al-Fārūq Media presents a new video message from Anṣār al-Furqān: “Message From ‘Ashāq Mountain: Testimony for the Safavids”

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Source: youtube.com/watch?v=AT1LmsRym8c

To inquire about a translation for this video message for a fee email: azelin@jihadology.net

 

Hizballah Cavalcade: Quwat Sahl Nīnawā: Iraq’s Shia Shabak Get Their Own Militia

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Quwat Sahl Nīnawā: Iraq’s Shia Shabak Get Their Own Militia

By Phillip Smyth

Liwa Sahl Ninewa

Figure 1: Quwat Sahl Nīnawā’s logo. The Iraqi (left) and Shabak (right) flags emerge out of a map of the Hamdaniya region of the Nineveh Plain. The symbol also features an AK-102 rifle.

Quwat Sahl Nīnawā (A.K.A. Liwa Sahl Nineveh or QSN) purports to be a Shia Shabak militia associated with the Democratic Assembly of Shabaks (Tajema’ al-Shabak al-Dimokrati or DAS).1 QSN announced itself via a November 23, 2014 official statement posted on the website and social media apparatus belonging to the DAS. The group has also already claimed to take casualties in the fight against the Sunni jihadist “Islamic State” (A.K.A. IS, ISIS, or ISIL).2

Liwa Sahl Ninewa2

Figure 2: A QSN fighter poses with martyrdom posters (one featuring the dome of Sayyida Zaynab in Syria – bottom right) and other posters featuring Badr Organization founder Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Sadr and the first Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Present in the symbols and photos, QSN mixes a limited quantity of Shabak particularism and an added emphasis on Shia identity. On some pages the group has simultaneously promoted links to Iran’s proxy forces. While the group may have relations with Iran’s proxies, its official statements have announced a commitment to “gladly serve the supreme religious authority in Najaf [Grand Ayatollah Sistani].”3 This would likely indicate the group is not an equivalent (in terms of ideology and/or levels of control) to newer Iraqi Shia Iran-proxy militias such as Hizballah al-Abrar.

Photos claiming to show the group training also indicate that they may be assembled along the lines of a “Popular Assembly/Mobilization” or “al-Hashd al-Sha’abi” type group. Photographs of claimed QSN fighters holding flags promoting al-Hashd al-Sha’abi add further credence to this likelihood. Organization along those lines would mean many of the fighters are possibly newer recruits trained and likely led by more experienced personnel and advisors.

In photos of QSN, around 100 fighters were shown posing in ranks. This suggests the numbers for the group are likely in the range of 100-500 combatants.

The creation and promotion of the group may exemplify another method Iran and its proxies are using to place pressure on Kurdish organizations. QSN, as organized along lines of the more dominant Iraqi Arab Shia militias in the south of the country, also demonstrates the direction in which other new militias may be organized. QSN further exemplifies how some of Iraq’s minority groups are mobilizing against ISIS.

The Name & Symbols

QSN’s name directly refers to an area of heavy Shabak habitation, Iraq’s Ninewa (or Nineveh) Plain. Their logo and a post by the Shabak Democratic Assembly describes the group as “Quwat Sahl Nīnawā” or the “Nineveh Plain’s Forces.”4 Albeit, via social media, one page purporting to belong to the group claimed it also went by the name of “Liwa Sahl Nīnawā” or the “Nineveh Plains Brigade”. However, such minor alterations in name are common during the early stages of many new militias.5

The group’s logo also demonstrates a rather rudimentary approach to create symbolism for the new group. Readily available images (including the pictures of an AK-102 rifle, the Shabak and Iraqi flags, and a map of the Hamdaniya area of the Nineveh Plains) were likely pasted together following a simple image search online.6

Liwa Sahl Ninewa3

Figure 3: A QSN fighter poses with a flag associated with the Popular Mobilization type militias.

Liwa Sahl Ninewa4

Figure 4: QSN fighters congregate.

Who Are the Shabak & What is the Nineveh Plain?

The Nineveh Plain is a minority rich area; home to the Shabak, numerous Christian sects (including the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholics), Turkmen, Yezidis, and Kurds.7 Considered a heartland for Iraq’s Christians, Assyrian Christian and other Syriac (Aramean, Syriac, and Chaldean) Christian nationalist organizations and political parties have pushed for autonomy in the area.8 There has also been a campaign to make the Nineveh Plain its own province (under primarily Christian leadership) within the Iraqi federal framework.9 Nevertheless, the Plain has not been granted a truly autonomous standing.

Many Shabak insist they have a unique ethnic identity, which is neither Arab nor Kurd (albeit, primarily non-Kurdish).10 The group also speaks its own language, Shabaki.11 Most Shabak are also religiously (Twelver) Shia.12

Within the Nineveh Plain, the Shabak primarily live in villages to the east of the city of Mosul, in the Hamdaniya area, and a few thousand also lived in the city of Mosul (before the invasion). Due to ISIS advances, many Shabak hamlets have been overrun.

