The most recent issue of Perspectives on Terrorism had a paper by Ronen Zeidel entitled, ‘The Dawa’ish: A Collective Profile of IS Commanders’, which was “the first attempt to provide a comprehensive collective profile of commanders and leaders of the Islamic State (IS)”. Based on “an inventory of over 600 names”, the paper assessed the nationality, ethnicity, and tribal origins not just of the very senior IS commanders, but those lower down, a novel and much-needed line of investigation. Zeidel found that these commanders of the IS movement are or were overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni Arab, with an important Turkoman contingent.
Zeidel’s findings are important for drawing attention again to the local-revolutionary character of an organisation that gets a great deal of attention for its foreign fighters and external attacks, especially in the West, but which only a recently acquired global reach—and, indeed, only recently needed to: until 2011, the West was easily reachable since it had troops on the ground in Iraq, so the incentive to invest resources in creating a foreign terrorist apparatus was minimal.
One small part of Zeidel’s work has created something of a storm, however. Zeidel gives the occupation held by these commanders and, for those where this was known, 72% of them were former regime elements (FREs) from the dictatorship of Saddam Husayn. This reignited the argument over how important the FREs have been to IS. Continue reading
A profile of Umar Hadid, published on an Islamic State forum, is reproduced below with some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold. Hadid—variously known as Abu Khattab al-Falluji, Abu Khattab al-Ansari, and Abu Khattab al-Iraqi—was a native of Fallujah who took up Salafism in the late 1990s during the rule of Saddam Husayn, leading to clashes with the security forces and Hadid going into internal exile. After the fall of Saddam, Hadid quickly linked up with the elite circles of the nascent Islamic State movement, including its leader Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), his deputy Umar Yusef al-Juma (Abu Anas al-Shami), the military leader Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani) and Abu Raghd who set up the Rawa Camp in Anbar Province, said to be the first terrorist training facility of the Iraqi jihad, and Abdallah Najem al-Jawari (Abu Azzam al-Iraqi), the chief financier and Anbar governor in 2004 before being appointed emir of Baghdad in 2005. Hadid was the leader of the insurgency in the two battles at Fallujah in 2004, being killed during the second of them. Continue reading
In his first speech as the then-Islamic State of Iraq’s (ISI’s) official spokesman in August 2011, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) referred to several of the group’s “leaders” who had been killed. Among them was Abu Raghd, whose biography provides a glimpse of the role regional states—specifically Saddam Husayn’s Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria—played in facilitating the birth of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading