FROM ISIS TO ISLAMIC STATE
PROCLAMAZIONE DELLO STATO ISLAMICO
Giovanni De Sio Cesari
Pubblichiamo di seguito la traduzione di una parte del proclama che ha istituito il califfato dello Stato Islamico, gia prima noto con l’acronico di ISIS ( o ISIL ) operante fra Siria e Iraq.
Riteniamo importante leggere direttamente documenti del genere perchè essi solo ci possono dare una idea del clima culturale e psicologico in cui le vicende avvengono, un clima che è estremamente lontano dalla nostra moderna sensibilità occidentale.
Il documento all’inizio non si scosta da altri consimili di altre consimili organizzazioni jihadiste. Il presupposto è che solo l’islam ( cioè l’abbandono alla volontà di Dio ) puo dare all’uomo non solo il paradiso nell’altro mondo ma anche felicitùà e prosperità in questo.
Il popolo arabo era arretrato e misero : ma poichè hanno ascoltato la voce di Dio ( il corano) divennero i conquistatori e dominatori del mondo, furono non solo i più prosperi ma anche i piu elevati culturalmente. Da quando hanno cominciato ad abbandonare la strada tracciato da Dio ( shari’a) e sono stati sedotti dai modelli dei miscredenti occidentali (di satana,) allora hanno cominciato a decadere. Solo il rifiuto radicale dei modelli occidentali ( la democrazia, il laicismo. lo stato nazionale) e il ritorno integrale ai comportamenti delle origini (salaf) possono porre termine al l’umiliazione e alla miseria e riportare i credenti nel vero Dio al ruolo che spetta loro che sono i “migliori”
Di particolare nel proclama vi è il ritorno al califfato. I califfi erano i successori di Maometto alla guida della ummah ( comunita dei fedeli) e anche quando poi si istituirono di fatto molteplici stati islamici indipendenti tuttavia mantennero un loro ruolo ideale, un po come gli imperatori cristiani medioevali Il califfato, passato in ultimo al sultano turco, fu abolito nel 1924 ai tempi della rivoluzione laicista di Kemal Ataturk. Il califfo dovrebbe riunire tutti i mussulmani superando fazioni, nazionalismi e divisioni per creare un unico stato islamico. In realtù appare del tutto ingiustificato che un califfo sia eletto da una oscura assemblea (dell’ISIS ) che elegge un personaggio altrettanto oscuro ( al Al-Baghdadi): ci sarebbe bisogno almeno di un pronunciamento generale del mondo islamico attraverso le sue più prestigiose autorità che invece si sono tutte dichiarate contrarie Nella seconda parte del documento , che per brevità non riportiamo, si cerca di rispondere a questa obiezione affermando che le condizioni contingenti non rendono possibile una tale consultazione e che i successi che riporteranno giustificherà la scelta: nel frattempo si fa pero obbligo a tutti i mussulmani di dare supporto al califfo . quelli che non lo faranno saranno sgozzati o sventrati
Tra parentesi in corsivo riportiamo vari chiarimenti su termini e usi, non sempre noti
Il tempo è venuta per la Ummah di Muhammad di svegliarsi
il sole del Jihad è risorto, lode ad Allah, l'onnipotente e il grande . pace e benedizioni su di lui
la sua spada è inviata come una misericordia per tutto il creato [Corano 24:55] '
Allah ha promesso questo a voi che credete e fate azioni giuste e buone, secondo la sua volontà
Con certezza Egli concede la successione (della autorità di Muhammed, cioe il califfato ) sulla terra, come Egli la concesse a quelli che vennero prima di voi e concederà loro l'autorità per praticare la religione che Egli ha stabilito
Egli zicuramente concederà loro in cambio la possibilità di adorare Lui e di non associare nessuno nel suo culto
Successione, Istituzione, e sicurezza –
La promessa di Allah è riservata ai mussulmani, ma a condizione.di mantenere la fede in Allah, tenendo lontano dalle loro vite e a sottraendosi a shirk [politeismo] e alle sue tenebre sottomettendosi in tutto alla volontà di Allah , nelle piccole come nelle grandi cose: solo a questa condizione la promessa sarà mantenuta
Allah da onore alla ummah se non accetterà di sottomettersi a niente e a nessuno che non sia Allah. se non accetterà il peccato ne l'oppressione .
Questa è la ummah di Muhammad . che, ogni volta che ha fede sincera in Allah si adempira la sua promessa.
(Ummah significa comunita: la ummah di Muhammed è quindi la comunita che segue muhammed: in genere si dice semplicemente ummah: Il nome del profeta non si traduce perche è la parola di Dio. I mussulmani non dicono mai: Maometto: sarebbe blasfemo)
Allah ha mandato il Suo messaggero ( rasul generalmente tradotto con profeta) quando gli arabi erano nell’abisso dell'ignoranza, nelle tenebre cieche. Essi erano i più laceri, i più affamati, i più arretrati di tutti gli altri popoli. Essi affondavano nella più profonda umiliazione. Questa era la condizione degli arabi prima dell'Islam
Poi, quando Allah li benedisse con l'Islam ed essi credettero, Allah li unificati, ha dato compattezza alle loro schiere sollevandoli dalla loro umiliazione e povertà per renderli prosperi e potenti
La nostra cara ummah è il meglio dei popoli
Allah ha decretato numerose vittorie per questa ummah che in un solo anno, ha avuto vittorie tanto numerose quante non era mai avvenuto prima per molti anni o ad anche secoli .
È venuto il momento per questa generazione che stavano annegando in un mare di disgrazia e cresciuto nel latte della umiliazione per essere governata dl più vili di tutte le persone, Dopo il lungo sonno delle tenebre e dell’ abbandono, ecco, è giunto il momento per loro di risorgere . è giunto il momento per la Ummah di Muhammad di svegliarsi dal sonno dalle tenebre, di togliersi gli abiti del disonore e scuotere la polvere della umiliazione e della disgrazia ,
L’era di lamenti e gemiti è finita e l'alba dell'onore è sorta ancora una volta di nuovo. Il sole del jihad. è sorto La lieta novella del bene e dello splendore si profila all'orizzonte e i segni della vittoria sono apparsi.
