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Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI)

The Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) was one of Iraq's most powerful Sunni insurgent groups. The Islamic Army of Iraq, a key Sunni resistance group, allegedly included former members of the Ba'ath Party. When Saddam’s regime fell in 2003, the majority of Salafists were traditional and moderate and many initially did not choose armed confrontation with US forces.

The Islamic Army of Iraq was said to have kept a distance from armed Sunnis groups affiliated with both the Baathists and al-Qaeda. By one account, the leaders of armed Iraqi Salafi groups, such as units from the Islamic Army of Iraq, Abu Bakr Army and the Saad Army followed the teaching of Syrian Mohammed al-Saroor, not Ayman al-Zawahiri or Osama Bin Laden [Syria's Salafi Networks - Center For Complex Operations]. But by another account, the Salafi armed groups that appeared in 2003, including Ansar al-Sunnah and the Islamic Army of Iraq, were made up of individuals “with ties to or admiration for Osama bin Laden.” In Iraq, IAI “cooperated with Zarqawi’s group,” as did Ansar al-Sunnah [Hashim, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, p. 175].

The Islamic Army of Iraq, made up of Sunni Arabs and former Baathists, pursued a system reintegration strategy. They were interested in restructuring the political process in Iraq to guarantee that Sunni Arabs and nominal Baathists (not Saddam loyalists) were not marginalized by sectarian political arrangements. They were "fighting to oust the coalition forces from their country and overturn the political arrangements that have given ascendancy to Shia and Kurdish communities at the expense of the Sunnis … their main objective — at least when they first mobilized — has been to reverse political developments imposed by foreigners and collaborators through occupation… [and] their ultimate goal is to reintegrate Sunnis and nominal Baathists in a political process that does not give disproportionate power to the Shia and Kurds on the basis of narrow communal interests or federalism." [Hafez, Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom, 36.]

The Iraqi insurgency consisted of numerous factions and no unified leadership, although a multi-group “Mujahedin Shura” was formed in early 2006, led by an Iraqi (Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi). Some groups were led by ex-Saddam regime leaders, others by Islamic extremists. Major factions outside the mujahedin shura included the Islamic Army of Iraq, Muhammad’s Army, and the 1920 Revolution Brigades.

The master frame of the opposition forces was anti-Coalition. All other frames and actions amplified the anti-Coalition frame, where blame is laid on the Coalition for the change in status of the Sunni areas. Iraq is replete with examples of anti-Coalition framing, such as this January 2005 statement from the Islamic Army of Iraq: "When the infidel Americans and their allies became weak and the burden [of Iraq] became unbearable, they decided to rescue their remaining dignity by using so-called democracy in order to rule over us using our own people. It is well-known that the meaning of democracy is ‘rule of the people’, but their decisions are not true to this infidel concept. Moreover, they impose whatever they like in the name of democracy, this democracy that gives cover to occupation and tyranny."

By one account, in 2006 AQI "went back to the groups that were working with them, the jihad or mujahideen groups like the Islamic Army, the 20th Revolution Brigades, the IslamicMovement, the Mujahideen Army, and other groups, and told them, “Either you give us your weapons and your vehicles, and you work under our control, or you will not be allowed to shoot a single bullet, even if you are shooting at the Americans.” According the information we have, about 60 percent of these groups cooperated with them. The 40 percent who were against them were either killed or fled abroad, mostly to Syria. And the rest, some people just sat at home and did nothing. They stopped their activities." [Al-Anbar Awakening, Vol II]

The cracks in the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigade in 2007 were greeted in Washington as a welcome development. But Steven N. Simon, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, saw this as " ... a misreading of events. These splits reflect a tendency for insurgents to opt for more radical solutions when the so-called moderates do not appear to be capable of delivering results. Fissures in the insurgency reflect defections to al Qaeda, rather than a growing taste for moderation. It is therefore premature to celebrate episodic, local rifts between AQ affiliates and other insurgents or see them simply as a rejection of AQ."

Syria-based Mish'an Al-Jaburi provided financial, material, and technical support for acts of violence that threatened the peace and stability of Iraq. In February 2006, Al-Jaburi was expelled from the New Iraqi Parliament and fled Iraq to Syria for embezzling government funds and supporting Iraq-based insurgents. Al-Jaburi also owned Syria-based Al-Zawra, a television station that considers itself to be part of the fight against the US In one instance, Al-Jaburi agreed to broadcast open-coded messages through patriotic songs to the Sunni terrorist group Islamic Army of Iraq.

Syria-based Al-Zawra television station was owned and controlled by Mish'an Al-Jaburi. Publicly stating that he owns Al-Zawra and that "no one" outside his family controlled its content, Al-Jaburi privately agreed to broadcast open-coded messages through patriotic songs to the Sunni terrorist group the Islamic Army of Iraq. Al-Zawra, which has received financing from Al-Qa'ida, is also used as a venue to broadcast graphic videos of attacks against U.S. forces. Additionally, Al-Zawra broadcast recruitment videos for AQI's Abu Bakr Al-Sadiq Al-Salafi Battalion. In November 2006, Al-Zawra's Iraq office was closed by the Government of Iraq for airing programs inciting violence.

On 09 January 2008 the US Department of the Treasury designated four individuals and one entity, including Mish'an Al-Jaburi and Al-Zawra television, under Executive Order 13438 for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the Government of Iraq.

By 2008 satellite television had become an integral part of the jihadists' electronic pulpit. Al-Zawraa, a satellite TV station in Iraq, was one of the most effective weapons of the Islamic Army of Iraq. Al-Zawraa provided nonstop footage of the Sunni war against the US and Muqtada Al Sadr's Shi'ite militia. It regularly shows militants planning attacks against US units, the killing of coalition soldiers by snipers or roadside bombs, and operations against Shi'a objectives. The station's programs were broadcast across the Arab world by Nilesat, a satellite provider controlled by the Egyptian government. Al-Zawraa announced plans to distribute its programs on European satellites; eventually, it wanted to reach American viewers.

Terrorists and insurgents shot this footage of attacks staged for the explicit purpose of providing propaganda for filming. A different strategy altogether involves the fabrication of events. In at least one case, insurgents were successful because they “piggybacked” their hoax onto an actual event. On 01 December 2005, a single improvised explosive device (IED) killed 10 Marines. In the following days, al Jazeera, the arab satellite network, NBC and CBS aired footage provided by the Islamic Army of Iraq, which claimed it was footage of that very explosion. Whatever the footage was, however, it could not possibly have been of the same attack, because that IED had exploded at night, and this footage was clearly of something that had happened in broad daylight.

During 2006-2007, some IAI members were thought to have joined the US-backed Awakening Councils to fight al-Qaeda. The group also was reported to have shifted its attention more towards growing Iranian influence inside Iraq, especially as US forces began to withdraw. After a period of relative inactivity, the group was seen as a supporter of the anti-government protests that spread since 2011.




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