The Democratic Assembly of Shabak & Issues With the Kurds

While QSN was ostensibly created as a Shabak arm to fight back ISIS threats and offensives targeting the Shabak, there are other underlying trends present with the creation of the militia associated with Shabak-Kurdish relations.

Kurdish groups have shown interest in further incorporating areas of Shabak habitation into Kurdistan.13 As early as 2008, minority groups including the Shabak claimed there was an effort to “Kurdify” areas they inhabited.14

Along with the promotion of a separate non-Kurdish identity, the DAS’s leader and parliamentarian Hanin Qaddo has specifically called out Kurdish parties for claimed abuses against the Shabak. In 2008 Qaddo opposed the incorporation of Shabak inhabited areas into Iraqi Kurdistan.15 Two years later, Qaddo denounced the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) for “intimidating” Shabak voters.16 In 2012 the Shabak leader demanded the expulsion of Kurdish and Christian armed forces from the Nineveh Plain.17

With this in mind, QSN’s establishment also recalls the 2012 decision by then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow for the creation of a 500-man Shabak militia force referred to as, “The Shabak Regiment of Doom.”18

For their part, many Kurdish political leaders have not been supportive of independent Shabak efforts to create their own militias. Nevertheless, some of those Kurdish apprehensions were downgraded following the ISIS advance. Thus, QSN has not been the only Shabak armed group to come into existence. However, its other counterpart is under the control of Kurdish military commanders.19 Whereas QSN is organized along lines set by Baghdad-supported Shia militias and Iran’s proxy groups and does not appear to be taking order from Kurdish commanders.

Tensions between QSN’s DAS parent party and Kurdish parties may explain for QSN’s retention of its independence. The DAS, the largest Shabak Party, is also part of the ruling Iraqi State of Law Coalition. This is the same coalition which included former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the current Iraqi Prime Minister, the Badr Organization and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, among other Iranian proxy groups. Nevertheless, Qaddo has “wavered between the Hakim and Maliki factions,” and then ran on the Badr Organization’s electoral list.20

The increase in Iranian proxy cooperation via training, equipping, and other support also speaks to other issues related to Iran’s and their proxies’ policies in Iraq. The policies in question are particularly focused on Kurdistan. From the summer of 2014 until the present, there has been increased tension between Iran’s Iraqi Shia proxies and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.21 Additionally, Iran’s proxies have also threatened Kurdish leaders such as Masoud Barzani.22

A push for support for a group which has already had problems with Kurdish leadership seems to be another avenue for Tehran to exert pressure on the Kurds. Nevertheless, QSN’s main goals and activities have and will likely remain oriented against the existential threat that is ISIS.

Liwa Sahl Ninewa5

Figure 5: Around 100 QSN are shown in this photo.

Liwa Sahl Ninewa6

Figure 6: QSN Martyrs are shown on a poster featuring the dome of Syria’s Sayyida Zaynab. It is possible the dome was included by graphics designers to demonstrate that the fight in Syria and Iraq, marketed as “protection for shrines”, are one in the same.

Liwa Sahl Ninewa7

Figure 7: The martyrdom poster for Kazem Husayn al-Asharaf (Abu Sajad).

Videos

Notes: 

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2 It is important to note that an Assyrian Christian militia by the same name has also been announced.

3 See: http://www.alshabak.net/ArticlePrint.aspx?ID=479. Often, Iran’s proxies adhere to the religious-ideological concept of absolute Wilayat al-Faqih and religious and political loyalty is given to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

5 This was the case with Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas. The group was often referred to as “Kata’ib Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas” or “Kata’ib Abu Fadl al-Abbas.”

6 An example of this includes the photo of the AK-102: http://www.avtomats-in-action.com/media3/AK102right3.jpg.

12 Many Sunni Shabak often consider themselves Kurdish.

22 Ibid.

Hizballah Cavalcade: The Shia Militant Response to Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr’s Death Sentence

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

 

The Shia Militant Response to Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr’s Death Sentence

By Phillip Smyth

Nimr al-Nimr

Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, an outspoken radical Saudi Arabian Shia cleric, has been the center of controversy and brewing conflict between Shia protesters, militant Shia groups of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and their respective Sunni governments. According to a 2012 article by Toby Matthiesen, al-Nimr was, “long a peripheral figure in the local Shia power struggle but now seems to have become the most popular Saudi Shia cleric among local youth.”1 His cause and image is spreading across the Middle East as the latest example of Sunni oppression of Shia in the region and his recent death sentence has become a potent rallying cry for regional Shia militant organizations, particularly those with links to Iran.

Arrested in 2012, Nimr was accused by the Saudi government’s Special Criminal Court of making sectarian statements to cause strife, inviting foreign intervention (shorthand for Iranian influence), and disobeying the king. Following his 2012 arrest, thousands took to the streets and Saudi police shot and killed two protesters.2 In mid-October 2014, Nimr was sentenced to be “crucified”, a process where the sheikh will be beheaded and his body displayed.3

Protests in Saudi began in early 2011 and in part addressed anti-Shia discrimination suffered by the group in the Shia majority area in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province; primarily zones around the Shia-majority towns and villages near the city of Qatif.4 Following the 2011 Saudi intervention in Bahrain, protests against the Saudi government increased in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among Shia protesters.5 Following the 2011-2012 protests, links between Bahrain’s and Saudi Arabia’s protest movement spilled over into the more militant circles which actively promoted Nimr’s defiant stance and a hope to combine their fronts against common foes.

