January 29, 2015

Jabhat al-Nusra and the Druze of Idlib Province

1926 of a meeting of Druze leaders in a ceremonial tent in the Jabal al-Druze (The Druze Mountain) region in southern Syria. The settlement of the Druze in the Lega region of Hauran (Bashan) followed the battle of Ain-Dara, east of The village of Sofar in the Mount of Lebanon in 1711. The battle was the culmination of the struggle for power between the Qaisyyoun faction (The Maan and The Shihab Clan) and the Yemenite faction (Imad al-Din Clan). The defeated Yemenites migrated to the sparsely inhabited Al-Lega region, known today as the Druze Mountain. (Source: http://mideastimage.com/result.aspx; Author: Luigi Stironi)

While most analysis of the Druze in Syria focuses on their positions in Suwayda province- where they constitute the majority of the population- as well as Jabal al-Sheikh in Damascus/Quneitra provinces, it should be remembered that there is also a Druze community in the Jabal al-Samaq area of Idlib province, more widely known as Jabal al-Zawiya. This community consists of numerous villages, whose names can be found here. Unlike their co-religionists in the south, these Druze have no capacity … [Read more...]

Yemen Joins List of Collapsed Mideast States

Map of Shi'a insurgency in Yemen. ("Yemen war detailed map" by 0ali1 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png#mediaviewer/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png)

This week in Yemen, an Iran-backed Shia militia captured the presidential palace. The president has since resigned. It was the latest stage in the slow advance of the Houthis, who entered the capital Sana’a in September of last year. The latest Houthi victories do not bring the Shia rebels undisputed control of the country. They do, however, ensure the undisputed presence of the Iranian clients in the central government. The situation in Yemen exemplifies in acute form most of the phenomena … [Read more...]

Game Not Over: The Quneitra Attack in Context

Entrance to the town of Quneitra, Syria, on the border of the Golan Heights. ("Quneitra" by Ed Brambley - originally posted to Flickr as Quneitra. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quneitra.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Quneitra.jpg)

In analyzing the significance and hence likely fallout from the  Israeli killing of a number of senior Hizballah and IRGC personnel close to the Golan border this week, a number of things should be borne in mind: Firstly, the killings were a response to a clear attempt by the Iranians/Hizballah to violate the very fragile status quo that pertains between these elements and Israel in Lebanon and Syria. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his interview to the al-Mayadeen network … [Read more...]

Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province: Part III

Prayers by the banks of the Euphrates in Raqqa, next to an IS da'wah vehicle.

Parts I and II of this series looked at the system of education and other public services implemented by IS in Ninawa province. What then of religious life and public morality under Shari'a? Diwan al-Hisba The Diwan al-Hisba has IS' "Islamic police" under its wing and is responsible for the enforcement of public morality. It is one of the more familiar departments of IS administration: for example, if someone is caught in possession of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, then that person is to … [Read more...]

Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province: Part II

City market in Mosul, Iraq

Part I of this in-depth examination of IS administration in Ninawa province touched on the realm of education, as one can find a large number of IS documents on that matter. This part looks primarily at service aspects of IS governance in Ninawa province. Diwan al-Khidamat The Diwan al-Khidamat ('Services Administration') is officially responsible for provision of basic public services to locals, most notably electricity, sanitation, water and construction work. However, there is a clear … [Read more...]

Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province: Part I

"Together we cultivate the tree of the Caliphate." A slogan used on IS billboards and murals elsewhere.

A key aspect of IS' self-presentation is its claim to be an actual state (dawla), and not a mere group or organization (jamaat/tanẓim). As part of this presentation, the dawla sets up supposed state administration departments to regulate life in areas under its control. Ninawa province, which remains completely out of Baghdad government control, presents an ample range of purported aspects of IS governance. This series consists of a selection of translated IS documents from Ninawa province … [Read more...]

“The Land of Sinai”- New Islamic State [IS] Nasheed from Ajnad Media

"Wilayat Sinai: By God's permission not a drop of gas will reach the state of Jordan until permitted by the Amir al-Mu'mineen [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the proclaimed Caliph]."

Concomitant with the transformation of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis into 'Wilayat Sinai' ('Sinai Province') following the allegiance to IS in November 2014, here comes an official IS nasheed to add further recognition to the extension of the IS provinces. Here is my preliminary translation: "Oh soldiers of God, go forth and defeat the damned kufr [disbelief/disbelievers]. Oh soldiers of God, indeed we have built an edifice of tawheed. We have dwelled in the land of Sinai, we have rejected … [Read more...]

Four Jews Killed in Paris Attack Buried in Israel

The Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, Paris, where four Jews were murdered by an Islamist terrorist on January 9, 2015.

Under a cloudless Jerusalem sky, a crowd of thousands gathered at the cemetery at Givat Shaul on Tuesday, to bury the four Jews murdered at the Hyper Cacher in Paris. Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, and Francois-Michel Saada were laid to rest in Har Hamenuhot, on the approach to Jerusalem from the west. The families chose to make their funerals an act of defiance, firmly remembering that these lives were robbed by an Islamist murderer, because the four men were Jewish. The form this … [Read more...]

Reflections on the Murders in Paris

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say sentenced to 10 months in prison by the 19th Istanbul Peace Court for “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” (DHA photo).

The Islamic world is currently in the midst of a great historic convulsion. This process is giving birth to political trends and movements of a murderously violent nature. These movements offer a supposed escape route from the humiliation felt at the profound societal failure of the Arab and to a slightly lesser extent the broader Muslim world. The escape is by way of the most violent and intolerant historic trends of Islam, into a mythologized and imagined past. The route to this old-new … [Read more...]

Kata’ib al-Imam al-Gha’ib: Intro and Interview

"Ansar al-Aqeeda: Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib: Special Force"- featuring above the group's official logo used on banners.

To give a brief introduction, Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib ('The Absent Imam Battalions'- the 'Absent Imam' referring to Imam al-Mehdi in Shi'a messianism) is one of dozens of Shi'a militias that have emerged as part of the 'Popular Mobilization' (al-Hashad al-Sha'abi) trend in response to the wave of Islamic State [IS] gains in northern and western Iraq in summer 2014. Like a number of militias (e.g. Hezbollah the Mujahideen in Iraq), Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib- led by a man known as 'Abu Dhir … [Read more...]