Saddam’s Former Loyalists Are Leading ISIS — as True Believers

isis-run-by-true-believers-rNational Review, by Kyle Orton, July 20, 2015:

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.

Let’s consider some specifics.

First, the ISIS-as-front-for-Baathists storyline relies on a misreading of ISIS’s revival after the 2007 Surge. It is true that after ISIS’s former leader was killed in April 2010, ISIS intensified its “Iraqization” process. (This began with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s effort in 2006 to reverse ISIS’s negative image as a foreign imposition on Iraqi Sunnis.) Within three months between April and June 2010, Iraqi and American forces picked off 34 of 42 senior ISIS operatives in the region. But the rise to predominance of the FREs was an internal shift in ISIS — not an external coup. It came about because ISIS — at its nadir and with a decreased flow of foreign-fighters — turned to its most militarily skilled members.

Second, the ISIS-as-front-for-Baathists storyline has a very serious timeline problem. One of the infamous FREs within ISIS was Haji Bakr (real name: Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi), a former colonel in Saddam’s army, who masterminded ISIS’s expansion into Syria; he was killed by Syrian rebels when they rose against ISIS in January 2014. What is noteworthy is that al-Khlifawi had joined ISIS in 2003 when it was a foreign-led organization with Zarqawi — the patron saint of the takfiriyeen (those who regard only Salafi-purists as Muslims) — as its emir. A “socialist infidel” — as ISIS refers to Baathists — was not going to pass muster in ISIS at that time.

Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi (real name: Adnan Ismail Najem al-Bilawi), a former captain in Saddam’s army and until his death in June 2014 the head of ISIS’s military council (believed to be the most important ISIS military institution), also joined ISIS in 2003. Abu Ali al-Anbari, the overseer of ISIS-held territory in Syria, joined ISIS in 2003 as well.

It’s no surprise that al-Khlifawi, al-Bilawi, and al-Anbari were already Islamic militants in 2003. From the mid 1980s, and with added intensity after the formal onset of Saddam’s “Faith Campaign” in June 1993, Saddam’s regime Islamized. This was “most likely a cynical step” on the part of Saddam, wrote Amatzia Baram, an expert on Iraqi Islam with the University of Haifa, but it gave Iraq “an extra push in the direction of an authentic Islamization process.” In other words, it took on a life of its own.

Saddam feared the Muslim Brotherhood, so he chose Salafism as a counterweight. With significant resources devoted to producing this regime-loyal Saddamist-Salafism, the Faith Campaign produced a more sectarian, Salafized population, with its focal points on clerics and mosques. Without this campaign, Zarqawi’s project could never have gotten off the ground in Iraq.

“[Zarqawi] thought that the Sunni in Iraq . . . had been ruined by Saddam and that a long period of dawa (proselytization) would be needed,” Craig Whiteside, a professor at the Naval War College who has worked extensively with internal ISIS documents, told me. “He was pleasantly surprised instead by the underground Salafist movement that existed in Iraq and produced so many early local Iraqi supporters.” Whiteside added: “[Saddam’s] regime was really tottering at the end, and people were looking for more successful ideologies.”

Many of ​Saddam’​s officers who encountered Salafi teachings became more loyal to Salafism than to Saddam.

Indeed, the Faith Campaign worked almost too well. Saddam sent military and intelligence members of the Baath Party to mosques with the dual task of religious instruction and keeping tabs. “Most of the officers who were sent to the mosques were not deeply committed to Baathism by that point,” writes Joel Rayburn, a former U.S. military intelligence analyst in Iraq, inIraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance. “And as they encountered Salafi teachings, many became more loyal to Salafism than to Saddam.” The empowerment of long-standing anti-regime “pure” Salafists, alongside the Baathist-Salafists the regime wanted, led to some acts of terrorism, for which some Salafists were executed by Saddam. But the Faith Campaign went on, not least because the dictator himself had a kind of “born-again” experience.

Additionally, Saddam had instrumentalized the Islamists in his foreign policy from as early as 1983 — and, as with the Faith Campaign, stuck with it despite significant internal opposition from the party. A most significant connection was with a Salafi-jihadist group, formed by Zarqawi loyalists with al-Qaeda seed money, in northern Iraq between 1998 and early 2000 that became Ansar al-Islam in late 2001. Ansar al-Islam received money and weapons from Saddam, and it seems that the actual decision-maker in the group was an agent of Saddam’s intelligence. Ansar, by then led directly by Zarqawi, fled to Iran during the invasion and then returned to Iraq with the help of the senior members of Saddam’s regime. Ansar is now formally part of ISIS.

The Faith Campaign was implemented by Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, Saddam’s deputy. Douri was tasked with setting up what was effectively an organized-crime network whose goal was to evade the sanctions by smuggling across Iraq’s borders, and to provide for an internal patronage network that would give the regime some pillars of support. Patronage went especially to the Sunni tribes of western Iraq, and the removal of this income after the U.S.-led invasion was chief among the many reasons the tribes tactically sided with the Zarqawi’ists in an attempt to restore Sunni hegemony. Not just among the tribes, these networks largely passed to ISIS. This began early: In 2003, for instance, the stolen cars Douri imported through Jordan were put at the service of ISIS’s suicide bombers.

