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New magazine from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām: “al-Binā’ Magazine #1″

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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: al-Binā’ Magazine #1

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Source: https://twitter.com/wa3tasimu/status/450684410409791488

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

al-I’tiṣām Media presents a new video message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām: “Series of the Life From the Words of the ‘Ulamā’ on the Project of the Islamic State #7: Shaykh Abū Ḥamzah al-Muhājir”

NOTE: See the following links for earlier parts in this video series: #6#5#4#3#2, and #1.

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Source: https://twitter.com/wa3tasimu/status/447035935696633856

The Clairvoyant: The Return of Foreign Fighters in the Iraq Jihad

NOTE: ‘The Clairvoyant” will be a new sub-blog of Jihadology.net. It will be written by me the founder of this website for quick hit blog posts or interesting things I come across that might be too short, in the weeds, or random for more mainstream publication.

The Return of Foreign Fighters in the Iraq Jihad

By Aaron Y. Zelin

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Earlier today, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) official Twitter account for the Wilayah of Northern Baghdad released a series of photos of foreigners who had been killed fighting the ‘safawis’ (a derogatory term for Iran/Shi’a) and the ‘dajal’ (the false messiah in Islamic end times prophecies). While much attention has been given to foreign fighters in Syria due to the unprecedented mobilization over the past two years or so, once again, Iraq also seems to be attracting foreign fighters. While it is likely that it never truly stopped, following the sahwa and surge, there was a lot less enthusiasm for it since the Islamic State of Iraq (prior name to ISIS) appeared in decline. The American withdrawal along with the outbreak of the Syrian war and more recent prison breaks have helped revive ISIS to once again be a spoiler within the Iraqi context.

Although ISIS in the Iraqi arena has gained more of a local flavor from Iraqi recruits over the years, since its inception when it was originally called Jama’at al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad (and all of its later name iterations), foreigners have played an important role as previously documented by Evan Kohlmann as well as recovered from the US Military’s Sinjar Record cache in the organization. Prior to the release of this data on killed foreign members of ISIS fighting in Iraq, between April 2013-March 2014 I personally recorded 15 cases. It is possible that there is overlap. Here is the information from my set:

Tunisia 5
Libya 4
Egypt 3
Syria 1
Kuwait 1
Saudi Arabia 1

The information that ISIS released today was about 29 of its members killed between September 2013-March 2014 in northern Baghdad. Some of this data has unknown nationalities such as al-Shami, which could denote anyone in the Levant, or al-Muhajir, just meaning the emigrant, among other non-nation descriptive noms de guerre. Here’s the breakdown:

Tunisia 7
Morocco 6
Unknown 6
Egypt 4
Saudi Arabia 3
Denmark 1
Syria 1
Uzbekistan 1

It is likely this trend will continue and more information will be released in the coming months as ISIS expands its fight in Iraq once more. Whether they make the same mistakes as last decade in Iraq or more recently in Syria remains to be seen (though is likely), but for now, due to the infighting in Syria there has been a lot of discussion within jihadi social media that some foreigners have escaped the internecine fighting and decided (besides returning home or going to other fields of jihad like Egypt or Libya) to move their fight to the Iraq war zone.

al-Anṣār Media Foundation presents a new video message from Anṣār al-Islām: “Media Coverage of the Military Camp Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rashīd Ghāzī”

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Source: http://twitmail.com/email/1432732291/45/-%D9%85%D8%A4%D8%B3%D8%B3%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9—-%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%85—-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B5%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A—-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%BA%D8%B7%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%80–%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%AE_%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%AF_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%AF_%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A8%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87

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

al-I’tiṣām Media presents a new video message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām: “Series of the Life From the Words of the ‘Ulamā’ on the Project of the Islamic State #5: Abū Muṣ’ab al-Zarqāwī”

NOTE: See the following links for earlier parts in this video series: #4#3#2, and #1.

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Source: https://twitter.com/wa3tasimu/status/438426110502920193

New statement from Jabhat al-Murābiṭīn in Iraq: “Formation of Jabhat al-Murābiṭīn in Iraq”

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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Jabhat al-Murābiṭīn in Iraq — “Formation of Jabhat al-Murābiṭīn in Iraq”

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Source: http://www.hanein.info/vb/showthread.php?p=2467919

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

al-Furqān Media presents a new video message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām: “Epic Battles of Greater al-Anbār #2″

NOTE: Click here for the first part in this video series.

