By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3/)
SYRIA & IRAQ NEWS
In an audio message released yesterday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of the newly declared Islamic State across Syria and Iraq, called on Muslims worldwide to emigrate to the new Caliphate, describing it as “their duty”.
He also made a plea for skilled professional people such as judges, doctors, engineers and people with military and administrative expertise to come to the new Caliphate.
“Rush O Muslims to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis,” said the statement. “O Muslims everywhere, whoever is capable of performing hijrah (emigration) to the Islamic State, then let him do so, because hijrah to the land of Islam is obligatory”.
IS Fighters Sitting on a Tank in Raqqa Plundered from Iraq
Baghdadi also called on Jihadist fighters to escalate fighting during the holy month of Ramadan, which began last Sunday and threatened “revenge” in a long list of countries from China to India, Palestine, the Arabian Peninsula, the Caucasus, Tunisia, Libya, Burma and Morocco, where there had been “injustice” against Moslems.
In his discourse, following in the footsteps of Bin-Laden, Baghdadi issued threats against “Crusaders, atheists and Jews” as well as “their agents, the treacherous rulers,” saying: “Muslims today possess boots that will trample the idol of nationalism and destroy the idol of democracy”.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) which now prefers to be called just the Islamic State (IS), is now apparently calling on other Sunni fighters which joined the uprising in Iraq, to swear an oath of allegiance to Baghdadi and give up their arms.
According to reports, after 2 days of talks in Mosul, Sunni tribal and former Ba’ath Party fighters have been told that they must take an oath of allegiance to the new caliphate, and that only fighters from the Islamic State are allowed to bear arms. Even if they take the oath, other fighters will still have to hand in their weapons.
A senior Sunni fighter, who has been battling the Iraqi Army alongside the Jihadists, said that effectively “our revolution has been hijacked”. “We can’t fight ISIS, it is too strong and it would be a losing battle. We give in. “But we will not take the oath of allegiance, and we will not hand over our weapons – we will hide them, And we will remain active in Baghdad, where ISIS doesn’t have a presence”.
Sources say that large numbers of young men are being recruited locally for around $500 a month, using the vast wealth that IS has accumulated, mainly through robbery and extortion, to pay them wages. They are given two weeks’ military training and two weeks’ Islamic education before being deployed.
The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) has strongly criticised the decision to announce a caliphate, and called for it to be rescinded. “Those who announced it did not consult the sons of Iraq, or their leaders,” said AMSI, which gives political guidance to the non-ISIS fighters. “It is not in the interest of Iraq and its unity now, and will be taken as an excuse to partition the country and harm the people”.
Within hours AMSI’s website had been hacked by the Islamic State, posting messages and pictures mocking Amsi’s leader and dismissing the group as “the Association of Muslim Surrenderers”.
ISIS Still Expanding Their Control
In a similar critical statement today, Wednesday, the The Islamic Action Front (IAF), a moderate Islamic party that believes in democracy and has branches across Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, accused IS of declaring war against Muslims and non-Muslims alike and “Stirring strife in the name of religion”.
In contrast the Al Qaeda branch in North Africa, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), pledged support to the “heroes of ISIS” after the announcement of the Caliphate and the Yemini Al Qaeda offshoot sent its “good wishes”.
A security analyst, Olivier Guitta, said that AQIM was the Al Qaeda “franchise” that has the most networks in Europe and the most undercover cells. “ISIS”, he added, “ Is basically getting rid of Al Qaeda. It is the law of the jungle with Jihadists. If you want to be the strongest then you join the strongest, and the strongest is ISIS. So they are going to join them.”
There are also reports of Abu Sayyaf, the Islamist militant group in the Philippines, pledging allegiance to ISIS and a video showing ISIS flags being raised by members of Boko Haram in Cameroon.
Aboud Dandachi writes a telling piece about the failure of Arab states to democratise and modify, while the rest of the non-arab world around them progresses.
“A month ago,” Dandachi writes, “I personally would have found the mere suggestion of an independent Kurdish state abhorrent, as it would have by necessity entailed being carved out of at least two Arab states.
Today, in the light of the situations in both Syria and Iraq, one can no longer in good conscience begrudge the Kurds their desire to break away from the monumental colossal mess that is the Arab world”. You can read more,HERE:
The situation in Iraq remains complicated, just as it was in Syria. Currently, on the same side as IS, whose slogan is “remain and expand”, precisely what they have done in Syria and Iraq, is Jamaat Ansar Al-Islam (JAI), who also aspire to a caliphate but disagree on ISIS’ right to claim one.
Also involved on the side of IS is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order (Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia, or JRTN), mostly former supporters of the dictator Saddam Hussein. JRTN is probably the largest fighting force after IS.
Additionally there is Aysh Al-Mujahideen (JAM) and the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI), plus many smaller tribal groupings and affiliations, all of them Sunni and completely opposed the Shia-controlled AL-Maliki Government.
IS however has the upper hand because of its sheer ferocity and vast wealth. You can read a more detailed explanation of the various sides from the BBC.
WHILE IRAQ BURNS, INFIGHTING BREAKS OUT BETWEEN SHIA AND SHIA AND THE IRAQI PARLIAMENT FIDDLES INTO OBLIVION:
On the ground in Iraq, June 2014 has been recorded as the most bloody since May 2007, despite years of sectarian bombing. At least 2,400 have died in the last month of fighting.
In a fast moving situation, this was the general picture yesterday as seen in this map, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War, here:
Iraq Situation Map as at the 1st July 2014
While IS hold their lines north of Baghdad, heavy fighting is reported to the south of the capital at Kabala, Shamiyah and Nasriyah.
However, some of the fighting, playing to the advantage of IS, is between Shia and Shia, particularly at Kabala and most recently this afternoon at Diwaniyah and Basra according to latest reports.
The Shia infighting is between the Iraqi Army and the followers of dissident Shia cleric Ayatollah Sayed Sarkhi Hasani, who has a long history of opposing both Al-Maliki and Iran. One unconfirmed report says that the Iraqi Army has dropped a barrel-bomb on the cleric’s house reportedly killing him outright.
At least 32 of the cleric’s fighters are also reported killed in fighting with the Army at Kabala, where the military are said to have deployed helicopter gun-ships.
With this huge mess in play, no wonder the US has announced that it is sending a further 200 troops (some reports say 300) to defend the American embassy in Baghdad.
This brings the total deployment of US troops back in Iraq to 800.
The American troops are equipped with Apache attack helicopters and armed drones and reports from the United States say that some of them are there to assess whether the Iraqi armed forces still represent all Iraqis and whether they are competent enough to restore themselves and stem the Jihadist advance.
While the Iraqi Army has helicopters, it is desperate for fixed wing aircraft, and while orders from the US for F-16s are slow to materialise, the Russians and now Iran have now supplied up to 12 Sukhoi SU-25 jets. As Iraq has not used these old types of aircraft since 2002, it is likely they will be flown by Russian and Iranian pilots.
We are therefore faced shortly with the prospect of US, Russian and Iranian pilots all being in the air at the same time, on the same side, over Iraq.
While Iraq burns, the Iraqi failed yet again this week to appoint a Speaker or a functioning properly constituted government. In fact with most of the Sunni and Kurdish MPs failing to attend the remaining members were left to squabble among themselves.
In fact after some derogatory remarks about Kurds selling oil to Israel, a physical fight broke out in the chamber in the first 30 minutes of the assembly. Inevitably, the meeting was cancelled and put off another week.
The Iraqi authorities did however lift a block on Monday on social media sites such as Facebook, Skype, YouTube and Twitter but continues to ban open access to news channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah.