Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Case Study of the Islamic State as the Saddam Regime’s Afterlife: The Fedayeen Saddam

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 31, 2015

Published at Baghdad Invest

Fedayeen Saddam

Saddam Hussein created the Fedayeen Saddam in 1994 as a paramilitary Praetorian unit. The Fedayeen were initially charged with protecting the regime from a repeat of the revolts that followed Saddam’s eviction from Kuwait by acting as a pre-emptive counter-insurgency force. Over time this internal security mission became increasingly about enforcing the Islamic law. Saddam had begun Islamizing his regime in the late 1980s, and intensified this in the early 1990s, attempting to create a synthesis of Ba’athism and Salafism to buttress his legitimacy. Saddam had begun Islamizing his foreign policy as early as 1982-83, making alliances with all manner of Islamist terrorists, thousands of whom came to Iraq for training in the 1990s, where they attended camps run by the Fedayeen. In the Fedayeen—connected to the global Islamist terrorist movement, combining elements of Ba’athism with an increasingly-stern Salafism—is a microcosm of the Saddam regime’s mutation into the Islamic State (ISIS). Continue reading

Islamist Clerics Reject Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Stance on Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 30, 2015

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A council of ulema (clerics), some within Syria and some abroad, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), was formed late last month. Its first statement was to condemn the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and to demand that all groups clarify their stance on IS and expel IS agents and sympathizers from their ranks. A fatwa early this month said it was permissible to work with Turkey against IS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which in Syria operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Among the leading names associated with this new council are three foreign Islamist scholars: Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist; Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dedew al-Shinqiti (not to be confused with Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti), a Mauritanian more closely aligned with Sururism than outright jihadism; and Abdallah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi jihadist who is inside Syria and a member of al-Qaeda in everything but name. Prominent Syrians involved include Dr. Ayman al-Harush, associated with Ahrar al-Sham, and another Ahrar member, a shar’i, Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami), who fought against the Assad regime during the revolt in the 1980s as part of the most extreme Islamist splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fighting Vanguard. There is also the son of Abd al-Karim, an important figure in the Hama branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sa’ad al-Uthman; a follower of the ideas of Muhammad Surur that mix Salafism with political agitation, Ahmad al-Salum, and many others.

Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham put out a statement today, “Response of the Ulema of Sham to Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi”. Al-Maqdisi’s real name is Issam al-Barqawi; he is based in Jordan and is the most influential jihadi-salafist cleric. The Council attacks al-Maqdisi for what they perceive as his softness toward IS. The statement, translated by @nasrshahada, is reproduced below. Continue reading

Leaving Afghanistan to Iran Won’t Bring Stability—nor Keep ISIS Out

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 26, 2015

Published at National Review

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the three major insurgent leaders in Afghanistan, a close ally of Iran

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the three major insurgent leaders in Afghanistan, a close ally of Iran

The admission by the Taliban on July 30 that its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died was widely seen as good news for the Islamic State (ISIS) against its jihadist competitors. But while ISIS’s growing power in Afghanistan over the last year has garnered significant attention, the rise of Iran’s influence in the country has been less noted. Worse, in the light of the nuclear agreement with the U.S., Iran’s expanded influence is held by some observers to be a stability-promoting development. This is a dangerous fantasy that has already been falsified in the Fertile Crescent, where the synergetic growth of Iran and ISIS promotes chaos and radicalism—to the advantage of both and the disadvantage of the forces of moderation and order. Continue reading

Britain’s Embassy in Iran Reopens, Putting Commerce Above Human Rights

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 26, 2015

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On Sunday the British Embassy in Iran was reopened after four years of closure. The British government’s decision is consistent with two emerging trends: the United States using the nuclear accord to facilitate détente with Iran, and European States falling into line with this policy and beginning to compete to enter the emerging Iranian market.

The British Embassy in Tehran was closed in November 2011 after ‘protesters’—a regime-orchestrated mob—stormed the building, ostensibly in protest against sanctions. The regime claimed helplessness in the face of angry demonstrators.

But it is worth remembering that when Iranian citizens take to the streets in a manner the regime actually disapproves of, it mobilises its security forces to murder them, and imprison them en masse in facilities where they are, male and female, raped as a form of punishment and torture. Continue reading

Film Review: The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 25, 2015

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In 1974, former Catholic seminary student Christopher Boyce (played by Timothy Hutton) takes a job at TRW, a Southern California aerospace firm, where he is read on to highly classified programs related to the then-new technology of satellites. Through a childhood friend, drug dealer, and minor smuggler, Andrew Daulton Lee (played by Sean Penn), Boyce begins selling secrets to Soviet intelligence based in the Embassy in Mexico.

Credit should be given for the graphics. While released in the mid-1980s, the clothing (and hair) is clearly of 1970s vintage. But the film’s narrative is direly flawed—both in what it does say and what it doesn’t.
Continue reading

Islam’s First Terrorists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 24, 20151. The Assassins (book)

Book Review: The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (1967) by Bernard Lewis

This review can be read in six parts: one, two, three, fourfive, and six.

Abstract

The fourth Caliph, Ali, was assassinated during a civil war that his supporters, Shi’atu Ali (Followers of Ali), lost to the Umayyads, who thereafter moved the capital to Damascus. The Shi’a maintained that the Caliphate should have been kept in the Prophet’s family; over time this faction evolved into a sect unto themselves, which largely functioned as an official opposition, maintaining its claim to the Caliphate, but doing little about it. Several ghulat (extremist) Shi’a movements emerged that did challenge the Caliphate. One of them was the Ismailis. Calling themselves the Fatimids, the Ismailis managed to set up a rival Caliphate in Cairo from the mid-tenth century until the early twelfth century that covered most of North Africa and western Syria. A radical splinter of the Ismailis, the Nizaris, broke with the Fatimids in the late eleventh century and for the next century-and-a-half waged a campaign of terror against the Sunni order from bases in Persia and then Syria. In the late thirteenth century the Nizaris were overwhelmed by the Mongols in Persia and by the Egyptian Mameluke dynasty which halted the Mongol invasion in Syria. The Syrian-based branch of the Nizaris became known as the Assassins, and attained legendary status in the West after they murdered several Crusader officials in the Levant. Attention has often turned back to the Assassins in the West when terrorist groups from the Middle East are in the news, but in the contemporary case of the Islamic State (ISIS) the lessons the Nizaris can provide are limited. Continue reading

The Islamic State’s Deputy and the Ghost of Saddam Hussein

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 22, 2015

Fadel al-Hiyali

Fadel Ahmad Abdullah al-Hiyali (a.k.a. Abu Muslim al-Turkmani a.k.a. Haji Mutazz)

Fadel Ahmad Abdullah al-Hiyali, the overall deputy to the “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who heads the Military Council of the Islamic State (ISIS) and is the direct commander of ISIS’s forces in Iraq, was killed in a drone strike in Mosul on August 18, according to a U.S. spokesman for the National Security Council yesterday. Al-Hiyali, who also goes by the pseudonyms Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Abu Mutaz al-Qurayshi, and Haji Mutaz, was reported to have been travelling in a car with a media operative named Abu Abdullah when he was killed.
Continue reading