Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, January 01, 2007

IAI Jihadists Complete Anti-Shi'a Ideological Migration, Follow Al-Qaeda’s Lead

The ‘Emir’ (‘Leader’) of the Islamic Army of Iraq—one of the insurgent groups that had held secret negotiations with American diplomats and spooks in the past—has issued a letter dated December 26, 2006 under the title, ‘Regarding the Safavid Iranian Project.’ The letter was posted on December 28 on the IAI’s official website, www.iaisite.info, which for some bizarre reason is still up and running even though it incites the murder of Americans.

We don’t even have as much as a pseudonym for the Emir of the IAI let alone a picture or a real name, and a recording in his own voice has never been released as far as I know. Hence, the text of the Emir’s speech was read out by the media spokesman of the IAI, Dr. Ali al-Nu’aimi, and the audio file is also available for download from the website. I also find it bizarre that al-Nu’aimi has not been arrested yet; he was last sighted in Amman, the capital of Jordan—a U.S. ally. Some analysts speculate that the mysterious ‘Emir’ and al-Nu’aimi is one and the same person.

This letter is important because it marks the IAI’s completion of an ideological migration whereby jihad against the West shifts more and more towards jihad against the alleged ‘Muslim’ proxies of the West such as the Shi'as. This trend was begun by Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi, and it is his lasting legacy in shaping the world of jihad. Since Zarqawi’s demise, this trend has not withered, on the contrary; other jihadist groups in Iraq have been playing catch-up, and this latest statement from the IAI is such an indication.

An earlier hint appeared when the IAI began to talk of ‘Safavid winds’ at the time of Harith al-Dhari’s arrest warrant, and I posted something about the matter at the time. More recently, even a group such as Ansar al-Sunna that had traditionally kept itself aloof of Zarqawi’s example, has also shifted its rhetoric towards a more anti-Shi'a tone (see here).

Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir has also made clear that there will be no let-up in the anti-Shi'a component of contemporary jihadist ideology.

I believe that the adoption of such anti-Shi'a talking points--so characteristic of Zarqawi’s thinking--represents a stepping stone for various jihadist groups, such as the IAI and the Ansar al-Sunna, in the gradual process of being organically absorbed into the Al-Qaeda organization, which has retooled itself in the last few months as the ‘Islamic State of Iraq.’ Once a group accepts these tenets, then the distinction between it and the larger Al-Qaeda framework gets further blurred, and it is only a matter of time before the smaller groups get digested into Al-Qaeda’s organizational body. Consequently, Al-Qaeda becomes the only real jihadist show in town as it consolidates its hold over the insurgency, but this end result would facilitate its defeat: it become more vulnerable to penetration, and the effect of taking out the leadership will be felt more acutely in a larger network.

But to get a fuller appreciation of just how much the Emir of the IAI has borrowed from Zarqawi (…who in turn had borrowed heavily from earlier Wahhabi and Saudi-funded sources), those readers of Talisman Gate who are really into this topic should re-read my August 2006 study of Zarqawi’s Anti-Shi'a Legacy. (Yes, I know it’s long, but this is THE major story in the Middle East over the next decade. Trust me.)

However, there could be something even more interesting in this speech: if an organization such as the IAI, which has already ‘talked’ to the Americans, were to whip itself into a frenzy over the Iranian Shi'a threat, and if it were inclined to perceive the Americans as the brutish dupes who are being manipulated by Iranians to do their dirty work of beating-up on the Sunnis, then the jihadists can rationalize striking a bargain or truce with the Americans if the latter can be made aware of just how much Iran threatens American interests too. So is hostility to Iran’s designs, especially as the Saudis are peddling it, the new Sunni-American honeymoon, with anti-Shi’ism as the aphrodisiac to get the jihadists in the mood?

Here are some excerpts that I’ve translated from the Emir’s speech, with some commentary interspersed here and there:

“Regarding the Iranian Safavid Project…

“…It is not something new and never an innovative event when the Safavids attack the land of al-Rashid (Ed.: reference to the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who ruled the Islamic world from Baghdad during the years 786-809 CE, considered the heyday of the Abbasids) and [become] the vehicle of treachery and the pickaxe of barbarism that tries to smash the skull of the Muslims in general and the Arabs in particular and [that skull] is Iraq. The history of the Sassanians (Ed.: the last dynasty to rule Persia before the advent of Islam) and the Safavids is full of malice against Islam and its people, and whenever Baghdad awakens from a calamity or is about to be revived from a catastrophe, it finds that the allies of the Jews and the Christians have prepared to deal [Baghdad] another blow.

