As I have explained in a previous post on Islamic State (IS) administration in Mosul and the wider Ninawa province (Wilayat Ninawa) in northern Iraq, the IS services department (as elsewhere in its territory) comes under the title of Diwan al-Khidamat, purporting to provide public services like electricity, water and road maintenance/renovation to the population. In reality, a considerable degree of parasitism exists in that the services' offices operating in IS-controlled territories in Iraq already existed under the authority of the Baghdad government, which still pays the workers their salaries, but IS has compelled the employees to work under the name of the Diwan al-Khidamat primarily under threat of confiscating their property.
That said, the Diwan al-Khidamat does appear to have some constructive initiatives. Further, the IS emphasis on compulsion to work and its hardline anti-corruption stance in this regard mean that in some respects, services may be better than before (particularly so in Syria, where prior ruling factions might have allowed workers to stay home in return for a slice of their salaries; also applying in a similar way in Iraq, where corruption has been rampant since 2003). Below is an account of its activities in Mosul and Ninawa Province given by pro-IS source Omar Fawaz, who has also been in contact with other government departments of IS in the area (cf. overview of training camp procedures and military divisions).
Following on from my post featuring the first lesson of the required reading Muqarrar fi al-Tawhid textbook for all Islamic State training camp recruits, below is my translation of the second lesson from that book.
My translation below. One can listen to the nasheed here.
Our Shari'a is the minaret and model,
As mentioned in my previous post on Islamic State [IS] training camps and military divisions, the work Muqarrar fi al-Tawhid (Course/Stipulations in Tawhid [Monotheism]) is a book written by IS cleric Turki Binali- issued in the name of the Diwan al-Eftaa wa al-Buhuth that also deals with IS fatwas- and is the key textbook for Shari'a education for recruits to the training camps, who must memorize and understand the book. Below is a translation of the first lesson in the book. Note in particular the extensive quotation of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi trend in Islam, as well as the appeals to more classical theology and jurisprudence in the citations of the likes of Ibn al-Qayyim and Imam al-Ajurri.
Though much news coverage of Islamic State (IS) focuses on developments on the battlefronts between IS and its enemies in parallel with ephemeral assessments claiming IS is either winning or losing, little is known about the training camp processes and the army-like divisions. This post, translating and analyzing the testimony of a pro-IS source in Mosul called Omar Fawaz, aims to remedy this deficiency.
Jamaat Ansar al-Islam's (JAI) surviving Syria branch has unsurprisingly issued a statement denouncing its long-standing rival the Islamic State (IS) for its latest offensive in north Aleppo countryside on rebel-held towns and villages pushing towards the town of Azaz near the Bab al-Salama border crossing. JAI is primarily based in Aleppo and Idlib provinces, participating in the recent rebel offensives in the latter province that culminated in the capture of Idlib city, Jisr al-Shughur and al-Ariha. The new IS offensive on north Aleppo countryside can only be seen as a distraction from rebel efforts to replicate the successes of Idlib in Aleppo province.
The wider context to what IS is doing is that since August 2014, when IS seized Dabiq, Akhtarin and other north Aleppo countryside towns, the frontline between IS and the rebels remained largely static with no more than the occasional exchange of gunfire and mortar rounds as IS focused its military efforts elsewhere, such as on the Kobani front. In its calculations IS knew that the rebels maintaining these north Aleppo countryside frontlines (e.g. the Sawran-Ahtimilat frontline manned by Northern Storm) were relatively poorly armed and unable to launch offensives to retake territory from IS, indeed vulnerable to a serious IS offensive. This partly explains why so many rebel reinforcements have had to be called up in a bid to repel the latest offensive, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Sham.
The new IS offensive has also forced some Aleppo-based groups that had been officially neutral towards IS to take a stance as the IS push now threatens their holdings. The most notable case-in-point is the jihadi group Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya, which is part of the 'third-way' jihadi coalition Jabhat Ansar al-Din. This group, which acknowledges its prior "positive/affirmative stance of neutrality," has released a new statement denouncing IS on the grounds of its takfiri approach of 'whoever is not with us, is against us,' besides deriding it as a supposed combination of "the Ba'athist deep state in leadership and administration" and Islamic slogans tainted with extremism. Further, the group attacks IS' alleged hypocrisy on accusations it makes against other groups, even going so far as to give credence to conspiracy theories claiming Edward Snowden had exposed how IS is a creation of the West/Israel.
In practice, members of Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya did not like IS anyway, but official neutrality policy of Jabhat Ansar al-Din has prevented until now open expression of this dislike. For comparison, a Jabhat Ansar al-Din media office member I knew put it this way with regards to IS when I interviewed him (NB: he was a member of Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya): "We don't fight them and they don't fight us." After leaving behind Jabhat Ansar al-Din and Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya (eventually leaving for Adana in Turkey), he became openly critical of 'Da3esh'. It is notable that so far Jabhat Ansar al-Din has not advertised the statement denouncing IS on its Twitter feed, and it will be interesting to see if this remains the case: could it signal dissension within Jabhat Ansar al-Din? If not, then it will represent the first official denunciation by Jabhat Ansar al-Din of IS, breaking with the prior anti-fitna stance which has in reality always been incoherent.
In any case, here is the more predictable Jamaat Ansar al-Islam statement denouncing IS:
A new group in Gaza calling itself the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade claimed credit for rocket attacks on Ashdod in late May. Omar Hadid was a key figure in the early years of Iraq's insurgency, aligned with al-Qa'ida in Iraq leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. Indeed, his name was already being used in Islamic State of Iraq material in 2006. The use of this name, along with the fact that the brigade's video release uses two Islamic State nasheeds ("I am not content with a life of humiliation" and "We have the swords"), should indicate the orientation of this new Gaza-based group towards the Islamic State, similar to other small pro-Islamic State outfits in the area like Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis.
The statement follows typical Salafi jihadi narrative in accusing Hamas of collaborating with Israel, waging war on Salafi jihadis, torturing Salafi jihadi detainees, stealing their weapons etc.. The statement emphasizes that these Salafi jihadis have refused to be drawn into an internal confrontation that Hamas is supposedly trying to provoke. The ultimate point is that this Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade has chosen to direct its weapons at the Jews instead. The statement concludes with demands for Hamas to (i) release Salafi jihadi prisoners, (ii) stop engaging in media incitement etc. to provoke internecine warfare and (iii) to restore the mujahideen's weapons and rights.
It should be noted that this statement comes in the context of some more recent wider agitation from pro-Islamic State jihadis in Gaza, some of which, contrary to what the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade makes out, appears to be targeting Hamas. For instance, Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdisrecently claimed an IED assassination of a member of the security forces of the "apostasy government" (i.e. Hamas) in Gaza for engaging in the "declared war on the monotheists." Nonetheless, the same problem endures for these pro-Islamic State groups that they are too small and divided to be accepted as official Islamic State affiliates, even as some of them have helped smuggle Gazan fighters to the Islamic State inside Iraq and Syria.
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).