Over the past week, two members of the Islamic State (IS) have been arrested—a rarity in itself during the Coalition campaign against the group—and both in different ways give a glimpse of archetypes that have made up the organisation, from its inception to its expansion into Syria. Continue reading
Yesterday, Reuters had an article by Isabel Coles and Ned Parker entitled, “How Saddam’s men help Islamic State rule“. The article had a number of interesting points, but in its presentation of the movement of former (Saddam) regime elements (FREs) into the leadership structure of the Islamic State (IS) as a phenomenon of the last few years, it was a step backward: the press had seemed to be recognizing that the Salafization of the FREs within IS dates back to the Islamization of Saddam Hussein’s regime in its last fifteen years, notably in the 1990s after the onset of the Faith Campaign. Continue reading
Nearly a year ago I wrote that in crude terms the Islamic State’s (ISIS’s) “military strength comes from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s military-intelligence apparatus and the Caucasus’ Salafi-jihadists.” Since then I have dug up some answers for why this is so that did not seem to be widely shared. This might be about to change.
Published at National Review
After long neglect, the media has finally recognized the role of the FREs—former (Saddam) regime elements—within the Islamic State (ISIS). But the pendulum has now swung too far: Some reports are now claiming that the FREs have transformed the leader of the terror army, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, into nothing more than a front man for the Baathists.
These suppositions are mistaken. Most FREs within ISIS have not been ideologically Baathists for a long time. Continue reading
In June, Samuel Helfont published a paper for the Middle East Institute entitled, ‘Saddam and the Islamists: The Ba’thist Regime’s Instrumentalization of Religion in Foreign Affairs’. Relying on “newly released Iraqi state and Ba’th Party archives,” Helfont’s central argument is:
“Saddam maintained deep reservations about Islamism until the end. However, this did not prevent his regime from working extensively with Islamists and Islamic activists outside Iraq. Indeed, religion played a leading role in the country’s foreign policy throughout the 1990s.”
There has long been speculation in Syrian oppositionist circles that the regime was colluding with the Qaeda-type forces in the insurgency, to shore-up its own base by frightening the minorities and to ward off external help to the rebellion from the West. Continue reading