Introduction and Analysis
The General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries (GMCIR), to recall briefly, is overall a joint project* between the Ba'athist-Sufi outfit Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) and Harith al-Dhari's Muslim Scholars Association (MSA). Many of the local outfits for the GMCIR- in the form of 'military councils for the revolutionaries of the tribes'- can be identified as originating as JRTN fronts, but it is also apparent the group can act as an umbrella for other Sunni insurgents including the Dhari-linked 1920s Revolution Brigades. The JRTN influence on the 'political wing' of the GMCIR is openly admitted.
(*: hat-tip in part to Kirk Sowell for this suggestion)
The latest GMCIR statement is notable for the following:
a) Reaffirming the commitment to the path of 'revolution'- similar to the statements put out in JRTN's own name- and overthrowing the central government. Also in parallel to official JRTN discourse, the GMCIR decries any notions of division of Iraq but in this context now names a specific actor as pushing such schemes: namely, the United States. The statement also attacks Hayder Abadi's proposal- also touted in American policy circles- for a 'National Guard' in Iraq whereby Sunnis would generally be entrusted with maintaining security in Sunni areas. Though the scheme has been hailed by some pundits as a welcome step for pushing back the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, the fact that it is rejected by the GMCIR needs to be borne in mind as the JRTN-GMCIR network likely constitutes the second most influential insurgent grouping after IS.
While notions of federalism and the like are regularly put forward as a solution to the current crisis, they are conversely attacked by the Ba'athist/Dhari revolutionary wing of the insurgency and its supporters as undermining Iraq's unity and thus running counter to the vision of restoring the pre-2003 Iraqi state. This points to a wider problem of a lack of consensus on the Sunni Arab side of what is wanted at this stage and how if at all there should be reform within the current framework as opposed to revitalized notions that Sunni Arabs constitute a demographic plurality or majority that should be ruling from Baghdad.
b) This is the first statement from the GMCIR explicitly mentioning IS by name, but nothing in this statement suggests that fighting against IS is a priority: on the contrary the focus is on attacking any plans hinting at a new 'Sahwa' movement, fitting in with a string of statements issued by insurgent groups at the end of July and beginning of August- including the GMCIR- warning against forming new 'Sahwa' movements for being nothing more than nefarious plans to save the 'Safavid' (Iranian-client) government in Baghdad. While the GMCIR distanced itself from IS' targeting of Christians and Yezidis in Ninawa province, no mention was made at the time of IS' name, and the concern was rather that such actions were tainting the reputation of the 'revolution'. This is rather similar to the official JRTN statements line, which went one explicit step further in condemning these developments as the work of the government in Baghdad.
c) The governors of Ninawa, Diyala, Anbar and Salah ad-Din provinces- decried as foremost enemies of the 'revolution'- are not mentioned by name, but all of them are figures the United States has tried to reach out to in the hope of setting up a wider Sunni pushback against IS. Of the four, the governor of Anbar- Ahmed Dulaimi- has been most active in stressing the need for cooperation between the central government and locals to fight against IS, and has paid visits to the frontlines in Haditha, where local tribesmen work with government forces to fend off IS. The governor of Ninawa- Atheel Nujaifi- exercises the least actual control over his de jure territory: he of course has been active in trying to coordinate the 'Kata'ib al-Mosul' (Mosul Battalions) resistance movement against IS in Mosul, but this is rejected indirectly here in this GMCIR statement and was also rejected in a previous statement by JRTN, which decried it as a personal militia project of the Nujaifi family, illustrating the Nujaifis' current lack of credibility among real insurgent actors.
d) The overlap between JRTN and GMCIR is partly seen here in parallel language and phrasing of the statements: for example, ayyuha ash-sha'ab al-iraqi al-'abi ('oh dignified people of Iraq'), used here, is also a common JRTN vocative phrase: compare also with geographic political designations like referring to Kirkuk province as 'al-Ta'mim' which was the name for the area in the Saddam era. Besides this, there are the usual thematic overlaps such as claiming to represent all Iraqis, which fits in with the wider JRTN-GMCIR superficial cross-sectarianism.
e) Invoking the Baghdad Belt area as a zone of ethnic cleansing has been a long-standing Sunni grievance that was heard in the Sunni Arab protests in 2013 and was also used as a 'revenge' justification for attacks by what was then ISIS in that year as the group lacked contiguous territory and the other trappings of a state within Iraq at the time and so aimed to build credibility primarily on the image of being protectors of Sunnis, in contrast to messaging within Syria where there was broadcasting of the group's true end-goals of a global Caliphate.
Translation (original here): (NB: translation revised as of 25 September)
Statement No. 33
Oh indigenous people of Iraq,
Oh noble revolutionaries of Iraq,
Our land is passing through a dangerous stage that places at a crossroads between two choices, the better of which is bitter, as two projects today face off against each other: the first being the project of division and separation and destroying Iraq with its people and by geography. The second is the project of Persian hegemony that will keep Iraq under the control of the land of the Persians, secluded and obscure in the pages of its project after its destruction is complete, along with the exhaustion of all its resources.
