Ba’ath Roots of Daesh

Denise Natali at Al-Monitor explores the nexus between Islamic State and Iraq’s Ba’ath Party:

How could Iraqi Baathists, known for their secular ideology, find common ground with radical Salafist groups? While the presence and strength of former Baathist officers in IS appears contradictory it reflects the influence of the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshbandi (JRTN), a group of Saddam’s former officers and Sunni Arab tribes that formed in reaction to the post-2003 Iraqi order. Led by Izzat al-Douri, Saddam’s former vice president and deputy chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council (proclaimed to be killed in a recent battle in Tikrit), the JRTN represents a fusion of Islam, Sunni Arab identity and Iraqi nationalism.

This fusion can be traced to the early 1990s, when Saddam commenced his Islamic faith campaign to consolidate Baath Party power. The campaign reflected geopolitical challenges and Iraqi security priorities after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1989) and Saddam’s attempts to control the “Zoroastrian” Iran and Persian-Shiite threat. It involved the Baath Party’s direct control of all religious policies and institutions in Iraq, creating Islamic structures, recruiting networks of spies and Islamic activists to work for the regime, and embedding Baath Party structures, members and security organs into religious circles.

By the late 1990s a “religious deep state” had emerged in Iraq, whereby most Sunni Islamic leaders and institutions that were created, co-opted and/or controlled by the regime were now inside the state. One of these institutions was the Islamic University of Baghdad, attended by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, current leader of the so-called IS caliphate. …

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was reported killed in a security operation, although Iraqi authorities are unable to confirm the identity of the body.

Read Natali’s article at the link.  It follows Spiegel’s revelation of secret files recovered from Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, alias Haji Bakr.

The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. …

This is a good place to mention Michael Totten’s review of ISIS:  Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, paints a gripping and disturbing picture of this new “caliphate” in the Levant and Mesopotamia. In the most comprehensive account to date, the authors chronicle ISIS’s roots as the Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda under its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its near defeat at the hands of Americans and Iraqi militias in Anbar Province, its rebirth during the Syrian civil war, and its catastrophic return to Iraq as a conquering army last summer. …

Go read the rest at the link, and I recommend getting the book.

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