The short answer is “yes”. The longer answer is, “It depends on how good you want,” and discovering the answer to that relies on having a strategic vision of what you want from Syria. Continue reading
Since the Syrian rebellion went to war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in January, there has been a parallel campaign of political warfare by the rebels and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat an-Nusra, to delegitimize ISIS. This has often taken the form of referring to ISIS as Kharijites or the Khawarij.
This Khawarij are an ancient sect who broke from the Rashidun (Rightly-Guided) Caliphate in the name of righteous revolt in 658, and continued their campaign against the caliphate—by then in the hands of the Umayyads—for a century and more. Regarded as perhaps the first terrorists in Islamdom (by another definition it would be the Nizaris, a.k.a. “The Assassins”), the connotations of the Khawarij label are extremism and deviance, particularly a tendency to excommunicate (make takfir against) Muslims not only for sins that do not merit excommunication, but simply for reasons of political exclusivism. Continue reading
Hama. The very word in the Syrian lexicon denotes violence and the immovability of the House of Assad. There, in 1982, Hafez al-Assad secured the title deeds to his dynasty. Hafez had intruded into the Lebanon during its time of sorrow and the “blowback”—which it turns out is not only for Americans—had sparked an uprising inside Syria led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Continue reading
The spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, made a speech on 19 June 2013, a transcript of which is reproduced below. Al-Adnani’s speech was entitled, “Fadharhum wa-ma yaftarun” (So Leave Them Alone With Their Devising). Continue reading
The emir of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released an audio message on 14 June 2013, “Baqiya fil-Iraq wa-Sham” (Remaining in Iraq and Syria), rejecting al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s decision to send his group back to Iraq and to leave ISI’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria as al-Qaeda’s branch in that country. A translation of al-Baghdadi’s speech was released by his group and is reproduced below. Continue reading
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), released an audio statement on 8 April 2013 asserting his authority over Jabhat al-Nusra, which was set up as the Syrian wing of ISI. Al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected al-Baghdadi’s hostile takeover on 10 April and swore allegiance—renewed, in his telling—to al-Qaeda. The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ruled on this matter in a letter dated 23 May 2013, which was released to, and translated by, al-Jazeera, on 9 June 2013. Al-Zawahiri’s letter is reprinted below with some editions for clarity and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading
Al-Qaeda expelled the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from its ranks on February 3, 2014. This was the culmination of a dispute that broke into the public eye with ISIS’s declaration in April 2013, an effort by ISIS’s emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to formally subsume the secret Syrian wing of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), known as Jabhat an-Nusra, under his own banner, and the rejection of both al-Nusra’s leadership and al-Qaeda’s to this move. In truth, the schism between ISIS and al-Qaeda has its roots all the way back to the beginning, when ISIS became al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), in 2004.
Below is the transcript of the audio address by al-Baghdadi, released by al-Furqan on 8 April 2013, entitled, “Give Good News to the Believers: The Declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. Some transliterations have been altered, the syntax has been cleared up, and some interesting or important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading