Monday, April 20, 2015

"Spiegel International" story on the origins of Daesh/ISIS

Spiegel International has a story about the creation of Daesh/ISIS, The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State by Christoph Reuter 04/18/2015.

It claims that a former intelligence official in Saddam's regime, Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, originally organized and headed the group. It reports on organization charts and plans from Al-Hlifawi's Al-Khlifawi's files. Al-Hlifawi Al-Khlifawi was killed in January 2014, according to the Spiegel report.

The story was picked up by The Guardian with a Reuters wire story (Former Saddam Hussein spy masterminded the rise of Isis, says report 04/20/2015), the Daily Mail (Sara Malm and John Hall, The murderous blueprint which plotted the rise of ISIS 04/19/2015)and Aljazeera (Documents show Saddam-era Iraqi officer masterminded ISIL’s rise 04/20/2015)

The poor quality of some of Spiegel Online's reporting on the euro crisis and their willingness to pass along the German government's spin with American-style stenography makes me a bit more cautious than I used to be about Spiegel's reporting. I'm curious what Juan Cole may have to say about it. The last three paragraphs of the Spiegel piece pick up on the Sunni-Shi'a war narrative that Cole has been warning is a gross oversimplification of events in the Middle East. Spiegel:

As the West's attention is primarily focused on the possibility of terrorist attacks, a different scenario has been underestimated: the approaching intra-Muslim war between Shiites and Sunnis. Such a conflict would allow IS to graduate from being a hated terror organization to a central power.

Already today, the frontlines in Syria, Iraq and Yemen follow this confessional line, with Shiite Afghans fighting against Sunni Afghans in Syria and IS profiting in Iraq from the barbarism of brutal Shiite militias. Should this ancient Islam conflict continue to escalate, it could spill over into confessionally mixed states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon.

In such a case, IS propaganda about the approaching apocalypse could become a reality. In its slipstream, an absolutist dictatorship in the name of God could be established.
For some of Cole's cautions about that narrative, see Juan Cole on Europe's Muslims and More Carnegie Council 04/13/2015.

This article by Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal, ISIS confirms death of senior leader in Syria 02//05/2014, published soon after Al-Khlifawi his death, also indicates he was an important leader in Daesh/ISIS. The organization confirmed his death, referring to him by a pseudonym he adopted, Abu Bakr al-Iraqi:

The ISIS leader, known as Abu Bakr al Iraqi or Haji Bakr, was a senior military commander and top deputy to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the embattled emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Haji Bakr was first reported killed in early January after his group clashed with the Syrian Martyrs’ Brigade, a unit of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. A picture that purported to show Haji Bakr’s corpse was published on LiveLeak, but the image does not appear to match a picture released by the ISIS.

The ISIS announced the death of Haji Bakr in an official statement that was released on a jihadist Twitter account on Feb. 2. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“We congratulate the mujahideen in general and in Iraq and al Sham in particular, for the martyrdom of the Mujahid Sheikh, the Commander, Abu Bakr al Iraqi,” the ISIS eulogy stated. The ISIS claimed he was “knocked down by the cowardly, insidious hands in the countryside of Northern Aleppo by the criminals of the Awakenings.” The group has tagged Free Syrian Army and even allied Islamist groups as Awakening, or anti-al Qaeda groups, that are supported by Western and Arab countries.
Digby has commented on the story in Yet another terrifying lesson in the perils of blowback Hullabaloo 04/19/2015. So has Charlie Pierce in The Many Wars Of Fred Hiatt: The Unique History Of One Man's Mongering Esquire Politics Blog 04/20/2015.

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