Intro and Analysis
As part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS), American officials have been attempting outreach to people connected to the Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgency and based in Amman, Jordan, in the hope of convincing them to help form a wider Sunni pushback againt IS in Iraq. Undoubtedly one target of this attempted outreach is the General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries' [GMCIR] figures based in Jordan. Another group that the U.S. may be hoping will be amenable to outreach is the Islamic Army of Iraq, which, just after the U.S. withdrawal, demobilized and tried to work for a Sunni federal region within the system. Further, this summer, representatives from the Islamic Army of Iraq were participants in a pro-insurgency conference in Amman that also featured the GMCIR and the Ba'athist-Sufi outfit Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia [JRTN], whereas the Salafi nationalist and consistently rejectionist Jaysh al-Mujahideen (which has been at odds with the Islamic Army of Iraq) denied participation.
However, it should be noted that the Amman conference was set on the agenda of 'revolution'- reflecting in its closing statement's talking points strong influence from GMCIR/JRTN. It is also apparent that over the course of this year, the stance of the Islamic Army of Iraq has generally become more hardline, with the project of a Sunni region tending to be seen as only a step towards capturing Baghdad from Shi'a rule. Moreover, the group has already denounced the notion of forming a new 'Sahwa' to push back against IS, despite admission from Islamic Army of Iraq that there have been problems on the ground as regards relations with IS. It is in this broader context of a shift towards notions of 'revolution' [NB: "thawra sunniya" mentioned in this statement] in the broader Sunni Arab insurgency that the latest statement from the Islamic Army of Iraq needs to be viewed with its denial of contact with the Americans.
This ultimately illustrates the limitations as to what outside powers can achieve to push back against IS: just as the successes during the U.S. troop surge required large numbers of Sunni Arab insurgents to realize the notions of defeating the new government and taking Baghdad were not feasible and were only leading to hardship and ethnic cleansing for Sunni Arabs, so too there will have to be a change of mindset away from 'revolution' to an agenda within the system that the Shi'a political spectrum in particular needs to address. After all, the Islamic Army of Iraq does make clear it is not completely against the notion of negotiations, but I believe it must be in a framework where they don't harbour ideas of 'revolution'.
Though not mentioning anyone by name towards in point 2 of the statement, the Islamic Army of Iraq undoubtedly has the likes of Ali Hatem Suleiman in mind when it comes to talking about those claiming influence on the ground but not actually having anything to show for it. Ali Hatem is of course engaging in lobbying efforts with Washington, but nothing suggests he has tangible clout on the ground to help form a real wider Sunni pushback against IS.
Below is my translation of the Islamic Army of Iraq statement.
Praise to God, the lord of the Worlds, and prayers and peace on our Prophet Muhammad al-Amin and all his Family and Companions. As for what follows:
Some of the channels transmitted news claiming that meetings were held days ago in Amman between the Americans and the factions of the Iraqi Resistance. To comment on that, we say:
1. We strongly deny any participation by the group of the Islamic Army of Iraq in those claimed negotiations. In this context we issue a reminder that the group held negotiations in 2009 with the Americans within the general framework for the Iraqi Resistance- being the political council for the Iraqi Resistance- and we had announced it and did not hide it, as negotiations between adversaries and enemies is a permissable thing in which there is nothing disgraceful by law or custom. As for these negotiations about which there was an announcement days ago, we affirm that we prefer not to participate in them as we had not originally heard about them. We also affirm that we have not authorized anyone to speak or negotiate in the name of the group of the Islamic Army of Iraq in any meetings or negotiations and the day that we want to negotiate with any side, we will negotiate with them publicly and in our real name.
2. As for the reports that there were negotiations that were held, perhaps they were held with bogus factions especially as after the Sunni revolution and the situation of fusion that the factions of the resistance have undertaken with their tribes and the floating of their names within the Sunni situation, the Iraqi scene has witnessed the fact that many of those titles, names and personalities who have claimed operations have not been the ones who have borne witness to them or heard of them except through media in preference to actually participating in them. And in this context we affirm that the time has come for this situation to be done with and the thief of the night to be exposed in the clearness of day[...]
Official spokesman for the group of the Islamic Army of Iraq.