Ecco la bandiera dello Stato islamico, la bandiera del tawhid ( monoteismo) si innalza e sventola . La sua ombra si estende da Aleppo a Diyala. Sotto di essa, le mura dei tawaghit [tiranni] sono state abbattute, le loro bandiere sono cadute, e le loro frontiere sono state distrutte.
In tutte e due i fronti ( Siria ed Iraq) i loro soldati sono uccisi, imprigionati, o sconfitti. I musulmani sono acclamati . I kufar [miscredenti] sono disonorati.
Ahl al-Sunnah [i commentatori, cioè i sunniti] sono acclamati come maestri e stimati La gente del bid'ah sono umiliati
(I salafiti distinguono salaf ,delle origini e bid’ah novita venute dopo come le tradizioni nazionali: le novità - che possono risalire anche a molti secoli- sono proibite ( harem) : questa distinzione è fondamentale per essi )
Le hudud sono applicate
(Sono le punizioni previste dal corani come la lapidazione che ormai vanno sparendo ma che invece andrebbero integralmente e senza nessun attenuazione comminate: da qui l'orrore che noi percapiamo per certe loro azioni come lo sgozzamento. ]
l confini della Ummah sono difesi . Croci e tombe sono abbattute
(si parla di tombe perche ritengono bid.ah il culto delle tombe di personaggi illustri che cosi verrebbero in qualche modo avvicnati a dio il che sarebbe contrario al tawed, intransingente monoteismo: gli sciiti invece fanno ampio ricorso al culto delle tombe , soprattutto la ashura , e sarebbero per questo eretici, non veramente monoteisti
il problema ricorda quello la lotta della iconoclastia che insanguinò l’oriente cristiano )
.I prigionieri sono passati a fil di spada.
Le gente dello stato islamico si muove verso il benessere sulla via di Dio sicuri per quanto riguarda la loro vita e la ricchezza
I Wulat [governatori] e giudici hanno ristabilito la Jizya sui non musulmani che vivono in dar el islam (terre mussulmane)
(La Jizya è una tassa che i non cristiani dovevano pagare alla autorità per poter seguire il proprio culto: L’imposizione, segno di discriminazione e inferiorità è scomparsa in tempi recenti: la si vorrebbe ristabilire. Il dar el islam sono le terre dominate dai mussulmane che non coincidono con la Ummah, comunita dei fedeli appunto perche in esso è permesso di vivere anche ai non mussulmani sia pure in una condizione di subalternità: gli atei invece non sono tollerati.)
E stato ristabilito il Fay '
[bottino di guerra che si usava al tempo di Muahammed9: del bottino facevano parte anche le donne e anche Muhammed ebbe delle donne prigioniere come concubine: Il fatto che alcune donne yazidi e cristiane, come è stato riferito, siano state ridotte a schiave sessuali forse dipende dall’applicazione di questo principio: tuttavia è solo una congettura)
e ristabilita la zakat
[elemosina pagata dai musulmani: una dei cinque pilastri dell’ islam Tuttavia la traduzione tradizionale di elemosina non è corretta: si tratta propriamente di un obbligo giuridico, di una tassa insomma con la quale si mantiene la comunità cioe lo stato. Corrisponde al nostro concetto di elemosina invece la sadaqa che è volontaria anche se raccomandata )
Tribunali sono stati stabiliti per risolvere controversie e reclami
Cosi Il male è stato rimosso. Lezioni e corsi sono tenuti nelle moschee e, per grazia di Allah, la religione è diventata completamente per Allah.
"E resta una sola cosa, una wajib Kifaya [obbligo collettivo]
non osservato da tempo e la Ummah non ha avuto onore da quanto lo ha perduto E il sogno che vive nel profondo di ogni credente musulmano. la speranza che aleggia nel cuore di ogni Mujahid monoteista. E 'il Khilafa [califfato] , l'obbligo dimenticato da tanto tempo
Pertanto, la shura (consiglio) dopo aver attentamente valutato questo problema, sia resa grazie ad Allah, considerando la assoluta necessarietà del Khilafa che, se solo se i musulmani sono pieni di peccati non cercano di stabilire. Alla luce del fatto che lo Stato Islamico basato sulla shari’a non ha scuse per ritardare o trascurare l'istituzione dell Khilafa, ha deliberato di annunciare l'istituzione del califfato islamico e di nominare come khalifa (califfo) per i musulmani
lo sceicco, il mujahid, lo studioso che pratica ciò che predica, il fedele, il leader, il guerriero, il restauratore, il discendente dalla famiglia del Rasul il servo di Allah ibn Ibrahim 'Awwad Ibrahim Ibn Ibn 'Ali Ibn Muhammad Al-Badri, che è Al-Husayni Al-Hashimi [Al-Quraish del lignaggio di Al-Samuraa' [Samarra in Iraq] per nascita ed educazione, ma che viene da Baghdad per esperienza e dottrina.: Al-Baghdadi
Egli ha accettato proferendo la baya '[promessa di fedeltà]. Quindi è l'imam e califfo per tutti i mussulmani ovunque si trovino . Di conseguenza, il termine di stato dell’Iraq e di sham ( levante) viene rimossa da tutte le deliberazioni ufficiali e sostituita da Stato islamico dalla data di questa dichiarazione.
Chiariamo ai musulmani che con questa dichiarazione di Khilafa, spetta a tutti i musulmani giurare fedeltà al califfo Ibrahim e sostenerlo. La legalità di tutti gli emirati, gruppi, stati e organizzazioni si annulla dall'espansione dell'autorità del califfato e dell’ arrivo delle sue truppe alle loro aree .
