Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Iraqi Resistance: Analysis

The following is an extract from Alastairs' Conflicts Forum website. The full text is available at

The Motivation of Resistance Fighters

Most resistance fighters are motivated by the religion of Islam or by Iraqi or Arab nationalist
tendencies, and not by support for Saddam Hussein. In truth, some resistance group cadres do not know who leads them, or the origin of their funding and weapons. The ideology of many of the fighters is described by Iraqi experts as being "post-Saddam" -- as a simple combination of
Islamism and nationalism, covering a wide spectrum of Muslims’ viewpoints that converge on the common goal of ending U.S. military rule inside the country. The U.S. occupation is an assault on both Islam and the entire Arab World, resistance leaders claim, and is therefore viewed as something that must be resisted. Senior Saddam loyalists are more active in the command and control, recruiting, planning, hiring, weapons procurement, financial, and logistical support of the resistance than in actually carrying out operations.


The Muslim Current:
Most Muslim resistance fighters are Iraqi Sunni and Shiah Arabs, many of them with a decidedly militant background. However many are merely pious, Sunni, tribal, Arab Muslims who claim to be "fighting for Islam." They are not necessarily fundamentalists.

The Saddam Loyalist Current:
A minority of fighters, and not a particularly large group, are Saddam loyalists. Many of these are involved in the resistance’s senior leadership. This leadership is self-described as “the hidden leadership.” These Saddam loyalists play a significant role in financing the resistance. A number of former Saddam loyalists are present in anti-Saddam groups. When present they are required to take a vow to renounce loyalty to his regime. A number of the former Saddam Fedayeen reportedly converted quickly to the Islamic agenda, becoming members of active Islamic resistance groups.

The Mercenary Current:
The United States alleges that some fighters are mere mercenaries. In fact, foreign mercenaries
make up very few of the resistance population.

The Turkmen Current:
A few Turkmen are known to have taken up arms, but most have not.

The Kurdish Current:
Very few Kurds have taken up arms, and most of those are hard-line Muslims, such as the Al-
Ansar group. However, this group is now said to be defunct and some of their mujahideen have
joined other active groups.

The Christian Current:
A few Iraqi Christians are known to have taken up arms, but most have not.

Foreign Fighters

In the summer of 2003, reports indicated that Syrian resistance fighters outnumbered local
fighters in carrying out attacks in Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad, Baqubah, Balad, Tikrit and Mosul.
However, these reports were contradicted by reports in November indicating most fighters in
most parts of Iraq are native Iraqis. Most of the foreign fighters in the post-major combat phase
(defined as after May 1, 2003) have been Syrians and Lebanese, with Jordanians, Yemenis,
Palestinians, Kuwaitis, Saudis and North Africans (mostly Egyptians and Algerians) being most
significant among the balance.

Many foreign fighters can be described as Arab nationalists, rather than Muslim mujahideen.
Dozens of Arab fighters have come from France and hundreds from Europe. In addition to the
nations above, others have arrived in Iraq from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Albania,
Bosnia, Kosovo, Bangladesh, Qatar, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Saudi
dissident leaders have claimed that 5000 Saudi mujahideen were present in Baghdad in
November 2003. U.S. intelligence believed there were up to 15,000 Saudis in Iraq in September 2003. There were at least 120 Jordanians in the Sunni Triangle fighting U.S. forces as of November.

There were also reports that several hundred Kuwaiti (anti-Kuwaiti regime) mujahideen were
heading into Iraq in November 2003. Iran reportedly filtered in 11,000 to 12,000 Iranian fighters to the Shiah South. These were mostly Revolutionary Guard cadre who entered the country during the Karbala pilgrimage in the spring of 2003. This group has, for the most part, been working to gain influence in the region and is operating peacefully. There is some evidence that Iranian fighters may be stockpiling arms in the South, along with other Iraqi Shiah armed groups.

These arms are being stockpiled for later use.

The number of Al-Qaeda fighters actually operating in Iraq is unknown, with estimates ranging
from 300 to 1000 total fighters.

Foreign Fighters During and Before Major Combat (March 19 - May 1, 2003):

Many foreign fighters entered Iraq before and during major combat operations. An attempt was made to organize these fighters under a central command towards the end of major combat
operations. Just after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, the central command of the Arab
mujahideen stated there were 8000 foreign fighters in Baghdad alone. These foreign fighters took heavy casualties during the invasion, and many returned home after Baghdad fell. Now, in the post-war phase, they are returning.

About 1500 to 2000 Palestinians entered Iraq during major combat operations, mostly from a
splinter group of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades aligned with Syria and located in Lebanese
refugee camps. About 30 to 40 more members of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades came from just
one town in the West Bank.

Fighters from Romania and Vietnam (Communists), Indonesia, Russia, Dagestan (8000) and
Malaysia reportedly were also headed for the battlefield in the post war phase, but it appears they never made it. Hamas and Islamic Jihad each sent units of 300 fighters, with Islamic Jihad's mujahideen coming through Lebanon. Hezbollah sent approximately 800 mujahideen and they continued to trickle in long after major combat ended. Hezbollah operatives went mostly to the South after the end of the major combat. Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani group active in Kashmir and that also maintains a Saudi presence, sent a number of mujahideen, possibly as many as 100 to 200 fighters, during the major combat phase, and suffered casualties. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hezb-e-Islami, and HUM (Pakistani Kashmiri fighters) all sent mujahideen, with most arriving after the fall of Baghdad.

Al-Qaeda Foreign Fighters:

Al-Qaeda appears to now have an open presence in Iraq. In the months prior to the war, when
conflict seemed inevitable, small units of al-Qaeda formed cells in Baghdad, but were ordered to
stay clear of Saddam’s regime. This group numbered only 30 to 40 fighters. They fought during
the war and remained afterwards, when they were reinforced by other operatives. Gradually the number has increased. Many of the al-Qaeda who came to Iraq during and after major combat phase appear to have come in via Iran, either across the border east of Baghdad, or to the north through the Kurdish areas. A few others have come across the Turkish border into the Kurdish zone. After the collapse of the regime, foreign fighters flowed into the country across the Syrian, Kuwaiti and Saudi borders.

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