Of further interest are Nimr’s own ideological leanings and how they may relate to Shia militant responses. In Frederic Wehrey’s Sectarian Politics in the Gulf, the sheikh is described as a follower of the late Ayatollah Muhammad al-Shirazi.6 Shirazi was one of the founders of a radical Shia political school of thought referred to as the “Shiraziyya.” Shiraziyya clerics have been some of the most influential in the Arab Shia world. Initially al-Shirazi agreed with the Islamic revolutionary ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini, only to split from Khomeini over issues regarding how the new Islamic state (in Iran post 1979 revolution) should be led.7 In one BBC Arabic report, Nimr had been accused by Riyadh of attempting to spread Wilayat al-Faqih.8 Absolute Wilayat al-Faqih is the Khomeinist concept that serves as the basis for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nevertheless, it was not clarified whether this was the type of Wilayat al-Faqih Nimr was accused of propagating.

Despite the history of strife between Shirazi’s school of thought and that of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, al-Nimr appeared to increase public support for Tehran and send other more mixed messages. In 2008, he had also reportedly stated he supported Iran’s nuclear program by saying any attack against it should be met by a response from the Islamic world. That same year, he also said that Saudi Shia may need to call on foreign support (implying Iran) to help press their issues in Saudi Arabia.9 Later in 2009, Nimr reportedly called for secession, stating during a sermon, “Our dignity is more precious than the unity of this land.”10 His statement came as a response to discrimination against Shia in the kingdom and reflected possible repercussions if certain demands made by Shia protesters were not addressed.

Since 2013, in a piecemeal fashion, social media accounts associated with Iranian proxy groups in Iraq have promoted the images and other supportive statements for Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr.11 While this does not necessitate that Nimr is a true ally or proxy of Tehran, his message and influence is likely seen by Iran as a cause to be promoted in that country’s wider struggle for the leadership of Shia Islam and as a counter to Saudi Arabia.

Nimr’s deep links and strong voice within the Saudi Shia community, particularly among youthful radicals and other more non-violent protestors, has led to Shia militant groups championing his cause from Bahrain and Iraq. Even in Yemen, Shia supporters of Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthis, even launched demonstrations for the jailed cleric.12 Some Bahraini militant groups, which view the struggle of their coreligionists in a geographically close region of Saudi Arabia, as part and parcel to their conflict with the Khalifa monarchy and their Saudi government supporters. Additionally, powerful Iranian proxy groups based in Iraq—which have also maintained anti-Saudi and anti-Bahraini government narratives—have taken to issuing stern threats against Riyadh for his sentence.

The Violent Replies From Saudi Arabia’s and Bahrain’s Militants

Bahraini militant groups demonstrated the most concerted effort in terms of orchestrating violent retorts to Nimr’s jailing and sentence. While other threats and attacks were conducted since the start of 2014, this piece will focus on more recent threats and attacks beginning in the summer of 2014.

Bahrain’s Saraya al-Mukhtar (SaM), a group which once said the Saudi Shia of the Qatif and the Shia of Bahrain constituted one people with common foes, launched the most attacks over the longest period specifically addressing Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr’s arrest, trial, and death sentence.

Starting in August, SaM attacked an electricity tower in Ar-Rifā near a Bahraini military base. The group filmed the attack and stated it had been a warning related to the imprisonment and trial of Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr. Around the same time, SaM also began an online countdown for the Nimr verdict and increased their threats against Saudi Arabia. The group also ratcheted up it’s pro-Nimr messaging with the release of numerous images.

This messaging coincided with Saraya al-Mukhtar making its first direct threat against U.S. military personnel in Bahrain on August 11. Through an image posted to Facebook, SaM stated that, “The American cover on al-Saud and Al_Khalifa crimes,,Marines in bahrain will pay the price. [sic]” The message essentially claimed that the U.S. was the real backer for the Khalifa and Saud monarchies. As a result, they bore equal responsibility and could be targeted.

Nimr al-Nimr2

Figure 1: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s anti-American message posted on August 11, 2014.

Nimr al-Nimr3

Figure 2: A Saraya al-Mukhtar photo for Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr posted on August 8, 2014. The poster reads: “Sheikh Nimr[‘s trial and poor treatment] will make us put all options on the table.”

Nimr al-Nimr4

 

Figure 3: A Saraya al-Mukhtar photo posted on August 10, 2014. This poster reads: [in the red box] “A warning from Saraya al-Mukhtar to the mafia of the Sauds [in white text] Harming Sheikh Nimr will make us put all options [on the table]. Harming the Faqih Nimr means every single Saudi national will enter our country in a coffin.”

