequently aligned themselves with the Salafi Al-Jihadi’s. Following Sahab Institute’s release of the USS Cole’s tape, four month before the attack of September 11th, 2001, a move that was directed by Bin Laden that was specifically aimed at the State’s young, this created confusion in the ranks of al Al-Souri as a sponsor of the younger generation that ultimately caused many members to depart to Afghanistan for jihad. In addition, the Army’s directive of placing restrictions on receiving foreign fighters into its ranks insured that the Salafi Al-Jihadi’s would not view it favorably nor would any association with Al-Qaeda be established. Moreover, it appeared that their interest may very well have been to head a political movement that would be acceptable to all parties.
Given all these facts and others, some common interests may have been achieved that have made easier the rapprochement of the Army and Al-Souri. Al-Qaeda is an organization that has brought sleeplessness to all. Rather, some of Al-Souri’s figures have emerged in the Islamic Army the deliverance it deemed to deserve from the highest figures; the “thank you God for this blessing” which made it possible for Al-Souri to make a rapprochement and contact with the Army’s command in Damascus.
This closeness with the Army has made certain religious figures like Nassir Al-`Omar, its spokesperson in Saudi Arabia, receive millions of Riyals; prompting its Amir to consider establishing an Islamic university during wartime and something that has dramatically changed the Army’s strategy. Until then, the Army did not come forward to explain the reason for spending funds on some who are affiliated with it; though not carrying out any aspects of jihad, as if the Army is holding them in abeyance until after the war ends and the departure of the American forces from the country. This behavior is enraging some jihadi groups who are accusing the Army’s command of early planning for the upcoming reality, away from the other forces. Even some have commented that Al Baghdadi has insinuated remarks at the Army in his previous speech “they invited their friends and their tribes for comfort and rest.”
Wide Relations And Secret Communications; But, Nothing Official!
It’s not a secret to anyone that most of the Army’s commanders are physically present in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Given their ideological background and their political flexibility, and in view that most of them were brought up by Saudi Shaiks, they were therefore able to establish political relationships with several Arab countries, like Jordan,Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, and in particular Saudi Arabia. They move freely in between these countries as if they enjoy full security cover; and strangely enough, that they are well known to those who they meet with; even to some media people to whom they even call from within Iraq. It is this behavior that has led many observers to wonder if these people are really being sought by their enemies, considering their continuous appearances on radio and television. This has also raised a lot of questions and much suspicion, facilitating the loss of much of their credibility and increasing the blame leveled against them.
It’s certain that they have met with the leadership of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia; not to mention that there is direct cooperation between (the Army’s) Al-Shammari and a high ranking security authority in the Saudi Ministry of Interior, described as the charmer for his great ability to influence the Sheikhs by his amiability and his great style. At the same time, they have made contacts with the Americans through one of their representatives within an Iraqi delegation. While they denied that all such meetings ever took place, the whole world was already aware of this. In view of this fact, when these meetings became public knowledge, their justification was that it was “ nothing official, just some of our friends’ interpretation”. Notwithstanding even if these meetings were not official, as they like to often claim, why were they held? What was the purpose or objectives? Is it further conceivable that the Army’s official spokesperson, D. Ibrahim Al-Shammari’s announcements through the media that he was prepared to hold talks with the Americans, under the European, Russian or Spanish sponsorship was to grant them the testimonial of trust and blamelessness without making direct advances to guarantee the interests of the West. Yet he denies that the meetings ever took place?
As for the local front, it’s true that we don’t have any indications that of the presence of any secret or public relationship between Army and Al-Anbar’s council, neither with forces affiliated with the Maliki government. Nevertheless, the Army’s position since the last elections, came into harmony with what other Sunni forces had called for; to allow the people to have a say in the constitution and vote no! Yet the people said yes – was the Army unmindful of the outcome? Certainly, the answer is negative; subsequently, the Army’s position towards the elections is mixed with a great deal of suspicion. The question is why wouldn’t the Army expose the Sunni figures who participated in the political process in Iraq? These individuals according to the Army’s doctrine are apostates and supporters of the occupier and its puppet government. While the Army exposes the wrongdoing of the Sunni members of the police and national forces, despite the fact that members have willingly volunteered, or were searching for work, or even some of them think they are helping the Sunni people, the Army has secured some interests from them.
What then is the difference between the two, if both parties are supporters of the occupier and its puppet government? Or, are there some members of the parliament and the government who are protégés of the Army that prevents it from exposing them that could cause it embarrassment?
