Islamic State/Da’esh – A growing number of defectors from the so-called Islamic State are speaking publicly about their decision to leave, according to a new report published by the BBC on the 21 Sep 15. The defectors risk reprisals by members of the militant group and imprisonment by their home nations, the report says, leading most to go into hiding. But researchers at King's College London found 58 defectors had spoken out, two-thirds of them this year. The report suggests their testimonies could help to discourage new members.
The International Centre for the Study for Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College, which published the report, estimates that hundreds of former militants have now defected or attempted to defect. Dozens are thought to have made it out via Turkey while others have reportedly been caught and executed. The ICSR claims that the 58 cases in their study are "likely only a fraction of those disillusioned, ready to defect and/or willing to go public". The researchers identify several key narratives among the reasons for leaving IS. Most defectors said they were concerned with brutality against fellow Muslims and perceived "un-Islamic" behaviour among members, including corruption. Some admitted they were disappointed with the quality of life under IS. "They were typically among the ones who had joined the group for material and 'selfish' reasons, and quickly realised that none of the luxury goods and cars that they had been promised would materialise," the report says. Two fighters said they defected after learning they were to be suicide bombers. Speaking to the BBC last year, one defector, who asked not to be named, said the "brutality of IS terrifies everyone". "Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed," he said. The report suggests that stories of disillusionment could help to discourage new recruits. "The defectors provide unique insight into life in the Islamic State," it says. "But their stories can also be used as a potentially powerful tool in the fight against it. The defectors' very existence shatters the image of unity and determination that IS seeks to convey." The US is already fighting a propaganda war against the group. Among its tools are a State Department-run Twitter account named "Think Again Turn Away" devoted to pushing out anti-IS messages. But the ICSR urges governments to do more to encourage former IS militants to speak out, including removing legal obstacles such as prosecution on terror charges. The report acknowledges that many of the defectors may have committed crimes and have an incentive to "say whatever they think will save them from prosecution or worse". But it said the narratives compiled by the ICSR were "so strong and consistent" with other accounts that they could be regarded as valid. The earliest cases compiled in the report date from January 2014 and the most recent from August this year. Overall, two thirds of cases occurred during the first eight months of 2015 and one third in the summer months alone.
What the defectors said
"I opened up my jacket and said, 'I have a suicide vest, but I don't want to blow myself up'" - Usaid Barho, Syrian teenager
"Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed" - anonymous defector
"The restrictions on leaving made it feel a bit like a prison" - Abu Ibrahim, 'Westerner'
Read more case studies in full
Iraq – Unconfirmed Russian presence in Baghdad: An unconfirmed report stated that a joint Russian and Iranian "coordination cell" had been established in Baghdad that included "low-level Russian generals," a development of which Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari stated that he had "no knowledge." ISW will watch for additional indicators to verify this report and identify the size and nature of the Russian presence, should it exist. (Source: Institute for the Study of War 26 Sep 15)
Iran/Iraq – Saraya al Khorasani, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that operates alongside the Iraqi military, released a short video advertising one of its training camps. The location of the facility is unknown, however, the beginning of the video includes an aerial shot in Iraq’s western province of Anbar a report claimed on the 19 Sep 15. The training camp is called the “Sheikh Hajj Hamid Taqavi training center.” It is named after Hamid Taqavi, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force general who was killed by an Islamic State sniper late 2014. Taqavi served as a military adviser to Saraya al Khorasani when he was killed. Taqavi was lauded by the Shiite militia after his death. Ali al Yasiri, the group’s leader, described Taqavi as “an expert at guerrilla war” and said that “People looked at him as magical.” The militia also put up billboards praising Taqavi throughout Baghdad and published videos online to commemorate the Iranian general. The latest video released by the group also includes appearancea by al Yasiri, as well as Hamid al Jaza’iri, who has been identified as the “deputy secretary general” of Saraya al Khorasani and the commander of its “18th Brigade.” In one shot, Yasiri and Jaza’iri are shown walking with an unidentified figure. The producers of the video attempt to distort his face to prevent him from being identified, however he can be seen for a split-second. Saraya al Khorasani was one of several Iranian-backed Shiite militias that were involved in the operation that captured the central Iraqi city of Tikrit from the Islamic State earlier this year. The Iraqi government has relied on Iranian-supported militias to oppose the Islamic State. In addition to Tikrit, these militias, many of which are led by US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorists, have helped eject the Islamic State from Amerli, Jurf al Sakhar, and smaller towns and villages in Diyala and Salahaddin province. The Shiite militias are currently involved in the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province, and Baiji in Salahaddin. The Shiite militias fall under the command of the Popular Mobilization Committee, or Popular Mobilization Forces, which was created after the Islamic State took control of vast areas of northern and central Iraq in June 2014. The Popular Mobilization Committee is directed by Muhandis, who is closely tied to Iran and Soleimani. Many of the largest and most powerful Shiite militias in the Popular Mobilization Committee, such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba, and the Imam Ali Brigades remain actively hostile to the US to this day. Qods Force has been instrumental in supporting Shiite militias inside Iran, and has done so since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Qods Force, with the help of Hezbollah, helped establish militias such as the Mahdi Army, Asaib al Haq, and Hezbollah Brigades between 2003 and 2006. These militias, which the US military previously described as the “Special Groups,” are responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers between 2004 and 2011.
