Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

There have been some inter-jihadist squabbles that have surfaced over the last several months that smell of a black-op—the case of ‘Abu Usamah al-‘Iraqi’ comes to mind—but today’s message from someone calling himself ‘Jihad al-Ansari’ and addressed to the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, seems to be the real thing; it genuinely reflects the bitterness that had crept in between the Al-Qaeda, the benefactors of al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State, on the one hand and the other jihadist groups active in Iraq.

In fact, a more excited observer (not me) would even go so far to call all that’s been happening of late a 'jihadist meltdown'. I certainly believe that enough bad-blood has been spilt that would forestall any attempts at reconciling Al-Qaeda with the other groups: there are multiple reports that Al-Qaeda is going all out to intimidate the Ansar al-Sunnah, 1920 Revolt Brigades and the Islamic Army in Iraq into submission and that there are running battles among these factions in Anbar Province and in the rural areas around Baghdad. Jolly good fun!

Below is my rough translation of some excerpts from al-Ansari’s letter that I found here (get it before it gets removed—it’s ruffling quite a number of jihadist feathers). Notice how al-Ansari plays up Iraqi identity (the dignity thing, and the date trees) to highlight the ‘foreignness’ of Al-Qaeda.

I have no idea who al-Ansari is supposed to be, or in whose name he is speaking, but he does seem to be talking from a certain level of authority, and with a manner that suggests that the Al-Qaeda leadership would know of him. Towards the end, al-Ansari publicly declares that he refuses to give his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq.

The key sentence in there, which reflects what is happening inside the Sunni insurgency is “We have started to fear the fighters of Al-Qaeda more than we fear the Mahdi Army gangs.”

BTW, I have heard an Iraqi source tell me, by phone from Baghdad, that some of these other insurgent groups (the ones with parts of their leadership in Damascus) are gossiping that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is a former Saddam loyalist called Hisham al-Ghurairi. The jury is still out on whether al-Ghurairi was an officer at the Special Security Apparatus or the General Security Directorate, or an Iraqi Army officer. Others say that he was directly linked to the Presidential Office at the palace. Whatever he was, al-Ghurairi spent some stints as the overseer of the Muntheria border crossing with Iran, and at the Treibil one with Jordan.

If al-Baghdadi is in fact al-Ghurairi, then the much-hallowed claim that he’s of a Husseinite pedigree would be false. The Ghurair tribe (south of Baghdad, almost exclusively Sunni) is believed by most specialists to be descended from the ‘Abda branch of the Shammar Confederation. There is one unsupported claim out there that has the Ghurair descended from the early Muslim commander Khalid bin al-Walid, but that would make them Qurayshites and not Husseinites—descendants of Hussein bin Ali, the prophet’s grandson.

For the record, I am leaning against believing that al-Baghdadi is one and the same as Hisham al-Ghurari.

Al-Ansari’s letter:

[To my] Brother Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
[My] Brothers the leaders of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia

I wish to emphasize the word ‘Brothers’, with all its meanings and connotations, so that it would hopefully remain as the reassuring safety valve to prevent matters from escalating between us, so that disagreement does not reach its furthest limits, and then defeat would be the reward for all of us, should we wish it or not…

This letter to may be a continuation of an conversation we started in a previous letter, that we sent to you on 13 Dhul Qi’dah 1427 AH, corresponding to 4 December 2006 AD, [entitled] the Firm Structure…and it was addressed to [our] brother Abu Hamza al-Muhajir…And we wished to advise you over the issue of declaring the Islamic State, and we wanted to clarify some issues that we discussed at the time…We put forth many questions and queries, and we waited for an answer or a follow-up from you about it…And we thought that the moral and religious obligation would entail that you would take the initiative and reply to us…

But what happened in the aftermath was very unfortunate
We didn’t receive a reply from you!...And you chose to remain silent!
And your correspondents and men began a fierce defamation campaign against our group on the internet forums, and spread lies about us, and lashed out with an avalanche of swear words and slander and takfir, some of which reached such a level of vulgarity that one would have imagined to hear only in the streets, and not on the electronic sites that supposedly represent—it is said—a jihadist Islamic media!!

…It was that the courage to discuss [matters] failed you, and you chose to be silent and ignore every step or initiative to open a dialogue channel with you, leaving the talk through your media channels, to every ignorant and fanatical [person], saying what is inappropriate by way of threats and vulgarity…

…Brother Abu Omar al-Baghdadi,
It’s been four months since you began to establish the project of your State, disregarding all those around you, and we say honestly that matters have deteriorated in this period in a way that we didn’t hope for, and because of the steps you have undertaken through all means there resulted uncountable negative results, that have damaged the jihadist corps, and greatly tarnished the reputation of the jihad and the mujaheddin.
The most prominent of these results and the worse that has come about because of your solitary step, was the commencement of many of your groups and members of your organization, so as to show your authority over Muslims in Iraq, to attack and insult all people, and to agitate against those who refuse to pledge allegiance to you…And in this most recent period, this pattern has been increasing, and many of your groups are capitalizing on the delicate situation, to peddle the idea of the State according to its beliefs, and to do so by attacking the people, and to harass every citizen, whether he was innocent or not…!

Attacks of all kinds and colors…Some of which were through insulting people in the streets with swear words and slander, or through threatening them with weapons if someone whispered disapproval of these behaviors…
Some other groups transgress over other jihadists, who are outside the confines of your alleged State, and this transgression develops sometimes into killing them treacherously or sanctioning the spilling of their blood…
Some other groups allow themselves to appropriate whatever they fancy from homes or funds for themselves under the justification that it belongs to the Islamic State!
Some other groups give themselves weird mandates, such as raiding homes, and frightening residents, and arresting any individual they suspect, or formulating accusations as they wish…
Have matters really descended to this level?!
When will your pride be moved after your groups have begun to mimic the actions of the enemies of Allah in trespassing over what’s holy…?!
…Do you know oh brother Abu Omar that appropriating cars and cell phones and money has become a common act among many of your groups…

…We say all this, knowing that [your] organization was formerly not as it is today…But your reckless striving to gather mujaheddin around your banner, while thinking that this would strengthen your organization and facilitate the declaration of your State in an independent manner, is specifically what drove your group to opt for horizontal growth (quantity) over vertical growth (quality)…And for that was the dangerous effect of bringing in every ignorant and unscrupulous individual, to join your ‘State’!...
And I don’t know…Do you want to drive your organization towards collapse and dissolution, because of the sins of these sinners…And I say, to be fair, that they are not necessarily the dominant strain among your cadres, but the ratio of their activity is gradually becoming publicly dominant, and the bad reputation falls upon all without distinction…

…Do you know that your groups have attacked our mujaheddin three times so far!

…It is reasonable for you to squander the fighting effort towards assassinating and killing the mujaheddin who refuse to pledge allegiance to you, or those from the general body of the Muslims, at these trying times, when the efforts of the infidels are coalescing against the Muslims in Iraq? A few days ago, one of the sheikhs of the mosques of Baghdad said to me: “We have started to fear the fighters of Al-Qaeda more than we fear the Mahdi Army gangs”…
…Since when has the threat of murder been the correct manner by which to extract a pledge of allegiance?!
Do you think that through this manner we will hurry to pledge allegiance? Don’t you know [as an Iraqi], that the Iraqi will give you [the shirt off his back] if you speak to his pride, but if your begin to threaten him, he will strive to avenge his dignity, not fearing death…

…We do not accept injustice or harassment, and on this basis, I see that I should be the first to publicly refuse to pledge allegiance, and I declare that I will stand against it in its present form that it is following, through murder and arrogance and attempts of attacking the people and extorting their money…
This is not a declaration of war against you, but it is a strong cry that may succeed in awakening you from this dangerous condition you have fallen into…The Al-Qaeda organization would be honored and respected, if it takes justice and wisdom and fighting the infidel occupier and their Safavid agents, as its guidance, and then we will be honestly inclined to support it, for it needs us and we need it, and a brother cannot dissociate from, or make do without, his brothers…But he who transgresses, and follows the manual of aggression and tyranny, we do not fear him or respect him…
Our duty mandates that we will not hesitate to move against anyone who takes jihad as an instrument to attack innocents, or abducts them under the guise of questioning…And we will not allow anyone to sully the reputation of jihad in Iraq…
You may tell yourself that we are small in number in front of you, and that [we] may not be able to enforce what we say…and truthfully I tell you that we are even fewer than you believe, but we do not waver in answering the call of justice…
Have you ever noticed the date palms of Iraq, as they rise high, mighty, strong, stubborn and dignified…
We shall, by the power of Allah, like the date trees of Iraq, stand before anyone who transgresses over Islam and the Muslims…
Allah is Great…Allah is Great…Allah is Great…
Your Brother,
Jihad al-Ansari
9 Safar 1428 AH
26 February 2007 AD