With regard to the Army’s relationship with the jihadi groups in Iraq, their dissension is not only with Al-Qaeda. According to Jaish Ansar Al-Sunnah, they (Army) have turned away from all those who embrace the Salafi al-jihadi ideology. The Army’s worst relationship is with Ansar Al-Sunnah who negotiated with the French over the French hostages at the request of the Islamic Army yet the Ansar received nothing but humiliation in connection with the affair.
The Conflict Between The Army And Al-Qaeda
On the media front, the disagreements between the Army and the Islamic State of Iraq have remained undisclosed, until such time the Army’s command has decided to bring them to the open in a thunderous statement. Undoubtedly, the two group’s different ideology is the reason of their points of view moving away from each other. Nevertheless, the problem is deeper than a mere disagreement in doctrine.
The Army’s aim is to take exclusive possession of the political representation. Its contacts, its wide relationships, its national orientation, its alliances, its rapprochement with the various Iraqi political forces that have national inclinations are accepted regionally and internationally, have all attempted it to play the role of the resistance spokesperson in Iraq. But, the real problem lies with its weakness on the ground and its limited effectiveness in dramatic contrast with what have been promoted about its bravery. The question is why has the Army slide into weakness from its previous strong force?
In reality, most of the groups have shown a decline, not just the Army, following the announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq, and the many jihad groups that joined it, especially Al Qaeda that is respected for energetic and strong young men that dare to challenge to the most powerful nation in the world and who have been able to impair their (USA) prestige and respect.
The Army’s strength has effectively been damaged by some of its members and battalions, in Al Anbar and Haditha, leaving the ranks and joining the new State. At the same time, other groups have also joined in; to the extent that some writers have described the presence of the Army in Diyala as nonexistent. Small numbers are said to be present in Kirkuk and Mosul. Most of its operations are now concentrated in the southern parts of Baghdad, like Doura, Abu Dushair, Allatifiya, Yusufiya and Al Mada’in. This decline explains the merger of the Islamic Army and the al-Mujahideen Army; which purpose is to bring to a halt the migration of its members to the Islamic State of Iraq. Additionally, the Al-Mujahideen Army itself has lost approximately 60% of its soldiers who have joined the State that has reduced their operations in the months of Zu Al Qa`dah, Zu Al Hijjah and Muharram to less than 30 actions from an average of 80 in previous months.
Maybe, these statements are part of the problem that alerted the Army’s command. They are very dissatisfied with the departure of their members; something that Al Shammari admitted in his response to Al Baghdadi’s speech on Al-Jazeera television, when he said: Al Qaeda should be thankful to the scholars of the Islamic Army who have caused several of their members to find the right path for jihad. Nonetheless, Al-Shammari appeared angry when he was listening to the program’s host who was asking him the question whether the problem with the Islamic State of Iraq is over. A particular bone of contention appeared to be when Al-Baghdadi addressed the Army with “my sons in the Islamic Army” and he did not address the command. Al Shammari replied that “the Army’s Mujahideen are the Brothers of the Mujahideen and they are not the sons of anyone.”
The uncertainty however, remains in the true relationship between the Army’s command and its base from which several members and groups have begun to join the Islamic State of Iraq. This indicates that the base is at odds with the command with regard to the Army’s policy, objectives and aspirations. In effect, the Army is now in the situation where they have cultivated for someone else to harvest.
The other part of the problem is the accusation that Al-Qaeda killed thirty of the Army’s members or supporters; something that could have led to clashes between the two sides. Nevertheless, several articles concluded that some of those killed occurred by mistake and that some were spies working for the cross worshippers. This was also confirmed by `Ata Najd Al Rawi in his reply to the Army’s statement “Perspectives On The Statement Of The Brothers In The Islamic Army” stating that troubles have calmed down following the Islamic State of Iraq’s submission of the confession tapes of those that were killed. It appeared that Saudi Arabia clerics intervened following the Army commander’s visit where he agreed to have the Saudi clerics arbitrate, nevertheless, it is not known whether this was over the problem of these killings or not.
One other hand, the statement from the Al-Jihad Al-Islam front came as a surprise to everyone. In it, they publicly accuse Al-Qaeda of killing twelve field commanders. It is this statement that is the most troublesome, particularly because it mentioned that some of the members of the leadership were together at one time; something that raises doubts about the whole incident. The statement is an Army style announcement about the failure of reconciliatory efforts between the two sides; more than an announcement about a deaths.