It is also notable that ISIS’s Syria strategy was not made up on the fly after the uprising began in March 2011. Haji Bakr was appointed to oversee operations in Aleppo in late 2010, and ISIS’s presence in Syria dates from 2002 and 2003 when Assad invited them in to wage war against the Americans and the constitutional government in Iraq. ISIS already had deeply embedded logistics networks in Syria that were easily “flipped” when ISIS wanted to move from Iraq into Syria, and ISIS already saw the potential of Syria, having run a low-level insurgency against Assad between 2007 and 2010. ISIS did send further agents into Syria in the summer of 2011 to form Jabhat an-Nusra, which would split from ISIS in April 2013 when ISIS tried to bring its covert subordinates under its command. By that time, however, ISIS had established itself well enough to weather the Nusra defection.

The FREs matter because they highlight the hybrid nature of ISIS — its fusion of elements of Baathism with Salafism — and also how difficult ISIS will be defeat. The REs are the products of a military-intelligence service trained by the KGB. They have brought to ISIS unique military and counterintelligence skills, directly in battle and in propaganda. Their skills are aiding ISIS’s military effort, bringing in fanatical foreigners to use as shock troops, and helping ISIS restructure the identities of local populations who have joined ISIS only out of necessity or convenience (as a means to restore order or against Iran’s proxies, for example).

The Iraqi nativism some detect within ISIS is probably a confusion borne of the fact that ISIS is also a hybrid of a locally and internationally focused organization. ISIS has more depth in Iraq because it has been there for decades in one way or another, and it has more popularity there because it is the vanguard of an attempt to restore Sunni dominion.

Even if ISIS was led by cynics, it has taken on a life of its own now, just like the Faith Campaign; there are too many true believers for the cynics to sideline. But, precisely because of the Faith Campaign, there is every reason to think that ISIS’s leaders mean what they say.

Kyle Orton is a Middle East analyst. Follow him on Twitter @KyleWOrton. 

Secure the Border!

aisis-426x350Frontpage, February 19, 2015 by Raymond Ibrahim:

Originally published by PJ Media.

In a move reminiscent of “ancient history,” Saudi Arabia is building a 600-mile-long “Great Wall”  –  a combined fence and ditch  –  to separate itself from the Islamic State to the north in Iraq:

Plans for the 600-mile wall and ditch Saudi Arabia will build with Iraq in an effort to insulate itself from the chaos engulfing its neighbors.

Much of the area on the Iraqi side is now controlled by Isil [the Islamic State], which regards the ultimate capture of Saudi Arabia, home to the “Two Holy Mosques” of Mecca and Medina, as a key goal….

The irony here is that those Muslims that Saudi Arabia is trying to keep out are the very same Muslims most nurtured and influenced by a Saudi — or “Wahabbi,” or “Salafi” — worldview.

Put differently, Saudi Arabia is again appreciating how jihad is a volatile instrument of war that can easily backfire on those who support it.  “Holy war” is hardly limited to fighting and subjugating “infidels” — whether the West in general, Israel in particular, or the millions of non-Muslim minorities under Islam — but also justifies fighting “apostates,” that is, Muslims accused of not being Islamic enough.

Indeed, the first grand jihad was against Muslim “apostates” — the Ridda [“apostasy”] Wars.  After Muhammad died in 632, many Arab tribes were willing to remain Muslim but without paying zakat (“charity”) money to the first caliph, Abu Bakr.  That was enough to declare jihad on them as apostates; tens of thousands of Arabs were burned, beheaded, dismembered, or crucified, according to Islamic history.

Accordingly, the Islamic State justifies burning people alive, such as the Jordanian pilot, precisely because the first caliph and his Muslim lieutenants burned apostates alive, and is even on record saying that “false Muslims” are its first target, then Israel.

This is the problem all Muslim nations and rulers risk: no one — not even Sharia-advocating Islamist leaders — are immune to the all-accusing sword tip of the jihad.  If non-Muslims are, as “infidels,” de facto enemies, any Muslim can be accused of “apostasy,” instantly becoming an enemy of Allah and his prophet.

A saying attributed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad validates this perspective: “This umma [Islamic nation] of mine will split into seventy-three sects; one will be in paradise and seventy-two will be in hell.”  When asked which sect was the true one, the prophet replied, “aljama‘a,” that is, the group which most literally follows the example or “sunna” of Muhammad.

This saying perfectly sums up the history of Islam: to be deemed legitimate, authorities must uphold the teachings of Islam — including jihad; but it is never long before another claimant accuses existing leadership of not being “Islamic enough.”

