Insurgency in the Shadows

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

There are shadowy operations going on in the Anbar Province conducted by AQI and other militant groups, these operations being directed against each other and spilling over into the broader population in an attempt to gain support.  As we have pointed out in Hope and Brutality in Anbar (and prior), although AQI has used persuasion in the form of money for some support (such as paying children to spy on U.S. snipers), their primary tactic has been intimidation, torment, torture and houses of horror to keep the population in submission and thus ensure safe haven for their terrorist activities.  However, the intimidation has taken a turn for the secretive, as we saw in Samarra.

The letter from Al Qaeda in Iraq to the members of the local police was clear.

Come to the mosque and swear allegiance on the Koran to Al Qaeda, the letter warned, or you will die and your family will be slaughtered. Also, bring $1,200.

It had the desired effect on American efforts to build an Iraqi security force here.

Nearly a third of the local police force went to the mosque, paid the money and pledged their allegiance. Another third was killed. By late October, only 34 local police officers were left to try to maintain order in this city of 100,000.

Secrecy is being used as a force multiplier, and this tactic is being repeated in Fallujah in a slightly different form but with the same general theme and intent.

A shadowy new militia apparently emerged in Falluja over the weekend, Slogger sources report.

Residents awoke to discover flyers and banners around the city bearing the name of a new militia, the “Chosen Soldiers of God.?

The flyers carry strange supernatural stories about the militia. One claims that the militia are actually angels who fought with Falluja’s Sunnis against American forces in 2004, its soldiers taking the shape of spiders, or the form of giant humans, residents report.

The flyers claim that the militia had received orders from God to depart from Falluja in order to fight elsewhere, but had now returned to deliver the city from corruption and to bring salvation to the people of the city, according to eyewitnesses.

Two days later, new flyers appeared, apparently from the Chosen Soldiers group, this time calling for a public conference, with the goal of bringing together the al-Qa’ida affiliated group al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad and the Abu Risha of the Anbar Salvation Front. The Front has recently fought against al-Qa’ida-allied forces in Anbar. The conference is apparently intended to bring the two parties into negotiation in order to establish a united front against the Iraqi government and the US occupation, according to eyewitness accounts.

It is necessary to get the appropriate backdrop in order to contextualize these tactics.  There is currently a war going on between rival terrorists in Iraq, and Anbar is the center of gravity of these battles.  Actually, this war has been going on for some time, and it is beneficial to rehearse the nuts and bolts of this war with a positive assessment of the nature of an enemy which battles itself, while we will also supply an assessment that is somewhat less sanguine.  We’ll begin with Nibras Kazimi writing at Talisman gate who, on February 17, discussed Mishaan al-Jebouri, a previous mouthpiece for AQI, and who began issuing anti al Qaeda remarks on his satellite station Al Zawra:

Yesterday, however, Al-Jebouri gave a whole anti-Al-Qaeda speech and this drove the jihadists berserk: the premier jihadist organ had begun to badmouth the jihad!

These are al-Jebouri’s main points:

  1. Al-Qaeda provoked the Shi’as and then failed to protect the Sunnis from retaliation.
  2. Al-Qaeda is forcing all the other insurgent groups to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq under Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and is punishing the hold-outs.
  3. Al-Qaeda is killing and abducting Sunni notables who were part of the insurgency.
  4. Al-Qaeda wants to impose a Taliban-like Islamic State on Iraqi Sunnis, who are the worse for it—they don’t even have enough to eat.
  5. Al-Qaeda killed an emissary sent by al-Jebouri, who has wanted to negotiate with al-Baghdadi.
  6. Iraqi Sunnis across the board are preparing to clash with Al-Qaeda as is already happening in Anbar Province.

Al-Jebouri gets into details and names names, and he addresses his speech to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, questioning the validity of pledging allegiance to an anonymous phantom.

There is nothing new here for veteran readers of Talisman Gate, for I recently wrote:

Al-Baghdadi also feels compelled to tell his fighters to take it easy with the other jihadist groups, which have yet to join the Islamic State of Iraq, while at the same time telling the holdouts that their obstinacy smells of sedition. There are other reports that insurgents are clashing among themselves as Al Qaeda imposes its hegemony over one and all, to the point that al-Baghdadi is compelled to tell his guys that “I am certain that the sincere monotheists are surely coming” our way “eventually, so be tender, be tender.”

And before that I wrote:

For most Sunnis, the insurgency has come to be about communal survival, rather than communal revival. They no longer harbor fantasies of recapturing power. They are on the run and are losing the turf war with the Shiites for Baghdad.

Sunni sectarian attacks, usually conducted by jihadists, finally provoked the Shiites to turn to their most brazen militias — the ones who would not heed Ayatollah Sistani’s call for pacifism — to conduct painful reprisals against Sunnis, usually while wearing official military fatigues and carrying government issued weapons. The Sunnis came to realize that they were no longer facing ragtag fighters, but rather they were confronting a state with resources and with a monopoly on lethal force. The Sunnis realized that by harboring insurgents they were inviting retaliation that they could do little to defend against.

Sadly, it took many thousands of young Sunnis getting abducted by death squads for the Sunnis to understand that in a full-fledged civil war, they would likely lose badly and be evicted from Baghdad. I believe that the Sunnis and insurgents are now war weary, and that this is a turnaround point in the campaign to stabilize Iraq.

On March 12 Kazimi updated his analysis in an article with The Sun entitled Jihadist Meltdown.

