Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hamas--Iraq: A new factor in the Iraqi resistance ?

Apparent efforts by some parts of the domestic Iraqi resistance to negotiate with the Americans, coupled with the efforts by the Qaeda-related Islamic State of Iraq to monopolize the resistance (among other reasons to block any such negotiations), have led to a number of interesting developments, one lasting one being the formation, or re-formation, of something called "Hamas--Iraq," following the split-up of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution.

There is a lot of background available here on the birth of Hamas--Iraq and its ideology, the most important point being that according to its manifesto, this looks like a group that could be inclined to follow the kind of combined military-political strategy for which the original Palestinian Hamas is known. In theory this might give the Americans a counterparty to negotiate with. Marc Lynch (see the link above) emphasizes that their willingness to negotiate depends on a convincing withdrawal-commitment from the Americans. But there are other issues too.

The Jordanian journalist Mohamed Abu Roman devoted a couple of recent articles to the meaning of Hamas Iraq, and his main point has been to locate the group within the Muslim Brotherhood trend, as opposed to the Salafist trend that has so far dominated the Iraqi resistance. The Muslim Brotherhood, originally Egyptian, now has sub-organizations in a large number of Muslim countries, the most famous being the Egyptian parent organization, and Hamas in Palestine. There are often dramatic differences in the views of these groups between countries, depending on the local political situation, and in fact that is one of the main features of the Ikhwan culture, namely the willingness to work within existing political systems, making alliances and so on, as opposed to Salafi fundamentalism.

Naturally, the formation of an Ikhwan-leaning group within the Iraqi resistance was anathema to the jihadis of the AlQaeda persuasion, and Abu Roman describes their reaction this way:
Within hours of the announcement of the formation of Hamas--Iraq, the public-relations fighting started, with the discussion boards where AlQaeda members are active started a broad campaign against Hamas--Iraq, linking its formation to a Saudi role and a role of other Arab [states], going so far as to call the new group "the Saudi Hizbullah", and they accused the Islamic Party and its leader, Tareq al-Hashimi, vice-president of Iraq, of being behind this. And they said this was tantamount to preparations for a withdrawal of the occupation from the Sunni areas, and handing them over to a force acceptable to the Arab [states] and to the Americans, on condition [this force] would confront the AlQaeda organization.

On the other side of things, the Association of Muslim Scholars welcomed this [via statements by among others] Mohamed Ayesh, considering this an important step as long as the group represents the Muslim masses, adding there was an urgent need for this... There was also clear interest in the birth of a new Hamas movement on the part of Muslim Brotherhood organizations in a number of other countries, and the name was connected with the [Palestinian Hamas] political and ideological program.

And while we can't exclude the idea of an Arab[-regime] "hand" or at the very least an "eye" being involved in the formation of Hamas Iraq, as the AlQaeda people charge, still, the more important point is that this group is closer to the Ikhwani ideas than to the Salafis, and that it represents the beginning of a clear and public military-political role for the Ikhwan on the Iraqi scene, where the resistance has been dominated by a salafi coloration...
So there you have round one: Emergence of an Ikhwan-type "pragmatic" resistance group, immediately denounced by AlQaeda types as a Saudi front, or an instrument by which the Americans would be able to continue their control of Sunni Iraq with Saudi or other Arab-regime help. Abu Roman concedes there could be some degree of involvement by the Arab regimes in the formation of Hamas--Iraq, but he says the more important point is this establishment of an Ikhwan-type organization in the first place, in clear contrast to the salafi fundamentalist approach that he says has characterized the resistance up to now.

But another one of Abu Roman's points was that the Association of Muslim Scholars (the group headed by Harith al-Dhari) welcomed the formation of Hamas--Iraq, another indication, he thinks, of the possibilities for the Iraq-ization of the Ikhwan approach. But immediately there was a protest by an AMS spokesman, who said (1) one of the AMS people Roman cited (Mohamed Ayesh) had left the group to join what is apparently a rival association of Iraqi clerics, and (2) in any event the AMS doesn't have any affinity for the Ikhwan. Abu Roman conceded the first point, but disputed the second, on the basis a lot of the AMS people have Ikhwan backgrounds. We are getting into deep water here, but the point is that the AMS, for its part, immediately distanced itself from the Hamas-Iraq formation, with its Ikhwan-leaning implications.

And there was a second disavowal too. Mohamed Mursi, described as a member of the MB Executive Bureau, issued a statement on the MB website, in which he "denied any links" between the MB and Hamas--Iraq or any other militant organizations in Iraq, adding only that resistance to foreign occupation is legitimate anywhere. Apparently not a very warm welcome from the theoretical allies.