Enter the Saudi/Islamic State relationship. From the start, the Arabian kingdom has been a supporter of the Islamic State.  It was not long, however, before IS made clear that Saudi Arabia was one of its primary targets, calling on its allies and supporters in the kingdom to kill and drive out the Saud tribe.

Nor is this the first time the Saudis see those whom they nurtured — ideologically and logistically — turn on them.  Back in the 1980s, the Saudis were chief supporters of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and helped create al-Qaeda.

But once the “distant” infidel was subdued, al-Qaeda and its Saudi-born leader Osama bin Laden came home to roost, doing the inevitable: pointing the accusatory finger at the Saudi monarchy for not being Islamic enough, including for its reliance on the great American infidel during the First Gulf War.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is not only a chief disseminator and supporter of the Salafi ideology most associated with jihad, but the Arabian kingdom itself was forged in large measure by articulating and calling for holy war in the 19th and -20th centuries, including against Turks and fellow Arab tribes (both Muslim).

The Saudi argument then was the very same argument now being made by the Islamic State — that the rulers of Islam’s holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina (in this case, the Ottoman Turks) were not “Islamic” enough.

Such is the double-edged sword of jihad.   All Islamic governments, regimes, and kingdoms must always try to direct this potent instrument of war against enemies or neutral targets — preferably ones far away from their borders (Afghanistan, America, etc.). For they know that the longer the jihad waxes in strength and goes uncontained, the more it becomes like an all-consuming fire indiscriminately scorching all in its path.

And this explains why Saudi Arabia is a chief funder and supporter of external jihads: to send its own zealots out of its borders to fight distant infidels (a “better them than me” mentality).  It also explains why nations like Saudi Arabia, which were forged by the jihad, continually find themselves threatened by the jihad — or, to paraphrase a young Jewish rabbi: “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

The Demonstrations To Drive Islam Out Of Germany Is Spreading And Gaining Momentum

screen-hools-1024x562By Walid Shoebat:

The massive riots on Sunday by Hooligans Against [Muslim] Salafists in Cologne seems to have spread to Dresden were public assembly showed in full force and  plans are on the way for additional massive riots on November 15th planned in Hamburg and at the Brandenburg Gate, the center of the capital of Berlin itself, German media reported.

der-salafistische-prediger-pierre-vogel-6A member of the group who described himself as a devout Bible believing Christian denounced the false portrayal of the group by leftist media as “Nazi” and told Monday that “this is only the beginning” vowing that this will spread to Dresden and other places across Germany.

Sure enough, in Dresden yesterday, the group took to the streets under the banner “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West” (Pegida) against what they termed Muslim “religious wars”.

After the incidents in Cologne it is expected that both the police and counter-demonstrators otherwise prepare for the appointment on November 15th in which the police is preparing for a massive deployment of agents in Berlin to confront the coming unrest especially since leftist and Muslim groups in the city have already announced a showdown of retaliation against the right-wing Hooligans. Germany is expected to witness civil unrest and a line in the sand be drawn between left and right.


While the right to public assembly is settled in German law and banning these demonstrations is quite difficult, leftist politicians hope that the recent violence in Cologne is sufficient to proclaim a ban on the Hooligan’s right to free public assembly.

The messages by the group over the internet regarding the massive event in Cologne says that this was only the beginning, but officials in Berlin are saying that they take the matter very seriously. ”The rule of law must use all means to prevent the militant violence that we have seen in Cologne to repeat itself, ” said CDU Senator Frank Henkel who is calling for a ban on Hooligan demonstrations.

The hooligans against Salafists’ originated on the Internet and at the first big demonstration last Sunday in Cologne quickly came to violent confrontations with the police. Over forty policemen were injured and seventeen arrests were made.

The Facebook page already has 5000 people signed up for the demo in Hamburg and growing.

In Germany  this month a controversy erupted after Muslim Salafists  in bright orange vests started a patrol at the doors of discotheques, cafes and amusement arcades and told people to refrain from drinking alcohol which  sparked new debate on whether Islam should remain in Germany. Muslims with the words Sharia Police written on the back patrolled the city of Wuppertal in October which also caused an outrage amongst Germans and wondered how to react.


The self-proclaimed guardians of public morals are Salafists who are the fastest growing group of radical Muslims in Germany formed their street police network akin to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia. The head of the Wuppertal group is German convert Sven Lau, alias Abu Adam.

017915633_30300Ever since, a debate has raged in Germany. “Sharia is not tolerated on German soil,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said, and Justice Minister Heiko Maas warned Germany would not tolerate any form of illegal parallel justice.

The Salafist scene in Germany is rapidly growing, according to Germany’s domestic intelligence chief. Radical Islamists have been adept in recruiting disaffected young Muslim men from families with migrant backgrounds.

Salafism, the most widespread form of Islamist extremism in Germany, calls for a return to the way Muslims lived during the Prophet Mohammed’s era.

And what it seems to be happening in Germany is moving across Europe. (Read our previous report here) Excellent report- must see!


