Last night Donald Trump unburdened himself of the view that Saddam Hussein was an efficient anti-terrorist operator. It is a statement Trump has made before, and it is one of such staggering ignorance—yet one which has such wide sympathy—that it seemed worth examining the multiple ways in which it was wrong. Continue reading
About three weeks ago I wrote a piece for The New York Times explaining the evolution of Saddam Hussein’s regime away from the hard-secularism of its Ba’athist origins, and how this had prepared the ground for the Islamic State (IS). I received much positive feedback, but the social media reaction was inevitable: little thought and much anger, particularly from people who view Iraqi history through a political prism and felt I was trying to exculpate George W. Bush. With rare exceptions, the critique could hardly be called thoughtful. So it is nice to finally have such a critique to deal with, from Samuel Helfont and Michael Brill in today’s Foreign Affairs. Continue reading
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.
Book Review: The Connection: How al-Qaeda’s Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (2004) by Stephen Hayes
More than twelve years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the conventional wisdom is that Saddam’s regime had no connection with al-Qaeda, and such “evidence” as was adduced was tortured out of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in the Bush administration’s desperation to cobble together a casus belli. But if one puts ideology on hold, and considers the evidence of Stephen Hayes’ The Connection, a rather different picture emerges. Continue reading
A purported defector from the Islamic State, known only as “Abu Ahmad,” released testimony online on 5 April 2014 via the Syrian opposition news site al-Durar al-Shamiya under the heading, “The Concealed Truths About al-Baghdadi’s State”. Abu Ahmad describes himself as “one of the mujahideen in Khorasan [Afghanistan-Pakistan] and Iraq, and now in al-Sham [Syria],” and it is quite clear that Abu Ahmad has defected to al-Qaeda. On 25 September 2014, an English version of this testimony was posted on the Fund for Fallen Allies website. It has been reposted below—with some editions to transliteration and syntax—to avoid it being lost. Continue reading
As we approach the forty month mark for the Syrian uprising the situation is grimmer than it has ever been. Not just the casualties: more than 200,000 people dead. Not just the physical devastation and mass-displacement of more than a third of the country. But now in military terms the rebellion is on the defensive in a way it has not been since it erupted at the end of 2011, after more than six months of peaceful protests.