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17 April 2015


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Patrick Bahzad


It certainly looks that way ! I can hear the Neo-Con trash-talk from here: "told you so ! Saddam was in on it from the start, etc.".
Soon we'll find some blue-print in Saddam's own writing, where he lay the foundations of ISIS from his rat-hole in Tikrit !


Col. Lang,

I was always under the impression Saddam was a psychopath whom was all about himself and willing to do pretty much anything to keep himself in power.

I think Saddam's endorsement and encouragement of reIslamization among the Sunnis was meant to keep his clique in power vice actually fan the flames of a global jihad.



No. It's pretty much a statement of fact coupled with opinion based on fact and proven theory applied to facts. I am also aware of Ansar al Islam and groups like the Soraya and IMK as well as the Hussein regime's peculiar dealings with them.

The growth of Sunni Islamist ideologies like Salafism and Wahhabism were being encouraged in Iraq by the Hussein regime among a populace that was far more receptive to such ideologies following Gulf I and the implementation of sanctions.

I pretty much already know why Saddam's regime encouraged the spread of Sunni Islamist ideologies and it wasn't to wage global jihad against the West.

And I never found the SRG, the SSO, Unit 999, or Iraq's other intelligence services to be amateurs. IMO, such groups would have been extremely useful to a successful insurgency and greatly contribute to ISIS's coercive, intelligence gathering, and terrorism capabilities. ISIS is clearly good at domestic repression and also pretty good at covert influence and collection.

SRG personnel would have also been more useful to an insurgency than Iraqi conscripts and the Fedayeen, while they weren't that good, would have also been more useful to a campaign of insurgency.

Patrick Bahzad

If what you say is a statement of fact, I wonder where you get your facts from, given you were never present on the ground in the period you talking about, post-1991 and pre-2003 !
You're also implying that you had to deal with these groups or organisations yourself, given that you venture as far as giving a professional opinion about them. I know you didn't have to deal with them though, so I would recommend not taking credit for something you had no dealing with.
When I say "bozos", I think it dawned on pretty much everyone that this didn't apply to officers and career military in Saddam's forces, although they have been treated and dismissed as "bozos" by US proconsul Paul Bremer, probably on specific order from the White House (just adding this remark because I know my friend Babak is very touchy about the subject).
As for establishing a connection between these organisations (SRG, etc.) and the rise of ISIS, this is as far fetched a connection as anything I've seen since Colin Powell's (in)famous speech at the UN about WMDs in February 2003. That individuals formerly belonging to Saddam's forces have moved over to ISIS, this is common knowledge and nothing new, but saying 10-12 years later, this is the work of Saddam's intel services is ludicrous. You had better check what the US Command had to say about ISIS in 2010, if you want to have a good laugh ! Check Odierno's quotes on the subject for example.
Finally, talking about the "reislamization" of Iraq (what does that mean by the way ?), a country that has always been of Islamic culture and religion, even though the regime was secular in some ways, is just a non-starter. By the way, last time I checked, women had more freedom in the streets of Baghdad under Saddam than under the new "democracy" created with US help. What does that say about when this supposed islamisation took place ?


"I think Saddam's endorsement and encouragement of reIslamization among the Sunnis was meant to keep his clique in power vice actually fan the flames of a global jihad."

I find the idea that Saddam was bent on fanning global Jihad to perpetuate himself unpersuasive at best. Global Jihad, indifferent to states, was his own worst enemy from within.

What about Islam being the flavour of the day after Ba'ath somewhat went out of fashion?



Where did I ever take credit for dealing with something I didn't? There is a plethora of information available on groups like the SSO, Unit 999, SRG, and Fedayeen Saddam. Much of it compiled by individuals who were in Iraq from 1991-2003 and dealt with these types, And yes, we did deal with some of them in 2003 and 2004-2005, albeit I never sat down and had chai with any of those types. Most of the former IA personnel I met were Shia.

I have also known more than one or two individuals who lived in Iraq during the 1991-2003 period.

Where did I ever say ISIS or other Wahhabi/Salafi movements were the work of Saddam's intelligence service? I implied Saddam's regime attempted to encourage Islamist ideologies and co-opt a growing Islamist trend among Iraq's Sunni Arab population.

"What does that say about when this supposed islamisation took place?"

It merely says coercive forces capable of limiting the influence of Islamists in Baghdad ceased to exist IMO. As I understood it, a lot of the Islamists enforcing various edicts in Iraq were Shia. The Shia were always a majority in Saddam/Sadr City and if I remember correctly, Hurriya is mostly Shia too. Shiite militias were also enforcing Islamic rules and mores in Basra. Would Saddam have supported a Shia Islamization campaign? Definitely not.

That said, I did not come away with the impression Fallujah was a shining example of secularism and women's liberation prior to 2003.


That's pretty much what I said.

The Hussein regime sought to encourage and co-opt a preexisting trend to advance its own interests.

Attacks on US interests like those perpetrated by AQ would not have advanced Saddam Hussein's interests IMO.