The Muslim Dilemma: Allah’s Commands to Wage Jihad

Quran_coverBlind Eagle, by Brian Fairchild, Sep. 18, 2014:

The most important strategic counter terrorist challenge to the United States today is to defeat the ideology of the international jihad movement.  The organizations and individuals that spread this virulent ideology constitute a giant international production line that creates more Salafi-jihadis than the United States can kill or capture.  On September 16, 2014, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who recently stepped down as the nation’s senior military intelligence officer, stated this fact when he responded to a question during a speech at Fort Benning, Georgia:

  • “What this audience wants (to hear) is, ‘kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out, get the t-shirt, go down to Ranger Joe’s [a local military clothing store],…we can kill all day long, but until we understand why there are [such large] numbers of [fundamentalist] believers globally, [groups like the Islamic State] will not be defeated”.

The rabid ideology of the international jihad movement is comprised of two elements:  a Salafi religious belief, melded with the revolutionary Islamist ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Much has been written about the Muslim Brotherhood and its infrastructure globally and in the United States, so this report will focus on Salafism.

Within Islam, Salafism is considered a legitimate Islamic orientation.  It traces its roots to the 13th Century Islamic scholar ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) and his students ibn al-Qayyim, and ibn Kathir, as well as to the 18th Century Islamic scholar Muhammad ibn Abd-al Wahhab who revived the writings of ibn Taymiyya in the area that would become the Salafi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Salafism is an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam.  It is not a creation of al Qaeda or any Islamist terrorist organization.  Quite the opposite is true.  Al Qaeda and all Sunni Islamist terrorist organizations emerged from a Salafi religious foundation.  Salafism is practiced by a minority of Muslims, but that minority numbers over a hundred million.

Salafis proclaim that it is impossible for any man to understand the mind of God, so they regard any interpretation of the Qur’an as illegitimate, and they label any Muslim who dares to question Allah’s commands as an apostate.  They regard the four schools of Sunni Islam as illegal innovations, and insist that the only sources of Islamic authority are a literal acceptance of Allah’s commands in the Qur’an, and a strict literal acceptance and emulation of the life experiences of the Prophet Muhammad.  They call themselves “Salafis” to commemorate the first three generations of Muslims, described in Arabic as “as-Salaf as-Salih” – the “pious predecessors”, who practiced Islam only according to these two sources.  As explained by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the following linked video, the key concept in Salafism is the Islamic doctrine of Tawheed that, according to Zawahiri:  “must be the ruling authority in every system, constitution and law”; it demands that man be ruled by Sharia law alone because all man-made laws, political ideologies, and government systems are an affront to God.

In intelligence analysis, analysts are required to use primary sources and rigid tradecraft to support their findings and forecasts.  The Qur’an is a primary source, and this report will base its findings on an inspection and understanding of it.

The first point of importance is to understand what the Qur’an represents.  People say “the Qur’an says this, or the Qur’an says that”, but this is incorrect, the Qur’an says nothing.  Allah is the speaker, and the Qur’an is just the medium to report his commands.  The Qur’an is not comprised of stories about Allah, or stories recounting the life of Muhammad, or stories of any kind.  Rather, Islam regards the Qur’an as a compilation of over 6,000 verses revealed directly by Allah to the prophet Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel, in Arabic, over a 23 year period.  Muslims believe that the verses in the Qur’an are in Allah’s active voice – it is not a summation, description, or interpretation by man of what Allah said, it is Allah’s direct word as revealed to Muhammad.

Herein lies the Muslim dilemma.  Because all the jihad verses in the Qur’an come directly from God with no interpretation or intercession by man, jihadis use them to justify their violent campaigns, while non-jihadis cannot question them without being labeled as apostates who must be killed.  Much is made of the fact that jihadis kill other Muslims, but the jihadis state that they are killing apostates as commanded by Allah in revealed verses such as Chapter 4, verse 89 below (4:89).

When it comes to jihad, or killing apostates, Allah is very specific.  There is no interpretation needed, and he never qualifies any of his commands by putting a time limit or geographical limitation on them.  In Allah’s revealed verses below you will recognize many of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), from Islamic supremacism, killing other Muslims, waging jihad, beheadings, crucifixions, taking and ransoming prisoners, and waging jihad against Christians and Jews.  All are commanded by Allah as the following verses concretely demonstrate.

Note:  None of the Qur’anic citations below have been altered in any way; they are all copied verbatim exactly as they appear in The Noble Qur’an:  English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, published by the King Fahd Complex of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It is distributed free around the world.  Despite the fact that Salafis believe that nobody can understand the mind of God, the Saudi publisher ironically inserted comments in parentheses within the verses to ensure that Muslims clearly understand what Allah meant when he revealed them to Muhammad.  Again, in order to understand the power of these verses, Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of God verbally revealed to Muhammad, in Arabic, through the angel Gabriel.  All of the verses in the Qur’an (which, in aggregate, constitute Sharia law) are considered direct commands in God’s voice.  To ensure that Muslims understand exactly what God meant when he commanded Muslims to “fight in the way of Allah”, the Saudi publishers included the following extensive footnote which leaves nothing to the imagination.  The footnote appears on page 39 in reference to Qur’an Chapter 2, verse 190.  It is copied verbatim, including incorrect spelling and grammar: 


  • (V: 2:190)  Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands).  By Jihad Islam is established.  Allah’s Word is made superior, (His Word being La ilaha illaliah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and His Religion (Islam) is propagated.  By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish.  Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite. 