Nimr al-Nimr5

 

Figure 4: A Saraya al-Mukhtar photo for Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr posted on August 11, 2014. The poster reads: “Do not hesitate, Do not underestimate, No red lines.. after [the] discrimination [against] the Faqih al-Nimr.”

On September 16, SaM announced it had planted 6 explosive devices in retaliation for al-Nimr’s incarceration. Albeit, these bombs did not target U.S. interests and there was little confirmation as to whether any devices were actually planted.

Nimr al-Nimr6

Figure 5: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s September 16 claim to have planted 6 bombs.

Nimr al-Nimr7

Figure 6: Saraya al-Mukhtar’s claim of 2 attacks on October 18, 2014.

Then on October 9, SaM claimed to conduct an attack in the town of Karana, Bahrain utilizing an improvised firearm. SaM’s claim of responsibility stated they attacked, “herds of mercenaries” (shorthand for Bahraini police and other security entities). On October 15, SaM claimed to have launched attacks in Sanabis and Aker, Bahrain targeting “mercenaries”. In another statement from that day, the group threatened, “The occupying mafia of al-Saud and al-Khalifa [would face]…consequences for the death sentence.” Later, on October 18, SaM claimed two attacks, referring to them as “Revenge of the Faqih [an expert in Islamic jurisprudence] Nimr.” SaM’s statement declared that it had injured “ranks of the enemy occupier.”

Nimr al-Nimr8

Figure 7: SMS’s claim of attack in honor of Sheikh Nimr.

Bahraini militant group, Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya (SMS), also claimed an attack against targets in honor of al-Nimr. On October 16 (albeit, the official statement says October 17), SMS referred to an attack as the, “Nimr 1 Operations .” During the “Nimr 1” attacks, SMS stated they had targeted communications towers and an ATM.

In Saudi Arabia, resistance to the verdict and Nimr’s imprisonment took on an approach of sporadic attacks against police checkpoints. While claims of responsibility for the attacks were rarely issued, they were often launched after demonstrators protesting Nimr’s imprisonment were subject to Saudi crackdowns (some violent). In fact, one late September attack occurred in Nimr’s hometown of al-Awamiyah.13

It would appear that attacks in Bahrain and possibly in Saudi Arabia’s Shia populated areas will increase. While often small scale and non-deadly in nature, there is the potential any upsurge in attacks could cause further unrest. Bahraini militants have already committed to “responding” to Nimr’s imprisonment and sentence.

Iraqi Shia Militias Issue Threats

Nimr al-Nimr9

Figure 8: A photo circulated on some Iraqi Shia militia accounts. The picture combines the photos of Ayatollah al-Nimr (left), the logo for Kata’ib Hizballah (center), and Saudi rulers, including King Abdullah (bottom right).

Two of Iran’s many active Shia militia proxies in Iraq, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and Kata’ib Hizballah, released anti-Saudi threats in response to Nimr’s sentence on October 15, 2014 and October 17, 2014, respectively. Kata’ib Hizballah, a U.S. State Department foreign terrorist organization, has had a long history of issuing threats against Sunni Gulf states and even launched a series of attacks against occupying U.S. forces in Iraq to show solidarity with Bahraini protesters. KSS’s social media had also praised Saraya al-Mukhtar’s attacks in Bahrain.14 One of Iran’s other main Iraqi Shia proxies, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, utilized their political branch, the Sadiqoun Bloc (Kutla al-Sadiqoun) to express their own threats against Riyadh. MP Hasan Salem of the Sadiqoun Bloc said there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia after the verdict.15

Intriguingly, SaM’s claims that America bore responsibility for the actions of the Saudi and Bahraini governments were also echoed in Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada’s released statement. KSS claimed that it was the U.S. which was behind terrorist attacks in Iraq and that along with Sheikh Nimr’s sentence, was the culmination of a wider conspiracy to pressure the Shia.

Another less well-known organization, Kata’ib Hizballah-Al-Mujahidoun, (not to be confused with Kata’ib Hizballah), offered other direct threats. Iraq’s Al-Masalah News claimed that Kata’ib Hizballah-Al-Mujahidoun was holding three Saudi hostages which the group threatened to execute if the Saudis executed al-Nimr.16 The Secretary General of Kata’ib Hizballah-Al-Mujahidoun, Sheikh Abbas al-Muhamidawi, also threatened his group would kill any Saudi the group detains or captures and also promised that “the Kata’ib Hizballah in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen will have a response which they will not expect.”17 It is important to remember that al-Muhamidawi has offered other incendiary comments in the past. In December 2012, he announced that Kurds should be removed from southern Iraq.18 In July 2014, Muhamidawi also threatened Saudi Arabia with rocket attacks and that the Iraqi government should close the U.S. and Turkish embassies in Iraq.19

With threats coming from main and lesser known Shia jihadist elements, there is the potential for increased violence against Saudi and/or Bahraini interests in Iraq.

Translation of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada’s October 15, 2014 Statement20:

Nimr al-Nimr10

 

Figure 9: The original KSS statement about the group’s reaction to the execution ruling for Ayatollah al-Nimr.

