Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Al-Baghdadi’s Twelfth Speech: Putting a New, Divine Spin on ‘Victory’

Talisman Gate has been in the habit of translating and analysing al-Baghdadi's speeches ever since he made his debut, so that tradition will not change. However, it is remarkable that after two years of digesting this stuff for reporters and analysts, there is still very little intellectual appetite to draw any lessons from the story of the Islamic State of Iraq. It seems to me like it should have been one of the biggest stories of the Iraq War, yet it remains its most underreported angle.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

-This audio file was released on September 24, 2008, by the Al-Furqan Institute for Media Production—the official propaganda arm of the self-styled ‘Islamic State of Iraq’—under the title ‘Allah’s Promise’. The audio file runs for 37 minutes.

-This would be Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’s twelfth speech. Al-Baghdadi, who has been awarded the caliphal title of ‘Prince of the Faithful’ by the jihadists fighting in Iraq, is the head of the Islamic State of Iraq. He released his first speech on December 23, 2006. To the best of my knowledge, this is the exact same voice that we’ve heard throughout all his speeches. There has never been a picture or a video recording released by the jihadists of al-Baghdadi.

-This speech was released to coincide with the second anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq.

-Al-Baghdadi uses the occasion of this speech to argue that ‘victory’ can come in many forms, that it is not limited to traditional measures such as tactical operations and casualties. This speech is one of the clearest acknowledgements made by a jihadist leader of the bleak state of affairs that they face in Iraq.

TRANSLATION, ANALYSIS, OPINION:

Al-Baghdadi begins his speech by addressing “the increasing rate of American lies about success in Iraq, and the approach of the ‘end game’ as they call it.” He adds:

We are Muslims who worship Allah save none. We see you worshippers of the cross [Christians] as nothing more than flies that have landed on our noses, [inconsequential] even though its noise and numbers increase. But that said, you are a nation that rode the vessel of persecution and tyranny, and you came to our country and occupied our land and raped our honor and killed our youth and elderly, and looted our wealth, and you did this while our ummah [Islamic community] was distracted…
Al-Baghdadi then offers an interesting take on the regime of Saddam Hussein and the dictator's relationship with the West:

You were [sitting] safely in your country receiving the riches of Iraq, and you had imposed on us a rabid ruler who stole our money and killed our men and fought our religion, and we were ever so eager to fight you directly so that we can [take our revenge] from you, for we knew that you were the serpent’s head and evil emanates from you. But the tradition of betrayal mandated that you would turn your backs to your agent [Saddam] and suddenly hate him, so you cut off his neck and you sent him to the Avenging and Overpowering King [Allah], and we got what we never expected or contemplated, to see your soldiers in front of us and on our soil in an act of injustice on your part, and in our yearning for your blood.

So the men of Islam in the land of the two rivers [Iraq] arose to defend their religion and creed, and they harvested your heads and roasted your meat…Your might was broken by Allah’s benevolence, and your powers dwindled, and the world saw your tears and blood and the laughter of our heroes as they [stood] atop your carcasses. Your cowardice and weakness was exposed to the point where we surrounded you in your bases that our mortars targeted, and it was at this point that the men of Islam and the knights of jihad and their scholars understood that the opportunity was ripe for the establishment of the State of Islam on its land and to impose its shari’ah [Islamic law], so they proceeded to announce the Islamic State of Iraq, which drove you insane and stirred your demons, for how was it that the [jihadists] had managed to resurrect for Islam a state in the [very heart] of the land of Islam despite the presence of the legions of evil and unbelief from all the nations of the earth [coalition forces], and they could not do that during the reign of your expired Ba’athist agent!
Here, al-Baghdadi reiterates the point that I’ve made before: the jihadists declared the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ at a point when they thought they were winning militarily (autumn 2006). He also explains that the organized hostility from other Sunni insurgents towards the jihadists had its origins in a rejection of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’:

We admit that many of those who fought [the Americans did so] in defense of his land or to seek respectability among his kinsmen or under the banner of a wicked ideology and deformed concepts; the sentiments of the Zionists Crusader occupier found common ground with [those] failed and bitter nationalists to wreck and overthrow the State of Islam.
It is interesting to note at this point that recently al-Baghdadi has been dropping the name Iraq from the title of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ and has been calling his organization the ‘State of Islam’ with greater frequency. This is another indication that the jihadists view this two year enterprise of theirs as the resurrection of the all-encompassing Islamic Caliphate that is not necessarily limited to Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi goes on to warn those turn-coats that “our god, Allah, who we fought for and spilled our blood for his religion, has promised us to ward off your wickedness and to lift your evil from upon us…[Allah] has promised us that we shall subjugate our enemies with the sword and the spear as well as with evidence and [reason], and that this subjugation shall be clear and that the victory will be apparent, unequivocally so.”