Jihad Chapters and Verses:

  • 8:39 – And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone (in the whole world).  But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do. 
  • 8:60 – And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know.  And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly. 
  • 47:4 – So, when you meet (in fight – Jihad in Allah’s Cause) those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives).  Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden.  Thus (you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam and are saved from the punishment in the Hell-fire or at least come under your protection), but if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you), But (He lets you fight) in order to test some of you with others.  But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost. 
  • 4:89 – They wish that you reject Faith, as they have rejected (Faith), and thus that you all become equal (like one another).  So take not Auliya (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the Way of Allah (to Muhammad).  But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold of) them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Auliya (protectors or friends) nor helpers from them. 
  • 5:33 – The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hand and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.  That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter. 
  • 9:14 – Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of believing people. 
  • 9:29 – Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

The majority of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are not Salafis and do not live their lives according to a strict adherence to Sharia law and Allah’s commands to wage jihad.  It is precisely this fact, however, that Salafi-jihadis cite to justify their jihad to bring all Muslims and everyone else in the world to “true Islam”, and as the above verses demonstrate, the fact that Allah has commanded them to do so is irrefutable.  As a result, it is grossly incorrect to say that Salafi-jihadis are not Islamic.  According to the above jihad verses, it is evident that they are quite literally practicing Islam as Allah commanded.

Government recognition of the Islamic religious foundation of jihad is essential for two specific national security reasons.  The Muslim dilemma can never be successfully addressed until this fact is acknowledged, and official recognition of the religious nature of jihad would provide American counter-terrorism officers with an investigative direction.  This is especially vital at present to stem the flow of American foreign fighters to the Islamic State.  At present, official policy states that Islamic terrorists have nothing to do with Islam, but are simply “violent extremists”.  But, where does a counter-terrorism officer go to investigate violent extremists?  The answer is, nowhere.

Current American policy ties the hands of counter-terrorism officers and relegates them to investigating already developed plots where individual “violent extremists” are in the process of carrying out a violent act.  This effectively rules out all proactive investigations that would prevent such plots.

If the religious aspects of jihad were acknowledged, however, counter terrorism officers would have numerous options.  They could identify and neutralize Salafi-jihadi mosques as well as Salafi-jihadi imams and Salafi guest speakers from abroad.  They could investigate Salafi organizations that raise funds and distribute Islamist training material and manifestos, and they could identify and counter Muslim Brotherhood organizations and the training programs they employ to instill Salafi beliefs in the next generation of young Muslims.

The game-changing rise of the Islamic State and the phenomenal flood of radicalized foreign fighters flowing to the new “caliphate” make political correctness and willful ignorance of the Islamic religious foundation of the jihad a recipe for national disaster.

Brian Fairchild Bio


You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

n-WAHHABISM-large570By Alastair Crooke, Fmr. MI-6 agent; Author, ‘Resistance: The Essence of Islamic Revolution’:

BEIRUT — The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed — and horrified — by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, “Don’t the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?”

It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.


Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

Read more at The Huffington Post


Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism

1534157424 (1)ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate

New York Times, By

ALONG with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency. This was a welcome contribution, but last year, Saudi Arabia rejected a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. This half-in, half-out posture of the Saudi kingdom is a reflection of its inner paralysis in dealing with Sunni Islamist radicalism: It wants to stop violence, but will not address the Salafism that helps justify it.

Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.

Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

M_Id_364974_beheadingWe are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.

I lived in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city, Jidda, in 2005. That year, in an effort to open closed Saudi Salafi minds, King Abdullah supported dialogue with people of other religions. In my mosque, the cleric used his Friday Prayer sermon to prohibit such dialogue on grounds that it put Islam on a par with “false religions.” It was a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality, he argued — corrupt practices of the infidel West.

This tension between the king and Salafi clerics is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s inability to reform. The king is a modernizer, but he and his advisers do not wish to disturb the 270-year-old tribal pact between the House of Saud and the founder of Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam close to Salafism). That 1744 desert treaty must now be nullified.

The influence that clerics wield is unrivaled. Even Saudis’ Twitter heroes are religious figures: An extremist cleric like Muhammad al-Arifi, who was banned last year from the European Union for advocating wife-beating and hatred of Jews, commands a following of 9. 4 million. The kingdom is also patrolled by a religious police force that enforces the veil for women, prohibits young lovers from meeting and ensures that shops do not display “indecent” magazine covers. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the religious police beat women with sticks if they stray into male-only areas, or if their dress is considered immodest by Salafi standards. This is not an Islam that the Prophet Muhammad would recognize.