Il califfo Ibrahim è dotato di tutte le condizioni indicate per il califfato dagli studiosi.
la sua autorità si è espande su vaste aree in Iraq e Al-Sham.( levante. Siria ma anche altri stati del mediterraneo)
Temete dunque Allah, o servi di Allah. Ascolta il tuo califfo e obbedirgli.
Dai supporto al tuo stato che cresce giorno per giorno - con la grazia di Allah - con onore e nobiltà, mentre il nemico sprofonda nella sconfitta e nella fuga. Per Allah, tu non credere nella democrazia, al secolarismo, al nazionalismo, così come tutte e altre immondizie e idee dell’occidente Per grazia di Allah, allora tu avrai la terra intera e l’oriente e l’occidente si sottometteranno a te.
Allora o mussulmani accorrete e riunitevi intorno al califfo, così che si può tornare come una volta, come fu per secoli, i re della terra e cavalieri di guerra.
Venite in modo da essere onorati e stimati, vivendo come maestri con dignità. Per Allah, se non credete nella democrazia, laicità, nazionalismo, così come tutti le altre immondizie dell’Occidente e accorrete alla vostra religione e fede: poi per concessione di Allah, sarete i padroni del mondo dell’est e dell’ovest , e si sottometteranno a voi. Questa è la promessa di Allah
Un messaggio a tutti i battaglioni sulla faccia della terra,
composti da mujahidin e delle persone che lavorano per sostenere la religione di Allah e che alzano in alto le insegne islamiche
Temete Allah per quanto riguarda voi stessi.
Temete Allah per quanto riguarda la vostra jihad.
Temete Allah per quanto riguarda la vostra ummah
- Per Allah , non trovare nessuna scusa basata sulla shari’a che giustifichi per voi il non dare supporto allo stato islamico
E’ tempo per voi di porre fine alle aberranti divisioni e partigianerie che sono contro la religione di Allah
E se voi abbandonate la lotta non danneggiate quella ma danneggiate voi stessi.
Non è consentito per una singola persona, per voi che credete in Allah, dormire senza dare fedeltà al califfo. Se i vostri capi sussurrano a te sostenendo che non è un califfato, allora ricordate quanto tempo sussurrò a voi sostenendo che non era uno stato, ma piuttosto un immaginaria entità di carta
O combattenti islamici complimenti a voi. Congratulazioni per questa netta vittoria,
congratulazioni per questo grande trionfo. Oggi i miscredenti sono infuriati come mai e quasi muoiono di rabbia e di dolore. Oggi i credenti gioiscono con la vittoria da Allah, con una sensazione di grande felicità. Oggi gli ipocriti sono degradati. Oggi l'Rafiditi quelli che rifiutano : la sunna cioè i gli Sciiti], Sahawat ( il risveglio ,un movimento modernista) gli apostati tutti sono umiliati. gli idolatri dell’est e dell’ovest sono spaventati. Le nazioni dell'incredulità in Occidente sono terrorizzate. Oggi le bandiere di Satana sono cadute
O combattenti, accorrete intorno al califfo Se qualcuno si rifiuta, venga spiccata la sua testa dal corpo o svuotato il suo ventre, chiunque esso sia
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham
by Aymenn Jawad
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA Journal)
INTRODUCTION: THE IDEOLOGY
The group under consideration in this paper–like al-Qa'ida central under Usama bin Ladin and subsequently Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Waziristan, and others–is part of what one might term the "global jihad" movement. This movement is not a coherent whole organized by a strict central hierarchy, but rather one defined by a shared ideology. This ideology aims firstly to reestablish a system of governance known as the Caliphate–an Islamic form of government that first came into being after Muhammad's death under Abu Bakr and saw its last manifestation in the Ottoman Empire–across the entire Muslim world. From there, the intention is to spread the Caliphate across the entire world.
This worldview is one of many answers formulated to answer a question posed in the wider Muslim world: Namely, what has been the cause of decline of the Muslim world–and the Arab world in particular–in contrast to the apparent success of the West since the nineteenth century? The answer formulated by ideologues of the global jihad movement is that the cause of this decline is rooted in the Muslim world's deviation from the path of Islam by not applying Islamic law to governance in its totality. This is to be contrasted with the "Islamic Golden Age" in Islam's first five centuries or so–idealized in different ways by others not of this orientation–when the Muslim world was supposedly uncontaminated by foreign influences. Of course, given that era's exploitation of the classical Greek heritage through the translation movement under the Abbasids- the global jihad movement's portrayal of this era is blatantly unhistorical. Nonetheless, the perception is what matters.
In light of the ISIS' ambitious goals, it is imperative to consider the group's fortunes in Syria, which in turn will allow policymakers to assess what threat, if any, the group poses to the wider international order in the long-term.
BACKGROUND: QUARRELS AT THE LEADERSHIP LEVEL
Prior to the announcement of ISIS by the leader of Iraq's al-Qa'ida affiliate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the main al-Qa'ida-aligned group operating in Syria was Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) under the leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani. JN, which had initially been established in January 2012 with financial and manpower support from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)had enjoyed a fair degree of success throughout Syria in conducting operations and establishing a foothold in areas freed from regime control.
The success was partly rooted in the manner in which JN has portrayed its efforts in Syria–namely, as a defensive jihad to protect the Muslim population in the face of oppression.
Thus, outreach to locals became and still remains an important part of JN's strategy. For example, media reports widely noted JN's running of bakery services for locals in places such as Aleppo,] and one jihadi news outlet–the Himam News Agency–regularly puts out videos of JN's provision of public services in towns such as Binnish in Idlib, where JN fighters run garbage collection and disposal.
In terms of JN's overall position in Syria, while it was clear that the group had a presence in operations throughout the country from Dar'a in the far southwest to Hasakah in the far northeast, the evidence suggested that the group was best established in the Aleppo and Deir al-Zor governorates. However, it by no means follows from this assessment that JN somehow controlled a substantial amount of territory in either of these provinces. Moreover, JN had faced a degree of resentment and backlash from locals, as occurred in the town of Mayadin in the Deir al-Zor governorate–though such demonstrations of opposition could easily be met with counter-rallies by JN supporters.[ In March 2013, JN along with the Salafi battalion Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya played a key role in the takeover of the provincial capital of the Raqqa Governorate in the north.
