Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Syrian Regime’s Funding of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 October 2017

Bashar al-Assad, Hussam al-Katerji, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Reuters reported on 11 October that Hussam al-Katerji, a member of Bashar al-Asad’s Syrian regime, has been engaged in trading wheat with the Islamic State (IS), helping supply the terrorists with resources to run their statelet and threaten the security of Syria’s neighbours and the wider world. This pattern of behaviour from the Asad regime—holding itself out as a counterterrorism partner, while it bolsters terrorist organizations—is well-established, and has its origins in the regime’s survival strategy: to destroy all acceptable opposition forces and make the Syrian war a binary contest between the dictatorship and terrorists. Continue reading

Further Evidence of Trade Between Assad and the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 October 2017

Watan FM, one of the free media outlets that sprang up in the early days of the Syrian uprising in 2011 and which has since migrated to Turkey, reported on 17 March 2017 about the trade between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State. The article is reproduced below. Continue reading

Clerics Put Forward an Initiative to Unite Jihadists in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 October 2017

It was announced on 25 October that a unity proposal had been formulated to resolve the dispute in Syria between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), its former command organization, al-Qaeda, and the jihadi splinter faction from Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Ahrar, which has broken between the two. The initiative was backed by major jihadi-salafist clerics, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) and Umar Othman (Abu Qatada al-Filistini), and invited the support of all jihadi “scholars”. The text of the proposal, translated by Al-Maqalaat, is reproduced below, with some editions to transliteration and syntax. Continue reading

Don’t Celebrate the Fall of Raqqa Just Yet

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 October 2017

Raqqa city has been destroyed (image source)

The Islamic State (IS) captured Raqqa city, its first provincial capital, in January 2014. Six months later, IS declared its caliphate and Raqqa became its de facto capital. Last Tuesday, the partner force of the US-led anti-IS Coalition, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), entered the city centre in Raqqa. A deal had evacuated most of the remaining jihadists over the prior weekend, though a determined core remained and still held about 10 per cent of the city. The caliphate is crumbling and the Coalition says IS has 6,500 fighters left. According to the Coalition, this puts IS “on the verge of a devastating defeat”. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe this is true. To the contrary, IS is more powerful at this point, in theatre, even after the military reverses inflicted on it by the Coalition, than in the period after the “defeat” of 2008, and the outlook is more favourable now to IS. Moreover, IS now has an international reach, physically and ideologically, it did not previously possess. Continue reading

Al-Maqdisi Weighs in on Turkey’s Intervention in Idlib and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 October 2017

Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the Jordan-based jihadi-salafist cleric, put out a message on 12 October 2017 in reaction to the Turkish government moving forces into the Idlib Province in north-western Syria on 7 October. Initially it had seemed that Turkey was to confront Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda branch in Syria, but it soon became apparent that the operation was a redrawing of terms that was largely coordinated between Ankara and HTS. Given how critical al-Barqawi has been of HTS, this was interesting. Al-Barqawi’s statement was translated by Trunk News Translations and is republished below. Continue reading

The Islamic State Planned For Sectarian War in Iraq From the Beginning

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 October 2017

The Iraqi Kurdish authorities arrested Mustafa Haji Muhammad Khan (Hassan Ghul) on 23 January 2004. Khan had been dispatched to Iraq by Nashwan Abdulbaqi (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi), one of the key military officials of al-Qaeda “central” (AQC), to function as AQC’s intermediary with Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), the founder of the Islamic State movement. Khan replaced Abdallah al-Kurdi, the first envoy sent by Abdulbaqi. Al-Kurdi had failed to establish any footing to do his job effectively, but Khan, a battle-hardened jihadist from Baluchistan, earned a measure of respect from al-Khalayleh and facilitated a productive conversation between AQC and al-Khalayleh. Al-Khalayleh, possessed of a pathological anti-Shi’ism, wrote a seventeen-page memo to Usama bin Ladin explaining his strategy to defeat the Americans by starting a total war between the sects in Iraq. That memo, in digital form, was given to Khan, and Khan had it in his possession when he was captured. The letter was translated and publicized by the State Department, and is reproduced below with minor editions for clarity and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Russia Takes Advantage of the Schism in NATO Between America and Turkey

Originally published at The International Business Times

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 October 2017

President Donald Trump meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, 16 May 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Relations between Turkey and the United States hit a new low on Sunday 8 October. The U.S. State Department suspended “all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey”.

