Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Jihadist Caliphate Fails

My paper on the failed jihadist attempt to resurrect the caliphate in Iraq was published online today, [cue trumpets and cymbals] so without further ceremony, here it is:

The Caliphate Attempted: Zarqawi’s Ideological Heirs, their Choice for a Caliph, and the Collapse of their Self-Styled ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ (opens up as a PDF document).

Here are a few paragraphs from its conclusion that may give you all a feel as to its relevance:
It has been the purpose of this paper to demonstrate that not only did al-Zarqawi (who was killed in June 2006) and his successors choose to turn Iraq into a battleground on their own initiative but that they subsequently chose Iraq as the incubator for their grand vision of a unified Islamic empire under the aegis of a ruling caliph. They did so without instructions from or consultations with the traditional leaders of Al-Qaeda hiding out in the Hindu Kush Mountains. Rather, they presented the jihadist world with a fait accompli: the Islamic State of Iraq, thereby capturing the imagination of a new generation of jihadists who were already enthralled by the alleged victories of the Zarqawists in Iraq.

The Zarqawists believed that they were winning at the time when they declared their state, taking the gloomy forecasts of an American ‘quagmire’ and ‘defeat’ in Iraq, as peddled by the U.S. media, as a sign that they were about to turn a corner in the war. As far as they were concerned, there was no greater service to Islam—not even ‘Servitude of the Two Holy Shrines’ of Mecca and Medina—that would compare with what the jihadists were proffering in Iraq, a distinction that ranked them as the elite and vanguard of a victorious Islamic regeneration. The merit of a successful jihad, waged against the world’s greatest power, earned them the authority and responsibility for resurrecting the caliphate, since they alone were the rightful ahl ul-hel wel-’aqd of their time…Their ‘state’ would be the “real caliphate” once again, set to expand under Muhammad’s own banner from the very heart of the Dar al-Islam, from ancient Baghdad and its environs; a venture far more ambitious and daring than a marginal emirate within the remote folds of the Hindu Kush.

The Islamic State of Iraq was to be the shield and spear of Islam, facing down infidel foes from within and without. It was to be the harbinger of glory and redemption, the “ummah’s hope” for an avenger to its many humiliations. And should the jihadists meet some slight setbacks here and there, then that too shall pass, for as al-Baghdadi says when giving his reasons as to why he is confident that the Islamic State of Iraq shall persist: “we are certain that Allah will not break the hearts of the embattled monotheists and turn us into the object of ridicule by the oppressors.” Yet, it does not seem as if the Islamic State in Iraq is about to make a comeback, especially since the Iraqi Sunnis that it claimed to be fighting on behalf of, and to whom its laurels shall accrue in victory, seem to have irreversibly turned against it. So could it be, after all the blood, treasure and prayers that went into the Islamic State of Iraq, that Allah too had turned His back on the jihadists?

The corollary to the military defeat now being experienced by the jihadists is the even more agonizing prospect of doctrinal collapse: the heralded caliphate is stillborn; the glorious vision of a reinvigorated Islamic State has been smashed. The anguish and demoralization brought about by this byproduct of battlefield victory cannot be overstated, for to smash the dreams of a man who lives for a cause, who endures cruel deserts and damp caves while awaiting martyrdom, is a fate far worse than death. In a battle of wills where a young man is able to summon the necessary willpower to press a button and to detonate himself among innocent bystanders for the cause of jihad and for a deferred utopia of a resurrected and avenging Islamic world power, nothing breaks the will of the individual jihadist than to see, in real time, his ideology bear fruit and to watch that fruit rot away right before his eyes. Such has been the impact of the ‘Zarqawist’ Islamic State of Iraq—the caliphate to be, under the Commander of the Faithful Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi the Qurayshite—and the bitter aftertaste of its ruinous downfall.

For a (short) backgrounder as to the auspiciousness of this outcome, check out my 2005 column, Calling All Caliphs, where I wrote:

Given time to ponder and compromise, the jihadists may figure out a formula, so let's light a fire under their camp and keep bombarding them with the question "Who is going to be caliph?" This would throw them into utter confusion; what are they fighting for exactly? If it is to reestablish the Islamic Empire, then how do they intend to govern it, and how would they go about picking a caliph? They should be taunted into announcing the name of a candidate, and not simply stating a concept…

We must not allow the crazies to set the timetable in this ideological war…The initiative for attack must be seized by embarrassing the jihadists in the eyes of their would-be recruits: they must be immediately dared into articulating their vision for what comes next. In the meantime, democracy as a model of government would seem far more viable for the Middle East than the idea of the caliphate with its legacy of upheaval and cataclysm.

This column was published on October 12, 2005. Exactly one year later to the day, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies formed the so-called ‘Alliance of the Muttayebin.’ It was this ‘Alliance’ that, three days after its inception, established the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ on October 15, 2006.

Nutty coincidence, or neocon conspiracy? ;)

Folks, I deserve a vacation.


Blogger Mark said...


You deserve a vacation, but please do return.

1:34 PM, July 01, 2008

Blogger callie said...

As I was reading your post I received an email about an Obama speech with a link to YouTube


Is this true?
The speech deals with his views on cutting back the strength of the American military, etc.

Since your post deals directly with the necessity of America being strong enough to ward off the "shields and spears of Islam, etc." I was wondering what your views are regarding America's future role militarily.

I would like to think this video is a hoax, but I have searched online and can't find anything that says it is not him speaking. Thank you for your enlightening blog. And yes, rest, but do come back!

6:17 PM, July 01, 2008

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Mistake Alert:

A renowned Middle East scholar pointed out that al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri is not Aymen al-Zawahiri's grandfather, which seems to be a common misconception. I had described al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri as Ayman's grandfather in my paper.