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Source: https://twitter.com/Alanbar_news/status/435882831009423360

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

Hizballah Cavalcade: Selling Sectarianism: Shia Islamist Groups & Maliki’s Anbar Offensive

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

Selling Sectarianism: Shia Islamist Groups & Maliki’s Anbar Offensive

By Phillip Smyth

As the Iraqi government offensive in Anbar continues to engage Sunni groups which are protesting the government (some have now taken up arms against the government) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), sectarian messaging by Shia Islamist groups which support the government and its offensive has also increased.

Coming after the operation against jihadi militants on December 23, 2013 and following protests by Sunni groups (including a number of tribes), on December 25 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced an offensive against ISIS and “armed groups” in Iraq’s Anbar province. The offensive has been controversial regionally and within Iraq, with some accusing Maliki of engaging in sectarian politics.[1] Analyst Charles Lister even called the coordinated offensive, “one move too far”.[2]

Sectarian language explaining the Iraqi government onslaught has been utilized by all sides. Even Nouri al-Maliki called the operations, “a fierce confrontation between the supporters of Hussain and the supporters of Yazid”.[3] Shia Islamist groups, including Iranian-backed and possibly those claiming to back Iraqi Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr, have taken the opportunity to issue statements, upload photos, and produce music in support for the Iraqi government’s operations.[4] For these groups, the offensive was viewed as a golden opportunity to demonstrate their importance to the Iraqi Shia community and to demonstrate they were assisting the fight against jihadi-type organizations.  These groups also played upon sectarian sentiments to promote the Iraqi government’s operations and suggest that the Iraqi Army is a pro-Shia sectarian entity. There were also claims that some Iraqi Shia Islamist forces which had fought in Syria, returned to fight ISIS and other Sunni groups in Iraq.

Statements of Support

On December 28, Ahmed al-Alwani, a Sunni parliamentarian and protest leader, was arrested by Iraqi security forces. The raid against him resulted in the death of Alwani’s brother and a number of guards from his security profile.[5] Alwani was well-known for vitriolic anti-Shi’ite statements.[6] His arrest by Iraqi security forces was immediately praised by some Shia Islamist groups, particularly Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which praised the raid (see photos below). The day also saw a near simultaneous release of statements by Iranian-backed Shia Islamist organizations which are also fielding armed units in Syria.

Liwa’a Zulfiqar, a Syria-based Shia Islamist armed group, also announced its support for the Iraqi Army in its operations against ISIS and announced they would stand by them against, “racist Zionist terrorism”. This represents a continuance of the narrative that armed Shia Islamist groups (primarily backed by Iran) consider al-Qa’ida and its allied organizations as merely agents of Israel. On the same day, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, released its second publicly available official communique. The statement stressed their support for the Iraqi Army’s fight in Anbar. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq also issued their own messages of support for the offensive against ISIS.

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Figure 1: An announcement of support for the Iraqi Army’s efforts in Anbar from the official Liwa’a al-Zulfiqar Facebook page.

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Figure 2: Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada’s release in support of the Iraqi government’s offensive into Anbar.

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Figure 3: Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s statement about their support for the Iraqi government and military against ISIS and armed groups in the country.

Main Messaging Themes:

  • National Institutions: Shia Islamist groups have claimed to fully support the Iraqi Army and present themselves as integral elements to the Iraqi military and police operations in Anbar. This theme coincides with other Iranian-backed organizations messaging, namely the narrative presented by Lebanese Hizballah and their claims of fully backing the Lebanese Armed Forces.[7]
  • One Army, One Sect: Photos and statements implying the Iraqi military and police are engaging in the fight against ISIS to defend Shi’ism. These themes are also combined with photos claiming to show members of the military and/or police showing support for certain Shia political leaders and clerics. This sort of rhetoric had gone on since the spring of 2013 during the initial announcements of foreign Shia fighter involvement in Syria. In one May 2013 photo, a soldier reportedly from the Iraqi Army is shown holding a Shia religious banner on top of what is claimed to be an Iraqi military armored vehicle (see below).
  • Two Fronts, One War: Tying the war in Syria to the fighting in Iraq involves extending the “Defense of the Sayyida Zaynab” (the defense of the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in southern Damascus is held as the reason for Shia Islamist fighters are in Syria) narrative which claims Shia Islamist armed groups are present in Syria to protect holy shrines/Shi’ism and stop jihadi-linked fighters. As a result, the engagements within Iraq which claim to also target ISIS and other organizations are grouped together as part of a unified effort to protect Shi’ism.