April 2013 then saw the unexpected development of the announcement by ISI leader Baghdadi of a merger between ISI and JN to form ISIS. In the speech released on April 8, 2013, by ISI's official outlet al-Furqan Media, Baghdadi described Jawlani as "one of our soldiers" and stated that Jawlani had established his organization "from our sons." Baghdadi went on to explain that while there had been no explicit statement of the links between ISI and JN, the time had now come to declare that JN was simply an "extension" of ISI "and a part of it." Thus, Baghdadi announced the "cancellation of the name Islamic State of Iraq and the cancellation of the name Jabhat al-Nusra, and the joining of the two under one name: the "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham."
Baghdadi's words, therefore, confirmed long-standing suspicions among Western intelligence officials that JN had been established as the Syrian arm of the ISI, something that was also corroborated in a prompt response released by JN's official media wing al-Manara al-Bayda ("The White Minaret") on 10 April. In his response, Jawlani denied that either he or anyone in JN had been consulted on or had sought the announcement of Baghdadi's merger, while admitting that the beginnings of JN lay in ISI, as indicated by the following remark: "We accompanied the jihad in Iraq as military escorts from its beginning until our return [to Syria] after the Syrian revolution."[
Jawlani further stated, "We learnt lessons from our experience there [in Iraq] concerning what is the secret of the hearts of the believers in the land of al-Sham under the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra… I did not want to leave Iraq before seeing the banners of Islam flying on high over the land of the two rivers but the speed of events in ash-Sham interfered between us and what we wanted." Jawlani also spoke of "our brothers in jihad in Iraq" and respectfully addressed ISI's leader as "Sheikh Baghdadi, may God protect him." He then concluded by reaffirming JN's pledge of allegiance to al-Qa'ida's central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, affirming that the "banner of Jabhat al-Nusra will remain."[
The controversy over whether ISI and JN should be merged remained unaddressed until June 2013. During that time, both JN and ISI's media arms stopped releasing official content. In addition, tracking the activities of JN and those going by the name of ISIS required reliance on unofficial media, most notably YouTube videos.[Zawahiri then issued a letter in early June 2013 urging for the separation of ISI and JN, while stressing that the two organizations should cooperate.] Yet Baghdadi rejected the ruling of separation in a speech entitled "Remaining [Steadfast] in Iraq and al-Sham," wherein he insisted that Zawahiri's letter had problems of legitimacy and methodology, hinting at a cast of doubt of authenticity on the letter.
Then another audio recording was released by al-Furqan Media, featuring a speech by Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami, a Syrian jihadi believed to be from Idliband identified by al-Furqan Media as the official spokesman for ISIS. Adnani reaffirmed Baghdadi's rejection of Zawahiri's ruling in more forceful terms, insisting on "one front, one leadership," and that "the borders will not separate between the two [i.e., the jihad fronts in Iraq and Syria]." Adnani also vowed that ISIS would target the "Rafidites" (Shi'a) with bombs "from Diyala to Beirut." On multiple occasions, Adnani references the "defection" (inshiqaq) that has hurt the ranks of the mujahidin in Syria–a not-so-subtle attack on Jawlani's refusal to accept a merger with ISI to form ISIS.
As of the writing of this article, no further directives have been issued from Zawahiri in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Indeed, Baghdadi's rejection of his ruling essentially amounts to a humiliation of Zawahiri. In Iraq itself, written statements are no longer put out in the name of ISI, but ISIS. Further, while officially approved jihadi forums such as Shamukh Islam were initially deleting posts put out in ISIS' name after Zawahiri's ruling, this is no longer the case. Nonetheless, al-Furqan Media, which now puts out videos on ISIS activities in both Iraq and Syria, still explicitly avoids describing itself as the media arm of ISIS, but instead keeps a silence on the naming controversy in its videos.
Besides al-Furqan Media, some unofficial pro-ISIS outlets have come to the forefront, such as al-Sham media (which put out a string of purported ISIS videos in May 2013, and is based in Raqqa) and Baqiyya Media (named after Baghdadi's speech that rejected Zawahiri's ruling). In any event, Baghdadi has successfully challenged Zawahiri in that in practice ISIS is now accepted as a reality on the ground alongside JN.
As a final prefatory note, the Baghdadi-Jawlani fitna aside, it should be emphasized that as al-Qa'ida affiliates, both ISIS and JN are ultimately committed ideologically to a transnational project for a caliphate that should first span the Muslim world and then dominate the entire world. However, it is undoubtedly true that ISIS in Syria is much more open about these goals than JN.[ The question now arises of how ISIS' relationship with other groups plays out on the ground.
ISIS AND OTHER REBELS: RELATIONS AND OPERATIONS
In light of the quarrels at the leadership level between Baghdad and Jawlani, the immediate issue that comes to mind is ISIS' relationship with JN on the ground. A common paradigm of analysis in this case is to posit a polarized dichotomy whereby ISIS is an entity composed of foreign fighters as opposed to a native Syrian JN. This view is primarily based on some media reports that estimate that 80 percent of muhajirin (foreign fighters) in Syria have joined the ranks of ISIS.