For example, this November 2007 article in Al-Masri Al-Yom quotes Hani al-Siba'i saying that al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri is Ayman's grandfather:


There are numerous references that seemingly make the same mistake. The only possibility remaining that may account for this misunderstanding (...al-Siba'i knew Aymen al-Zawahiri well) is that al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri was Aymen's great-grandfather through the maternal line of his mother, Umaima Abdel-Wahab Azzam. Unfortunately I don't have a way of checking that out.

The scholar pointed out Lawrence Wright's book, The Looming Tower, in which he states that al-Ahmadi al-Zawahiri was the paternal uncle of Aymen's father, Rabi'.

However, to the best of what I could piece together, even Wright's point is inaccurate:

Ayman is the son of Muhammad Rabi' son of Muhammad Ibrahim son of Abdul Karim son of Ibrahim al-Zawahiri.

Mohammad al-Ahmedi is the son of Ibrahim son of Ibrahim al-Zawahiri

Which all means that Ayman's grandfather (Muhammad Ibrahim) was al-Ahmadi's first cousin.

Thanks for the catch.

9:09 PM, July 01, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, that was beautifully and eloquently expressed.


9:15 PM, July 01, 2008

Anonymous Justice said...

Great paper, Nibras.

Get some rest man, you deserve. Don't rest too long though, I'm used to getting my "Talisman Gate-fix" on a regular basis.



2:56 AM, July 02, 2008

Blogger Brian H said...

Yes, we definitely can use as many of these successful neo-con-spiracies as possible. If, as I believe, the theories and actions of the jihidi-Lefist Axis are inherently self-contradictory and self-defeating, this "egging-on" strategy probably has some legs. So, what disastrous over-reach are you going to push them into next?

4:45 AM, July 02, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras: this is a monumental work. Congratulations! I hope the right people in the government see it and make use of it against our enemies.

Callie: don't be surprised if Obama reverses himself totally on this issue next week. Today's Obama is not last week's Obama. He took the Democratic Left for a ride by pretending to be one of them, suckering them out of their votes and money to defeat Hillary. That resource is now tapped so Obama has 'MovedOn'! Today he is pro-war, pro-guns, pro-wire tapping, pro-financial loopholes, pro-cutting taxes, pro-racial profiling (no head covered Islamic women, please!), pro-, pro-, pro-, etc. That Obama is pro-Obama is the only Obama agenda that is crystal clear. Which is okay when considering his youth and inexperience, he's allowed to experiment with different ideas! He seems to be transforming himself into Joe Lieberman! Some Democratic Left and Center Left bloggers are already calling Obama a traitor.


9:42 AM, July 02, 2008

Anonymous Hillary for President said...

Leftist pundits/bloggers are having a bad case of buyer's remorse with the Obama-scam they bought into. It is not too late to bring back Hillary before the convention in August.

10:45 AM, July 02, 2008

Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 07/02/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

11:10 AM, July 02, 2008

Anonymous COINer said...

Way to go, Nibras! You've just set a new elevated standard for Jihadi Studies and COIN theory. This pioneering paper is the breakthrough we were waiting for.

3:42 PM, July 02, 2008

Blogger Howard Richman said...


Just thought you might enjoy the slant I gave when I discussed your article on my blog. I wrote:

Title: US press corps has helped produce the total demoralization of Al-Qaeda in Iraq!

According to Nibras Kazimi, the United States press corps has helped in the battle against the jihadists in Iraq. They did so by reporting that the United States was weakening in its determination and would likely retreat. The jihadists were so encouraged that some of them set up a government in Iraq called the Islamic Republic of Iraq, which was headed by a caliph who would supposedly be the universal leader of all Muslims.

But setting up a caliphate led to dissention amoung jihadist groups, some of whon did not approve of the new universal Muslim leader. Soon the jihadists began fighting among themselves. The mainstream Iraqi Sunnis, among whom the jihadists were living, saw the division with the jihadists which helped them feel strong enough to join the United States in opposing them.

The jihadists made the mistake of believing what they heard in the U.S. Main Stream Media. They had not yet understood that the US media slants the news in order to help Democratic candidates win elections.

Because they had gone so high, the jihadist fall was much more complete. Those who have been fighting in Iraq are totally demoralized. Here is how Nibras Kazimi describes their present morale in the last paragraph of the article that describes this history...

[Here I give a link to your article and quote your last paragraph.]

If I have gotten something wrong here, please be so kind as to correct me!

Howard Richman

6:52 AM, July 03, 2008

Blogger Don Cox said...

Excellent paper, full of solid information and very well written. Thanks for posting the PDF.

9:30 AM, July 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras I love your well deserved swagger. Reminds me of someone I admire.

Thank you for your sharing your insight - and here's to the completion of the mission to liberate, democratize and pacify Iraq. And devastate al Qaeda in the process.

Terry Gain

3:49 PM, July 03, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha you're nuts

the end

2:50 AM, July 04, 2008

Anonymous youknowwho said...

A man who knows about your past is fond of saying that "Nibras is a one-man intelligence agency" whenever your name comes up.

Good to see that your skills are put to good use against the terrorists.

9:01 AM, July 07, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your thesis is so similar to that of: "9/11 was an inside job". So now it turns out that the american media so critical in its majority of the war in iraq was in fact helping in a master-plan to defeat the jihadists in Iraq!!! far-fetched and hard to beleive, for a simple fact (amonst many others): do the jihadist get the information about how the war is going from the facts on the ground (to wich they are very close) and their informers, or from the american media??

Nice publicity paper, at best.

7:11 PM, July 23, 2008

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