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Figure 4: A photo uploaded in mid-January with the caption, “We will not be defeated”. The photo reportedly shows an Iraqi Army soldier saluting a Shia religious poster.

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Figure 5: Photo claims to show an Iraqi soldier saluting a picture of martyred Shia leader, Imam Husayn. The photo was posted onto numerous social media pages catering to Shia Islamist fighters in Syria.

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Figure 6: This photo claims to show an Iraqi soldier holding an Imam Husayn flag in front of an armored vehicle. The photo was widely circulated on Shia Islamist social media pages.

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Figure 7: Photo purports to show an Iraqi soldier under a Shia banner following the, “Capture of Ramadi”. The photo was posted on Badr Organization and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq social media pages.

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Figure 8: This photo claimed to show an Iraqi soldier saluting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

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Figure 9: First uploaded to Shi’a Islamist social media in May 2013, this photo claims to show an Iraqi soldier atop an armored vehicle holding a Shi’a religious banner.

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Figure 10: An Iraqi armored personnel carrier (APC) flying flags for Shia Imam Husayn with a sign partially reading, “Welcoming visitors to Imam Husayn [mosque and shrine in Karbala, Iraq]”. While the context of the photo is probably more innocuous—It is likely this APC was simply part of a guard set up in Karbala and was used to welcome pilgrims—ISIS/Sunni Islamist activists and Shia Islamist groups circulated the photograph as proof of the Iraqi Army’s sectarian loyalties.

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Figure 11: Top photo: “This is how they kill us”. Bottom photo: “And this is how we treat them”. The top picture shows Iraqi soldiers executed by ISIS. The bottom references reports of Shia Muslims taking in Sunni Muslim refugees from Anbar.[8] The photo was not widely distributed, but could be found on pages and profiles catering to Iranian-backed Shia Islamist organizations (mainly Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq).

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Figure 12: This photo, spread on Sadrist and Sadr-splinter group social media, claims to show an Iraqi soldier reaching out to a Muqtada al-Sadr poster.

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Figure 13: Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali smiles (right) while Iraqi Sunni MP Ahmed al-Alwani is detained by Iraqi security forces (left).

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Figure 14: Qais al-Khazali is portrayed as walking on the captured Iraqi Sunni MP Alwani.

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Figure 15: “Thus, we support you”. An AAH poster shows AAH leaer Qais al-Khazali looking down on Iraqi army soldiers and an Iraqi helicopter.

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Figure 16: Selfie Taunts: On the right an ISIS supporter holds up a picture near the Imam Husayn Mosque/Shrine complex in Karbala. The sign reads, “Qadimoun” (“We are coming”). As a response to the pro-ISIS message, (on the left) “We are waiting for those coming, [we] the young men of sacred Karbala Soldiers of Husayn”.

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Figure 17: Right Left (top) An edited photo shows deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Husayn emerging from a dirty sewer. Left (bottom) Alwani is shown following his capture. The photo was spread on Sadrist and Iranian-backed Shia Islamist pages. The image promotes a theme of “how the mighty have fallen.”  

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Figure 18: Another photo released on social media claiming to show Iraqi APCs flying Shia religious flags. The photos were shared online by ISIS sympathizers and Shia Islamist groups. The latter used the photos as a subtle way to suggest the Iraqi Army had Shia Islamic sectarian loyalties.

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Figure 19: Shia Islamist and Sunni supporters of the protests and of ISIS circulated this photo on social media (including Twitter and Facebook). The photo purports to show an Iraqi Special Forces/SWAT member wearing epaulettes reading, “Labayk ya Husayn” (“At your service, O Husayn”), a Shia slogan used to show support for the Shi’ism’s first Imam.

One video uploaded claimed to show Iraqi units assembling before heading into Anbar and flying Shia religious flags. Due to the lower quality of the images in the video, the claim could not be confirmed. Accounts affiliated with Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq also uploaded a response to the offensive against ISIS. In their clip, a man sets up a system for a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which then spots what can assumed to be ISIS positions. The ISIS positions are then destroyed. The clip was entitled, “A message from Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq to Da’sh” (note: Da’sh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS).

Redeployments from Syria?