At a time [when] the forces of evil are pouring [down] on our country, [and] in the time of international conspiracies which are being led by the world’s imperialist powers, primarily al-Shaytan al-Akbar (The Great Satan) America, which want to destroy the land of holy shrines, at this time comes the verdict against Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in one of the Saudi courts. This verdict comes in line with the thinking of this sectarian kingdom called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Resistance of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada condemns this unfair verdict, which proves how deep the sectarian crisis [is and] that the al-Saud regime is filled with hatred against Ahlul al-Bayt (People of the House of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad). Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada calls on the Iraqi government to take responsibility and sever all ties with the Wahhabist Kingdom of Evil [Saudi Arabia].

Also on this occasion, if these [Saudi] authorities do not reconsider this appalling execution verdict, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada announces that they will be targeting every single Saudi establishment (infrastructure and human), and they will not spare any effort in burning and destroying everything that is related to this oppressive tyranny. Also Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada will also mention that the people of Ahlul al-Bayt are in a state of being besieged and are under pressure. The last of this pressure were the attacks of terrorists and the role of the Shaytan al-Akbar in it. Additionally, the media fear mongering about the size of ISIS gangs and the [media] attempts to make it look as if the dear capital Baghdad is about to fall [added to this pressure].

Translation of Kata’ib Hizballah’s October 17, 2014 Statement21:

Nimr al-Nimr11

 

Figure 10: Kata’ib Hizballah’s original statement following Ayatollah al-Nimr’s sentence of execution.

[This is] another time the rulers of al-Saud are expressing their lack of care for all of the legitimate and humanitarian values by issuing an unfair verdict to execute the Mujahid Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. [This verdict] aims to silence the mouths and terrorize the ones who exposed their unfair practices as well as the ones who demand basic rights for the people of Nejd and al-Hijaz.

At [this] time we denounce the silence of Western governments that pretend to be defending human rights and guarantee the freedom of expression, yet do not exercise pressure on any of its agents “the oil sheikhs” to have them stop the annihilation campaigns against persecuted people. We also warn the governing family in Nejd and Hijaz that harming Sheikh Nimr will mean the launch of revenge and punishment operations [by Kata’ib Hizballah] and these operations will target members of the ruling family. They will get their punishment when they least expect it and their palaces and fortified walls will not protect them. Let them ask their masters [the West] and slaves [regional proxies] about how truthful we are as we are the sons of Ali and Husayn and that is pride enough.

NOTES:
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1 See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/23/saudi-arabia-shia-protesters.

2 See: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/11/saudi-funeral-al-felfel-idINDEE86A06020120711.

3 See: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29627766 and http://www.voanews.com/content/death-sentence-for-saudi-cleric-sparks-protests/2487771.html.

4 See: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/23/175051345/in-saudi-arabia-shiite-muslims-challenge-ban-on-protests.

5 See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-16/saudi-arabia-demonstrators-hold-rallies-in-al-qatif-awwamiya.html.

6 Frederic M. Wehrey, Sectarian Politics in the Gulf From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), P. 118.

7 Khomeini supported a concept of rule that created the position of an absolutist Supreme Leader whereas Shirazi supported a council of clerics to rule. See: Toby Jones, “Saudi Arabia,” in Assaf Moghadam (ed.), Militancy and Political Violence in Shiism: Trends and Patterns, (New York: Routledge, 2012), Pp. 139-144.

8See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/interactivity/2014/10/141016_comments_saudi_nimer.

9 Frederic M. Wehrey, Sectarian Politics in the Gulf From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013) P. 118.

10 See: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/1/saudi-government-cracks-down-on-shiite-dissiden-1/.

11 Personal observations. This is particularly the case on accounts linked to Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Kata’ib Hizballah. Though, accounts promoting Lebanese Hizballah have rarely featured Nimr’s image.

12 See: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/10/18/uk-yemen-crisis-saudi-idUKKCN0I706H20141018.

13 See: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-arabia-1295961083.

14 See: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1486659381565338&id=1425347187696558.

15 See: http://alghadpress.com/ar/news/21989/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%82%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%AD%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%AE.

16 See: http://almasalah.com/ar/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=39853.

17 See: http://www.alsumaria.tv/news/113521/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D8%A5%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7/ar.

18 See: http://www.dw.de/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%87%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%B6%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9/a-15875782.

19 See: http://www.alnahar-news.com/index.php?news=3530.

20 Note: Translation has been slightly cleaned-up so it can be more easily read by English speakers.

21 Note: Translation has been slightly cleaned-up so it can be more easily read by English speakers.

Hizballah Cavalcade: Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya: One of Many New Khomeinist Militias in Iraq

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya: One of Many New Khomeinist Militias in Iraq

By Phillip Smyth

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya

Figure 1: AAA’s logo. The symbol features the fist-gripping-a-Kalashnikov symbol, which is nearly ubiquitous among Iranian proxy groups.

