Islamic Army of Iraq Lambasts Al-Qaeda, Al-Baghdadi
The Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) issued a lengthy statement today on its affiliated websites (see IAI's official website and Al-Buraq Forum, both in Arabic) under the title ‘The Islamic Army of Iraq’s Response to the Speeches of Brother Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’ that amounts to a vicious rhetorical counterattack against Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and its recent statements and actions.
This communiqué came a day after Sheikh Hamid al-Ali issued a fatwa (Arabic) casting doubts over the validity of giving allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq (ISI); this religious edict has sent jihadist forums abuzz with recriminations between supporters of Al-Qaeda and its detractors. Al-Ali is one of the more influential jihadist theologians, and he’s based in Kuwait. He goes as far as saying that Al-Qaeda should retract its declaration of the ISI and that it is unprecedented in Islam to give allegiance to an anonymous ‘Imam’ who holds no sway over territory. (Side note: Al-Ali regularly writes poetry hailing the killing of Americans in Iraq; Kuwait was liberated by American soldiers. Al-Ali, to my knowledge, doesn’t get hassled by the Kuwaiti authorities; Why is that?)
The IAI’s communiqué begins with a very long preamble explaining the IAI’s principles, which I have chosen not to translate. I translated some excerpts (see below) of what I believe are the important new developments brought about by this communiqué and I chose to leave out all the religious references to the Koran and Islamic tradition that are employed by the statement to anchor its points.
This is the first time, as the statement makes clear, that the IAI have openly expressed their disapproval of Al-Qaeda’s rhetoric and actions, and they didn’t want to do that earlier because it would have hurt the cause of jihad, the IAI says.
It is interesting that the IAI (the communiqué is not attributed to any individual or body within the IAI) never mentions the words ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ or its predecessor, the Shura Council of the Mujaheddin, and chooses to refer to al-Baghdadi’s organization as ‘Al-Qaeda’; they’re calling it as it is, which is more than can be said about the U.S. media (see my column, Blackout of the Media, which also gives some background on the ISI and its timeline. I’ve also speculated about al-Baghdadi’s real identity here). They also never refer to any honorific titles when addressing al-Baghdadi (…referred to simply as ‘Abu Omar’) and al-Muhajir (…referred to as ‘Abu Hamza’); they are deliberately being rude.
The IAI is responding to al-Baghdadi’s Third Speech (released on March 13, 2007) and they address several points or accusations in this speech that the IAI feels is directed against it: collaborating with the Mossad, being in Saudi Arabia’s pay, and negotiating with the Americans. It’s important to read al-Baghdadi’s speech beforehand to get a feel for all the points being made by the IAI.
The IAI also addresses some leaps taken by al-Baghdadi such as labeling other jihadists who have not pledged allegiance to him as seditionists, and beginning to terrorize them into submission. (I’ve written about this in my column from last month, Jihadist Meltdown)
The chief point of the IAI’s statement is made towards the end: the grown-ups of Al-Qaeda need to reign in their adolescents who are running amok in Iraq and ruining the jihad. The IAI appeals to Osama Bin Laden to reassert ideological and organizational control and authority over the branch of his franchise operating under the name ‘Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia’ and warns that if corrective steps are not taken then great harm will befall the jihadist venture in Iraq.
The leader of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq to whom he pledged allegiance to, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, are not going to take kindly towards the IAI when invoking the authority of the ‘Waziristanis’, i.e. Bin Laden and Zawahiri, who al-Muhajir and al-Baghdadi have already written off as has-beens in the pantheon of the jihadist superstars.
I’ve been making this point on Talisman Gate ever since the Islamic State of Iraq was declared by al-Qaeda on October 12, 2006: this was a huge strategic mistake that has come back to bite them in the ass, and there’s no way out of this mess—no one, not Bin Laden or Al-Ali, can undo this damage.
The insurgency in Iraq is one of the top global security issues of our times, but it is being covered in an uninformed and shallow manner by the press. I would put this fight between Al-Qaeda and the other jihadist groups right up there at the top of what should be getting reported from Iraq—unfortunately, very few news bureaus are putting in the effort.
Here are the translated excerpts:
And since many people hold the mujaheddin generally, and the Islamic Army specifically, liable for remaining silent over what is being done by some brothers in the Al-Qaeda organization by way of judicial excesses, we justify [our silence] by [saying]:
1-We were busy fighting Allah’s enemies; the Americans, the Safavids and those who aid them.
2-To preserve the brotherhood of Islam and faith among all the mujaheddin.
3-To preserve the jihadist project which belongs to the entire ummah [fellowship of Muslims].
4-To be wary of being used by the enemies of Islam and the Muslims.
5-To give ample opportunity for reform and returning to what is just.
Thus we resolved to treat them with wisdom and pleasant patience…
But it was to no avail, for their chief concern became to harm [our] blessed organization…using whatever means and methods such as:
-Libeling [our] group with arbitrary false and abusive accusations [such as] attributing us to the Ba’ath [Party], and they know and everyone knows that there isn’t a single Ba’athist in [our] group and there is no link whatsoever between us and the Ba’athists, neither ideologically nor organizationally or operationally, and at other times they attribute [our] group to other Islamist platforms and movements and that is patently false, and [at other times] they attach [us] to intelligence organizations, and at every turn Allah shows that which is just, and the falsehood of these accusations is made clear, and the numbers of the mujaheddin and [their] operations increase, and blessings fall upon this group and it becomes more acceptable to the people and spreads [among them]…and they should have been happy for us and to wish us well as we do towards them…
-And as such, they have threatened some members of [our] group with murder if they don’t pledge allegiance to Al-Qaeda or its other names, and we would [turn a blind eye] so that the fight would be limited to the enemies…
-And then those people went further and they unjustly killed some brothers [from our group]…the numbers [of those killed] have [climbed] to over thirty until now, and they weren’t satisfied with just that for they showed hostility towards other jihadist groups, and this hostility turned into confrontations with some groups such as the 1920 Revolt Brigades and until this hour there are recurrent confrontations between the two in Abu Ghraib, and the most recent was the murder of one of their field commanders and he is [our] brother Harith Dhahir al-Dhari, may Allah receive him, and they killed some members of the Army of the Mujaheddin and then some members of the Ansar al-Sunnah, and they threatened the Islamic Front, and all these group bore the burden of preserving the jihadist venture so that it would not veer off course.
-But this pleasant patience only made them more daring, and they made allowable the murder of a number of Muslims and especially the easy targets such as the sheikhs and [the criers for prayers] at the mosques, and unarmed Sunnis, some of them were members in the Muslim Clerics Association…Even lay Sunnis became legitimate targets for them and especially those who are wealthy, for they either pay what is wanted of them or are killed, and whoever criticizes them or disagrees with them and shows them their faults in such actions, then they seek to kill him for this is easy of them, and justifying it is even easier.
-Attacking peoples’ homes and taking their money is commonplace.
-Labeling people as infidels and apostates is a usual matter now.
-And then they slandered [us] in the media, as was clear in the two speeches of Abu Hamza and the speeches of Abu Omar, which were full of accusations…
All these speeches that are being referred have been covered on Talisman Gate: Abu Hamza al-Muhajir’s first speech and his second speech. See also Al-Baghdadi’s first, second and third speeches.
This is a useful backgrounder on the IAI and their gradual radicalization.
And we didn’t hurry in responding to what we were accused of, for we awaited the pious clerics to advise [Al-Qaeda] and to show them the mistakes and [their] judicial transgressions especially the ones in the last speech [by al-Baghdadi], so that we deflect this opportunity from being used by our enemies the Americans and the Safavids and those who are with them, and so that the advice would be like a healing tonic for all, but our imams did not speak out so it became necessary to address some points so that no one would think they were valid:
-There was a challenge to all the mujaheddin outside of Al-Qaeda to showcase one operation against an American base…The number of raids conducted by the Islamic Army against bases and barracks number in the tens, and [the IAI] seized major bases too by Allah’s reward, including the ‘Golden Base’ in Jurf al-Sakhr that was [annihilated] in 2003 even before Al-Qaeda was established in Iraq, and the ‘Eagle Base’ that was wiped out in 2006, and the bases of the Ukrainians who fled back defeated to their country, and many other operations that have recently topped a thousand operations per month…
-And the other groups conduct blessed and innumerable operations for all to see…So how can they all be cancelled [by al-Baghdadi]!!!
-There is also the accusation that [our] group conspired with the journalist Yusri Fodah and the Mossad…And it just so happens that the same journalist had met with the leaders of the Al-Qaeda organization, and produced programs and films for them, and went to their places and headquarters, so does that mean that all those leaders were conspirators aiding the Mossad? Such as Khalid Sheikh and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, may Allah release them, or does the Mossad link apply only to he who meets with the Islamic Army?