In this author's view, the estimate is likely to bear a good degree of resemblance to the reality on the ground, but it would be erroneous to conclude from it that ISIS is primarily a group of foreign fighters. To be sure, from the current author's own documentation of claimed martyrs for ISIS up to the beginning of July 2013,as well as examination of subsequent records on this issue, it can be shown that at the minimum, foreign fighters are disproportionately represented in its ranks and constitute the most experienced and effective fighting force within ISIS, while perhaps playing a key role in leadership in various localities. Yet in Raqqa province, one anti-ISIS activist identified as Ahmed al-Asmeh told the news siteSyria Deeply that only "30 percent of their [ISIS'] members are muhajiroun [foreigners]." Likewise, a reporter who visited the northern ISIS stronghold of Jarabulus in the Aleppo governorate along the border with Turkey found that most of ISIS' members in the town are native Syrians.[
In short, therefore, the strict dichotomy of ISIS as a group of foreign fighters versus a native Syrian JN is not accurate. As far as relations on the ground go, the relationship defies a simple polarity reflecting the tensions at the leadership level. The current author has already documented the ISIS-JN relationship in a number of governorates: notably Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, and Dar'a.[ Details of the relationship by governorate need not be repeated at length, but to summarize: In Aleppo and the city of Deir al-Zor, the entities of JN and ISIS are clearly separate. In Dar'a, only a JN presence is to be found. In the Raqqa governorate and areas of the east outside Deir al-Zor, the boundaries between JN and ISIS are more blurred, such that in many parts the two names and their symbols can be considered interchangeable.
That said, since having documented the JN-ISIS relationship in the Raqqa province, it should be noted that in mid-July 2013, reports emerged among activist circles that the ISIS commander in the city of Raqqa itself–known as Abu Sa'ad al-Hadrami–had decided to renounce his position in ISIS and reaffirm the banner and name of JN as a separate identity and the only legitimate one, withdrawing from the city in the process with a number of mujahidin under his stead. Hadrami, who had previously been identified as JN's amir in Raqqa[ prior to the announcement of ISIS, was said to have defected from ISIS on account of his dissatisfaction with ISIS' conduct in the city, specifically in relation to detaining rebels from rival battalions (e.g. Farouq), which had sparked some demonstrations in the city against ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham.
Hadrami was also said to be unhappy with the fact that continuing the name of ISIS amounted to disrespectful disobedience of Zawahiri's orders. At the start of July 2013, signs of a split in the Shari'a committee in Raqqa between JN and ISIS supporters were reported by purported local sources to the pro-Asad Arabic news site al-Hadath News.[ The contingent reaffirming a separate JN identity under Hadrami apparently took refuge in the city of town of Tabqa (also known as al-Thawra). Confirmation of the JN-ISIS split within Raqqa province was recently confirmed by a statement from JN announcing a return to the city of Raqqa, yet it remains unclear whether this split applies across the whole governorate.
In terms of ongoing major operations, it remains to consider the two governorates of Damascus and Hasakah as regards the JN-ISIS relationship, the latter of which will be discussed on the subject of conflict with Kurdish forces. In the Damascus area, it is quite clear that JN and ISIS are separate entities. This is most apparent as the two groups launched their own "revenge" operations in response to the alleged chemical weapons attacks by the regime in the East Ghouta area. JN's initiative–as announced by Jawlani in a statement through al-Manara al-Bayda–is called "An Eye for an Eye" and has entailed operations not only in the Damascus area but elsewhere in the country, such as the Aleppo governorate.[
The ISIS-led revenge initiative goes by the name of "Volcano of Revenge." It has entailed firing a number of mortar rounds and Katyusha rockets at regime-held areas of Damascus, including parts identified as inhabited by Alawites, and even struck the vicinities of the Russian embassy and the Four Seasons hotel, where UN weapons inspectors were staying. The operation was coordinated with a variety of battalions operating in the Damascus area, including Ahrar al-Sham, the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions, the Furqan Brigades, and the Brigades and Battalions of the Beloved Mustafa.Of these groups, Ahrar ash-Sham can be identified as part of the Salafi Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), while the Furqan Brigades are known for an Islamist but nationalist outlook under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). However, the other two can be identified as independent formations but ideologically sympathetic to ISIS.
Thus, the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions' logo features ISIS imagery, most notably in its use of the central white logo with the inscription "Allah, Prophet Muhammad" (see the Appendix, Figure 1). On Facebook pages set up for various battalions and news networks, ideological affinity is often indicated by banners featured at the top of the page. For example, a pro-Asad page will normally feature the current flag of Syria. In the case of factions sympathetic to ISIS' project of a transnational Islamic state, alignment will be shown by featuring the ISIS banner, known as the "Banner of Tawhid" in jihadi circles, with the first half of the Islamic shahada underneath: "There is no deity but God." This is the case for the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions (see Appendix, Figure 2). As for the Brigades and Battalions of the Beloved Mustafa, sympathy for the ISIS project is indicated by a statement released in June 2013 urging "our brothers and our sons to join immediately and enter the arenas of jihad." The statement featured an image of Syria under the ISIS banner (Appendix, Figure 3).
Despite the ISIS-alignment, the two groups have also coordinated with JN and more mainstream groupings like Liwa al-Islam as part of a new series of revenge operations entitled "Ayyam al-Qadisiyya" in the Damascus area. However, elsewhere in the Damascus region, multiple reports have emerged from jihadi sources of joint JN-ISIS operations. The most notable case is that of the Sayyida Zaynab area, where both groups are said to be fighting the Iranian proxy Shi'i militia group known as Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas [LAFA].[or example, on August 17, 2013, a local outlet for ISIS in the southern Damascus region reported a joint JN-ISIS-Liwa al-Islam operation in the Sayyida Zaynab area, claiming a death toll of more than 250 Shi'i militiamen. However, there is nothing to corroborate anything resembling these figures from LAFA sources
On the other hand, the same ISIS outlet has featured photos of LAFA militiamen that ISIS has purportedly killed in the Sayyida Zaynab area in this period, and it would seem that pro-LAFA sources do corroborate the individual cases to an extent, such as one LAFA fighter called Abu Hadi Hassan (Appendix, Figure 4). Yet given that the operations against LAFA in mid-August 2013 were reported as joint ISIS-JN-Liwa al-Islam, it is possible that Abu Hadi could have been killed by a fighter from either of the latter two battalions, or perhaps in a joint operation by all three groups.
On August 30, 2013, the local ISIS outlet also released a video showing the carrying out of a joint JN-ISIS car bomb operation against LAFA in Sayyida Zaynab. Besides displaying the car used to trigger the explosion, scenes were also shown from the Sayyida Zaynab area of gunfire. In short, one might accept the idea of JN-ISIS collaboration (perhaps with other battalions) in the Sayyida Zaynab area, with the caveat that local sources affiliated with ISIS are prone to exaggerate the scale of operations against LAFA and the death tolls therein.
Another notable area of JN-ISIS cooperation comes in the Qalamoun area of rural Damascus. Here, this cooperation has come in the form of working with another battalion called "The Green Battalion." This group is an independent militia[ led by Saudi muhajirin and ideologically aligned with ISIS (Appendix, Figure 5). It is thus a similar formation to the western rural Homs battalion Jama'at Jund al-Sham, which was founded by Lebanese muhajirin sharing ISIS' ideology but independent from ISIS (Appendix, Figure 6, cf. Figure 7).
These two groups can thus be distinguished from the prominent group of foreign fighters known as Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa Ansaruhu [JMWA], which has been a front group for ISIS under the direction of ISIS' amir for Aleppo, northern Idlib, Raqqa, and Latakia–Abu Umar al-Shishani.In any case, the joint JN-ISIS operation in Qalamoun with the Green Battalion was first reported by the latter group in a Facebook posting on August 7, 2013: "Jabhat al-Nusra and the Green Battalion undertook with the help of the Islamic State… in the assault on the storehouses of Danha in rural Damascus."]
To sum up, the relationship between JN and ISIS in Damascus can be described as comprising separate entities that are clearly capable of cooperating with each other and working with other battalions. More generally, there is nothing to suggest as of yet signs of overt conflict emerging between JN and ISIS, where the two are clearly separate entities–regardless of how unhappy many JN members may feel about Baghdadi's April announcement of a merger.
ISIS and FSA
As regards ISIS' relations with battalions under the banner of the FSA, this article is primarily concerned with how they have played out in the Raqqa and Aleppo governorates, where vast amounts of territory are under rebel control.Previously, the current author has documented the expansion of ISIS into rural areas of Aleppo and Idlib, particularly in the border areas.[ This has entailed clashes with battalions under the banner of the FSA, such as the "Family of Jadir" in Jarabulus, from whom ISIS seized power in mid-June 2013, and FSA groupings in al-Dana.[
Elsewhere, ISIS clashed in August 2013 with the Raqqa branch of a group of brigades under the banner of FSA known as Ahfad al-Rasul ("Descendants of the Prophet," AAR). The ISIS presence has also sparked civilian protests against the group in a number of localities, including al-Dana, Manbij, and Azaz.[
It would appear that the clashes began after AAR tried to ride the wave of discontent in the form of sit-ins and rallies against both Ahrar al-Sham[ and ISIS on account of the long-standing issue of detention of rival rebels. AAR's sympathies were shown by the fact that its Facebook page for Raqqa shared a video of these demonstrations in early August 2013.[Clashes were reported by the Lebanese news site to have begun on August 8, 2013, with some ten people killed on both sides.[
A video was then circulated in pro-ISIS circles purporting to show the confession of an officer in AAR's ranks admitting to having received support from France, in particular to fight the ISIS. From this alleged confession (which was quite clearly made under duress), pro-ISIS circles began to refer to AAR as "Ahfad Faransa" ("descendants of France"), and eventually denounced them as "apostates." They also accused AAR of trying to form a Sahwa ("Awakening") movement, supposedly equivalent to the anti-al-Qa'ida trend that took off in Iraq among Sunni militiamen from 2007 onwards.
ISIS supporters used similar terminology to denounce their FSA opponents in the Idlib town of al-Dana, but it should be noted that neither AAR in Raqqa nor the FSA fighters in al-Dana referred to themselves as a Sahwa movement. Indeed, considering the word's connotations of working with Americans and the Iraqi government, the latter of which in Syria is widely viewed as an Iranian agent by virtue of its support for the Asad regime, it is hardly surprising that rebels deemed "mainstream" should want to avoid using this term to describe themselves.
By August 14, 2013, ISIS had killed a prominent AAR commander in the Raqqa area by the name of Fahad Husayn al-Kajwan, and had expelled AAR from its headquarters in the city of Raqqa. AAR, however, continued to fight with ISIS elsewhere in the province, attacking an ISIS checkpoint in the town of Tabqa.[
By August 17, however, AAR announced that it would cease all operations against ISIS, "to preserve frontline unity."]An AAR commander who spoke with Swedish analyst Aron Lund also confirmed that the AAR-ISIS clashes were limited to the Raqqa area and that the two groups had cooperated elsewhere: most notably in the failed Latakia offensive into the Alawi heartland. One should further note in particular here the role of Ahrar al-Sham: as this author's friend Shami Witness noticed, the group essentially stood aside and let ISIS do the "dirty work" of eliminating a common foe.
In some other parts of the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates, ISIS has maintained friendly relations with battalions under the FSA banner, most notably the then FSA Military Council in Aleppo, headed by one Colonel Oqaidi, who refused to denounce the ISIS and admitted that ISIS was the group that led the rebel takeover of the Mannagh airbase.[It is of course true that the FSA-banner groups, such as the Northern Storm Brigade, had besieged the Mannagh airbase for quite some time. Nonetheless, the contributions of ISIS and its then front group JMWA proved decisive in the eventual fall of the airbase. Early on after the fall of the airbase, pro-ISIS outlets released photos attempting to demonstrate that the ISIS had led the takeover of Mannagh (Appendix, Figures 8 and 9).
Noteworthy also from the fall of the Mannagh airbase is a video released by the battalion Liwa al-Fatah, described by one writer as a "moderate Islamist"[ group. A quick glance at the video quickly demonstrates that in analysis, the term "moderate Islamist" in this context is quite meaningless. First, Abu Jandal al-Masri, the leader of the JMWA contingent–identified immediately by the speaker who filmed the video as synonymous with ISIS–is seen to be embracing a member of Liwa al-Fatah. Abu Jandal then proclaims, "I swear by God we will not leave a single Alawite alive in Syria… state of Islam, state of the Caliphate." This is all proclaimed to the assent of "God is great" from the other fighters, including the Liwa al-Fatah member who filmed the video.[
Another prominent FSA battalion in the Aleppo area with which ISIS generally maintains cordial relations is Liwa al-Tawhid, whose ideological orientation is in line with that of the Ikhwan In July 2013, rumors began circulating–in origin from pro-Supreme Military Command circles (affiliated with General Salim Idriss)–that the rebel icon from Jarabulus, Abu Furat, had been killed by "Islamists" (i.e., JN/ISIS). However, Liwa al-Tawhid soon issued a statement denying that this was so, describing such rumors as an attempt by Western powers to stir up fitna(discord) in rebel ranks through the Arabic news channel al-ArabiyaMore recently, an image was put out showing a member of Liwa al-Tawhid in Aleppo engaging in a friendly arm-wrestling match with an ISIS fighter (Appendix, Figure 10). Yet not all supporters of Liwa al-Tawhid view ISIS favorably. Some held a demonstration in the northern Aleppo town of Marea calling for the expulsion of ISIS from the town, under the slogan, "The people want Liwa al-Tawhid."
In short, the foregoing data should demonstrate that there can be no sweeping answers to the question of ISIS-FSA relations, but rather point to a good deal of variation according to locality. Not all the potential conflicts that can arise are necessarily rooted in ideology, and by no means do all battalions under the banner of the FSA oppose ISIS simply because of their transnational vision. The issue of FSA-ISIS relations is also relevant to the question of conflicts with Kurdish forces, to which will be covered in the following section.
ISIS and the Kurds
Prior to the announcement of ISIS, clashes between jihadi fighters and Kurdish forces–most notably the People's Protection Groups (YPG) affiliated with the PYD–had not been unknown. For example, clashes between JN allied with a battalion of muhajirin known as Ghuraba al-Sham and the PYD had erupted in the northeastern border town of Ras al-Ayn (Hasakah province) in November 2012]However, these clashes tended to be localized and never erupted into an overall wider conflict. To be sure, the conflict in Ras al-Ayn persisted for quite some time, but by the end of February 2013, a truce had been successfully negotiated, thanks to the efforts of Christian opposition activist Michel Kilo.
A dramatic shift occurred in July 2013 with the renewed outbreak of clashes in Ras al-Ayn between YPG forces and fighters deemed members of ISIS/JN. This culminated in the expulsion of the latter from the town, with rumors that YPG fighters, after taking over the ISIS/JN headquarters, had defiled the banner of jihad by trampling on it with their shoes. One should note the way in which this incident and subsequent events in al-Hasakah involving jihadi-YPG fighting have been reported. That is, the names of JN/ISIS are generally used interchangeably with frequent claims of joint operations. Based the current author's own research on the JN-ISIS relationship in eastern Syria that looked at the town of al-Shaddadi in the Hasakah province,the apparent confusion and claims of joint operations in Hasakah appear to be the result of the fact that the boundaries between JN and ISIS are blurred, as is the case in the Deir al-Zor governorate outside the city of Deir al-Zor.
In any case, following the expulsion of JN/ISIS from Ras al-Ayn, fighting between JN/ISIS and YPG forces quickly expanded, not only throughout Hasakah province but also the Raqqa and Aleppo governorates, where YPG forces existed in various localities–albeit not with the connections that exist in the northeast Hasakah governorate. For example, prior to the clashes, ISIS had tolerated a limited PYD presence in its northern stronghold of Jarabulus, even after defeating the Family of Jadir. However, once the fighting in Ras al-Ayn erupted, ISIS rallied supporters in Jarabulus to denounce the PKK (seen in jihadi circles as synonymous with and identical to the PYD).In collaboration with local FSA groupings, ISIS proceeded to crack down on the PYD presence in the Jarabulus area, arresting numerous Kurds who were charged with being PKK/PYD activists.YPG forces proceeded to launch an offensive against ISIS in a village near the town of Jarabulus but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Other battalions quickly joined in taking ISIS' side against the PKK/PYD. Thus, on August 2, 2013, a group of battalions from an area stretching from Manbij to Jarabulus (where YPG forces have been most active in the Aleppo governorate) issued a joint statement against the PKK/PYD, saying that there is no doubt that the PKK was a "party affiliated with the idolatrous, criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad."As a result, the coalition decided on a policy of "cleansing out the armies of the PKK present among our lines… considering the highway road between Manbij and al-Hasakah a military zone requiring liberation from PKK checkpoints… stopping all negotiations and political meetings between us and any front considered to be representing the PKK." Signatories to this statement included the ISIS, Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Yarmouk,
and Suqur al-Sham.As can be seen, battalions of a variety of ideological affiliations have taken ISIS' side against the PKK/PYD. Dislike of the latter was further corroborated in Colonel Oqaidi's interview with NOW Lebanon, where he likewise accused the PYD of being an agent for the Asad regime.[ It is this allegation that proves crucial to the rhetoric of ISIS and other rebel factions against the PYD in an attempt to show they are not against Kurds as a people. Thus the joint statement against the PKK/PYD also has the signatories emphasize that they have nothing against Kurds who are not connected with the PKK.
In a similar vein, this author's own discussions with ISIS supporters and jihadi sources have shown a tendency among these circles to portray the PYD as a marginal communist apostate group with little popular support among Syrian Kurds. Likewise, conflict in the Raqqa governorate's Turkish border town of Tel Abyad between PKK/PYD forces on one side versus ISIS/JN in alliance with Ahrar al-Sham and some FSA groupings–which culminated in the expulsion of the PKK/PYD from the town–saw repeated allegations against ISIS/JN, in particular of systematic looting and destruction of Kurdish property.In response to these repeated claims, ISIS released a statement indicating that its fighters were obliged to protect the property of Muslim brothers, whether Kurdish or Arab, but presumably excluding those affiliated with the PYD/PKK and thus deemed apostates.