“The world has not yet forgotten the pair of criminals, the minister Ibn al-‘Alqami and al-Tusi, or the Buyids (Ed.: in Arabic, the buweihiyyeen, sometimes spelled Buwayhid, a Shi'a Persian dynasty that took control of Baghdad in the 10th and 11th centuries but did not overthrow the Abbasid caliphs), or the Safavids…”
Ibn al-‘Alqami has become something of a jihadist fetish ( see this excerpt from my Hudson Institute study):

“Zarqawi turned that Baghdadi vizier cited above into the poster-boy of Shi’i treachery, and released a sermon in May 2005 titled “The Grandchildren of Ibn Al-‘Alqami Have Returned” (Wa ‘aad ahfah ibn al-‘alqami). In the jihadist version of history, in 1258 the vizier Ibn Al-‘Alqami—allegedly a Shi’a—conspired with Nassir-eddin Al-Tusi, another Shi’a who acted as adviser to the “Tatar” commander Holaku, to attack Baghdad and topple the ‘Abbasid Caliphate. The last caliph, Al-Musta’asim, was killed after being bundled up by the Tatars in sackcloth and trampled to death, and the city was laid to waste with hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants put to the sword or enslaved. To Zarqawi and the jihadists, America’s occupation of Baghdad in April 2003 mirrored those events many centuries ago because it also occurred through Shi’a collusion. And that was not the end of it, for “what was endured by the Sunnis of Iraq at the hands of those rawafidh, the grandsons of Ibn Al-‘Alqami, was harsher and more gruesome than what they have had to endure at the hands of the American enemy.” Zarqawi adds, “we are the vanguard of the ummah and its first line of defense, and its spearhead that stands in the face of this Crusader encroachment; working to stop this encroachment by these contemporary Tatars at the gates of Baghdad for the good of the whole ummah.”

The Emir’s speech, continued:

“…And they did not yet forget what these traitors did when they let the British into Iraq and greatly contributed to overthrow the state of the caliphate at the time (Ed.: the caliphate at the time was the Ottoman Empire, and British occupied Iraq piecemeal in WWI starting from the southern port of Basra in 1914 and Baghdad in 1917, however, the chief anti-Ottoman Arab allies of the British at the time was the Sharif Hussein of Mecca and his band of renegade or captured ex-officers of the Ottoman army—almost all Sunnis), to the instances of killing and deportation and oppression that are endured by the Sunnis in Iran and their great suffering to this day, and how Iran gave aid to the Americans to occupy Afghanistan, until it has become clear to the whole world what Iran did and continues to do together with it acolytes in the land of learning and clerics; the capital of the caliphate for many centuries; Baghdad the ‘Glorious’ and, Allah willing, the ‘Liberated.’

“…[Iran] was the biggest beneficiary of the crime of occupation and [Iran] received Iraq and its treasures on a plate of gold, which was facilitated by a clear American acceptance of Iran’s publicly exposed interference in many areas, through the political gangs and the militias that are Iranian trained and equipped, and then through [Iran’s] supporters in southern Iraq, and that was all made clear by the Baker-Hamilton report…”

Then the ‘Emir’ starts off on depicting the Sunnis as victims of Iranian terror: assassinations, torture, deportations, desecrating mosque…etc. Somehow, the jihadists are feigning amnesia: they seem to think that Shi'a reprisal attacks on Sunnis were unprovoked, contrary to what should be clear to most Iraqis and Iraq-watchers. This is an interesting mindset that reflects how Zarqawi also tried to cynically justify his attacks on Shi'as.

“…And in those terrifying prisons there are torture methods that have never been thought of by anyone connected to humanity…those [malicious criminals] have previously used the same methods on the Sunnis of Iran where the numbers of the Sunnis of Iran was more than 35 percent [of the population] and with these same ways and means they killed them and deported them and under the same titles for their operations, ‘Lightning,’ ‘Thunder,’ ‘Sword,’ ‘Dagger,’ and ‘Spear’ in 1979 and afterwards, and torture by using an electrical drill and a saw and injections with firewater and to this day the people of Ahwaz and Iranian Kurdistan are suffering acutely, may Allah help us all.”

The implication here is that if Iran’s alleged plan is allowed to continue, the Sunni numbers in Iraq will dwindle even further and they will become an even smaller minority (...they are now probably 14-18 percent of the population of Iraq. Iranian Sunnis never constituted more than 11 percent of Iran’s population in the last century; the “more than 35 percent” number is a myth that had been in Wahhabi circulation for a long time, see my study for more).

