by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi • Aug 3, 2014
Intro & AnalysisThe latest statement comes in the context of hints of local unrest in the Mosul area in light of the Islamic State’s (IS) moving forward on the pledges in the “city charter” it issued for Mosul wherein it was clear that the group was seeking from the beginning to turn the city into Iraq’s equivalent of the IS’ de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa. This has most notably included the imposition of dhimmi conditions on the Christian population and the destruction of historic sites perceived as ‘idolatrous.’ In response, social media has seen the proclamation of formations calling themselves “Mosul Battalions” vowing to wage an armed resistance campaign against IS.
Further, the Nujaifi family– most notably, the brothers Osama (former speaker of the parliament, fulfilling the de facto convention in Iraqi politics that this post is occupied by a Sunni Arab) and Atheel, the de iure governor of Ninawa province- recently issued a statement denouncing IS, affirming that “the Nujaifi family are proud to be a target for the criminals of da3esh,” accused of attempting to “kill Mosul’s soul.” The statement added that “the Nujaifi family confirm that they are working day and night against da3esh” and that the “Mosul Battalions” are operating with the support of the Nujaifis. It should be noted that this Nujaifi statement came in response to a purported threat from IS to target JRTN and anyone affiliated with Nujaifi: this threatening document is actually fake, which is immediately apparent because IS does not call itself ISIS anymore in its statements, nor was it released via IS’ official Ninawa province news feed.
While the question of who exactly constitutes these “Mosul Battalions,” if they are meaningful on the ground, is murky, one should remember that Atheel Nujaifi in particular has been playing up the idea of working with the Sufi-Ba’athist Naqshbandi Army (Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia/JRTN) on the basis that they are supposed “moderates” who will cooperate with him to bring about some kind of governmental order to Mosul (even if this is outside of Baghdad’s control).
This latest JRTN statement is important in the following respects:
(i) In attacking Osama al-Nujaifi for announcing the formation of “new militias in Mosul” [i.e. Mosul Battalions] supposedly tied to the central government, it follows that to the extent JRTN in Mosul is maintaining contact with his brother Atheel, JRTN is merely playing him on the illusion of cooperation as JRTN continues to seek its own vision of restoring the pre-2003 Ba’athist state throughout Iraq. As far as JRTN is concerned, the Nujaifis in reality are tainted by having worked within the “Safavid” system that needs to be completely overthrown.
(ii) As ever, JRTN continues its policy of not even mentioning IS by name in its official statements, attempting to make out that either IS has no meaningful presence on the ground or there are no problems at all, and any jarring incidents are actually the work of the “Safavids.” Similar to these official statements are JRTN/pro-JRTN output on social media and Youtube. To take an example from Anbar province, the western locality of Rawa on the Euphrates is under the control of IS. Recently, IS blew up Rawa’s local shrine of one Sheikh Rajab, and JRTN’s activist wing Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq put out a video entitled “Remains of the blowing up of the Sheikh Rajab shrine in the town of Rawa which the followers of the criminal Safavids blew up.” Elsewhere on social media (e.g. Facebook, where multiple JRTN members and fanboys have set up accounts), JRTN supporters continue to decry claims of clashes between JRTN and IS, or, if some are pressed on the issue, they will claim that JRTN is actually stronger than IS- something not borne out in the JRTN reluctance to mention IS by name in its statements. For now, the de facto alliance to “liberate Baghdad” still exists, undermining the JRTN’s claims of “independent” operation on-the-ground (though that is not the context of the assertion here in point 2 of the document).
“Statement by the official JRTN spokesman and denial of what some of the media have circulated and attributed to the former head of the parliament [i.e. Osama al-Nujaifi] on our army offering logistical support for his new militias in Mosul connected with the racist sectarian government
Oh dignified people of Iraq
Oh sons of our Arab Islamic Ummah
Oh free men in the world, gather.
Some of the media, among them those affiliated with the sectarian government, promoted inaccurate news and allegations that have no basis to them comprising falsehoods against our army (JRTN) and attributed to the former head of the so-called Iraqi parliament who had announced the formation of new militias in Mosul connected with the racist sectarian government. Accordingly we make clear:
1. There is no truth to the accusation against our army on release and it is inaccurate news, allegations and falsehoods. Indeed it is an attempt to confuse documentation and destroy the revolution of the Iraqi people, and nothing else.
2. Our field work is independent and we have no link or coordination with any of these so-called entities [i.e. the “Mosul Battalions”].
3. Whoever wants to know more about our stance regarding these falsehoods that have no truthful basis to them, let him go back to our published program on our official electronic site for our army on the Internet and the statements of July 21.
We entreat God, His Messenger and our Iraqi people to continue on the path of liberating the land from every problem of sectarianism, racism and partisanship, including its unity, independence, nobleness and security, with the realization of freedom, justice, equality and the happiness and comfort of our Iraqi people…
Official JRTN spokesman.
5 Shuwwal 1435 AH
1 August 2014.”
Just for clarification, it should be noted, contrary to local Iraqi media reports, that there is nothing in the original statement issued by Osama al-Nujaifi’s media office that explicitly speaks of coordination w/ JRTN or any other of the main insurgent brands in the “Mosul Battalions” formation, although as I noted above, given the line Atheel al-Nujaifi has been giving to media over the past couple of weeks about working w/ JRTN, it has at least been implied by Atheel, and the latest JRTN statement accordingly cannot be read without that in mind.