As of the writing of this article, the overall picture in the conflict is that YPG forces have suffered serious setbacks in both the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates. Yet they are still holding their own in the Hasakah province. Nonetheless, there have been no major advances by either side, as JN/ISIS has been unable to retake Ras al-Ayn, despite repeated attempts at bombarding YPG positions in the town.Indeed, one ISIS source claimed that ISIS in alliance with FSA battalions had rooted out the PKK/PYD presence from more than 90 percent of the northern Raqqa countryside around the Tel Abyad area and vowed that the PKK/PYD would be eliminated entirely, including from the Hasakah governorate.[Some new mujahidin umbrella groupings have been declared dedicated to achieving this objective as well, including in the northern Aleppo countryside]and Qamishli area in the Hasakah province.
On some occasions, truces have been announced between FSA-SIF groups and Kurdish forces on account of mediation from delegations claiming to be the "Kurdish Supreme Council" (KSC), but these delegations have never been more than small groups of local Kurds acting unilaterally, and so the truces have lacked real authority and quickly collapsed. Indeed, the coalition of Kurdish opposition groups called the Kurdish National Council (KNC) thus requested that all groups should stop using the KSC name unilaterally.In turn, the PYD, believing Turkey to be the main venue of financial and armed backing to JN/ISIS, has reached out to Ankara in the hope of achieving some sort of ceasefire, or at least a cessation of aid from Turkey to JN/ISIS. At this stage, successful mediation and a long-lasting truce are unlikely. The conflict has escalated beyond localized clashes and has quite clearly taken on the form of an existential, ideological struggle, with JN/ISIS circles making it abundantly clear that they deem the PYD/PKK "apostates" who should be annihilated. Conversely, many Kurds–both pro- and anti-PYD–view this conflict as an ethnic Kurdish-Arab war. Meanwhile, battalions under the FSA or SIF banner remain convinced that the PYD in particular is an agent for the Asad regime. This is the case even though, from an analyst's point of view, the fairest assessment is that the PYD is eager to maintain exclusive control over its strongholds and Kurdish areas more generally, and therefore is willing to cut deals with regime forces and rebel groups to achieve that goal–while being prepared to take on both should they encroach on PYD territory.
In the meantime, it is clear that the conflict has provoked the upsurge in Kurdish refugees to Iraq. Unsurprisingly, Turkish media outlets affiliated with the AKP government put the refugee surge down to alleged repression on the part of the PYD.While there may be some truth to the testimony cited in Turkish media, it seems more likely that the bulk of the upsurge has been due to JN/ISIS/FSA/SIF seizure of Kurdish areas in the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates in particular, as well as continued bombardment and attacks on Kurdish areas in the Hasakah governorate in particular.
The seizure of territory has provoked rumors from pro-PYD circles above all of large-scale massacres of Kurds and policies of forced Arabization. Regardless of the truth of these claims (and the stories of massacres are generally uncorroborated), there is a sufficient climate of fear created to prompt a flight of refugees into the safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose government is now contemplating closer security cooperation with Baghdad in light of the perceived common threat of al-Qa'ida.[A further side effect of this conflict is that it has undoubtedly bolstered the PYD's image in Syrian Kurdistan as the protector of the Kurds, as YPG forces are doing the bulk of the fighting against JN/ISIS and other groups. In short, it is a bleak situation, despite the KNC's backtracking on its withdrawal from Syrian opposition frameworks in mid-August 2013 as well as the decision to join the Syrian opposition coalition in-exile on preconditions.[
From the above, it should be apparent that ISIS' relations with other rebel groups are by no means a case of "al-Qa'ida vs. everyone else." Two general principles can be drawn. First, in the conflict with the PYD/PKK in particular, one cannot expect other rebel groups–whether under the banner of the FSA, SILF, SIF and the like–to side with the PYD/PKK against the ISIS. Second, SIF groups like Ahrar al-Sham, whose discourse blurs the national/transnational distinction over wider goals, will not openly side with ISIS' opponents–Kurdish or FSA–in an event of conflict. This is even as some Ahrar al-Sham leaders harbor reservations about ISIS.[ Among those under the banner of FSA, the staunchest opponents of ISIS remain those with close ties to SMC leader Salim Idriss, who has accused ISIS of being agents for the Asad regime.[
Compared with ISIS' fortunes in Iraq, ISIS has been far more successful in Syria than the Iraqi branch could ever have hoped. The main factor behind this success is undoubtedly the good degree of continuity between JN and ISIS in terms of outreach to locals. Granted, where ISIS and JN are clearly separate entities, JN's provision of services is more extensive than that of ISIS.
Nonetheless, it is clear that ISIS in Syria has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors and understands that "winning hearts and minds" is a key part of expanding its control. For instance, ISIS has provided toys and days of fun for children during and after Ramadan, along with iftar (evening meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) dinners (Appendix, Figure 11) and food aid. ISIS has even introduced a rationing system of basic necessities in parts of Aleppo (Appendix, Figure 12), and it provides bus services and schools for children (Appendix, Figure 13).
Despite these advances for ISIS, the current author still maintains the assessment from back in March 2013 that such strongholds are only likely to exist in the north and east of Syria.[ The picture elsewhere in the country is still one of generalized chaos, and one must be wary of sensationalist claims that al-Qa'ida-aligned factions somehow dominate the armed opposition.
Could there be a Sahwa-style movement against ISIS eventually? One need not completely rule out the possibility, but the only plausible context in which such a development could arise is in a post-Asad order with an extensive foreign troop presence on the ground, perhaps needed for at least a decade in order to build up a viable post-Asad centralized security force. For now, however, it is implausible to suggest that other rebels will team up with either the PYD or regime forces to fight ISIS. This is even as intra-rebel rivalries, including between ISIS and other groups, are inevitable now and in the