Salafi intolerance has led to the destruction of Islamic heritage in Mecca and Medina. If ISIS is detonating shrines, it learned to do so from the precedent set in 1925 by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat Al Baqi cemetery in Medina. In the last two years, violent Salafis have carried out similar sectarian vandalism, blowing up shrines from Libya to Pakistan, from Mali to Iraq. Fighters from Hezbollah have even entered Syria to protect holy sites.

Textbooks in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities teach this brand of Islam. The University of Medina recruits students from around the world, trains them in the bigotry of Salafism and sends them to Muslim communities in places like the Balkans, Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where these Saudi-trained hard-liners work to eradicate the local, harmonious forms of Islam.

What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism. It cannot now outsource the slaying of this beast to the United Nations. It must address the theological and ideological roots of extremism at home, starting in Mecca and Medina. Reforming the home of Islam would be a giant step toward winning against extremism in this global battle of ideas.

Why the Islamic State has no sympathy for Hamas

An Islamic State fighter gestures as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.  (photo by REUTERS)

An Islamic State fighter gestures as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014. (photo by REUTERS)

By Ali Mamouri:

Most of today’s Salafist jihadist movements have no interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the time being regarding it as irrelevant. Instead, their call is to engage in intense, bloody confrontations involving bombings, executions, and suicide attacks against governments headed by Muslims and against Muslim civilians.

Al-Qaeda has followed this course for decades, and now the Islamic State (IS) is following in al-Qaeda’s footsteps, fighting a brutal war across swathes of Iraq and Syria and in an effort to “purify” these areas through killings and population displacement. Once taking territory, it is not mobilizing the populations under its control in opposition to the Israeli military operations in Gaza. Why is this?

Some jihadists or pro-jihadist Salafists have issued video clips and tweets explaining their lack of assistance to the Palestinians. One tweet stated, “The Hamas government is apostate, and what it is doing does not constitute jihad, but rather a defense of democracy [which Salafists oppose].” Another tweet said, “Khaled Meshaal: Hamas fights for the sake of freedom and independence. The Islamic State: it fights so that all religion can be for God.” Meshaal is head of Hamas’ political bureau.

On July 22, the Egyptian Salafist sheikh Talaat Zahran declared that it is inappropriate to aid the people of Gaza because they do not follow a legitimate leadership, and because they are equivalent to Shiites since they follow them, referring to Hezbollah and Iran, with which the Sunni Hamas movement has been allied. Thus the jihadists’ position is not simply a political stance, but stems from Salafist theological principles.

Salafists believe that jihad must be performed under legitimate leadership. This argument is advanced through the “banner and commander” concept, which holds that whoever undertakes jihad must follow a commander who fulfills the criteria of religious and political leadership and has raised the banner of jihad. Given that there is neither a legitimate leader nor a Salafist-approved declaration of jihad in Palestine, fighting there is forbidden.

In addition, for Salafists, if non-Muslims control Islamic countries and apostates exist in the Islamic world, the Islamic world must be cleansed of them before all else. In short, the purification of Islamic society takes priority over combat against non-Islamic societies. On this basis, Salafists see conflict with an allegedly illegitimate Hamas government as a first step toward confrontation with Israel. Should the opportunity for military action present itself in the Palestinian territories, Salafists would fight Hamas and other factions deemed in need of “cleansing” from the land and engage Israel afterward.

Read more at Al-Monitor



Salafi-Jihadists: “A Persistent Threat” to Europe and America

The Dutch-Turkish jihadist known as Yilmaz (center) poses with fellow jihadists in Syria.

The Dutch-Turkish jihadist known as Yilmaz (center) poses with fellow jihadists in Syria.

by Soeren Kern:

The other key reason for the growing threat, the report says, is due to American disengagement and a significant scaling back of counterterrorism efforts.

“A complete withdrawal of U.S forces from Afghanistan by 2016 could seriously jeopardize U.S. security interests…. The United States should also consider a more aggressive strategy…. The failure to weaken… jihadist groups will likely have serious repercussions for the United States.” — RAND report.

The European report also calls attention to the misuse of charities and other non-profit organizations to collect funds for terrorist entities.

In keeping with strict conformity to European multiculturalism and moral relativism, the European Union refused to classify two of the most high-profile terrorist attacks in 2013 as “religiously inspired terrorism.”

The threat to Europe and the United States from Islamic terrorism is serious and growing, and new attacks with unexpected targets and timings are increasingly likely, according to two new reports that provide insights and predictions about the threats posed by al-Qaeda and other Salafi-jihadist groups.

The reports — one by the US-based RAND Corporation and another by the EU-based Europol — show that al-Qaeda and related jihadist groups are evolving, splintering and morphing, and that the number of Islamic militants, especially from Western countries, is growing apace.

Taken together, the two reports thoroughly dispute claims by members of the Obama Administration and other policymakers that al-Qaeda has been severely weakened and no longer poses a major threat to the West.