But given the fragmentary and uncertain nature of outside knowledge of the resistance, probably what is important in all of this is that a well-connected observer like Abu Roman sees in the formation of Hamas--Iraq an important new element in the Iraqi resistance, presumably of an Ikhwan-type "pragmatic" inclination, for whatever that might mean, and whatever the support of lack of support they may garner from their theoretical allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.

(There are other issues too: Abu Roman says the original 1920 Brigades, of which Hamas--Iraq is a part, were only third or maybe fourth in importance among the resistance groups (first is Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and second is the Islamic Army, he says), so it isn't immediately apparent what the relative heft of Hamas--Iraq will be in the overall picture in any event. And secondly, the whole idea of "negotiation" depends on the willingness or otherwise of the Americans to commit to a meaningful withdrawal. Unless of course the chat-board jihadis are correct and this is merely a scheme to put an Arab face on the occupation.)


Blogger annie said...

jesus, how overwhelming

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Badger, I really do despair when I find that you are still swallowing such blatant misinformation, peddled by characters like this Jordanian, Abu Roman The fact that he apparently refers to Al-Qaeda as the most important Resistance group ought to have set alarm bells ringing straight away! It cannot be emphasised often enough that Al-Qaeda is not part of the Iraqi Resistance at all!! Rather, it is part of a covert US strategy to subvert, divide, discredit and destroy the Resistance from within, and drive both the genuine Resistance and the (Sunni) population into the arms of the occupation! The domestic Resistance is not “trying to negotiate with the Americans” – the latter are using all means at their disposal to put the former under pressure! (That is one of the points made by the prominent Ba’athist, Salah Al-Mukhtar in the article which you recently reviewed at my suggestion.)

If you had kept an eye on bona fide Resistance websites such as for the last four years, you would have a much clearer idea of the real shape of the Iraqi Resistance, most of whose core formations are Ba’athist in origin. In preparing the Resistance, Saddam Hussein was in contact with dissident Ba’athists such as Abdul Jabbar Al-Kubeisi of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance and representatives of the patriotic wing of the Iraqi Communist Party (Cadre). Genuine Iraqi Islamic groups such as the AMS are also part of this picture, which has been obscured by the smokescreen thrown up by all these pseudo-Jihadi intelligence operatives and mercenary Arab journalists.

8:05 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I venture to make a suggestion. There's no doubt that coverage here has been relatively weak on the Baath side of things. I would like to request some help. Why don't you list up periodically items from the sites you watch, and either do thumnail or longer comments, or else if you don't want to do that, just list them with links, and you could either post them somewhere on your own, or you could send them here as comments from time to time, if that would be easier.

Every chance I get I stress that what we know about the resistance is fragmentary and uncertain, and my whole philosophy has been just to point to reports and opinions that shed light on what different people think is going on, on the idea that the more you know, the more things fall into place. Periodic lists of the kind of articles you mention would be a help.

(On Abu Roman: His pieces on the "pragmatic" Hamas-Iraq got considerable attention here in the anglosphere , the background being the American need to find a negotiating partner, so I thought it was worthwhile to go through the whole thing to bring people up to speed on what the discussion is about. It's not a question of swallowing stuff, although I understand your frustration. It's true that some of the expressions either he or I used including parts of the resistance "trying to negotiate" and calling AlQaeda "resistance", should have been qualified or scrapped. But the main point, for me at least, is that better coverage of an under-represented area would be to the good.)

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Badger, I have built up my own knowledge of the Iraqi Resistance by following developments in Iraq very closely since early 2003. As I do not read Arabic, I have had to make do with Google’s (pretty unsatisfactory) automated translations of Resistance websites in addition to less well known sources in English, including rare interviews with key players. My point is that with discernment and perseverance it has been possible to develop a much clearer idea of the origins and the original infrastructure of the armed Resistance, co-ordinated on the military side by the General Command of the Mujahideen Armed Forces.

It is worth noting that the US media strategy of obscuring the predominantly Ba’athist-nationalist character of the organised Resistance only began in earnest after Saddam Hussein’s capture in December 2003 when Zarqawi was actively promoted as the new bogeyman. This coincided with the first concerted efforts by the US to infiltrate and subvert Resistance organisations.

What concerns me is that for someone who has set up a blog entitled Missing Links, you are rather too inclined to stick to the well worn paths trodden by the pundits of the anglosphere, reflecting their artificial talking points too uncritically through the prism of mercenary Arab journalists and pseudo-jihadis who are, in fact, part of the same conspiracy against the genuine Iraqi Resistance.

Given that I only have access to the internet at work and in my local Library, my ability to assist you is limited. I have already suggested that you keep an eye on the articles section of the website. Others to watch include,, and

If I spot articles of outstanding interest such as the recent one by Salah Al-Mukhtar, or further websites, I will endeavour to draw your attention to them. I will also see if I can dig out any references to older items of particular interest.

6:27 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Thank you, that would help. Keep my feet to the fire, as we say...

3:08 PM  
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