Sunday, January 07, 2007

The gathering of insurgent groups in Iraq in 2006

The following are the sites from which the New York Times obtained an important report on the formation of the insurgency in Iraq [1/7/07]: However, it seems totally unrecoverable on the NYTimes web site; the web version doesn't admit to the existence of the page in front of me [Week in Review, p 5].
In fact, the information comes from Evan F. Kohlmann’s website [above] which describes the several militant organizations that joined the Al Qaeda network in 2006. It seems ever more clear that the core of Al Qaeda is a mere small group but the organization has grown in influence and numbers by the accretion of other groups, presumably because of a desire to gain legitimacy or perhaps to get help and money, and to gain collective strength by becoming part of a single larger organization. In any case the web sites indicated above reveal that a group formed in January 2006 calling itself the “Mujahedeen Shura Council” and became a core of a larger movement that is allied with Al Qaeda. on March 23 an organization calling itself the “Society of the True Believers” joined them. On Oct 12 two other groups merged with this group, “Supporters of Monotheism” and “Our Creed.” Only 3 days later they were joined by two other groups, the “Army of the Prophet’s Companions” and the “Army of the Conquerors”. The new organization now called itself “The Islamic State of Iraq” and claimed responsibility for managing eight largely Sunni provinces bordering on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. On November 29 two other groups joined them, “The Knights of Monotheism” and the “Army of the Abrahamic Tradition.” There are other groups said to be loosely allied with Al Qaeda: “Mujahedin Army,” “Ansar Al-Sunnah Army,” which is said to be Kurdish (all the others are Arab). Virtually all of these organizations are described as “brutal.” The commander of Al Qaeda’s Islamic State claims that scores of fighters have sworn allegiance to his group, including members of another group calling itself “1920 Revolution Brigades.”

The zeal to join together in a common organization indicates that there is a broad social movement afoot. Militant Islamism is a social movement in the sense that there are large, broad social conditions at work, setting a context that favors this kind of behavior. What those social conditions are, and the contexts in which individuals find a way to join a radical organization are matters that still need to be better specified. [Sageman, Understanding Terrorist Networks, is very good on this; other good sources can be found on my “Terrorism” site (Go to and click on AN4243 “Terrorism…”)]. Perhaps the militant Islamism of our times is driven by similar forces as those of the Ghost Dance of the Great Plains, a movement that took form as some Native Americans sought a way to recover the world of social relationships and opportunity that they had lost because of the overwhelming advance of the whites. Al Qaeda, at least, claims that the state of Muslims is indeed desperate. Islam is at risk, they say. Such claims have an influence on how some radical Muslims (not all, however) are reacting to the dramatic changes in their world as well as to the abuses of the local autocratic regimes that most of them have to deal with.

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