The first report, entitled, “A Persistent Threat: The Evolution of al-Qaeda and Other Salafi Jihadists,” was prepared for the U.S. Defense Department and published on June 4 by the RAND Corporation, a public policy think tank based in California.

As the title implies, the report focuses on the Salafi-jihadist movement, a particular strand of militant Sunni Islamism which emphasizes the importance of returning to a “pure” Islam: that of the Salaf (an Arabic term which means “ancestors” or “predecessors” and refers to the first three generations of Muslims, including Mohammed and his companions and followers).

Salafi-jihadist groups are actively seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate — a theocratic Muslim empire governed by Islamic sharia law — to bring about the unification of the entire Muslim world, and, according to their writings, ultimately the subjugation of the entire globe. These groups believe that violent jihad to achieve this objective is a personal religious duty for every Muslim.

The report documents how the broader Salafi-jihadist movement has become more decentralized among four tiers: 1) core al-Qaeda in Pakistan; 2) formal affiliates that have sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda; 3) Salafi-jihadist groups that have not sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, but are committed to establishing an extremist Islamic emirate; and 4) inspired individuals and networks.

Between 2010 and 2013, the report says, the number of al-Qaeda-sympathizing Salafi-jihadist groups has increased to 49 from 31; the number of jihadist fighters has doubled to 100,000; and the number of attacks by al-Qaeda affiliates has tripled to roughly 1,000 from 392.

The most significant threat to the United States, the report warns, comes from terrorist groups operating in North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, the location that has seen the greatest growth in the numbers of jihadist groups and militants.

Libya represents the most active sanctuary for Salafi-jihadist groups in North Africa, and Syria the most significant safe haven for groups in the Levant. Egypt is the one country where Salafi-jihadist groups have lost ground, the report says, due to a concerted effort by Egyptian military leaders to target these groups in the mainland and on the Sinai Peninsula. [Claims by Egyptian military officials that the Sinai Peninsula is under their complete control are being disputed by recent media reports suggesting that jihadists still hold considerable sway there.]

One reason for the increase in Salafi-jihadist groups, fighters and attacks, the report says, is the weakness of governments across North Africa and the Middle East. Weak governments have difficulty establishing law and order, which allows militant groups and other sub-state actors to fill the vacuum.

Another key reason for the growing threat, the report says, is due to American disengagement from key parts of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and a significant scaling back on counter-terrorism efforts.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Also see:

Experts Warn More European Muslim Youth Are Radicalizing

The al Qaeda threat in Turkey

download (54)By KAREN HODGSON, July 8, 2013


The threat of al Qaeda in Turkey is significantly understudied, considering the nature and number of targets against which the terror group has plotted attacks, including many targets affiliated with the United States. Perhaps this is because the Turkish police are successful in thwarting such attacks; foiled plots are not as sensational as those that are carried out and cause tragedy. Or it could be because terror in Turkey has historically been synonymous with the terrorism of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which distracts from the al Qaeda threat. It is also easy to dismiss Turkey as an unlikely target for al Qaeda, given its 99 percent Muslim population and currently Islamic-rooted government.

A look at al Qaeda’s targets, which appear to be concentrated on US, Turkish, British, Jewish, and Christian facilities, demonstrates the point. Plots involving American targets include a plan to attack the İncirlik Base in Adana in 2003; a foiled attack on the NATO summit in Istanbul in May 2004 that was to be attended by then-President George W. Bush; and an attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul in July 2008, which killed three policemen. In July 2011, an attack on the US Embassy in Ankara was thwarted just before Secretary of State Clinton’s visit. In April 2013, Turkish police found evidence of a new plot linked to al Qaeda to bomb the US Embassy in Ankara. As recently as May 2013, Turkish police uncovered a plot by the al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front to conduct sarin gas attacks against Turkish and American targets, a relatively new phenomenon which appears to be a result of the spillover effects of the Syrian war into Turkey.

Other targets include suicide attacks on the British Consulate, the headquarters of British HSBC international bank, and two big synagogues in Istanbul in November 2003, which killed some 60 people and injured at least 700; a possible attack on the Pope during his visit to Turkey in November 2006; and a plot to attack the Bilderberg Summit in Istanbul in June 2007. Turkish authorities have also intercepted al Qaeda plans to conduct attacks on churches and clergy in Ankara, Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan after their takeover of the Kabul Regional Command in November 2009, the Turkish parliament building, and an Israeli cruise ship to Turkey.

These incidents suggest that the al Qaeda threat in Turkey persists. In fact, an al Qaeda-linked document found during a recent raid in Turkey said that it was more beneficial for the group to target Turkey than the West. Routine operations and mass arrests of suspected al Qaeda members and sympathizers indicate the presence of a support network for its cause within Turkey. These indications, combined with the recent emergence of jihadists in Syria, and the presence of Al Nusra Front elements along certain parts of Turkey’s 570-mile border with Syria, make this a threat worth examining.

