March 29, 2015

Archive of Jabhat al-Nusra Billboards and Murals

On right: quotation of Qur'an 28:83. On left, partial quotation from Qur'an 2:197: "And take provisions, but the best provision is fear of God."

The Islamic State [IS] has become well known for its elaborate murals and billboards in keeping with its state building project (e.g. see my posts here and here). However, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been increasingly building up its own proto-Islamic emirate project in northwestern Syria partly to rival IS, has also been putting up plenty of billboards and murals to advertise its presence. Reflecting that phenomenon are the photos below, most of which date from the last 4 months or so, by … [Read more...]

Hamas Condemns Islamic State Tunisia Terror Attack

Hamas mural in West Bank

From Voice of al-Aqsa (Arabic): "The Hamas movement condemned on Thursday the incident of the attack on tourists in the Bardo museum in Tunis that killed more than 20 people and wounded around 50 of the innocent, describing it as a 'criminal' deed. The movement said in a summary statement: 'This criminal deed against civilians is a crime against human values, against glorious Tunisia in its people and leadership who have outlined a shining example of democratic operation, peaceful … [Read more...]

The Administration of the Local Council in Azaz

Outside the Azaz Media Center: in solidarity with the people of Raqqa living under Islamic State rule. The image alludes to "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently."

Readers of my report on my visit to the north Aleppo town of Azaz near the border with Turkey will recall that authority in Azaz is divided between two bodies: the local council and the Shari'a committee. Broadly speaking, the local council covers the realm of public services, while the Shari'a committee, working with the Northern Storm Brigade as the police force, is responsible for criminal law and order, family and public morality. Both bodies are officially 'civil' (madani) and … [Read more...]

Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, Iraq’s Insurgency and the Islamic State [IS]: Testimony of Abu Omar al-Falastini

Iraqi insurgents

Readers of my blog will be familiar by now with the story of the jihadist group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam. Originally based in Iraq and primarily operating in Ninawa and Kirkuk governorates, the group expanded into Syria in 2011 and spread across the north of the country. However, the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) meant that the group's branch in Syria lost contiguous connection with its original Iraqi parent branch, losing out to ISIS in both Raqqa and Hasakah provinces … [Read more...]

The Return of Iraqi Shi’i Militias to Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

It has long been known that the Assad regime, facing a shortage of manpower in its regular army, has had to rely on irregular paramilitaries in its bid to reverse rebel advances. This became particularly apparent in 2013, when Hezbollah openly declared its participation in the capture of Qusayr, a town in Homs Province on the border with Lebanon. Since then, the presence inside Syria of Iraqi Shi'i militias, most of them proxies of Iran, has been extensively documented. When the militias first … [Read more...]

“Spread the Good Tidings to All”- Islamic State Nasheeds & External Relations Dynamics

Boko Haram flag across from Bosso border post. (Copyright: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)

Recently news came out of the official pledge of allegiance from Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram (Jamaat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wah wa al-Jihad) to the Islamic State. For those who had been following Boko Haram's recently set up media wing al-Urwah al-Wuthqa, this development was hardly surprising. On the very surface, Boko Haram was employing high quality photo productions that suggested co-optation by the Islamic State's media wings. A more striking data point was noted by my friend Aaron … [Read more...]

Archive of Jabhat al-Nusra Dar al-Qada Documents

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Over the past several months, the contrast traditionally drawn between the Islamic State's (IS) hardline stance against power-sharing with rivals and Jabhat al-Nusra's (JN) more conciliatory approach has become blurred as JN has sought to build up its 'proto-emirate' project after losing out to IS in eastern Syria. One of the most notable developments in this regard has been the establishment of the Dar al-Qada designed to assert JN judicial monopolies in areas where the group has presence, … [Read more...]

Some Evidence for the Islamic State’s Presence in Yemen (Part 2)

Islamic State in Yemen

The previous post on the Islamic State (IS) presence in Yemen looked at a sample 'Shari'a Committee' document from a declared Wilayat Shabwa, reflecting on the activist nature of the IS presence. Other documents that have emerged from IS declared provinces in Yemen bear similar implications. Note that the next statement below from 'Aden Province' (not marked with a shadowy 'Shari'a Committee' label), while pointing out the vast array of enemies (including the Yemeni national army), focuses … [Read more...]

The U.S. Anti-ISIS Strategy’s True Cost

John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif conduct a bilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014

On Monday the Iraqi military launched its largest operation to date against the self-declared Islamic State (IS), also called ISIS, to retake control of the city of Tikrit. Alongside the Iraqi military the coalition fighting IS in Tikrit includes Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces, but it leans heavily on Iranian backed Shia militias and reportedly includes a contingent from Iran's revolutionary guard. The urgent question now as the battle against IS intensifies is whether any US policy to defeat … [Read more...]

Some Evidence for the Islamic State’s Presence in Yemen (Part 1)

photo of propaganda material distributed in support of IS in the Hadhramaut area

In November 2014, the Islamic State's [IS] leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the acceptance of pledges of allegiance from Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Sinai to herald the creation of new IS 'provinces' (wilayat) ostensibly on the model of administration in the wilayat of Iraq and Syria, which have seen regulations from education to sanitation and real estate. Of these external 'provinces', Libya has thus far shown the most promise for the growth of the IS brand abroad, foremost … [Read more...]