The Chief of Staff of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 September 2017

In his twelfth speech since the founding of “the State,” on 24 September 2008, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), listed the “commander in chief”, or chief of staff, Abu al-Bashair al-Jiburi, as among the top heroes of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Al-Zawi said that Abu al-Bashair had been recently martyred.

In an interview released on 28 October 2008, Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), al-Zawi’s deputy and the “war minister” of ISI, said that Abu al-Bashair was an Iraqi and a former colonel in Saddam Husayn’s army.

The timing of chief of staff Abu al-Bashair’s death, as described by al-Zawi, and the description of his profile by al-Badawi, clarified that this was not the same Abu al-Bashair who had served as a spiritual advisor to al-Badawi, providing theological justification for his military operations. The spiritual advisor Abu al-Bashair, also known as Abu Maysara, was a Syrian and was killed on 17 November 2007.

The real name of the Abu al-Bashair who served as ISI’s chief of staff—operating primarily in the north, around ISI’s key stronghold of Mosul—was Muhammad al-Nada al-Jiburi. Al-Nada, also known as al-Ra’i (the Shepherd), was killed in near Mosul.

Al-Nada’s Successors

Al-Nada was replaced as chief of staff by Samir al-Khlifawi (Haji Bakr), a former colonel in Saddam’s intelligence services.

Al-Zawi and al-Badawi were killed on 18 April 2010. Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) subsequently became emir and Numan al-Zaydi (Abu Ibrahim al-Ansari or Abu Sulayman al-Nasser) was his deputy and war minister.

After al-Zaydi was killed in February 2011, ISI restructured its security architecture, creating the Military Council and formally abolishing the posts of chief of staff and war minister. The first leader of the Military Council was al-Khlifawi, who also became al-Badri’s deputy.

Al-Khlifawi, famously the architect of the Islamic State’s expansion into Syria, was killed by the Syrian opposition as they rose against the Islamic State in January 2014. Since al-Khlifawi was killed the Military Council has been held by: Adnan al-Bilawi (Abu Abdurrahman al-Bilawi), Adnan al-Suwaydawi (Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi or Haji Dawud), Fadel al-Hiyali (Abu Muslim al-Turkmani or Haji Mutaz), and is currently occupied by Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa)—all of them former regime elements (FREs) from Saddam’s days.


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