We have the raging, smiling [gleaming] swords,
When war comes with the melody of bullets,
And we sever off heads by the strike of the sword,
The clashing of the spearheads is the melody of men,
When the fire kindles, we are the conflagration,
Our swords are cutters among the enemy,
So my people, arise for the phase of swords,
Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (HHN: The Movement of the Party of God of the Outstanding) is one of the major new Shi'a political and militant organizations to have emerged in Iraq, first coming to the fore in 2013 with its deployments to Syria in the form of multiple front groups, such as the Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir. Like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata'ib Hezbollah and the Badr Organization, the group openly identifies with Iran ideologically, regularly featuring the portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in its media output. Note also the sample logo below echoing the Iranian imagery of the globe and extended rifle, reflecting Iran's global Islamist revolutionary ideology.
The Muqawama Suriya, as I have profiled previously, is a pro-Assad militia led by Turkish born Alawite Ali Kayali, who prior to the Syrian civil war had been focused on bringing the Sanjak of Alexandretta in Turkey under Syrian rule. Though the group is primarily based in Latakia, it also had considerable influence in Idlib province, including in Idlib city and Jisr al-Shughur, both of which recently fell to rapid rebel offensives spearheaded by jihadist forces, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Turkestan Islamic Party. In the latest statement below from the Muqawama Suriya Aleppo office, the defeat in Jisr al-Shughur is portrayed as a strategic retreat and regrouping on the periphery, with emphasis on the need for Syrians to support the long war effort. Below is a photo from Jisr al-Shughur last year when the Muqawama Suriya advocated for the "re-election" of Assad as president.
The recent losses in Idlib province put into serious doubt the Muqawama Suriya's effectiveness as a fighting force in holding and retaking territory from rebel onslaughts. This has also been in evidence in Latakia province, where last year it took the group along with the Syrian army and other forces months to regain Kassab on the border with Turkey. Despite much Muqawama Suriya trumpeting of operations in Latakia, little progress has been made to drive out rebels from the northeast of the province. The latest statement translated below is particularly noteworthy because it clearly implies growing war weariness among pro-Assad circles (e.g. conscription evasion) exacerbated by the recent losses in Idlib province, whereas the Muqawama Suriya, despite its status as an irregular force, portrays itself as staunchly loyalist to the supposed long war grand strategy. The stress too on the need for the war to become one of "the people" (sha'abiya) and spearheaded by the Syrian army as a professional force and other "national" forces is interesting for it implicitly acknowledges some of the increasing resentment in regime circles that the war effort is too dependent on foreign irregular forces, such as Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias like Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar (mainly Damascus based), Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (notable role in the fighting in Deraa) and Harakat al-Nujaba (playing a notable role in the fighting in Aleppo province), as well as Afghan and Pakistani Shia militias (the latter embodied in a formation called Liwa Zainebiyoun: see profile here). The denouncing of capitalism at the end of the statement is in keeping with the Muqawama Suriya Marxist-Leninist ideology, and the statement concludes with the familiar group slogan "Suriya lan tarka'" (Syria will never bow).
This latest statement from Jamaat Ansar al-Islam is intended to commemorate Abu Ahmad of Mosul, a leading figure in Jamaat Ansar al-Islam's Iraq branch who was reportedly killed by the group's traditional rivals the Islamic State, whose claim to a state/caliphate it has officially rejected. However, on account of ideological overlap in that Jamaat Ansar al-Islam is also aspiring to a caliphate and the overwhelming power of the Islamic State [IS] inside Iraq, the overwhelming majority of members- primarily based in Ninawa and Kirkuk provinces and smaller contingents mainly in Salah ad-Din and Anbar provinces- have given allegiance to IS (approximately 90%, as confirmed by Abu Bakr al-Iraqi and Abu Obeida al-Salafi, two of the remnants in Kirkuk and Baghdad who did not give allegiance).
This does not mean that there are no people in areas like Mosul who will claim affiliation with Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, but like those with Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia affiliation, they have absolutely no influence, having to keep their affiliation a secret in the shadow of IS authority and unable to instigate unrest to destabilize IS rule. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, as both Abu Bakr and Abu Obeida readily admit to me, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam has ceased to exist in Iraq, while its offspring Syria branch survives in the west of Syria.
This is the latest nasheed to be released by the Islamic State's Ajnad Media. Similar to its the nasheed 'The Land of Sinai', this represents an elevation of the importance of the fight in Yemen to the Islamic State's international expansion. One should compare with the statements the Islamic State distributed on the ground in Yemen (here and here) promising bloodthirsty attacks on Houthis prior to the bombings in Sanaa: though the U.S. may be mentioned briefly as a force of evil, the focus is overwhelmingly on the perceived Houthi threat and Iranian expansionism.
"Oh son of Yemen, arise and prepare your [suicide] belt.
The Islamic State [IS] has become well known for its elaborate murals and billboards in keeping with its state building project (e.g. see my posts here and here). However, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been increasingly building up its own proto-Islamic emirate project in northwestern Syria partly to rival IS, has also been putting up plenty of billboards and murals to advertise its presence. Reflecting that phenomenon are the photos below, most of which date from the last 4 months or so, by which time Jabhat al-Nusra had developed a substantial network of strongholds in Idlib province in particular after routing its main rivals the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm. Of course this does not mean that Jabhat al-Nusra billboards and murals did not exist previously, but the trend has become more noticeable.
One should compare with the evolution of the Jabhat al-Nusra judicial body front known as Dar al-Qaḍa, reflecting a more hardline approach from Jabhat al-Nusra as regards control of societal institutions and less willingness now to work with other rebel factions in administration. This has given rise to widespread rebel concerns about Jabhat al-Nusra's intentions, partly explaining recent rebel merger formations such as the Levant Front in Aleppo province and the absorption of Suqur al-Sham into Ahrar al-Sham.
Below is an archive I have compiled of over 50 Jabhat al-Nusra billboards and murals.
From Voice of al-Aqsa (Arabic):
"The Hamas movement condemned on Thursday the incident of the attack on tourists in the Bardo museum in Tunis that killed more than 20 people and wounded around 50 of the innocent, describing it as a 'criminal' deed.
The movement said in a summary statement: 'This criminal deed against civilians is a crime against human values, against glorious Tunisia in its people and leadership who have outlined a shining example of democratic operation, peaceful alternation of power and through Tunisia they have crossed towards the land of security.'"
What does this all mean? Foremost, it reflects how rivals of the Islamic State [IS] (notably al-Qa'ida affiliates and Hamas) are trying to position themselves as more 'moderate' than the savagery of IS in a bid to be a viable alternative to IS. Compare with al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula's condemnation of the massive IS-claimed suicide bombings in Sanaa that perhaps killed more than 100 Shi'a Houthis, on the grounds of following Ayman al-Zawahiri's guidelines for restraint to prevent shedding the blood of innocent Muslims. Now contrast with IS statements distributed on the ground in Yemen prior to the officially claimed Sanaa attacks, promising in bloodthirsty language attacks on Houthis. In the end, this kind of appeal to savagery and willingness to take action could be what draws jihadis away from al-Qa'ida to IS, particularly if such deeds strike terror into the enemy and destabilise its power base. The same applies for Hamas and the problem of defections within its ranks to Salafis, particularly of pro-IS orientation: Hamas is simply seen as too restrained in willing to fight Israel and other non-Islamic forces.
Old Saxon, also dubbed Old Low German in scholarship, is another ancient Germanic language for which I have affection, in part owing to its closeness to Old English/Anglo-Saxon, with which it is roughly contemporaneous in history. Indeed, from Old English spoken on the British Isles to Old Saxon spoken in mainland Europe in the area of what is now northern Germany, a linguistic continuum exists, marking off these languages from Old High German (OHG) with a set of sound changes in OHG leaving a clear mark of distinction in its modern descendant- standard German. Looking at the data below, one should compare with the English cognates, and it will be seen that like Old Saxon, English is similarly unaffected by these shifts in High German, thus placing English and Old Saxon on the same spectrum.
Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, Iraq's Insurgency and the Islamic State [IS]: Testimony of Abu Omar al-Falastini
Readers of my blog will be familiar by now with the story of the jihadist group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam. Originally based in Iraq and primarily operating in Ninawa and Kirkuk governorates, the group expanded into Syria in 2011 and spread across the north of the country. However, the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) meant that the group's branch in Syria lost contiguous connection with its original Iraqi parent branch, losing out to ISIS in both Raqqa and Hasakah provinces and thus mainly confined to Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the west of Syria.
Though the parent branch tried to ride the wave of ISIS-spearheaded insurgent gains against government forces in Iraq beginning with the fall of Mosul in June 2014, arrests and killings by ISIS as well as co-optation through defections to ISIS (subsequently IS after the Caliphate declaration on 29 June 2014) meant that most of Iraq's Jamaat Ansar al-Islam had given allegiance to IS by the end of August 2014, with a statement put out by those defectors in the name of the whole group, declaring the dissolution of the organization. Though this was rejected by those who controlled the official Twitter account, subsequent lack of activity within Iraq confirms the de facto dissolution of the Iraqi parent branch. In Syria, IS attempted a similar tactic in January 2015 in having defectors- including those who controlled the Syrian branch's official Twitter account- declare the dissolution of the Syrian branch. Yet as my vindicated analysis showed at the time, the case here was much less solid, and the Syrian branch survives to this day.
This haunting nasheed, released last month by Ajnad Media, was most recently used in the video of the execution of the 'Israeli spy'. It describes the nurturing of a new, young recruit for the Islamic State. Since the execution of the 'Israeli spy' was carried out by a child, it is hardly surprising that this song was used to accompany it. Preliminary translation below:
"We have come, we have come, we have come, as soldiers for God.
We know religion, we live by it; we build an edifice, we ascend it.
We polish a sword that we have sold him; he is given to drink from what quenches his thirst.
We destroy what is despicable and haughty, in monstrosity his world has become agitated.
Blessed is he when he obeys, loving truth. His encounter builds an edifice.