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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sure, the Islamic State has its share of Ex-Ba'athists; but its still a religiously motivated organization at heart.

Links: A. ISIS fighters in Ramadi are ex-Ba'ath Party members.
           B. Ex-Ba'athists helping organize ISIS.

In the past few weeks, I have repeatedly heard a bit of information that is taking on a life of its own.  I have been told by persons I respect and persons whose news sources are dubious at best, that the Islamic State/ISIS, is being controlled and run by ethnic Iraqi former Saddam loyalists and Ba'ath Party members.  Last year I had a long conversation with a good friend who happens to be a retired Iraqi General and a former Ba'ath Party member (his brother and father, now deceased, were both party representatives from Baghdad).  He informed me, almost off-handedly, that some of his former colleagues were involved with ISIS.  He elaborated that these individuals were assisting in the creation and expansion of different departments within the organization, including intelligence and recruitment.  He laughed as he pointed out that like many Iraqis, they were desperate to bring home a paycheck, and at least someone was willing to compensate them for their skills.  So the demographic that is the Islamic State now includes a number of former Ba'ath Party hacks, I thought.  It only strengthened my existing opinion that the Islamic State is determined to develop the characteristics of a conventional military force.  When George Bush (and more importantly Donald Rumsfeld) was considering the best way to defeat Al-Qaeda, the decision was made to force the terrorist organization to fight a conventional war, something it was not designed to do.  Although the insurgency and the Abu Ghraib fiasco dragged things out way longer than should have been necessary, the strategy actually worked, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Al-Qaida and the Taliban just did not have the personnel, the equipment, the resources, or the infrastructure to combat the U.S. military.  Interestingly enough, the Islamic State has been successful since it started behaving more as a legitimate armed forces, which requires a plan for resupply and reinforcements, and also must include a transportation and communication network.  When Al-Qaeda works in small units, transportation and communication are much simpler.  But the Islamic State now commands tens of thousands of personnel, and it can be no surprise that former regime elements, Sunni no doubt, have joined the cause, and that ISIS, which had a definite need for that expertise, welcomed them with open arms.

But this development can be easily misunderstood.  In no way does the motivation expressed by the Islamic State dovetail with the Socialist manifesto of the Arab Ba'ath Party that at one time controlled both Iraq and Syria.  Do not read too much into the fact that the intelligence branch of the Islamic State is run in the same manner as the intelligence branch of the Iraqi Army.  Certainly Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is ethnic Iraqi.  But he was not a supporter of Saddam Hussein.  Because the roots of the ISIS movement can be traced to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "Al-Qaeda in Iraq", it should be no surprise that a number of Iraqis are prominent in the organization.  But I am beginning to see this perspective take root that the ghost of Saddam and Ba'ath Party adherents are dictating policy for the Islamic State.  Do not be distracted by this red herring.  Do not forget what the Islamic State represents and exactly what methods it has used to achieve its ends. No doubt Saddam did some heinous things, but is always attempted to cover-up or deny the existence of such government-sanctioned activity.  The Islamic State WANTS you as a first-row witness to its execution of persons because of religious persuasion.  More importantly, don't forget that the Ba'ath Party and Saddam Hussein were interested in political motivation as opposed to religious.  Saddam (and his buddy Bashir al-Assad) were in fear of the Islamic Extremist movement, and directed their security forces to deal with it harshly.  In its inception and at the height of its popularity, the Ba'ath movement was inherently political.  It sought to enfranchise the Arab worker in all nations and create a political movement with Socialist leanings that would sweep the party into power in places like Egypt and Turkey.  The Islamic State exists for the purpose of the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, a nation ruled by a Caliph (religious leader) with the Quran as the law of the land. 

The former Iraqi Ba'ath Party members who are active in the Islamic State are the ones being co-opted, not vice versa.  And that should have been expected.  When the U.S. arrived in Iraq in 2003 and the Iraqi military has ceased to exist, everyone wanted to become a part of the U.S. military force that now appeared to hold the reigns of power.  In reality, its just a circumstance of survival.  People have families to provide for, and they  will do what is necessary to reach that goal.  What would I do to feed my family?  Just about anything.

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