“Some areas have witnessed until this hour the greatest injustice and oppression such as Mada’in, Suweira, the general belt around Baghdad, Hurriyeh, Adhamiya, Kut, and some of the Sunni areas of Babil, and towards the south to Basra the ‘Wounded’…

“…The criminals did not make do with attacking the Sunnis of Iraq only but they bared their fangs and exposed their buried hatred and declared their sinister intent by attacking our brothers the Palestinians in Iraq and especially in the Belediyat area and have killed tens and made hundreds flee, and the slander of Palestine and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin may Allah have mercy on him (Ed.: he is referring to the former spiritual head of Hamas) has become commonplace and [the Shi'as] are doing that because they are Sunni Arab Palestinians, for whoever survives the Jewish monkeys is then killed by the ghoulish Safavids on behalf of [the Jews], and their goal is one: to uproot the Sunnis who are standing steadfast against three projects: the American Crusader one, the Zionist Jewish one, and the Iranian Safavid one.”

Interesting reference to Hamas’ Sheikh Ahmad Yassin; is the Emir aware that Hamas revolves in Iran’s orbit, or have these jihadists formed a different opinion?

“These are the same actions and the same policies followed by what is named Hezbollah (Ed.: ‘Party of Allah’) which is truly the ‘Party of the Devil’ since its militias and its mother [organization] Amal were the ones who killed the Palestinians and raped tens of Palestinian [women] in a clear message that whoever survives the Jews will be killed by their henchmen, and today they are igniting sectarian intrigues in every country as is happening in Iraq and Lebanon…Then they go out to the media and decry who they call the Wahhabi takfiris nawasib (Ed.: derogatory Shi'a term for Sunnis connoting they are stubborn in their hostility to the progeny of the Prophet Muhammad, whom the Shi'as champion as the rightful heirs of Muslim rule) and they mean by that all the Sunnis…Then majusi (Ed.: an Islamic term that covers all the pre-Islamic religions of Persia, the suggestion here is that the Iranians are not Muslims and still hold on to their pagan beliefs) Iran holds an annual conference on Jerusalem and a conference to contradict the Holocaust for propaganda and marketing purposes, but if Iran was truthful in its alleged support of the Palestinian people and Jerusalem then it should stop harassing and killing Palestinians in Iraq…”

It seems that a swipe against Hezbollah is a mandatory exercise in jihadist circles these days; Nasrallah became too popular. Zarqawi also amplified this trend (see the study, especially the relevant footnote, for more). Interesting reference to Ahmadinejad's recent stunt of hosting a conference for Holocaust denial.

“…Most of those who now lord over the people of Iraq are Iranians or carry Iranian nationality…And as we said repeatedly, Iraq is undergoing a dual Safavid-Crusader occupation, and the Iranian intelligence [service], the itila’at, is spread out in Baghdad, Diyala and Wasit whereas the provinces of the Middle Euphrates and the south are its bases and it is they who rule them and most functions in these provinces are conducted in Farsi (Ed.: official language of Iran) and Iranian currency [is in circulation]…”

“…And instead of being used by the Americans to strike at Muslims, [the Iranians] managed to trick the Americans and use them for their own majusi designs…”
The Emir may be suggesting flipping American might against Iran on behalf of the Sunnis, as Iran has done by duping the Americans into fighting the Sunnis. Here clarifies this opportunity in four points:

“…Whoever follows Iranian policy will find that its most important tenets in the current phase are:

1-The tattered Iranian regime is fully certain of its inability to confront the American project in all military, political, intelligence and media matters. Thus Iran is ready [to employ] any tactic that reduces the stature of the American plan or undermines it, provided that this tactic does not help the Muslims.

2-The Iranian regime is certain that the Iranians’ final goal will not be the same as the American final goal, for the final goals of either side is to fully dominate the region and run it through phony government by remote control from Washington or Tehran, and they are not in agreement on that. But Iran is in accord with America in the tactical goals, chief amongst which is to eradicate the chief enemy who are the Sunnis!!! And thus Iran’s awareness of the necessity of using America to weaken the Sunnis is increasing day after day.

3-The disputes among the Arabs can be made use of, and they don’t have a plan for an ummah, and neither do they have a national plan, thus the Iranians got it lodged into their heads that the region is about to witness a major change and they must be ready for it.

4-The opportunity presents itself for Iran to manipulate some Iraqi Shi'as to [fight] battles on its behalf and to be scapegoats for matter that are not aware of…Iraqi Shi'as should realize the truth about the majus that is out in the open: Iran is a majusi Persian state that rides Shi’ism to resurrect the glories of the Sassanian state.

“Iran’s mission is to prepare all the conditions to reap the fruits with the least casualties, and we know that all of Iran’s assertions about owning lethal weapons and all the maneuvers it conducts from time to time are stunts meant to scare the Arabs in general and the Gulf states in particular with the Iranian bogeyman.