Al-Baghdadi defines victory as the case when “Allah’s word is supreme and the word of the infidels is brought low, and [Allah’s] laws will be enacted in His land and His shari’ah—all of it—will [govern] his faithful without excising or expunging any part of it, and this is what we have seen with Allah’s blessing in the State of Islam in the land of the two rivers, but a full and overwhelming victory may get slowed down sometimes.”

Al-Baghdadi adds:

Oh Zionists, we are certain of your imminent defeat and loss because I take those who are fighting the occupier in the Islamic State of Iraq as Allah’s partisans [Note: there are many ways to translate “awliya” and “wali”] on His land, who are performing the duty of the age [jihad]…For if he who is fighting for Allah and blowing himself up in defense of His religion and to champion His shari’ah is not the partisan of Allah on His earth then else can claim to be that?
This is a refrain that one hears aplenty in jihadist propaganda: jihad elevates the Muslim above all others, and even gives one some saintly attributes (…even though strict Wahhabis and Salafists don’t believe in sainthood).

And if the jihadists are “Allah’s partisans” then who in their right minds—this question is seemingly directed by al-Baghdadi at the Americans and his other enemies—would “think [they] are winning when the Lord of the earth and the sky is fighting [them]?”

Yet while al-Baghdadi promises that the jihadist ‘victory’ will become apparent in its own time, he offers some consolation to his fighters by talking up another kind of victory, the moral kind. Things cannot “be judged by their outward appearance” and it isn’t always the case that the success of a just cause is measured by how many supporters it has. Just consider the long line of prophets who only managed to get one or two followers, or whose call was taken up after their deaths, al-Baghdadi reasons, “Would a monotheist say that such a prophet was not successful in his quest?”

“There is another [type] of victory other than that of a crushing defeat [of the enemy]” as was the case with Moses and the drowning of Pharaoh and his armies in the sea. This other type of victory is manifested by the feeling of “tranquility” that a Muslim feels knowing that Allah has promised him victory. And this “tranquility” is nothing compared to that felt by the “real victory” of he who “wins an eternal and ethereal life [in the hereafter] when [some] faces are whitened and others are blackened.”

Addressing the tyrants, al-Baghdadi adds: “Oh tyrants, do you think that we will leave our religion, or ideology, our jihad for fear of a prison? We welcome a prison if necessary, but we will never leave jihad.” Quoting the influential 13th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya to say, “How would my enemies take vengeance on me? My heaven and my garden, I carry in my chest; my murder is martyrdom; my exile is tourism; my imprisonment is meditation.” Al-Baghdadi adds that Ibn Taymiyya wrote his most important books while in prison, and that he even died in jail.

In an attempt to stem declining morale, al-Baghdadi warns against underestimating the effect of demoralizing words, and reminds his followers that even during his bleakest hours, the Prophet Muhammad prophesized about the Muslim capture of the riches of the Sassanian and Roman empires.

The final segment of the speech deals with the second anniversary of the founding of the Islamic State of Iraq, and one oddity about it is al-Baghdadi’s choice of who the top heroes of the Islamic State of Iraq are supposed to be: Abul-Basha’ir al-Juburi (a jihadist leader by the pseudonym of “Abul-Basha’ir” was killed during November 2007, but he was identified as a Syrian national. The Juburi tribal handle makes it more plausible that this particular Abul-Basha’ir is an Iraqi, even though there are some Juburis in Syria), Abu Bakr al-‘Afri (a certain Abu Muhammad al-‘Afri was killed during September 2007 near Mosul; don’t know if this is the same person, the last name suggests an African background), Al-Jarrah al-Shami and Muharib al-Juburi. Al-Baghdadi adds that al-‘Afri, al-Shami and al-Juburi were members of the shura [consultative] council of the Islamic State of Iraq, while Abul-Basha’ir is identified as the Chief of Staff of the Army of the State of Islam.

At the very end, al-Baghdadi re-iterates a point that he has made often before: offering amnesty to those ex-insurgents who had joined the American-funded ‘Awakening Groups’, but threatening certain death if they are caught before repenting.

Fear Allah, oh former and present soldiers of the Political Council, and I specify among them those who deceivingly adhere to salafism; leave the banner that will take you to hell and the worst of fates, do not dare listen to the opportunist leaders and treacherous agents who have profited out of your religion and blood...