Iraq/United States – The U.S. embassy has foiled two attempts to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a high-level Iraqi official told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published on the 22 Sep 15. The official said the first operation to eliminate Abadi, who took power in Sep 14 and has been hailed for his sweeping reforms, was in its early stages. However, the second bid – at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone - to assassinate the premier was “advanced” in reaching its target, and led to the arrests of suspects, who are army officers. The official said these assassination attempts were due to Abadi’s reforms. The report came after Abadi said he expected a coup against him, and this might cost him his life as well. Last month, Abadi abolished the positions of vice-president and vice-premier. As a result, Maliki, the-then vice president, was the most senior politician to be removed from his post. According to an official, Abadi recently criticized a government convoy - seen in the southern city of Basra – awaiting Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the powerful Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds unit. The official said the premier did not know of Soleimani’s visit to Iraq and expressed surprise and concern that the Iranian general’s visit was not official. Images circulating online showed Soleimani with the mainly Shiite militia volunteer groups of the Population Mobilization units in Iraq fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. ISIS controls much of the country’s Sunni-dominant north and western regions. 361 COMMENT: Although we will never know the facts of the latest assassination nor the earlier one it would be interesting to know who was behind the attempts. Admittedly there has been disquiet in Iraq during Saddam’s time and after. But now that the Iraqi government is attempting to sort out its issues and move on, this comes along. As for who would be behind an attempt then that would fall upon the Shia’s who are the majority in the country. How well Iraq would benefit under another Shia government is anyone’s guess but it would certainly benefit Iran who whilst defeating the Islamic State in the country would find it easier to have a road corridor to assist its allies Syria and Assad. This solve no end of problems with resupplying logistics’ as it would end the problems that Iran has with air movement and sea movement to Syria. This would have a whole new meaning to the problems in the fight against Israel and resupplying the Syrians, Hezbollah and the Palestinians. COMMENT ENDS
Israel/Palestine – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of the "risk of a new Intifada", as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem continue. In recent weeks, tensions have turned violent at the Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims. Jewish Israelis, particularly settler groups, visited the compound frequently in the lead-up to and during the Jewish New Yea. "What is happening is very dangerous," Abbas said on the 22 Sep 15, after a meeting with French leader, Francois Hollande in Paris. Abbas called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "stop" the chaos at the holy site, claiming that it will result in "a new Intifada, which we don't want". Hollande called for "peace, calm, and the respect of principles". Israeli forces were deployed in large numbers across East Jerusalem's Palestinian neighbourhoods earlier in the day, ahead of the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur on the 23 Sep 15 and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on the 24 Sep 15. Checkpoints connecting East Jerusalem with the rest of the West Bank were closed off by the Israeli army. Two weeks ago, Israel outlawed the male and female groups of Palestinian worshippers - known respectively as Mourabitoun and Mourabitat - who attempt to prevent Jewish Israelis from entering the Aqsa Mosque compound. A study published by the Palestinian Center for Study and Policy Research found that 57 percent of Palestinians "support a return to an armed Intifada", as opposed to 49 percent supporting an uprising just three months ago.
Israel – Israel says it has indicted seven Arab citizens on suspicion of setting up an Islamic State cell in the country and planning to attack police and army bases it was reported on the 01 Oct 15. Spokeswoman Luba Samri said on the 01 Oct that the seven — all men in their 20s and 30s — are affiliated with the Islamic State group's ideology. She said they had collected intelligence on police and military bases in Israel. In the investigation, they also admitted planning to firebomb businesses that sold alcohol since it contradicts their Muslim faith. Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population. While many identify with the Palestinians and some have turned militant, just a handful have joined the IS.
Saudi Arabia – The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on the 28 Sep 15 it has intercepted an ISIS cell during four simultaneous operations in the Saudi capital Riyadh and the eastern city of Dammam. During the operations, two ISIS members were killed and three others were arrested. The ministry confirmed that the cell was linked to the suicide bomber behind the Abha mosque attack that took place in Aug 15. A suicide bomber killed 15 people at a mosque inside a Special Forces headquarters in the southern city. It also said that Saudi forces have arrested Faysal Hamed al-Ghamdi, a wanted ISIS member in Riyadh who had threatened to kill his father. The ministry said Aqeel Ameesh al-Mutairy, who was killed during heavy clashes with police in Riyadh, was one of the most 85 wanted by the Saudi authorities. Over the last few months, ISIS carried out several attacks on mosques in the kingdom which killed dozens of people.
Syria/Iran/Arab Coalition – Arab coalition forces have announced on the 30 Sep 15 the capture of an Iranian boat carrying weapons last Saturday (26 Sep 15) near southeast of Oman’s Salalah coast. When the boat was first inspected and seized, a number of rockets and missiles were found on board intended for Houthi forces, a coalition statement said. Among other arms, 18 armour-piercing shells, 54 anti-tank missiles, 15 battery kits designed for military projectiles and weapons guidance systems were found. The Arab coalition forces also announced the arrest of 14 sailors on board the ship. The boat was seized on the third day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Saudi Ministry of Defence official spokesperson Gen. Maj. Ahmed Asiri said the attempt to smuggle weapons illustrates Tehran’s frustration and confusion over the conflict in Yemen. The weapons convoy is the largest shipment intercepted since a naval blockade was imposed in Mar 15, Asiri said. Documents seized from the boat showed that the vessel was registered under an Iranian citizen's name. The documents also showed that the boat was set up for fishing purposes. Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, the coalition's spokesman, said: "The type of weapons that were recovered on Saturday confirms Iran's desire and intention to interfere in the war in Yemen." Yemen's President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi on the 25 Sep 15 accused Iran of pursuing the destruction of his country.