Category Archives: Saddam and Islamism

One More Time on Saddam and the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 September 2017

The most recent issue of Perspectives on Terrorism had a paper by Ronen Zeidel entitled, ‘The Dawa’ish: A Collective Profile of IS Commanders’, which was “the first attempt to provide a comprehensive collective profile of commanders and leaders of the Islamic State (IS)”. Based on “an inventory of over 600 names”, the paper assessed the nationality, ethnicity, and tribal origins not just of the very senior IS commanders, but those lower down, a novel and much-needed line of investigation. Zeidel found that these commanders of the IS movement are or were overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni Arab, with an important Turkoman contingent.

Zeidel’s findings are important for drawing attention again to the local-revolutionary character of an organisation that gets a great deal of attention for its foreign fighters and external attacks, especially in the West, but which only a recently acquired global reach—and, indeed, only recently needed to: until 2011, the West was easily reachable since it had troops on the ground in Iraq, so the incentive to invest resources in creating a foreign terrorist apparatus was minimal.

One small part of Zeidel’s work has created something of a storm, however. Zeidel gives the occupation held by these commanders and, for those where this was known, 72% of them were former regime elements (FREs) from the dictatorship of Saddam Husayn. This reignited the argument over how important the FREs have been to IS. Continue reading

Adnan al-Suwaydawi: Saddam’s Spy, Islamic State Leader

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 31, 2017

Adnan al-Suwaydawi (source)

Adnan al-Suwaydawi (source)

A video from the Islamic State yesterday listed a series of prominent past leaders of the organization. One was Adnan al-Suwaydawi,[1] whose full name is Adnan Latif Hamid al-Suwaydawi al-Dulaymi, and who is known most commonly either as Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi or Haji Dawud. For a long time, al-Suwaydawi was also mistakenly assigned the kunya “Abu Ayman al-Iraqi”, who was in fact a different IS commander. Al-Suwaydawi was killed on 15 May 2015 by a Coalition airstrike in Anbar Province, western Iraq, but he is credited by the Islamic State with their overrunning Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, the next day. A biography of al-Suwaydawi was circulated by IS supporters on or around 21 May 2015; it is reproduced below.
Continue reading

The Man Who Planned the Islamic State’s Takeover of Mosul

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 31, 2017

Adnan al-Bilawi

Adnan al-Bilawi

Adnan Ismail Najem al-Bilawi al-Dulaymi (Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi), the leader of the Islamic State’s Military Council when he was killed on the eve of the Mosul offensive that he had planned in June 2014, was eulogized by IS’s official spokesman, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), explaining his importance to the organization. Below is a profile of al-Bilawi and the section of Falaha’s speech dedicated to al-Bilawi. Continue reading

The Leader of the Islamic State in the 2004 Fallujah Battles: Umar Hadid

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 30, 2017

Umar Hadid [right] (source)

Umar Hadid [right] (source)

Umar Hadid was a native of Fallujah, hence his kunya, Abu Khattab al-Falluji,[1] and a part of the extremist thread of the Salafist underground in Saddam Husayn’s Iraq. Working as an electrician for a time, Hadid had gone into internal exile years before the invasion after attacking Saddam’s security forces. In the aftermath of Saddam’s toppling, Hadid quickly joined with Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), the Jordanian founder of the Islamic State (IS) who had been in Baghdad from May 2002. Hadid rose swiftly in the ranks of the IS movement, and led the insurgency during the two battles with American forces in Fallujah in 2004, being killed during the second of them. Continue reading

The Islamic State’s Profile of Umar Hadid

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 30, 2017

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A profile of Umar Hadid, published on an Islamic State forum, is reproduced below with some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold. Hadid—variously known as Abu Khattab al-Falluji, Abu Khattab al-Ansari, and Abu Khattab al-Iraqi—was a native of Fallujah who took up Salafism in the late 1990s during the rule of Saddam Husayn, leading to clashes with the security forces and Hadid going into internal exile. After the fall of Saddam, Hadid quickly linked up with the elite circles of the nascent Islamic State movement, including its leader Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), his deputy Umar Yusef al-Juma (Abu Anas al-Shami), the military leader Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani) and Abu Raghd who set up the Rawa Camp in Anbar Province, said to be the first terrorist training facility of the Iraqi jihad, and Abdallah Najem al-Jawari (Abu Azzam al-Iraqi), the chief financier and Anbar governor in 2004 before being appointed emir of Baghdad in 2005. Hadid was the leader of the insurgency in the two battles at Fallujah in 2004, being killed during the second of them. Continue reading

Profile of Abu Raghd: On the Origins of the Iraqi Jihad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 28, 2017

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In his first speech as the then-Islamic State of Iraq’s (ISI’s) official spokesman in August 2011, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) referred to several of the group’s “leaders” who had been killed. Among them was Abu Raghd, whose biography provides a glimpse of the role regional states—specifically Saddam Husayn’s Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria—played in facilitating the birth of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

The Seeds of the Islamic State in Saddam’s Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 22, 2017

Mustafa Ramdan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani)

Mustafa Ramdan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani)

After the leaders of the Islamic State die—usually killed by their foes—short biographies tend to be circulated on internet forums that favour the group. One such obituary—with the above picture—was disseminated for Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani), and is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Darwish was the first leader of the Islamic State’s military portfolio and the second overall deputy (between September 2004 and the summer of 2005) to the movement’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). One of the most interesting parts of Darwish’s profile is its addition of details on the jihadi networks linked to al-Qaeda and the first generation of the Islamic State that were operating in Iraq in the final years of Saddam Husayn’s rule, a topic touched on in other biographies of Islamic State leaders. Continue reading