Tag Archives: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Are There Any Good Guys Left In Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 30, 2014

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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

Who Are The Khawarij?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 17, 2014

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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 Forgotten Front

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 12, 2014

Aftermath of the Hama massacre, 1982

Aftermath of the Hama massacre, 1982

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

ISIS’s Spokesman Attacks Al-Qaeda’s Ruling That ISIS Should Leave Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 4, 2014

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), publicly declared on 8 April 2013 that ISI’s secret Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, would be subsumed under his command and the common banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from that point forward. Within forty-eight hours, al-Nusra’s emir, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected this proposal and swore his allegiance directly to al-Qaeda. The matter was submitted to al-Qaeda “central” (AQC) to mediate, since ISI was at this time believed to be a branch of al-Qaeda. The ruling of al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made public on 9 June 2013, was that the ISIS announcement was voided, ISI was to return to Iraq, and al-Nusra was to be left as al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch. Al-Baghdadi rejected al-Zawahiri’s decision on 14 June 2013. While al-Baghdadi remained largely respectful—though he did include a jibe about “cho[osing] to abide by God’s orders” over al-Zawahiri’s—it was left to ISI(S)’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, to deliver a more aggressive statement 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

ISIS Rejects Al-Qaeda’s Command To Return To Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 3, 2014

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The emir of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, publicly announced on 8 April 2013 that he was subsuming ISI’s secret Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, under his command. Al-Baghdadi abolished the names of both ISI and al-Nusra, and proclaimed they were now one under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). On 10 April 2013, the leader of al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected this proposal and swore his allegiance directly to al-Qaeda. ISI was believed at this time to be a branch of al-Qaeda, and the matter was submitted to al-Qaeda’s leadership for arbitration. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s emir, ruled on 23 May 2013—made public on 9 June—that ISIS was to be dissolved and ISI was to return to Iraq, leaving ISI as al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch and al-Nusra as al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch. Al-Baghdadi released an audio message on 14 June 2013, “Baqiya fil-Iraq wa-Sham” (Remaining in Iraq and Syria),[1] respectfully but forcefully rejecting al-Zawahiri’s decision. (It was left to ISIS’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, to denounce al-Zawahiri’s ruling more sternly and systematically five days later.) A translation of al-Baghdadi’s June 2013 was released by ISI(S) and is reproduced below.
Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Rules on the Dispute Between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 3, 2014

Ayman al-Zawahiri, September 2013, AFP/Getty Images

Ayman al-Zawahiri, September 2013, AFP/Getty Images

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

The Announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 2, 2014

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