The charge that Iraqi Shia Islamist fighters who were initially placed in Syria, and that have returned to Iraq in order to fight ISIS and other Sunni groups, has been a reoccurring theme among fighters aligned with Shia Islamist groups, ISIS supporters, and those who back local Sunni groups. On social media a number of hints were left in posted images. One Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq profile claimed that an Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq had sent fighters (possibly those who had fought in Syria and rotated back to Iraq) to battle ISIS and other groups in Fallujah. Another image claimed fighters from the Rapid Reaction Force (a group of Iraqi Shia fighters who were some of the first trained units of Shia foreign fighters in Syria) were also redeployed to Anbar after operating around the Sayyida Zaynab mosque and shrine in Damascus.

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Figure 20: A January 8 post claiming AAH was deploying to Fallujah and wished for quick recovery (due to an injury) for one of AAH’s fighters.

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Figure 21: A January 28 post claiming the Rapid Reaction Forces which have been involved in fighting in Syria were returning to Iraq to fight ISIS in Anbar.

A Da’sh of Music

Musicians who could broadly be described as “Sadrist” and those who have supported Iranian-backed organizations have produced a number of songs with content calling out ISIS and demonstrating their support for the Iraqi government. These musicians have acted as additional amplifiers for the uploaded imagery, videos, and other material available online. Since their work is already known and exposed to those familiar with it, the circulation of the released material is at least guaranteed among a certain subset of Shia Islamists in Iraq and possibly those fighting in Syria.

Usama al-Salihi, a Sadrist performer, released a song called “Ya Da’sh” or “O Da’sh” in early January.

Ali Delfi, Ahmed Sa’adi, Ghassan al-Shami, Fadhl Hasan, and Malik al-Asadi teamed-up to create the “Operetta for [Our] Master and Precious One”, a song full of praise for Muqtada al-Sadr, which mocks ISIS. Fadhl Hasan, a poet/lyricist, claims to be a Sadrist and has published material supportive of Kata’ib Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud, and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada on his Facebook page. Al-Asadi is known for his religious songs. Delfi and Sa’adi (who have performed together) have a long history of making songs for Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and praise the group’s actions in Syria.  Their music video featured Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud attacks against Coalition vehicles during the Iraq War (2003), footage of the Iraqi Army, and praise for Muqtada al-Sadr.

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Figure 22: A post for Fadhl Hasan’s page with Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Muhammed Sadiq Sadr in the center. The logos for Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud (top left), Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (top right), Kata’ib Hizballah (bottom left), and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (bottom right) are in the background.

Issa al-Fareeji, a Sadrist singer who has performed songs praising Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud (The Promised Day Brigades, a Sadrist successor group to Jaysh al-Mahdi which received assistance from Iran), released one piece with relative Hussam al-Fareeji. Their song, “La Da’sh” or “No ISIS”, was released onto YouTube in late January 2014.

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Figure 23: Usama Salihi posing with a picture of Muqtada al-Sadr (center), Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr (left), Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Muhammed Sadiq al-Sadr (right).

Their song was one of a small wave of songs performed by artists who affiliate with Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud, Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iranian-backed organizations. Since January 25, 2014 around ten songs praising the Iraqi Army and criticizing ISIS have been released online. Some songs have music videos while others are simply audio releases. All of the artists have had links with Liwa’a al-Yum al-Mawud or other Iranian-backed organizations.

Another song produced by a Shia Islamist performer and gaining in popularity on social media was performed by Ahmed Zarkani. Zarkani’s song, “Minu Da’sh” (“He is not Da’sh”—Note: This is Iraqi slang) also laces into ISIS and praises the Iraqi Army.

Zarkani is best known for his overtly sectarian latmiyat-type performances which have included a portion of tatbir, or the period of mourning which includes ritualistic self-flagellation for Imam Husayn ibn Ali.[9] At times during this mourning ritual there is the ceremonial cutting of one’s head with a sword (zanjeer zani). The cutting of one’s head is used to represent suffering by the martyred Imam Husayn.[10] Latmiyat, or sad spoken word poems are meant to commemorate loss (during Ashura many latmiyat are about Imam Husayn). These themes have found its way into a number of Zarkani’s works and underline the Shia-oriented messaging. His releases have often included the rhythmic sounds self-flagellation (often from hands slapping the chest) and have been popularized (and also been used for more militant and political uses) in recent years as an intrinsic piece of Shia identity (Islamist and non-Islamist).  Zarkani’s material has also praised efforts by Shia Islamist fighters in Syria and is often found as background music for propaganda videos showcasing the “Defense of Sayyida Zaynab” in Damascus.

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Figure 24: Zarkani (right) having his head cut with a sword during the practice of zanjeer zani.