On August 10, 2014, Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya (The Loyal Partisans of God or AAA), a Shia jihadi militia, announced its existence via Facebook and cast itself as a militia whose purpose is to assist in fighting Sunni Jihadi groups such as the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) and the “Ba’athists” (likely a reference to the Naqshbandi Army or JRTN). Two weeks following its declarations of existence, the group had already reported its first losses.

The group has cast itself as supportive of the Iranian Supreme Leader and attempts to appeal to Iraq’s large Sadrist Movement (Al-Tayyar al-Sadri) by incorporating images of the late Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq Sadr.

Proxy Overlap

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya2

Figure 2: A “martyrdom” poster released for a Liwa al-Hamad militant killed in Syria. The poster was circulated by and featured the logo of KSAI’s media wing.

While new and relatively unheard of, AAA did not emerge from a void. As with other Iranian proxies, the group has listed itself as one of the many groups belonging to “al-Muqawama al-Islamiyyah fi al-Iraq” (“The Islamic Resistance in Iraq”). Yet, its “Muqawama” credentials are simply one piece to a larger interconnected Iranian proxy network.

Shaykh Haydar al-Gharawi, Secretary General of Kayan al-Sadiq w al-‘Atta fi al-Iraq (KSAI or The Group of Honesty and Caring in Iraq) announced AAA as a militia associated with his small Maysan Province based party. LSAI has been politically active since 2012 and has had members serve on Maysan’s provincial council. In June, one LSAI leader on Maysan’s provincial council declared the province would allocate billions of Iraqi dinars to assist with training for volunteer fighters.1

KSAI has also promoted its association with Akram Kaabi, the Secretary General of Liwa al-Hamad’s parent group, Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba. Since HHN has sub-militia groups, such as Liwa Ammar Ibn Yasir and Liwa al-Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba, it appears that KSAI has the most extensive links with HHN’s Liwa al-Hamad. These associations were exposed via Facebook posts earlier in 2014 via the posting of “martyrdom” notices from the group about a member killed fighting as part of Liwa al-Hamad. Additionally, the same style of graphics used for Liwa al-Hamad’s online posts are replicated. Further demonstrating the deep links between Liwa al-Hamad and AAA, Liwa al-Hamad’s official Facebook pages have even adopted the logo of AAA.

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya3

Figure 3: A “martyrdom” poster for a HHN member. The image is the same model used by AAA.

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Figure 4: A “martyrdom” poster for Liwa al-Hamad. This model is the same as AAA’s “martyrdom” imagery.

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Figure 5: Liwa al-Hamad’s official Facebook page has also adopted the AAA logo.

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya has also claimed it is affiliated with Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya, (The Movement for the Loyal Partisans of God). It is unknown whether the group is attempting to market itself as a separate or unified movement with LSAI, or simply using the term “Harakat” (“Movement”) to appear larger and/or more developed. Nevertheless, the creation of multiple interlinked groups utilizing commanders who were members of other established organizations is a common strategy within the realm of Iran proxy militias.2

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya Joins the Battle

AAA has not yet announced the areas of Iraq in which their armed forces are operating. However, other details have emerged. Shaykh Haydar al-Gharawi, the Secretary General of KSAI has now been simultaneously described as AAA’s Secretary General. From released images, the group appears to follow the same types of tactics utilized by other groups when they have gone about asserting their presence in the arena of Iraqi Shia militias. The group has pressed civilian vehicles into service and declared the deaths of two members, including a commander, Muhammad Abdul Amir Ibrahim al-Assadi.

It is likely AAA is organized along the lines of other Iranian proxies, with the militia borrowing fighters from other established organizations in order to appear more powerful and established. Nevertheless, since the group already has a strong regional influence, it is possible it can count on the regional populace it represents to assist with the recruitment of new fighters.

Ansar Allah al-Awfiyya6

Figure 6: “Martyrdom” poster for an AAA member announced killed on August 31, 2014.

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Figure 7: AAA commander Muhammad al-Assadi was declared killed while fighting in Iraq in a number of posts on August 24, 2014.

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Figure 8: AAA’s secretary general, is shown in uniform posing in front of a car featuring the group’s logo and a poster of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

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NOTES:

 

New article from Shaykh Abū Basīr al-Ṭarṭūsī: “The Sunnah of Iraq Between Two Swords: The Sword of the Ghulāt al-Rawāfiḍ and the Sword of the Ghulāt al-Khawārij”

Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Shaykh Abū Basīr al-Ṭarṭūsī — “The Sunnah of Iraq Between Two Swords- The Sword of the Ghulāt al-Rawāfiḍ and the Sword of the Ghulāt al-Khawārij”

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Source: http://abubaseer.bizland.com/

To inquire about a translation for this article for a fee email: azelin@jihadology.net

Hizballah Cavalcade: IRGC’s First Martyr vs. ISIS in Iraq?

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

IRGC’s First Martyr vs. ISIS in Iraq?

By Phillip Smyth

Is This Iran IRGC martyr5

Figure 1: Post claiming the IRGC member was killed fighting in Samarra.

According to Iranian media outlets Ali Reza Moshajari, a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was reportedly killed in an accident on June 14, 2014.1 In another article written by the IRGC-linked Tasnim News, Moshajari was killed in “Western Iran” while on “a mission.” In all of the articles he is described as a “martyr” or “hero martyr.” However, his death was not such an open and shut case. In fact, Moshajari’s death may be further evidence of direct IRGC presence in Iraq.

Is This Iran IRGC martyr2

Figure 2: Moshajari in his IRGC uniform.

Before official announcements were made by groups such as Kata’ib Hizballah or Lebanese Hizballah stating they were both involved in fighting in Syria, both organizations would give vague explanations for the funerals of their members. The former would claim members had died due to illness or for other non-combat related reasons. Lebanese Hizballah would often only state that their fallen fighter had been “killed doing his jihadist duty.” Nevertheless, on social media run by many of these elements, it would be stated that the fallen fighters had in fact been killed in Syria. This may be the same type of structured announcement.

In some ways, this mirrors the announcements for the fallen IRGC member who was not only listed as a martyr for battle on a mission of some sort, but had competing accounts for how and where he died.

On Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked (often these pages are run directly by the IRGC for internal and narrative purposes) social media networks–which run the gambit from Twitter and Facebook to Google Plus and YouTube—have cast Moshajari as an IRGC fighter who had been “martyred” in the IRGC deployment to Iraq.

It is possible that Moshajari was actually killed in an accident while deploying with IRGC units to sections of Iraq bordering Iran. CNN reported that 500 IRGC had been deployed to Diyala, an Iraqi province on the border with Iran.2 In Diyala Province, Kata’ib Hizballah and other Iraqi Shia Islamist groups backed by Iran have also reported being engaged in combat against units belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Is This Iran IRGC martyr4

Figure 3: An IRGC Facebook page claiming Moshajari was the first IRGC martyr in Iraq while defending the shrines.

However, other Facebook-based sites with links to Iran’s regional Shia Islamist proxies and the IRGC also claimed that he had been involved in the “defense of Samarra.” Samarra has been a city of heavily publicized deployments by Iran’s Shi’a Islamist proxies within Iraq, mainly due to the fact that the holy Askari Shrine is located in the city.

Is This Iran IRGC martyr

Figure 4: Killed IRGC member’s martyrdom poster. The poster was circulated primarily on Facebook and Twitter. It claims he was an “Iranian defender of Karbala.”

Is This Iran IRGC martyr3

Figure 5: A photo of Moshajari’s face prior to his funeral.

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NOTES:

Hizballah Cavalcade: Singing Hizballah’s Tune in Manama: Why Are Bahrain’s Militants Using the Music of Iran’s Proxies?

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Singing Hizballah’s Tune in Manama: Why Are Bahrain’s Militants Using the Music of Iran’s Proxies?

By Phillip Smyth

Singing Hizballahs Tune in Manama

Figure 1: A screenshot of a Hizballah musical band performing at the 2013 “Resistance and Liberation Festival”

Bahraini officials have repeatedly accused anti-government militants and protesters in the country of being supplied, trained, and supported by Iran and its numerous regional proxies. Still, the government of Bahrain has done little to bolster their claims of deep and intrinsic links between Bahraini militants and Tehran. Along with official Iranian denials, the issue of Iran-Bahraini militant links is still quite hazy. Nonetheless, this does not mean that within the material released by Bahraini militant organizations that there are not hints of some level of Iranian influence. One of the more intriguing pieces pointing to influence from Iranian-backed organizations comes from the utilization of specific types of music in the many propaganda videos released by Bahraini militants, their sympathizers, and amplifiers.

Numerous instances of Bahraini militants producing propaganda videos with different varieties of music created and utilized by Iranian-backed proxies could indicate a connection with Iran’s proxies. Nevertheless, this type of overlap should not be viewed as a “smoking gun” affirming Iranian involvement. However, it does assist in piecing together direct and indirect influences.

The pieces of music in question were originally developed and used by Iranian proxy organizations, particularly Lebanese Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Kata’ib Hizballah. In fact, some of the songs that have been promoted fit a long standing media strategy employed by the aforementioned groups and Iran when manufacturing narratives and perceptions for themselves and other armed groups.

The use of music as a transferable propaganda medium follows a very formulaic strategy used by Iran and its “Islamic Resistance” proxy organizations for many years. Often, songs produced for one group are repackaged for newer organizations in other geographic locations. The songs are then altered in a way to make them appeal to the populations and target audience where the new group is located.