And know this well: the malicious rafidha [Shias] and the infidel occupiers will never forget that only yesterday you were their enemies, and they have begun to stab you already, so return to us and we will not forget that yesterday you were our friends…If you refuse to repent before we get a hold of you then, by Allah, to kill an apostate is more preferable to me than a hundred Crusader heads, and you know all about our vigor and our reach, and the mantle of the [Shias] and the wood of the Crusader occupiers will do you no good.
WHAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER

-I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the Islamic State of Iraq was the most ambitious undertaking ever adopted by world-wide jihadists; bigger than the Afghan jihad, bigger than the Taliban, bigger than 911. This was to be the much-heralded Imperial Caliphate.

-Al-Baghdadi was chosen as the candidate caliph.

-Although al-Baghdadi has sounded worried about the state of affair of the jihadists in some of his earlier speeches, this is the first time where he’s been forced to offer up a new twist on ‘victory’ other than imposing the shari’ah and defeating the Americans: spiritual “tranquility” is supposed to be just as good as victory, for the time being. (Sounds suspiciously like Sufism).

-I seriously doubt that many Awakening members will revert back into the folds of Al-Qaeda. After all, how much of a guarantee of safe conduct can be given to those who had turned apostate when the Islamic State of Iraq was in the habit of beheading hairdressers for giving their customers the latest Western fashions?

WHY IS THIS RELEVANT

It isn’t relevant. But it’s simply fun to listen to the jihadists writhe in agony and humiliation. The Islamic State of Iraq, and jihadism at large, has been defeated in Iraq. What remains are a few cells here and there who seem to pick on Iraq’s Christian community to sow panic and generate headlines of a mass exodus from Mosul: that’s not jihad, that’s grasping at straws. Sure, the jihadists will continue to be a rankling and irksome lot, but they are no longer a threat to Iraq’s stability.

FURTHER READING

Talisman Gate: Marking Second Anniversary, Islamic State of Iraq Cites ‘Accomplishments’

Talisman Gate: Al-Baghdadi’s Eleventh Speech, Al-Baghdadi’s Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Speeches

Talisman Gate: Who is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi? Is he Hamid al-Zawi? Or Khalid al-Mashhadani?

5 Comments:

Anonymous amagi said...

Yes, of course... but how wonderful it will be when we no longer read about the tally of a dozen or so dead each day from IEDs, by which I mean how wonderful when it no longer happen. How long do you think it will be, Nibras? Another decade? I am eager not only to declare victory, but for the knowledge that every living Iraqi can safely embrace it as well.

7:23 PM, October 20, 2008

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear amagi,

I don't agree with your definition of victory: an Iraq where its citizens are guaranteed full immunity from terrorism is an impossible goal, and over the next decade, you'll find that many European countries will fail to provide this same standard to their citizens.

If we allow the jihadists to control the idea of victory, that is that any bomb they may leave somewhere is a testimony to their endurance, then that is a recipe for inviting more attacks upon ourselves. The will power of the jihadists needs to be broken, and as long as one gives them a psychological lifeline that says that every bomb they detonate buys them a new lease of life and wards off "defeat", then they will simply keep doing it.

Bombs still go off in Iraq. Yet people are living their lives, to the best they can. They are no longer paralyzed with fear; they feel that they control their own destiny. That is the most powerful determinant in my view of who won this war.

Best,

Nibras

7:42 PM, October 20, 2008

 
Anonymous amagi said...

Nibras,

My definition of victory is and has always been the presence of a "real and robust" (by my own perhaps flimsy standards) representational government, for Iraqis, of Iraqis, by Iraqis. Those are the victory conditions for everyone who matters, everything else that follows is gravy, and I don't wish to imply otherwise.

I guess it just pains me to see that bombs are still going off and people are still dying because of them. I interpret your response as suggesting that death by terrorism in our brave new world can be seen as similar to death by drunk driver, or mugger, or house fire; just another mortality brought on by the circumstances of modern civilization.

I don't necessarily disagree, but I do have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Is that the future you foresee?

12:20 PM, October 21, 2008

 
Blogger Don Cox said...

I think you should read this report from Mosul before you so confidently assert that the war is won. There is a long way to go, and the enemy is very far from defeated. These fanatics will never stop killing until they are all dead themselves. I think you are suffering from a dangerous complacency. Maybe you should visit Mosul, look around, and talk to a few people on the ground.

11:01 AM, October 22, 2008

 
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