Intro and Analysis
As per a new project for this site, I am partly turning my blog into a clearing house for important primary source material on the Iraqi insurgency. The first in this series is the latest official statement from the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN or "Naqshbandi Army").
These are the main analytical points to note in relation to this statement:
(a)- The statement reaffirms many prior JRTN messaging strategies, including the standard non-sectarian affirmations with an assurance to cover all of Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups. A prior case of comparison is the JRTN statement denying long-standing Kurdish accusations of JRTN responsibility for car bombs in Kirkuk. On the ground, this superficial cross-sectarianism translated to local tribal revolutionary military councils of Kurds and Shi'a in a number of areas announced via JRTN's activist wing Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq. Cross-sectarian messaging also extends to JRTN songs, such as this one: "For our Shi'a and Sunni are men."
Now, this does not mean there are no people of the various ethnicities JRTN mentions repeatedly connected to the wider JRTN-Ba'athist network. A well-known JRTN-affiliated website is Dhi Qar: the naming is no coincidence, for as Reidar Visser pointed to me, Dhi Qar in southern Iraq is one of the few places with remnant Shi'a de-Ba'athification cases; the General Military Council has also spoken of outreach to Shi'a in Dhi Qar in being profiled by Jamestown, but the authors appear to have missed the significance of this in downplaying JRTN influence on the General Military Council. in any case, JRTN and its front groups are still overwhelmingly Sunni Arab, whatever the spin of official statements and other rhetoric.
(b)- As ever, JRTN's official statements continue to avoid mention of the Islamic State [IS; though cf. this alleged recording of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri in which he mentions and praises IS and other Sunni insurgent factions], something also made apparent in a TV interview with JRTN's spokesman about the Amman Conference held by non-IS insurgents, in which when asked by the interviewer about developments in Mosul between JRTN and IS, the JRTN's spokesman simply evaded the question. There is no mention in this statement of IS' actions causing displacement of Shi'a Turkmen, Yezidis, or, most notably, the dhimmi pact IS attempted to impose on Christians in Mosul. The fact that IS has been able to do such things with impunity, combined with JRTN's tendency to avoid even mentioning IS by name, points to the relative weakness of JRTN in the face of IS.
(c)- The reference to the "Arab Islamic Ummah" at the beginning of this statement shows that the appeal to the Naqshbandi Sufi order is still very much secondary to the Ba'athism, which itself readily throws into doubt JRTN spin about justice in dealing with all ethnicities and sects (I have heard such notions of kindliness and inclusiveness towards minorities from other pan-Arabist types: the pro-Assad miltiia Arab Nationalist Guard I profiled comes to mind).
(d)- The JRTN's rejection of Iraq's division should be taken seriously for those hoping a de facto partition could bring about some kind of solution. JRTN and its front groups- likely the second largest grouping in the wider insurgency against the government- are revolutionary in intent, something they have never disguised. The emphasis on "liberation" of Iraq from problems of "occupation" should also be noted, especially as de jure governor of Ninawa province Atheel al-Nujaifi- currently in exile in Arbil rather like last de jure Western Emperor Julius Nepos in Dalmatia- has been telling media outlets that JRTN are 'moderates' who will work with him to restore federal control to Mosul. Unless Nujaifi has turned into a Ba'athist revolutionary, this scenario is not only wholly unlikely but is also not being played out on the ground. If such an impression is being conveyed to him by JRTN sources, he is being played, simple as that.
This also has implications for those who wish to rely on the likes of Nujaifi and Ali Hatem Suleiman- both in exile in Arbil- to understand Sunni Arab dynamics in Iraq. They are wholly unrepresentative, and the case of Ali Hatem Suleiman is particularly egregious because he not only isn't the 'prince of the Dulaimis' as he is often portrayed, but also it should be noted that he was originally part of Maliki's State of Law coalition in the 2010 elections. If he were so representative, where were the Sunni Arabs voting for Maliki in the 2010 elections?
"Statement by the official JRTN spokesman as regards forced displacement of Iraqis, the empyting of Iraq of its fundamental components, the changing of Iraq's map and the political and demographic area.
Oh dignified people of Iraq,
Oh sons of our Arab Islamic Ummah,
Oh free men of the entire world.
One of the satellite TV channels transmitted news coming from its correspondants in Iraq, pointing to some of the criminal aspects of forced displacement of Iraqis, mentioning inexact things divorced from the truth with attribution of falsehoods against our army completely divorced from the actual situation that our Iraqi people has known in all its components and forms concerning the impartiality of this national army that absolves it [JRTN] from what is attributed to it and what does not apply to it. In this regard we make clear the following:
1. We have previously made clear the stance of our army as regards what is happening in Iraq's arena with the dangerous falsehoods and distortions. We have warned the international community about the consequences and risks of that, and it is possible for anyone following to examine clearly these positions on our army's official site on the Internet.
2. We consider the targeting of any component of our people and displacement to empty Iraq of its fundamental components and change the political and demographic map of Iraq and the region to be the work of foreign interests implemented by the enemies of Iraq at the hands of the government's sectarian collaborationist militias that are striving to confuse documentation and destroy the blessed revolution of our people.
3. Our army rejects all forms of forced displacement of Iraqis and the emptying of Iraq of its fundamental components and changing Iraq and the region's political and demographic map.
4. Our army believes in citizenship rights and peaceful co-existence with all Iraqis in their different creeds, nationalities, affiliations and regions without distinction.
5. Our army is an extension of the prior Iraqi national army and its constituents are from all components and sides of the Iraqi people, including Sunni and Shi'a, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen, Yezidi, Christian and Mandaen who want to liberate Iraq and rid it of subordination.
6. The Naqshbandi order is one of the Sufi orders, and tasawwuf is a program of work considered in human life and does not entail a monopoly for a certain sect, and it is an order of justice and balance concerned with the purity of the heart...and dealing kindly and sincerely with all people, calling for wellness, love and peace, composed in its essence of an order of honest people, including Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen...
7. Our army is not sectarian, racist, madhhabist [i.e. favoring a particular school of theology] or regionalist, but a national army for all Iraqis comprising one homeland, one destiny.
8. The aim of our army is to liberate Iraq from all problems of occupation and subordination, and this is something for all Iraqis to participate in, and our army does not target Iraqis at all except aggressors.
9. Our work on the field is independent and has no connection or coordination with any of the so-called entities of foreign, regionalist, international or suspicious interests in the Iraqi arena and calling for the division of the country by land, people, sect, or racism.
10. Our army strongly rejects any call to divide Iraq, under any name.
[Point 11 calls for journalists to be accurate and the conclusion is affirmation to "liberate Iraq" from "sectarianism," "racism" and "subordination"etc.]."