Possible Reasons for Using Specific Songs

Why would Bahraini militant groups utilize Hizballah and its Iraqi clones’ music and with such frequency? Some possible answers include:

  • Direct Iranian influence or assistance provided to the developing militant groups.
  • Video editing/production was offered to Bahraini militants by Iran and/or its proxies as a means to influence and shape militant organizations and to encourage the adoption of a more bellicose strategy to the broader (and more peaceful) protester audience.
  • Bahraini militants sympathize with Iranian-proxy groups, their exploits, and with the general concept of “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya” (“The Islamic Resistance”). The hope to be as successful, feared, and/or respected as those organizations has led them to adopt the same varieties of music.
  • Thumbing their nose at the government: With the government of Bahrain accusing protesters and militants of being Iranian proxies, militant groups may use the material as a way to subtly frighten or encourage speculation among Bahraini government and other observers.
  • Narrative Goals: One song by Lebanese Hizballah’s Ali al-Attar called “Wa’ad al-Asra” or “The Prisoner’s Promise” was written to celebrate the release of prisoners Hizballah sought to free during the 2006 Hizballah-Israel War. While the song makes clear references to Lebanese Hizballah and themes related to the 2006 war, the same song was employed by some Bahraini protesters (as background music for their uploaded clips) when they protested the government’s detention of key protest-leaders.

Auto-Tuning the Revolution: Examples of the Musical Overlap

In March 2014, a music video which was claimed to have been produced by “Saraya al-Bahrainiyya al-Muqawama” or the Bahraini Resistance Brigades, (which is likely another name used by The February 14 Youth Coalition’s Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya [Popular Resistance Brigades]) was posted by the popular Revolution Bahrain’s YouTube Channel. The video featured a montage of edited clips, which purported to show Bahraini militants engaged in training. The music video also included a number of videos of bombings orchestrated by militant Bahraini organizations.

Yet, the music used was strikingly familiar in the circles of Iranian-backed Shi’a Islamist groups. In fact, Iranian-backed Iraqi group, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq had released the exact tune back in 2011 to commemorate attacks the group orchestrated against U.S. targets to demonstrate solidarity with Bahrain’s protesters. Later in 2011, when fellow Iranian proxy Kata’ib Hizballah released footage of attacks it had also launched in solidarity with Bahraini protesters, it too used the same song.

However, the song was neither originally Bahraini nor Iraqi, instead its origins were rooted father to the west, in Lebanon. The original song, “Risalat al-Thuwar” (“Message of the Rebels”), was performed by one of Lebanese Hizballah’s official bands, Firqat al-Fajr (The Dawn Band), following the 2006 Hizballah-Israel War. It first appeared on the band’s 2007 “Lahan al-Turab” or “Melody of the Soil” album. Still, the rendition dealing with Bahrain was not the only version of the song. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq had their own Iraq/Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq Sadr (as opposed to Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah) themed “Risalat Thuwar” produced in 2011.

“Risalat al-Thuwar” is not the only Hizballah song which has been adopted and rebranded by Bahraini militants and their amplifiers. Another song used by Bahraini militants also comes from Firqat al-Fajr. The song, “Ya Wa’ad Allah” (“O Promise of God”) can be found on the group’s 2008 album, “Sharit Wa’ad Allah” (“Take the Promise of God”). The song has been released in different formats, with more recent music video varieties showcasing the assassinated Hizballah terror-mastermind Imad Mughniyeh. The album also included an instrumental version of the song. Both versions have been prominent features on productions done by Hizballah’s Al-Manar TV network.

In Bahrain, “Ya Wa’ad Allah” was used as background for clips released to the popular (particularly with militant groups) Revolution Bahrain’s YouTube account. One of these videos included the firebombing of an armored car used by Bahraini government forces.

It is not just the polished music video-quality material finding its way into Bahraini militant propaganda productions. Bahraini militant group Saraya al-Mukhtar released a video of their April 2014 targeting of Bahraini police with an improvised explosive device. Another bomb attack in Bani Jamra also utilized the same background music.

The musical selection in the background matched with instrumentals used by Iraq’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. This music was first featured on the AAH-affiliated Al-Ahad TV in the late summer/fall of 2013 to commemorate Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq members killed fighting in Syria. Further pointing to some level of Iranian or Iranian proxy influence, is highly unlikely that this particular musical element could find its way into so many pieces of released footage. This may indicate some Bahraini militant footage being sent abroad (possibly to Iraq) where the footage is re-edited and put back together for a later introduction.

Another similar instrumental used by Bahraini militants with Saraya al-Mukhtar and Saraya al-Ashtar was also the same exact tune utilized in a number of Kata’ib Hizballah video releases (see: 00.17-00.40 on “Kata’ib Hizballah Anti-America Video”).

The use of the last two instrumentals create further questions. Why would these groups, which have resorted to using a variety of improvised weapons, and exist under increasing heavy security crackdowns, spend the time to find, edit, and utilize background instrumentals which already have obscure points of origin. Why pick these two exact instrumentals, which have only been found in the repertoire of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hizballah? Other Bahraini protest organizations have utilized a variety of different musical accompaniments. Thus, the use of these particular musical pieces seem out of place when compared to the rest of what has been released.

Whatever the reasons, closely assessing the propaganda published by these organizations may provide insight into rather opaque organizations. While assessing the musical selections may appear to be a tangential escapade, AAH, Kata’ib Hizballah, and Lebanese Hizballah have all demonstrated their strategy of using this material as another method to push the narrative of the “Islamic Resistance.”