The Army Demanding The Scholars To Issue Fatwas Condemning Al-Qaeda
This is the most incendiary point of this article. It reveals the core of the struggle between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Army, and it clearly emphasizes the points without any ambiguity. The Army’s command appears to have taken up the opportunity for the defamation campaign, thereby being forced to publicly involve itself in such sedition, taking advantage of this climate and hoping to realize certain benefits which it was unable to achieve covertly. Nevertheless, this involvement has caused several concealed matters to surface. What conversations have then taken place?
Following the issue of the (Army’s) statement and the gravity of the charges it contained, this prompted Sheikh Attiyatallah, who is regarded as the coordinator between the jihadist circles in Afghanistan and Iraq, to come out in a detailed response to the Army’s accusations. He stated “We are aware of the practices that are carried out by the Brethren in the command of the Islamic Army. Since the last month of Ramadan, then in the pilgrimage season, they were engaged in intense efforts and communications with clerics in several countries, with donors and contributors; asking them to stay away from our Brethren in Al-Qaida and in the Islamic State of Iraq further distorting their image in a grave campaign of untrue accusations”.
Sheikh `Ata Najd Al Rawi stated that efforts were made by the Army along with some supportive clerics in Saudi Arabia who are considered to be associated with the Al-Souri movement for the clerics in Saudi Arabia to issue a Fatwa (religious decree) against the Brethren in the Islamic State of Iraq.
In what looks like a coordinated high level official visit, the Islamic Army commander, along with members of his command, traveled to Saudi Arabia under the pseudonym of Abu Sahl. Following a tour in the country, and before his return to his command post in Damascus, he was received by Sheikh Nassir Al `Omar who had organized what appeared to be a broad gathering in a rest area where he brought in a large number of clerics from all over the country, under the guise of support for the Sunni people in Iraq.
Among those present, were the prominent scholars of doctrine in Riyadh and Qussaim. Also present were some of the academics that specialize in research and traditions, who have well known publications who favor jihad and some that had previously criticized Al-Qaeda, Also present, was Soyan Al Hajeri the one who oversees the Islamic agenda website, in addition to another group who has legislative skills, like Walid Al-Rshoudi, and other intellects and experts.
Allegedly the opening speech at this large gathering began with the topic that the meeting had been called for, namely the need to support the Sunni people, to provide them with mass media coverage and the financial assistance; and that’s what exactly happened.
Nevertheless, there was a sudden interference by Sheikh Soyan Al-Hajeri that derailed the course of the discussion in an effort to introduce another topic that was not on the agenda nor was to be considered for discussion, and that was the Islamic State of Iraq. The topic was presented as “it’s a State that will harm the Sunni people.” He even went beyond that, regarding Al-Qaeda as “more dangerous than America”. At that, Sheikh Walid Al-Rshoudi, a Sheikh considered one who fuels the conflict between Al Qaeda and the Army entered into the discussion and demanded a clear statement against the Islamic State of Iraq on the grounds that it is not a legitimate Islamic State. Naturally, the Army’s command had to deliver its own statement to the audience. There are those who were impressed by Abu Sahl, specially in the areas of Riyadh and Qussaim, where the media campaign had concentrated, and where the Army had concentrated its efforts to distort the image of Al-Qaeda with statements such as “the Islamic Army was founded three month before the American invasion of Iraq!” And that’s what Al- Shammari reiterated during his infamous interview with Ahmad Mansour, the host at Al-Jazeera television. In that interview Al-Shammari stated “the Army is ahead of Al-Qaeda in the action of jihad”.
Nonetheless, Abu Sahl was perplexed when he was interrupted by one commander in his company, who corrected him in fairness for his Mujahideen companions and said: Abu Sahl, that’s not true! You remember when we met in Baghdad, with so, and so… and the four of us decided at the time to establish the Army; and at that time, Al-Zarqawi was attacking the Americans!!!”
With apparent embarrassment, Abu Sahl replied, “true true”. And when he brought up the case of the Islamic Nation of Iraq, indicating that it is not a real Islamic State nor is it an area under any control; he was asked by one of the Sheikhs about the extent of Al-Qaida’s control over the Islamic State of Iraq and in particular in Al Anbar province. Confused, Abu Sahl replied expressing the matter with much less importance by saying, “it’s only Al Anbar.”
Sahl went further when he disclosed to the same Sheikh, “I was certain that we will not fight Al-Qaeda however, this certainty is now shaky.” The Sheikh was astonished and confided to his close companions, “I don’t know whether Al-Qaeda killed his father.”