There are challenges in trying to decipher the al Qaeda threat in Turkey, however. Reports based on open sources such as this one have to make analyses based only on the information that is available. The media does not give much attention to thwarted attacks. And the Turkish press does not publish names of people arrested, to protect the privacy of the individuals and investigations; instead, only the suspects’ initials are published. Moreover, many al Qaeda operatives have one or more code names. In addition, many of the details of operations or what they reveal is not reported. Nevertheless, some conclusions can still be made about the characteristics of al Qaeda in Turkey today.

Al Qaeda’s narrative on Turkey suggests that it views Turkey as a Muslim traitor that abolished the Caliphate at the end of the Ottoman Empire, which for al Qaeda marks the start of the “Muslim world’s humiliation and contempt over the last 80 years.” Al Qaeda views Turkey — a country with free elections and a liberal economy, a member of NATO, and a strategic ally of the United States — as a US or Western puppet. Turkey was also one of the first countries to recognize Israel, and takes part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which leads al Qaeda to accuse Turkey of “cooperating with Israel” and “killing Muslims in Afghanistan.”

Read more at Long War Journal

Israeli Security Sees Rising West Bank Salafi-Jihadi Threat

Study Shows Radical Islamist Dominance in Terror Plots

images (99)by IPT News:

With the guilty verdicts rendered today in the case of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, we are reminded of the threat radical Islamic terrorism poses to the American homeland. A report filed by the Washington Free Beacon on Aug. 16 focused on the threat of domestic terrorism. That report cited research conducted by the CI Centre, a Washington, D.C.-area national security think-tank founded by retired FBI official David G. Major.

The CI Centre identified 148 domestic terror plots since 2001. Of those, 114 were motivated by the radical Islamist “Salafist doctrine.” That’s the CI Centre’s terminology for those “motivated by Caliphate doctrine.” So among the nearly 150 domestic terrorist plots, 77 percent were motivated by radical Islam.

The CI Centre research identified 398 suspects involved in those 148 plots. Among them, the CI Centre culled out four that arguably could have been included in the “Salafist” group but they chose to consider separately. Those were the DC snipers, the Liberty City Seven (Miami), a “state sponsor” case (the suspect was Manssor Arbabsiar) and the LAX El-AL shooting. Including those four additional plots increases the 77 percent to nearly 80 percent of the domestic based terror plots involving some variant of radical Islam.

The CI Centre research essentially parallels the research conducted by IPT more than two years ago from available Department of Justice (DOJ) records concerning terrorism related prosecution cases. At the time, we found more than 80 percent of all convictions tied to international terrorist groups and homegrown terrorism since 9/11 involved defendants driven by a radical Islamist agenda.

These studies clearly show that, while not all terror plots against the U.S. and terrorists and their supporters arrested within the U.S. involve radical Islamists, the significant majority do. To ignore factual reality is foolhardy and risky.

Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood: what is the difference?

08-02-12_h-1By Mark Durie:

For western lay people, it can be hard to distinguish one radical Muslim from another.  What is the difference between Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood?  Are they really all that different?  And why do Western governments seem to favour and even partner with Brotherhood-backed groups, but denigrate Salafis?

The 2011 People’s Assembly elections in Egypt focused the world’s attention on the Salafis when they proved to be the ‘dark horse’ of that poll, winning 25% of the seats.  This, together with the Muslim Brotherhood’s 47%, gave Islamists  almost three quarters of the seats in the Assembly. How do these two powerful Islamic groups compare?

Today the Brotherhood and Salafis also figure prominently in reports from Syria.  Both brands of Islamists field rebel forces in Syria, and Brotherhood leaders dominate the Syrian National Council, which has been recognized by the Arab League and some UN states as the legitimate representative of Syria.

Often the past Western politicians have made the mistake of dismissing the Salafis as marginal extremists, while being all too willing to lap up the Brotherhood’s propaganda about their democratic credentials.  A good example was David Cameron’s statement in Parliament this past weekconcerning the Syrian National Council, as he sought to downplay any suggestion  that the conflict in Syria had a religious basis:

“When I see the official Syrian opposition I do not see purely a religious grouping; I see a group of people who have declared that they are in favour of democracy, human rights and a future for minorities, including Christians, in Syria. That is the fact of the matter.”

As troubling as Cameron’s ignorance about Brotherhood ideology appears to be, even more disturbing is his intent to forward military support to rebel groups, at the very time that a report has come from Syrian refugees of genocidal measures being enacted by Islamist rebels against the Syrian Christian minority.

This past week evidence has also emerged that among the insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Benghazi in September 2012 were Egyptians, captured on video saying that ‘Dr Morsi sent us’.  Yet Dr Morsi, the Brotherhood President of Egypt, is claimed by the US as an ally, and Brotherhood operatives have had long-standing high-level access to and support from the US Government.

Read more


Radical Cleric Swears to ‘Pop America’s Eye’ if Moderate Morsi Threatened