IS — a Baathist brainchild?
It exposes that one of the most prominent founders of the group, commonly known as Haji Bakr was, in reality, Samir Abd Mohammed Al-Khlifawi, who prior to the US-led invasion was a “colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force…” Following his death, a 31-page, hand-written blueprint to dominate Iraq and Syria was discovered in his Tal Rifaat home — “a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated.”
The basic plan was to establish legitimate Islamic centers in Syria, which overtime were used for recruiting purposes and where spies were handpicked to uncover the dirt on influential local families for the purposes of blackmail; others were selected to monitor rebel groups, imams and the political/religious affiliations of citizens.
Haji Bakr wrote: “We will appoint the smartest ones as Shariah sheikhs” and “several ‘brothers’ would be chosen to marry the daughters of prominent parents so as to “ensure penetrations of these families without their knowledge.”
Initially, the core fighting force was made up of foreign jihadists and impoverished Syrian students. The article quotes Iraqi journalist Hisham Al-Hashimi saying, “Bakr was ‘a nationalist, not an Islamist’ as well as Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who said, following contacts with Bakr and his colleagues, “these phony snakes who are betraying the real jihad.”
The local commander responsible for the bullet that ended his life revealed that there wasn’t a single Qur’an to be found in his house. A former captive of IS, Didier Francois, said during an interview on CNN that his captors never discussed religion and didn’t want to give us a Qur’an.
A British defector from the group, Abu Ayman, told the BBC that he had met his infamous fellow Brit, Mohammed Emwazi dubbed Jihadi John, whose celebrity status he felt was being played like a piano by IS leaders “to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe.” He never prayed with anyone outside his own close circle, Ayman asserted.
Der Spiegal suggests that the so-called Caliph Al-Baghdadi (aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali-Badri) was a former Baathist chosen by Haji Bakr to be the religious poster boy of IS. An article in Newsweek quotes an Islamic State defector that appears to support this. “Haji Bakr polished the image of Al-Baghdadi — he was grooming him to be the prince of the Islamic State. But to be honest Haji Bakr was the real prince of the shadows.”
However, Raed Al-Jabbouri, the governor of Iraq’s Salahaddin province, pointed to Saddam’s former Vice-President and right-hand man Izzat Al-Douri of being the “mastermind of the Islamic State in Iraq.” Al-Douri was reportedly killed earlier this month but in a recorded message marking the Baath Party’s anniversary he accused America of injecting terrorists into Syria to weaken the resistance and described Takfiris of being “the worst enemy of the Arab nation” whereas some years before he had praised the participation of Islamist groups in the fight. Could it be that idealistic recruits are turning against their former masters?
The Internet is abuzz with non-mainstream-media articles that talk about a possible connection between the Islamic State and western intelligence agencies, a theory that’s widely believed in Iraq both on the streets and at the highest levels of government, according to the New York Times.
Beliefs without hard evidence are just that but it’s worth noting that the President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, takes the same line. He has condemned the “Islamic State” as being on the payrolls of western secret services. “They are Shaitans (devils) and their sole obsession is to grab as much money as they can lay hands on. They are acting on the orders from the West and deliberately exterminating Muslims.”
Conspiracy theorists point to an admission by Sen. John McCain on Fox News to the effect President Obama’s National Security team “recommended arming IS” a proposal Obama rejected. This was later buried as a mere Freudian slip on the senator’s part.
Separating fact from fiction is an almost impossible task but if young Muslim men and women were being indoctrinated and manipulated by people with a very different agenda, it wouldn’t be the first time.
At one time the CIA was hand-in-glove with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to wean the population away from Jamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalism. And in the 80s, a US agency advertised for jihadists willing to fight against the Soviets occupying Afghanistan. Known as “Afghan Arabs,” they later formed the mainstay of Al-Qaeda.
Did disgruntled Iraqi Baathists wield a religious banner that didn’t belong to them in order to win fervent fighters ready to die for their cause? Did western intelligence agencies join hands with IS in the hope of using eager would-be martyrs to oust the Assad regime and/or for the endgame of splitting-up Iraq? Sooner or later, truth will out.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view