Indeed Iraq is set on crucial days and a bloody war that will last for years and exhaust all the capabilities and resources of the Iraqi people, its society, its sons, its kinship and its inheritance through an American strategy, whose plan of operations will rely on: (a) airstrikes from an international coalition on targets outlined by intelligence organization and drone reconnaissance, (b) ground assault forces whose support is [for] a sectarian army with sectarian mobilization militias backed by the Iranian Quds Force and new Sahwa formations, (c) Iraqi and Arab financial support that will drain the wealth and resources of the Ummah and will take away the rights of its peoples over these resources. Indeed this operation will cost Iraq souls that are the most valuable and dear just as it will cost Iraq years of burning in vain, towns under assault, billions spent, segregation of provinces, and demographic changes that will take place. Also this war will entrench societal division along ethnic and sectarian lines.
And behold how the new Abadi government- which includes amid its ranks four ministers officially linked to the Iranian Quds Force and whose names were elevated in the lists of its monthly salaries- has begun covering dangerous projects under the pretenses of fighting terrorism and fighting the "organization of the Islamic State [IS]", and in the name of responding to the demands of the provinces in rebellion. And perhaps the most dangerous of those projects is the formations of the National Guard that are new Sahwa forces that will be promoted by tribal sheikhs from among those who have built up edifices from criminal wealth.
Through the experience of the Sahwa of evil renown, they are also trying today to entrust the new investment- which they are aiming for in the project of armed formations that will be in compliance with the government's law- under the command of provincial governors who are the first enemy of the revolution, the revolutionaries and all noble people. And we have in this living examples like the governor of Anbar heading an alliance of traitors who increased the air power with targets of barbaric bombardment using barrel bombs, and the governor of Salah ad-Din province who is leading the militias to fight his people and displace their noble ones and seize their lands, along with the governors of Ninawa and Diyala: and they are no less harmful than the one who has advanced, and these are the ones who will lead the National Guard that they intend to form and will be marshalling forces with the forces of sectarian mobilization and their Iranian leaderships as well as the government army known for its sectarianism and its actions that our people and sons have known over the past decade, with the prisons, arrests, killing and forced disappearance.
Indeed what will follow those operations are new towns with new inhabitants after the process of settlement is completed for all refugees and forcibly displaced persons in new towns that will be established on the basis of ethnicity and sect. And already the plans for this antagonistic American strategy have been drawn up using a huge amount of wealth and the tasks required for its implementation have come to rely on companies and organizations that have expended all their efforts for the sake of this goal, and the choice will be made of companies that have expertise in the building of settlements through prior experience in Bosnia and Kosovo. Those will not be temporary refugee camps: under the pretext of lack of knowledge of the length of the war and under pretexts of humanitarianism, that [i.e. permanent resettlement] will follow on the dissolution of those displaced households in their new societies and their restitution, with the risk on the second generation that will dissolve in a new environment.
Indeed the situation calls on you, oh Iraqis, to unite and close ranks and stand against all of those conspiracies surrounding the men of the revolution and the revolutionaries, besides strengthening the national opposition rank exposing these nefarious dealings: among them what is happening now in the Baghdad belt area and the steadfast town of Tarmiya [in north Baghdad province] where there is currently the intention for it to undergo demographic change and replacement of its people, and so it is being exposed to the most ferocious operations of killing, forced displacement and barbaric bombing targeting its people, along with the burning of its lands and operations of theft and violation that the sectarian militias are carrying out, completing what was perpetrated in the south of Baghdad and Yusufiya [south Baghdad locality], under the eyes and ears of the whole world, to the contemptuous and shameful silence of the representatives of its people in the imaginary parliament.
Oh dignified Iraqi people,
The only solution to restore Iraq and its people as a state whose people live in its flourishing with security, peace and well-being is by changing the cause of all these pains and it is none other than the ruling regime and its sectarian program and installing a true system allowing for Iraq's people to rule itself by itself and not being ruled by foreigners, delegations and those in exile who were nurtured over decades in schools of hatred and revenge outside the borders; further, change will not be brought about except by the resolution of its people, their unity and their awareness of the danger of the plans of importedinterests that will destroy Iraq and its people, as well as exhausting the resources of its generations and confiscating them, with an end to the dynamic of development, progress and services to squander them on the transactions of wars and arming and financing for sectarian militias that are in line with each other today and in conflict with each other tomorrow.
The solution lies in violent revolution on all levels and in all publications calling for radical change for all that has happened; and wherever it will be in Baghdad, [there should be] an upright national government just with itself in the first place and not harboring hatred and bonds of revenge, but love for its people and capable of cleansing Iraq of all crises, and getting rid of all types of terrorism that threaten the people of Iraq, its security and its stability. Thus will the wheel of development and flourishing be set in motion and the Iraqis will return to build their homeland by their forearms and minds; and the world will see a new Iraq bearing a message of the innovation of the sons of the Two Rivers that provided light for the darkness of history over thousands of years.
Indeed our sons in the General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries have resolved on the pledge they have undertaken for the people of Iraq: that they will continue with the revolution of all Iraqis until victory and with them all nationalists and noble ones from the sons of the homeland, in persons, components, and national, societal and tribal gatherings, who have chosen to side with righteousness and its people for the sake of Iraq and its steadfast people […]
General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries,
20 September 2014.