The Turkish government retaliated—citing concerns about the “commitment of the government of the United States to the security of the Turkish Mission facilities and personnel”—by “suspend[ing] all non-immigrant visa service[s] at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the U.S..” Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Adds to Claim of Las Vegas Massacre

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 October 2017

Al-Naba 100, page 2

In Las Vegas, just after 22:00 Pacific Time on 1 October [6:00 on 2 October, British time], 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired about 1,100 rounds over a ten-minute period from the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel at the crowd gathered on the Las Vegas Strip for the Route 91 Harvest music festival (the country singer, Jason Aldean, was playing at the time). When the shooting stopped, fifty-eight people had been murdered—making this the deadliest mass-shooting in American history—and 546 people had been injured. Paddock was found dead in the hotel room, having apparently shot himself.

The Islamic State claimed the Las Vegas attack via Amaq on 2 October, and soon released a fuller statement naming the killer as “Abu Abd al-Bir al-Amriki”. This followed the previous pattern laid down by IS when it claims its foreign terrorist attacks. There is as yet no definitive evidence of Paddock being motivated by jihadist ideology, nor of contact between Paddock and IS, and U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement have been quick to claim that such links do not exist.

In the 100th edition of Al-Naba, IS’s weekly newsletter, IS added details to its claims, page three contained a brief article adding details to IS’s claims about Las Vegas. A rough translation of the Naba article is reproduced below. Continue reading

By Strengthening Iran, the Coalition Has Ensured the Islamic State’s Survival

Published at The Telegraph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 October 2017

The “defeat” of the Islamic State (ISIL), signified by its eviction from Mosul in July, its impending loss of Raqqa, and an apparent resurgence of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, seemed to augur a new era of stability for the Middle East. The jihadists would be gone and Iranian-backed governments in Syria and Iraq consolidated.

True, Assad murdering those who resisted him with poison gas and concentration camps, and hiding the evidence by installing crematoria, would nag at our conscience. But foreign policy is a cold-blooded business and it has been decreed that ISIL is the greatest—really the only—threat emanating from the region.

It would not be justice, but it would be peace. Or something like that. Continue reading

How the Islamic State’s Founder Justified Murdering Shi’a Civilians

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 October 2017

Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi)

The Islamic State’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), took the anti-Shi’ism within jihadi-salafism, and moved it to ideological centre-stage in his campaign to implement a shari’a regime in Iraq. In a speech on 18 May 2005, “The Return of Ibn al-Alqami’s Grandchildren”, al-Khalayleh cast the Shi’a as the internal enemies of Islam. Al-Alqami, a Shi’a, was the vast vizier of the Abbasid caliphate and allegedly opened the gates to allow the Mongols to sack Baghdad in 1258. In al-Khalayleh’s telling, the Iraqi Shi’a repeated this in 2003 by welcoming the Americans—a piece of sectarian incitement first used by Saddam Husayn. Al-Khalayleh makes reference to Shi’a figures conspiring in the American project for a New Iraq, something unalterably opposed not only by al-Khalayleh but most Iraqi Sunnis and their “resistance” groups, who objected to their loss of primacy in the aftermath of Saddam, flatly rejecting the demographic facts of Iraq that grant them a smaller share of power than they feel is their due. This political grievance is secondary to al-Khalayleh, however. Al-Khalayleh advances a cosmic, theological argument. To al-Khalayleh, the existence of the Shi’a is a standing affront to the “true” faith and a temptation for Sunnis to fall into apostasy, and since the need to defend the faith itself is above the protection of human life, the shedding of the blood of Shi’a civilians licit. This is the intellectual universe in which al-Khalayleh and his successors dwell. Excerpts from the speech are republished below. Continue reading