Six months ago, many of the strategists behind the Sunni insurgency, faced with a more effective counterinsurgency effort, began to wonder just how long they could keep their momentum given their diminishing resources and talent. These strategists realized that their “resistance” would just peter out over time, as classical insurgencies tend to do. Some argued that, given one last push, the Americans would be sufficiently distressed to grab at cease-fire negotiations that would end with a hasty American withdrawal, leaving the insurgents to work things out with a much-weakened Iraqi government on more favorable terms.

Others, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the organization founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saw that there was no future for their vision of establishing a Taliban-like state should these negotiations with the Americans get underway, which would only serve to strengthen the hand of the rival insurgent factions that counsel this course.

This sense that they were running out of time compelled Al Qaeda to take a bold initiative of declaring the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq four months back, appointing the hitherto unknown Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its head. This was no propaganda stunt for Al Qaeda. This was the real thing: the nucleus state for the caliphate, with al-Baghdadi as the candidate caliph.

After dissecting the methodology chosen for starting this caliphate, Kazimi continues with his analysis of the insurgency in Anbar:

When the insurgency started in mid-2003, it was largely led, funded, and mobilized by the Baathists. But over time, and through Zarqawi’s pioneering work, the jihadists began to take over, and the role of the Baathists, per se, diminished. Zarqawi converted Baathists and Saddam-loyalists into jihadists by fanning the flames of sectarianism. He had to gradually wean them off the secular, and ostensibly nonsectarian, ideology of Baathism to his way of thinking, and to do that, he needed a dark force that could appeal to the Baathist rank and file: hardcore anti-Shiism …

Initially, Zarqawi’s strategy worked very well, and it almost brought Iraq to the verge of an all-out civil war that would have pushed the Sunnis to submit to Al Qaeda as their only protectors. But something else happened that rendered his approach as yet another strategic mistake: The Sunnis realized that Al Qaeda wasn’t strong enough to beat back a full Shiite assault — the group couldn’t even protect Sunni communities from Shiite death squads — and that Al Qaeda’s vision for reestablishing the caliphate would mean decades of unending warfare. Most Sunnis thus fell in with the crowd that counseled finding a negotiated settlement with the Americans and the Iraqi government — this time, at whatever cost. After four years of this insurgency, the Sunnis have grown weary and tired, and they want to move on.

But that is something that Al Qaeda would not brook, and it set out to force the other jihadist groups to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and to al-Baghdadi himself, or else. Almost everyone balked at this threat, and sharp words were exchanged among them on the streets of the Sunni triangle and on jihadist Internet discussion forums, and then a bloodbath ensued. Things have deteriorated to the point where these other jihadist groups have begun informing on the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s leaders and local headquarters to the Iraqi government, so that American and Iraqi forces could raid these locations and arrest those who only recently were fellow insurgents of the guys now snitching.

Further coverage on this and related issues can be found at IraqSlogger.  At TCJ, due to contacts in the intelligence community, we have known for months that a war was underway between the various insurgent factions in Iraq, and more particularly, in Anbar.  There is no doubt that there is internecine warfare occurring between the disaffected Sunnis, Anbar tribes, AQI, AAS, and various other factions, some striving for superiority, others (like some of the Anbar tribes) striving for survival.

But it is wrong to identify each and every terrorist in Anbar as AQI, and frankly, most of the individuals identified in Ramadi as AQI are in fact AAS.  The hospital in Ramadi has been under the control of AAS, regardless of the fact that there are reports that AQI controlled it.  Suicide bombers regularly come across the border from Syria and Jordan, and are hired by both AQI and AAS to perpetrate acts of terror mostly on each other.

But there are criminal gangs and disaffected Sunnis, Sadaam Fedayeen and other Baathists who cannot accept the reduction in class that a new Iraq brings, who constitute a significant portion of the violence in Anbar and throughout Iraq.  Some of these rogue elements sell their services to the highest bidder, and will not be a part of any new Iraq regardless of what tribe agrees to what in Anbar or who constitutes the opposition.

There are encouraging signs that the insurgency is turning on itself due to competing philosophical and ideological beliefs.  But to assume that this internecine war will kill the insurgency is wrong.  Someone will win.  The winner must be killed or captured, and they will not be amenable to negotiations.  The letters and myths and secret intimidation of the population is a tactic to force them to take sides with one group or the other.

  • Michael

    Hello,

    Nice write up. I’ve read Kazimi’s work at the Sun and his Blog… good stuff.

    This may seem like a silly idea. But maybe they can Sting’EM. Set up letters like this with fake Shieks and fake AAS, AQ’s, etc., and run sting operations like the FBI, Police, etc. This will help identify sympathizers who pledge and get them out of the forces. Maybe this goes into CIA, Special OPs territory. But I think its worth a try to in helping MNF-I uncover some of the scum.

    Plus, it will make everyone think twice about any more shadow letters of darkness.

    Play the enemies on trick against them. Send out letters from the Coalition forces they’ll be at the end of town 12 noon for a head to head meeting. Last man standing wins. State they can beat any of these losers claims. They’d be humiliated in defeat if they show up, or perhaps even worse, more humiliated for not showing up at all. The people will understand who has strength, is protecting them and who is not full of lies and deception.

    GodSpeed to your son, prayers for all our soldiers safe return and for good Iraqis to stand up and lead, govern their people.

    God Bless


You are currently reading "Insurgency in the Shadows", entry #482 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Ansar al Sunna,Iraq,Islamic Facism,Jihadists and was published March 14th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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