What is confirmed however, as made public by Sheikh Attiyatallah, is that all the attempts by the Army and its supporters in Saudi Arabia to obtain a Fatwa against Al-Qaeda by the Sunni clergy and prominent citizens failed, despite the fact that some of the prominent scholars have acute criticism for Al-Qaeda and are against the political and legitimate announcement of the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq. Nonetheless, they outright rejected the Army’s calls. One Salafi scholar even came forward to say, “we bring together people of the Sunnah; we do not divide them.” This position was also supported by two other Sheiks who clearly understand that such a fatwa, if it has been issued would lead to bloodshed.
On the other hand, it also confirms that the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Qaeda are people of the Sunnah, despite the descriptions that are being perpetrated against them to make them appear as the outlaws of the century. Furthermore, these scholars affirmed their position by declaring that a sentence against Al-Qaeda, solely based on one side’s statement, is unlawful, according to the religious laws. Additionally, it is not permissible to issue a sentence without the presence of the defendant. Considering the defendants in this case is unable to be physically present but is rejecting the allegations, they can not be sentenced for abstention; something very clear in Islamic law.
One of the prominent Sheikhs went on to say, “if we only believed 5% of what is being said against the individuals of the State of Iraq; we would have issued a sentence that they have strayed from the right path. Similar statements were said against Muhammad Bin `Abd-al-Wahhab, in the same force and abundance and this is something that makes us wait until we hear the other side.”
With respect to the Fatwa of Sheikh Hamid Al `Ali where he reiterated he had reservations against the declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq, some of the Sheikh’s affirmed that he has been subject to a great deceit. And what has contributed to it has been the various trips made by the Army’s commanders to Kuwait, and their subsequent meetings with the Sheikh. Moreover, their intentional presentation of a distorted message about the situation in Iraq, which at best, remains inadequate because it did not take into consideration the other side’s view in the conflict; even if those who relayed the message to the Sheikh are in a position of trust.
The important matter still remains with the Army issuing a statement immediately following the fatwa of Sheikh Hamid Al `Ali. The Sheikh has the full legitimate right to oppose Al-Qaeda , its stand, its actions, and to extend his advise to it. There is absolutely no problem in what the Sheikh has issued as a fatwa, and several other scholars agree with him. The problem remains however, that the Army has failed to extract a fatwa from the Sheikhs of Najd and Hijaz (Saudi Arabia) and as the the fatwa of Sheikh Hamid came it was exploited by the Army as fast as possible. Whether the Sheikh’s position deliberately leans towards the Army is something we do not know and we can not confirm.
These are some of the problems between the Islamic Army and the Islamic State of Iraq. It appears however, that the Army’s commanders have given up hope that the Scholars will officially condemn Al-Qaeda. Perhaps they feel the disappointment from the firm legal position of the scholars in issuing this position. And despite the firm responses that they received from the Scholars of Najd and Hijaz, these were ignored in the Army’s statement. In fact, they even accused them (Scholars) of being silent in the statement that read “ We were not hasty in refuting what we have been accused of, just awaiting the reply from our scholars… however, our clerics did not speak out; therefore, it has become necessary to clarify certain matters.”
And in a different part of the statement, an appeal is made for the Scholars to carry out their legitimate duties in preventing jihad in Iraq… and not to remain silent!
In reality, the Sheikhs did not remain silent. Upon realizing that the Army’s statement as a source of deepening the conflict that is a downhill course, they rushed to issue a statement on April 18th, 2007, appealing to the Mujahideen in Iraq; and signed by thirteen scholars. They called upon all the jihad groups to avoid unrest and to reconcile among themselves before it’s too late and blood is shed that would foil the plans of jihad. It’s clear that the appeal did not conform to the Islamic Army’s wishes for a statement of condemnation against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq from those who have issued the appeal. It’s even clearer to say that those who issued the appeal are the same ones who happened to meet with the Army’s commanders who had asked them for their condemnation directly.
One important point remains to be said. The ideological attraction among the jihad groups shall be futile, especially that they are incoherent and will not lead to any accord or unity among the action groups. Nevertheless, considering Iraq’s problem will not end with the departure of the American forces, it is therefore incumbent to find an agreement to implement the jihad plans with high priority and responsibilities so that it may be guided by its significance so that after the withdrawal era, the situation does not duplicate Afghanistan (after the Russians withdrew) for all the groups will be losers.
As for those who are secluded in Damascus, and who are rejecting the accord and reconciliation, on, those who are exchanging opinions with Walid Al Rshoudi; those who are insisting on building their plans on delusion and hoping to win the political representation; it’s more appropriate for them to revise their positions on the ground. The international and regional influence that they enjoy could become advantageous for their enemies, whether they know it or not! And a word of caution; do not fall into this trap for the outcome will not be beneficial to either side.