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The Jihadists Admit Defeat in Iraq By: Nibras Kazimi
Talisman Gate | Wednesday, May 21, 2008


A prolific jihadist sympathizer has posted an ‘explosive’ study on one of the main jihadist websites in which he laments the dire situation that the mujaheddin find themselves in Iraq by citing the steep drop in the number of insurgent operations conducted by the various jihadist groups, most notably Al-Qaeda’s 94 percent decline in operational ability over the last 12 months when only a year and half ago Al-Qaeda accounted for 60 percent of all jihadist activity.

The author, writing under the pseudonym ‘Dir’a limen wehhed’ [‘A Shield for the Monotheist’], posted his ‘Brief Study on the Consequences of the Division [Among] the [Jihadist] Groups on the Cause of Jihad in Iraq’ on May 12 and it is being displayed by the administration of the Al-Ekhlaas website—one of Al-Qaeda’s chief media outlets—among its more prominent recent posts. He's considered one of Al-Ekhlaas's "esteemed" writers.

The author tallies up and compares the numbers of operations claimed by each insurgent group under four categories: a year and half ago (November 2006), a year ago (May 2007), six months ago (November 2007) and now (May 2008). He demonstrated that while Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq could claim 334 operations in Nov. 06 and 292 in May 07, their violent output dropped to 25 in Nov. 07 and 16 so far in May 08. Keep in mind that these assessments are based on Al-Qaeda's own numbers.

The author also shows that similar steep drops were exhibited by other jihadist groups, and he neatly puts it all together in these two charts:





I don’t have the time to translate these charts right now, or translate the analysis he provides, but I wanted to share this with you immediately because it is a stunning and unprecedented admission of defeat.

Back in March 2007, I predicted as much in a column titled Jihadist Meltdown, and I wrote the following:

• The Al Qaeda-led Islamic State of Iraq orchestrates 60% of the actions, including most of the spectacular mass murders of civilians and military engagements with the American military. Most of the rank and file is Iraqi as is al-Baghdadi himself, but foreign nationals are better represented in the leadership.

• Other jihadist groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujaheddin Army, and the 1920 Revolt Brigades, most of which are Iraqi organizations with longstanding Salafist roots, conduct 30% of the operations.

• Various Iraqi Baathist factions orchestrate 10%.
I go on to describe why I thought that this defeat was inevitable:

This sense that they were running out of time compelled Al Qaeda to take a bold initiative of declaring the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq four months back, appointing the hitherto unknown Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its head. This was no propaganda stunt for Al Qaeda. This was the real thing: the nucleus state for the caliphate, with al-Baghdadi as the candidate caliph.

But this was a fatal strategic mistake for Al Qaeda, a mistake that threatens to pull down all the other jihadist insurgent groups along with it. Al Qaeda tried to leap over reality, but it was a leap into the abyss of uncertainty. Trying to pick a caliph is fraught with historical and judicial complications since there is no historical precedent — not even from the time of the Prophet Muhammad — that would serve for an uncontroversial transfer of power. It is one of the most delicate ideological matters among jihadists, a matter so sensitive that most of them have decided to leave it aside for the time being lest it result in splintering off dissenters.

But Zarqawi's successors, who inherited the leadership after his death last June and who are, for the most part, rash young ideologues who consider themselves the avant-garde of contemporary radical Islamism, felt that the doddering old guard of Al Qaeda — aged and increasingly inconsequential has-beens such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri — would never summon the nerve to force the issue of the caliphate and get it going. So they rushed into action, and it has exploded in their faces, since no other groups seem enthused to join them in this risky venture. This mistake has huge implications for the Iraqi insurgency since Al Qaeda accounts for most of it, and its strategic and ideological failure can quickly be turned into a battlefield rout.
Furthermore, I want to point out something even more critical: this defeat is not only a tactical one for the jihadists; this defeat is strategic in essence since it snuffs out their dream of resurrecting the caliphate, the raison d’être of modern jihad.

In case there are naysayers out there who’d question the Islamic State of Iraq’s relevance to the caliphate, then I’d like to direct them to a 101 page edict published by the ISI under the title ‘Informing the People About the Birth of the State of Islam’ that they put out during January 2007. The ISI legitimates itself by the same premises that the classical theorists of the caliphate (Juweini, Mawardi...etc.) set down for picking a caliph in medieval times. Then a month later, the 'Global Islamic Media Front' republished a 1987 Master’s thesis that further expands on these points and adds the one about the necessity of a Qurayshi ancestry for the would-be caliph—as is claimed by the head of ISI, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, for himself. Numerous works have also been added to bolster the argument that al-Baghdadi’s ‘election’ followed the precepts mandated for a caliph: clearly the title of ‘Prince of the Faithful’ that was bestowed on him had a whole different, more profound implication than the identical one awarded to Mullah Omar, an ethnic Pashtun and non-Qurayshi, during the Taliban days.

Thus, not only is America defeating Al-Qaeda militarily in Iraq but it is also squashing the grand jihadist vision for a caliphate that the Islamic State of Iraq stood for. This point is critical: in this ideological war, victory can only come about when the ideology of the opponent is negated and proven unworkable. The fight in Iraq is doing just that.

I’m not saying that the jihadists won’t keep trying to find a workable formula for the caliphate elsewhere, but for now they have been dealt a severe demoralizing blow.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it all ye calling for a hasty withdrawal.

Nibras Kazimi is a Visiting Scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC. He's also a contributing editor for the New York Sun.


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