Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two ways of reading the recent Iraq-Resistance statements

On October 2, Hamas Iraq issued a statement attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and its leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi for their continued oppression and attacks against Hamas Iraq and other jihadi groups, detailing ISI atrocities against members of other groups, and refuting the ISI charges to the effect that Hamas Iraq is compromised by being involved in the Baghdad political process. But the nub and the essence of that Hamas Iraq had to say was the following:
Brothers, this is the first time we have spoken clearly about what has happened between us and AlQaeda, and of what we have put up with from them by way of oppression and attacks, as have our brothers in other factions. We had thought words would damage the jihad, but now that we have a clear picture of the their destructive role in Iraq, that is clear to everyone, we have spoken. There was an additional reason for holding back, and it was the fear that some would use this to split the ranks of the Muslims and build up their particular ideology, because this one is Salafi, and this one is Ikwahi, and this one is Sufi. By god, we say that this [concentration of differences] is the instrument that tears down the jihadi will. And [ISI leader] Baghdadi has tried to exploit this, making it seem as if the struggle is beween the Salafi movement and the Brotherhood.... But what we say is that [each of] the Islamic trends has split on the question of jihad in Iraq. Some of the salafis, like Abu Manar and others, were in the forefront of those who cooperated with the occupiers and proscribing jihad and oppressing the mujahideen, while on the other hand there were salafi mujahideen in their well-known groups like the Islamic Army and the Army of the Mujahideen...There were Sufis who never fired a shot against the occupation..., while on the other hand there have been Sufi mujahideen like Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi and the men of the Naqshabandi group. Similarly in the Muslim Brotherhood there were those like the Islamic Party who saw in the political process the solution to the problems of Iraq, while there were others in the Muslim Brotherhood who raised he banner of jihad at the very beginning, and they have been part of many factions with memorable effectiveness, first in the Brigades [of the 1920 Revolution] which acknowledged them from the very start, then in the Islamic Resistance Front (Jaami'), and now in Hamas Iraq....

The point is that the Islamic denominational classifications don't have anything to do with jihad. Whether you look at the salafi sects, or the Brotherhood groups, or the Sufis, no matter where you look in the spectrum of Islamic denominations, you will find some that are with jihad, and some that are not. That is his point. There isn't any criterion for accepting or denying someone's credentials as a mujahid other than his jihadi orientation itself. The picking of any other criterion is nothing but a way of splitting the ranks. This is the nub and the essence of what al-Baghdadi stands accused of, according to this Hamas Iraq statement. His and ISI's oppression of other, non-salafi, jihadi groups, is the natural and logical outcome of that sectarian and divisive starting point.

This wasn't really brought out in the Kohlman translation or in his related comments. Perhaps that's because it is what you could call a rational argument, expressing an attitude that, compared to the wartime with-us-or-against-us sectarianism of both their American and their ISI adversaries, you could call "liberal". Jihad, in this view, is something people engage in as a means to a political end, namely the freeing of the country from foreign occupation. Any Muslim can join, and many different types of Muslims have done so. Persecution of jihadis for extraneous reasons, like failure to swear allegeance to some individual, is the antithesis of jihad; it hurts the effort and helps the occupier. The Kohlman approach is to show that various groups are attacking the ISI, which is very true, but in pointing this up, he fails to point up what binds these other anti-ISI jihadi groups together. Instead, his theme is that the attacks on the ISI are symptomatic of a decline in what he calls the "insurgency" overall, something that isn't supported by any of his texts.

Following up on this general idea, if you look at a more recent, October 9, text by the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, also in self-defence against attacks by the ISI, you will see the next stage of this line of thinking, namely the questioning of just where these sectarian "al-Baghdadi" statements are coming from. The statement is in response to an ISI pronouncement of September 22, and among other things the Brigades statement notes that the recent statement is quite different from earlier ISI statements, both in terms of language and structure, and in terms of content.
It is noteworthy that this statement is written in a style that doesn't jibe with earlier statements of the ISI in general flow of ideas or in vocabulary, the most recent being the statement of Omar al-Baghdadi in mid-April of this year, and this is something that causes kind of a lack of confidence in the extent of the seriousness or the degree of representativity of the official word of the [Islamic] State, and this opens the door to skepticism about the circumstances of its publication and about the route it took to publication, and who published it, and why.
And later in the statement there is this remark, questioning the motives behind the ISI attack on the Brigades:
Perhaps it was the time for a settling of accounts, possibly of a personal nature, with a faction [namely the Brigades] that has priority and weight and influence in the jihadi arena. What is really surprising is what we hear about some of the organization (AQ) leadership being unhappy with the publication of this statement, and about their having been compelled to submit to pressure from certain sources, without having a grasp on the extent of the damage they are doing to themselves and to the jihadi project.
There is a lot more in this statement, but I think the main point is that the Brigades have gone a step further and publicly impugned the "al-Baghdadi" statements not only as to their general sectarian orientation, but more importantly as to "who published it and why." Given the prior reluctance of all the factions to get into open conflict with the ISI, in the interests of the overall effort, these recent statements do, as Kohlman says, represent an important development.

But Kohlman's approach, summarized in this recent MSNBC piece (where he is decribed as their "terrorism consultant") focuses almost exclusively on the issue of ISI brutality, and describes the jihadi groups making these allegations as "former alQaeda allies", setting out a picture, in other words, of violent groups of essentially a uniform type, in disarray, and concluding that this is a "huge opportunity the US should exploit". But what the groups are saying is that once you have a clear picture of how the ISI "leadership" behaves, you will see we are not the same at all. That is their whole point. And understanding that point helps in the understanding of the difference between what is essentially wartime propaganda and a dispassionate hearing for what people are actually saying.

It's the same attitude that got America into this quagmire in the first place.


Anonymous Alison said...

“Whether you look at the salafi sects, or the Brotherhood groups, or the Sufis, no matter where you look in the spectrum of Islamic denominations, you will find some that are with jihad, and some that are not.”

It is worth pointing out that this also applies to the Ba’athist spectrum.

The legitimate Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party (Iraq Branch)spearheaded and nurtured the Iraqi National Resistance under the guidance of Martyr President Saddam Hussein.

On the other hand, there are also renegade Ba’athists (i.e. those led by Mohammed Younis Al-Ahmed), neo-Ba’athists and ex-Ba’athists who are only too eager to cut a deal with the Americans and who have found a new patron in ex-Ba’athist CIA agent Ayad Allawi.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El panorama en Iraq se oscurece cada vez mas, aquí lo vaticinaban

5:32 AM  

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