[3] See: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/malikis-war-on-al-qaeda-is-tainted-by-sectarian-politics. Yazid, the first Ummayad leader is despised by Shia and is viewed as a representation of deceitfulness and oppression. On the other hand, Husayn, who was martyred by Yazid’s forces during the 7th century Battle of Karbala, is considered by Shia to be the first Imam and is a symbol of justness and martyrdom.

[4] It’s important to note that Muqtada al-Sadr issued statements of support for Sunnis protesting the government in January 2013. See: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138838/eli-sugarman-and-omar-al-nidawi/back-in-black?page=1.

[7] In 2014 Lebanese Hizballah began promoting the so-called “Army, Resistance, People formula” in terms of dealing with the Lebanese state and the military. See: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jan-15/244096-berri-says-committed-to-army-resistance-people.ashx#axzz2rxbrVjdG. In October 2013, Lebanese Hizballah also publicized the handover of their checkpoints to the Lebanese military. See: http://www.voanews.com/content/hezbollah-hands-over-checkpoints-in-lebanon-to-avoid-strife/1762098.html During the June 2013 battles in Saida, Lebanon it was claimed by reporters and commentators that Lebanese Hizballah actually fought alongside the Lebanese Army against fighters aligned with radical Sunni Salafi Sheikh Assir. See: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/28/195327/lebanese-army-threatens-media.html#.UflE1I2TiSo and http://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/hezbollah-using-laf-to-further-its-own-ends.

[9] This ritual is often performed during Ashura which takes place during the holy month of Muharram. Still, the ritual has been morphed into a form of identity expression.

[10] See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54PomCU9Txw. It is important to note that from 0.52-1.12 there is a segment in the music video showing a person dressed (and sporting a similar beard) to appear as a Sunni Salafi. The music video then shows the performers acting out their killing of him. This performance attempts to show the Sunni Salafi interrupting an important Shia ritual, but he is then struck down by a strong Shia Islamic hand. See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJC0Ro44KX4. This is another version of one of al-Zarkani performing a latmiya-type piece with zanjeer zani.

al-Furqān Media presents a new video message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām: “Epic Battles of Greater al-Anbār #1″

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Source: http://www.hanein.info/vb/showthread.php?t=347916

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

Hizballah Cavalcade: Faylak Wa’ad al-Sadiq: The Repackaging of an Iraqi “Special Group” for Syria

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

Faylak Wa’ad al-Sadiq: The Repackaging of an Iraqi “Special Group” for Syria

By Phillip Smyth

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Figure 1: Faylak Wa’ad al-Sadiq’s logo. The top line reads: “The Islamic Resistance in Iraq” (“Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya fi al-Iraq”). The bottom says, “The Truthful Promise Corps” (“Faylaq al-Wa’ad al-Sadiq”). The logo features the map of Iraq in the center with a blackened figure holding an RPG-7.

Officially known as Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya fi al-Iraq-Faylaq al-Wa’ad al-Sadiq or The Islamic Resistance in Iraq-The Truthful Promise Corps (FWS), this organization has made some waves in Arabic-language media following the discovery of some of its images on social media networks.[1] Led by a Secretary General, FWS’s current leader is Iraqi Shia Sheikh Abu ‘Ammar al-Tamimi (A.K.A. Shiekh ‘Ammar). The organization also claims to be based in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. It is clear from assessing the trajectory of public statements and their social media presence that the FWS appears to be increasing its public presence in an effort to establish the belief there are further organized Shia Islamist force deployments in Syria.

The group’s name references Lebanese Hizballah’s Secretary General’s long-standing goal to kidnap Israeli soldiers. This “promise” came to fruition in July 2006, when fighters from Lebanese Hizballah attacked an Israeli military convoy and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed three. The attack spurred what would turn into the more than a month long 2006 Hizballah-Israel War.[2]

It is unclear whether it was created immediately following the 2006 Hizballah-Israel War or if it was established later in 2010-2011.

Reportedly, the FWS was first established to “fight the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the collaborators [associated with it]”.[3] In January 2012, FWS claimed it had no interest in running for elections or becoming part of the Iraqi government.[4] In August 2012, the FWS’s spokesperson Sheikh ‘Amr al-Lami, claimed the group changed paths and stated it would instead focus on civil projects. One year later, the organization claimed to have sent its first fighters (from a “military wing”) to Syria in order to, “defend shrines”.[5] “Shrine defense” has been the most prevalent narrative used by Iranian-backed Shia Islamist fighting groups which have deployed to Syria.

