Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Al-Dhari Allegedly Supports Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq

The head of the Muslim Clerics Association (Sunni Salafists), Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, is said to have spoken in support of the Islamic State of Iraq that had been established by Al-Qaeda last October. al-Dhari is said to have made this statement at a reception held in his honor in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, according to an anonymous (and sympathetic) report that has been circulating around jihadist websites for a couple of days. The report, which I found at muslm.net, was accompanied with still pictures and footage (…although I didn’t view it) documenting the gathering. The reception was held at the home of a Saudi doctor by the name of Saud al-Hashemi.

Al-Dhari is wanted by Iraqi authorities for inciting sectarianism and supporting terrorists; the warrant was issued by Iraq’s Ministry of Interior on November 16, 2006.

Al-Dhari was accompanied to this reception in Jeddah by the official spokesman of the Muslim Clerics’ Association, Sheikh Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, as well as Sheikh Isma’il al-Badri, one of its top leaders. Also attending the gathering in a separate capacity was Tunisian Islamic thinker Rashed al-Ghanoushi.

Part of the evening, in which Al-Dhari spoke about the general conditions of Iraq, was covered by Al-Majd TV (Saudi Islamist) and the mainstream network Al-Arabiya (owned by Saudis close to the royal family). At one point, the moderator of the gathering, Dr. Ibrahim al-Jarallah, asked the media to turn off their cameras but allowed pictures to be taken by cell phones.

Al-Dhari then began to explain how the insurgency was started, and the stages it went through. He also told his audience that the number of American casualties that gets reported is not accurate, and that to get to the truth one must multiply the stated numbers by tenfold.

Al-Dhari claims that the Americans have lost approximately 475 billion dollars in Iraq, and that the number of Iraqi dead exceeds 500,000—most of them being Sunni, according to him.

Al-Kubaisi, the spokesman, then spoke about how the fall of Baghdad into ‘Safavid’ hands would be a prelude to the fall of Mecca and Medina. He also said that the respective numbers of Sunnis to Shi'as have been falsified by (former CPA proconsul) Paul Bremer, stressing that, according to government figures, Shi'as constitute 37 percent of the population, while the Sunnis make up 50 percent and the Kurds (who predominately Sunni) form another 13 percent.

Both al-Dhari and al-Kubaisi spoke in conciliatory terms towards lay Shi'as, saying that Sunnis and Shi'as have been living together without incident for many centuries. But Al-Kubaisi justified some of the attacks on Shi'a places of worship as being alleged to be recruitment center for death squads. Al-Badri, who is charge of issuing fatwas for the MCA, also tried to distinguish between lay Shi'as and those in government. This line towards Shi'as—‘there are some tolerable Shi'as that we don’t have to kill’—is the traditional Salafist approach.

Then a cleric from Baqouba told the listeners that even packs of wild dogs are fighting alongside the insurgents, for they only attack Americans.

Al-Dhari then invited his audience to support the Iraqi insurgency with financial donations.

After dinner, the author of the report asked al-Dhari, al-Kubaisi and al-Badri separately about Saddam Hussein’s alleged repudiation of Ba’athism and his embrace of Islam right before dying. Al-Dhari said that it is enough that Saddam announced that there is “no God but Allah and that Mohammad is his prophet” right before his death to count as an act of repentance. Then he said that Saddam’s jailers had seen him read the Koran feverishly while in prison, implying that that was another sign of atonement.

Al-Dhari also spoke favorably about having multiple insurgent groups and added that this way it is harder on the Americans to fight back. Then he added that the “Islamic State of Iraq aims to spite the enemy and show [America’s] weakness.”

The main insurgent faction behind the Islamic State of Iraq is Al-Qaeda. Al-Dhari’s words essentially imply his support for Al-Qaeda, which is how the author of the report understood it—in fact, it was the title of the report!

Al-Kubaisi said that there is nothing wrong with supporting the Islamic State of Iraq since this was “one of the methods of making war against the infidels.”

Analysis: In case people are still wondering how the insurgency gets funded, well, this report highlights how the fundraising is conducted in such places as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt—all places to which Al-Dhari travels regularly. Al-Dhari’s crew shows up to talk about the insurgency and its long term plans, telling the audience that the Sunnis are the majority of the population, and asking for funds to maintain the momentum of the insurgency. Then they eat and checks are cut over tea and dessert.

These fundraisers are supposed to be under wraps, but the anonymous author did us a great favor is uncovering this one, held at the home of a wealthy Saudi doctor.

Al-Dhari is received at the highest levels of state in Amman, Riyadh and Cairo too. In between his fundraising and advocacy for the insurgency, al-Dhari allegedly finds time to negotiate with the Americans. I’ve heard from one source that the American Embassy in Baghdad has been leaning heavily on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to rescind the warrant for al-Dhari’s detention; saying that it is not the time to question him about his role in supporting the insurgency. As far as I know, al-Dhari has not been back to Iraq since the warrant was issued.

Al-Dhari seems to be closely affiliated with the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades.


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