Research on the Islamic State, Syria, and Iraq
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
February 1–February 29, 2016
Islamic State executioners behead one of the group's fighters for desertion in January in Mosul, Iraq. See Jawad al-Tamimi's article on the Islamic State's internal problems.
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum's Jihad Intel project, writes extensively about the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and other armed groups in Syria and Iraq. As his writings and translations tend to be too detailed for a general readership, we periodically compile links and summaries for those wishing to learn about the groundbreaking work of this prolific researcher.
For all writings by Jawad al-Tamimi, click here.
Is ISIS Good at Governing? (Feb. 3)
The Brookings Institute
Jawad al-Tamimi examines internal Islamic State (IS, ISIS) documents to shed light on the question of how effective its governance is. Notwithstanding its "comprehensive and impressive" bureaucracy, financial problems have led to "reduced expenditures and increased taxation" in IS areas. Military spending – primarily on fighters' salaries – "can be reasonably estimated to account for two-thirds of ISIS expenditures," he notes, an indication that internal revolt within IS ranks is unlikely.
The Life of al-Khal: First Leader of Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk (Feb. 14)
A profile of Muhammad al-Baridi (Abu Ali al-Baridi), known popularly as al-Khal (a "the uncle"), the cofounder and leader of the Syrian Sunni Islamist Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade), based in southwest Deraa province, from its birth in 2012 until his death in November 2015. Unlike many Syrian jihadis, al-Khal was not a veteran of prior jihadist conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere and initially aligned his group with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Jawad al-Tamimi points to conflicting interpretations as to whether al-Khal radicalized over time or merely pretended to be moderate initially to draw foreign support.
Liwa Usud al-Hussein: A New Pro-Assad Militia in Latakia (Feb. 19)
Profile of Liwa Usud al-Hussein (The Lions of Hussein Brigade), a new pro-regime Alawite militia established in Latakia province in the summer of 2015 to combat rebel advances. Unlike the Coastal Shield Brigade and many other pro-regime militias, it does not claim affiliation to the Syrian army. The relatively small number of "martyrs" it has announced suggests the militia plays "a very minor role in the overall conflict."
Emblem of Liwa Dir' al-Watan
Liwa Dir' al-Watan: A New Pro-Assad Militia in Damascus (Feb. 24)
Profile of Liwa Dir' al-Watan (Homeland Shield Brigade), a pro-regime militia established in the fall of 2015 as part of a wider effort by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to consolidate control of the Damascus area. Like most pro-Assad militias, it portrays itself as an auxiliary of the Syrian army. Despite its outward Syrian nationalist appearance, is appears to be substantially controlled by the commander of the Iraqi Shi'a militia Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar, Hayder al-Juburi (aka Abu Shahed).
The Dir' al-Watan Brand: Liwa Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Feb. 26)
In a follow-up to the above profile, the author examines the use of the term dir' al-watan (homeland shield) by other militia forces preceding the establishment of Liwa Dir' al-Watan, also linked to the Iraqi Shi'a militia Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar. Their consolidation under the name Liwa Dir' al-Watan "reflects a broader initiative to give a more acceptable 'Syrian face' to foreign militia involvement on the side of the Assad regime."
Challenges for the Islamic State: Manpower, Finance, and Information (Feb. 27)
The author discusses three critical internal problems with which the Islamic State is struggling: manpower shortages, financial problems, and difficulty controlling the flow of information between its subjects and the outside world.
New Mobilization Call from Azaz: Translation & Analysis (Feb. 2)
Translations of two recent Syrian insurgent recruiting appeals, which "reflect an increasingly dire situation for the rebels" in the wake of Russian-backed offensives by pro-regime forces.
Dissent in the Islamic State's Yemen Affiliates (Feb. 29)
Translations of numerous documents concerning the eruption of dissent within the Islamic State's Yemeni affiliates over the past few months. These include a "statement disavowing the wali of Yemen," referencing the governor appointed by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, signed by dozens of IS officials and soldiers; a rebuke from a member of the IS Shura Council; and an order of expulsion "from the soldiery of the Islamic State in Yemen" of various individuals for, among other things, taking "unwarranted stances" and "striving to broadcast fitna [division] among the soldiers of the Islamic State."
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum's Jihad Intel project.
Related Topics: Iraq, Persian Gulf & Yemen, Syria | Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list