The group also made its first video and a group musical anthem public in January 2014. Though it appears to have been uploaded in February 2012. It is possible FWS uploaded the clip many months ago, then made it “private”, only to re-release it as part of a ramping-up of their public image. In the short clip, the FWS-subgroup which claims the attack is called Kata’ib Musa al-Khadhim-Sariyya ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir (The Musa al-Khadhim Brigade-‘Ammar Ibn Yasir Unit). Musa al-Khadhim references the seventh Imam in Twelver Shia Islam.[6] The targeted vehicle in the clip appears to be a U.S. armored HMMWV. [7] The naming of subdivisions after imams is a common form utilized by Iranian-backed Iraqi special groups.[8]

Little was known about the organization during the Iraq War (2003) and it had few announcements. The group also claimed to have its own webpage (since 2011). However, when the page is visited, it does not load.[9] Instead, with public appearances and statements by its leadership, it seems that since the summer of 2013, FWS has been dusted-off and repurposed for a new mission in Syria. September 2013 saw FWS start its initial postings on social media pages it had done little with since opening them in 2011.

This may indicate that the FWS was little more than a front-type group during the Iraq War (2003) which may now field rebranded fighters from other groups for the fight in Syria. In turn, this helps create perception of broader Iraqi Shia support for the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih and of this ideological grouping’s war in Syria. Comments on the page largely praised the leadership of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. This mirrors newly created front groups such as Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (or Harakat al-Nujaba), which fields fighters from Kata’ib Hizballah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), has a leader from AAH’s ranks, yet is cast as independent organization. Photos of fighters from Harakat al-Nujaba front militias in Syria and those from Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq have found a presence on FWS’s Facebook page and adjoining profiles.

In addition to the organization’s name and links to other Iraqi Shia “special groups”, another element further cementing its relationship with Iran and its proxy militant groups, was the group claiming adherence to the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih. Wilayat al-Faqih, or the Absolute Guardianship by a Jurisprudent is Iran’s form of radical theocratic governing system. In August of 2013, the reported leader of FWS visited Beirut and confirmed his loyalty to the political-religious ideology.[10] The lead jurisprudent, or Wali al-Faqih, who is followed by FWS is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The organization’s imagery also details their loyalty to Khamenei.

Little is known about FWS’s combat abilities, force size, or deployments. In photos released by the group, it has been shown they have what can be considered a normal small-arms accompaniment, ranging from PKM-type machineguns to Kalashnikov pattern rifles. One important detail about deployments in Syria was that the FWS has only claimed (so far) to have specifically fought in one area, Aleppo. This further helps tie the group to Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s Harakat al-Nujaba and their Liwa’a ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir (LAIY). LAIY was the first Iraqi Shia Islamist group to announce they were fighting in Aleppo. The announcement also coincided with the December 2013-January 2014 increase in announced Shia Islamist military activities in Rif Aleppo and the city.

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Figure 2: These photos, posted in mid-December, claimed to show an FWS fighter in Aleppo, Syria.

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Figure 3: The FWS flag flies on a BMP-1 armored personnel carrier. It is unknown whether this flag was placed on an Iranian, Iraqi, or Syrian BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle.

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Figure 4: “ma’rkat al-haq dhud al-batl al-wa’ad sadiq qadm” or the “Battle of truth against falsehood, the truthful promise is coming”.

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Figure 5: This photo claims these are Faylak Wa’ad al-Sadiq personnel. However, the photo has been posted by other Shi’a Islamist fighting groups. 

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Figure 6: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Muhammed Muhammed Sadiq Sadr look from the sky down at burned-out U.S. armored vehicles. An Iraqi flag graphic is flows from the lower-right corner.

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Figure 7: Another poster featuring Iranian Surpreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Muhammed Muhammed Sadiq Sadr.

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Figure 8: FWS fighters pose in front of a tank.

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Figure 9: Uniformed FWS members pose with the group’s flag while flanked by Iraqi flags. Note the FWS patches worn by these 6 members.

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Figure 10: The FWS flag.

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Figure 11: FWS fighters hold up the group’s flag.

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Figure 12: Another piece of FWS symbolism.


[4] Ibid.

[6] It’s interesting to note the potential connections between Harakat al-Nujaba’s Liwa’a ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir and the FWS. In this case, the FWS supposedly named one of their units after him too. It is likely this is not a coincidence. See paragraphs below this section.

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