And we deal with every journalist individually or as a means that serves the causes of our ummah and especially the cause of jihad in Iraq irrespective of judging them, what is important is that we don’t have a harmful security lapse…
As regarding the dearth of men and exposing the route, everyone knows that is false for the crossing route of the mujaheddin is not hidden from anyone, and as such what would one say about the reports and films produced under Al-Qaeda’s supervision and the speeches of its leaders that did not leave a detail unstated, for we were not the ones who revealed the details of 911 and we were not the ones who uncovered the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda’s individuals in Arab and non-Arab countries, and all these things were mentioned in their speeches? So is this [also] cooperation with the Mossad?
-And as for [Al-Baghdadi’s] mention of the mujaheddin as ‘Saudi Hezbollah’ then we are thankful to Allah that we never followed any government or party or front whether internal or external, and we suffered a lot as did our Salafist brothers in Iraq and especially in the last decade of the last century, from accusations of links with the Wahhabis and the Saudis as they call them, and oddly they add the Mossad to them too!!!!!
And after the occupation, the labels increased to become ‘Terrorist Wahhabi’…etc, and then our brothers come to accuse their brothers who are with them in the same trench against the enemies with the same accusations hurled against us by the enemies of Islam…
Thanks be to Allah we have not received, to this hour, any aid from any government, neither from the Arab governments nor from Iran, and we have not sought to receive support for the jihad from any Arab country unless it was general support for the Muslims in Iraq, and even so all the governments advance one step forward then go back a thousand steps awaiting a clear American permit to aid the Sunnis of Iraq.
As regards to the oil money, well nothing has reached the mujaheddin neither from Iraq’s oil or the oil of any other country, neither directly or indirectly.
Then who are those ‘clerics of the tyrant’ and the ‘merchants of religion’? Why all these talismans?
And what has been put in reserve for future speeches that are set aside for the [Badr Forces] and the [Mahdi Army] and Chalabi and Allawi and the others?
The implication here is that “Al-Qaeda had said its worst against fellow jihadists, so what is left to tar the enemies with, then?”
And if matters had been left at this then they wouldn’t have needed a response [from us] to clarify them since they are clear…But brother Abu Omar transgressed against the whole ummah and against the platform of the ummah’s predecessors and its clerics by bringing forth weird laws and issues:
-Such as considering all the lands of Islam as lands of the infidels. If so, what is the verdict on his state which is under the rule of the Crusaders and their aides?
-His saying that fighting the armies of the Arab governments is more pressing than fighting the Crusader occupier?!
-To say that jihad is mandatory—with such comprehensiveness—since the fall of Andalusia; this is not backed-up.
-His judgment that the People of the Book in our land are people of war who have no protections; who of the learned men says so with such comprehensiveness?
-And he judged all the sons of the jihadist groups as seditionists…adding that they call upon their tribes and members to rest and be lethargic!!! Is there any rest and lethargy in Iraq? And he called the pledge of allegiance to him the ‘duty of the age’ and this is [indeed] very dangerous for those who understood him!!
This is a clear reference by the IAI that they understand that al-Baghdadi is setting himself up as the candidate caliph.
-He accused the [other] groups of seeking accords with the Americans, while not distinguishing between negotiations that are properly based on Shariah and the treaties of surrender being called for by the [defeatists], and he stipulated the permission of his state, but who acknowledges his state [in the first place] for him to permit [anything]?
-And even though we in the Islamic Army accept the legality of negotiations with the enemies, but we have not negotiated with any enemy until this hour whether they were Americans or Safavids or others, and it is unnecessary to go through the conditions for negotiations since they have been stated often, and we also do not know of any major jihadist group that had negotiated with the Americans…except for some hangers-on to the jihad who have been exposed.
On this occasion, we direct the following pressing calls:
First: to the learned men of the ummah, for them to take on their religious duty to save the jihadist project in Iraq and to stop the flow of Muslim blood by issuing fatwas in the important matters after determining the reality on the ground, and not to be silent…
Second: to the leaders of the Al-Qaeda organization, headed by the mujahid Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, may Allah preserve him, and who is famous for being very careful where Muslim blood and honor are concerned, and who is famous for his piety and fear of the Day of Judgment, to defend his religion and honor by taking upon himself judicial and organizational responsibility for the Al-Qaeda organization, and to clarify facts so that he can be assured, for he and his brothers in the leadership of Al-Qaeda are responsible for what is being done by their followers, and it is not enough to distance yourselves from such acts but you must correct the course…
Third: to all the members of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, to look inside [yourselves] and to fear Allah for what you have perpetrated and those who have been sinful should seek redemption in Allah…
Fourth: to all jihadist groups and factions, they should advise their brothers in the Al-Qaeda organization since it is required to fix the matter of the jihad.