“But maybe that’s a good thing since the Arabs and Muslims and the world too have become aware of the Iranian Safavid danger and this represents a strategic loss for Iran because it demolished what it had been building for decades in the span of [a few] years…

“…Today Iran is working against time to project its dominance over the political and military decision[-making levers] in the countries of the region as is the blatant manner in the case of Iraq and Lebanon, and to a lesser extent in the countries of the Gulf like Bahrain, the Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, whereas their criminal designs targeting Syria are not hidden.

“And regarding all this we see the unjustified Arab silence towards Iran as if all this does not concern them, but this is not so strange since the Arab leaders nowadays are living on the margins of history and are afraid of their own shadows and this is known to the Iranians…and even the smaller ruwaybidhah (Ed.: a term attributed to Muhammad to mean “a inane man talking in public affairs,” which is supposed one of the signs of the Day of Judgment, and this particular reference that the ‘Emir of IAI’ is making is directed at Bayan Jabr) who was formerly the ‘Minister’ of Interior and of Finance currently who demanded equality for Shi'as and Isma’ilis in Saudi Arabia…”

I wrote a column about this incident back in October 2005, Trash-Talking Points.

“Oh Arabs, the Iranians and their helpers have attacked the mosque of the Arabs in Basra to spite the Arabs, and to prepare for whom they call the awaited Mahdi who will rise to kill the Arabs mercilessly as they allege in their beliefs!!

“So where are the Arabs? Then where are the Arabs? Even still, where are the Muslims? Then where are the Muslims?

“…We say to Iran and the aides of Iran: Iranian targets are within reach, Allah willing, and Iranian gaps are many, and if our jihad against the Americans has distracted us from punishing the criminals and countering the Iranian Safavid aggression, then the limits of our patience has been reached, and the mujaheddin in Iraq may resort to a new balance that will cost Iran dearly

“…The lions of jihad who have rubbed the nose of the American empire in the dirt and drowned it the quagmire of humiliation and impotence, will be able, Allah willing, to do even more to Iran, and then Iran will know that it cannot be helped by her masters and allies the Americans and the Jews, and [Iran] will learn that her war against a billion Sunnis was a huge mistake…”

The Emir of the IAI is threatening Iran with war. So is Nawaf Obaid. Coincidence?

“…Written on Tuesday, the 6th of Dhil-Hijjeh of the year 1427 AH, corresponding to December 26th.”

Postscript: Mystery of the al-Hayat Newspaper Report

(Al-Hayat is the leading Arabic-language daily in the world; it is Saudi-owned and based in London. It was established by liberal Lebanese Shi'as and then sold to the Saudis.)

Al-Hayat’s correspondent in Baghdad filed a story yesterday (Arabic) (December 31, 2006) about the letter from the ‘Emir of the IAI’ and it attributed it to the official website of the IAI, which should be www.iaisite.info. But the al-Hayat version of the letter contained many references that are not found in the letter that is now posted (as text and audio) on the IAI’s website.

The al-Hayat version is amply translated by Badger at Missing Links blog but the references to ‘fake’ Ba’athists and ‘fake’ insurgents who are allegedly negotiating with the Americans, and the reference to the land of ‘Andalus,’ as well as the date of the letter (‘December 29’ in the al-Hayat version) are non-existent in the original letter posted by the IAI.

Unless there was another letter from the ‘Emir’ on the website that was quickly taken down, or the al-Hayat correspondent did not peruse the original text of the letter. Or maybe the text was issued by another organization (…the rhetoric sounds like Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’s latest speech) but was mistakenly attributed to the IAI.

I hope this discrepancy can be clarified.

UPDATE (January 2nd, 2007):

I should have noted that the Emir of the IAI still makes a clear distinction between Iraqi Shi'as (even though he accuses the leadership of being Iranian) and Iranian Shi'as; maybe it is an unknowledgement of an Iraqi reality: the Shi'as are not going anywhere. Or maybe it is a residue of Ba'athist roots when the enemy used to be 'Persia' rather than Shi'ism.

Furthermore, Asharq al-Awsat (another Saudi-owned daily with a wide circulation) carried a story today about the Emir's 'Eid' audio letter and it mirrors what al-Hayat had reported (sans the reference to Ba'athists) and also attributes it to the website. Are they looking at some other website for the IAI that would have carried a different variant of the Emir's speech? His speech certainly had no Eid greetings in it, but no other speech has been posted recently on the site I've been looking at, which I've always thought to be the real deal on the IAI. Weird.


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