Patrick Bahzad

Fair enough. Thx for clearing that up. I was under the impression you meant to say Saddam encouraged Wahhabi and salafi groups to take roots in Iraq which in turn created the turf out of which ISIS grew. To me that sounded like saying saddam's regime was responsible in the end for the emergence of groups like AQI or ISIS. Maybe I didn't get your point but i remain convinced you can't take an example out of its context because you run the risk of distorting reality. Saddam may have used of fundamentalist Sunni groups at specific points in time not because he was in cahoots with bin laden but because it gave him leverage over his own enemies in the ME or as an expendable militia against the U.S.
I wouldn't rate these trends as highly indicative of anything that was to follow in Iraq. Besides it was the Intel agencies job to infiltrate and manipulate emerging Islamist groups - including setting them up to attract local Islamists ( what you'd call a honey trap) - and possibly turn them loose on Saddam's enemies, including possibly the U.S. when an invasion became more and more likely.
Regarding the influence of these groups on the insurgency that followed the invasion, I would say it was marginal. Lots of the "amateurs" who were recruited in expectation of the invasion were killed pretty easily. The ones who really mattered, ie the officers in the army and the security forces, could have been turned if it hadn't been for Bremer's CPA order 2.
Also don't underestimate the importance of "blood debt" in tribal areas ... In that regard the 82nd was pretty f*ing stupid in its early dealings with people in Fallujah ! Killing 15 protesters or so wasn't exactly the best way to make friends with the locals. Doesn't take much more to make mortal enemies in a Arab country.
You're right of course about Baghdad falling in Shia hands, but who handed the city over to them ? It sure wasn't Saddam ! Who put the police special commandos in charge ? They definitely didn't get their license to kill from Saddam either ... And ultimately who pushed tens of thousands of Sunnis out of Baghdad into the areas of the Sunni triangle that are now the staunchest supporters of ISIS. Again it's not Saddam.
The point being, there may have been personal links or connections to Islamist groups, I can't say there have or not, and the regime certainly tried to manipulate them, but suggesting this is the reason for the cluster fuck Iraq has turned into, while forgetting to mention the abysmal handling of post Saddam Iraq, when decisions were made solely for short term tactical gain, that is an attempt at rewriting history that is not consistent with the truth.



Iraq was a cluster fuck in the making and policies like deBaathification merely made the problem worse. Some military and intelligence officers could have been turned or not joined the insurgency were it not for Order 2. Some could not. How many could or could not? We don't know.

I do know some ex military and intelligence personnel turned to Islamist ideologies prior to 2003. Likewise, if you station large numbers of military personnel in Fallujah and disproportionately recruit military and intelligence officers from that part of Iraq, you are going to end up with at least some Islamists in the ranks.

The general feeling regarding the 82nd Airborne in Fallujah around 2003 was the Muj provoked a disproportionate response. Provoking a response is an M.O. of groups like ISIS and reliable sources have indicated that is what happened.

As far as the Shia go, provoking a disproportionate response from the Shia through mass casualty attacks and rubbing out more moderate Shia leaders capable of wielding any sort of authority was the stated strategy of groups like JTWJ/AQI and that is exactly what they did.

Patrick Bahzad


Your take on things is that Iraq was already broken, or on its way there, when the US invaded. All the US did then was to accelerate things, maybe giving the country a chance for a new start.
That sounds like a pretty weak argument to me, but it may work better with a domestic audience, especially in an electoral campaign in which the name "Bush" and "OIF" might be mentioned a few times.

Regarding the counter-factual, sure, it's difficult to say with certainty what might have been achieved if lunatics and ideologues with no knowledge of the ME had not been in charge. We have been in touch however with a number of prominent members of the Iraqi military and civilian elites and we know there was a willingness to cooperate at least from some of them. But instead of getting X % cooperation, you got 0 % and worse than that you alienated 100 % of the redundant military, police, intelligence and baath people, cutting them of of financial revenues (which is very important to secure allegiances in Iraq) and thus making sure they could be targeted by groups with something else in mind ... That was a pretty f*ed plan and it was entirely of the CPA's making.

As for the islamisation of Iraq under Saddam, again this is taking one element in a sequence of events out its context to make it fit a politically and ideologically charged message. It is dishonest and flat out wrong. Besides, it shows that you didn't understand what was at work in Saddam's post 1991 Iraq, which was actually a weakening State relying more on tribal and sectarian structures to stay in power and keep its opposition in check.

In that relation, Fallujah is another "myth". Fallujah has always been a place where foreign invaders were never welcome. The British already had to fight hard in 1920 against the Sunni tribes of Fallujah. Under Saddam, Fallujah, like other places, has been a hotbed of support for Saddam because the tribes there were supportive of Saddam, and got something in return. That's why lots of military came from there, was stationed there and returned there, once they had been fired by Bremer. That there was a foreign and domestic salafi fundamentalist element there is evident, but it was marginal at the time (2002-2003).

Finally regarding the killing of protesters in 2003, and that's gonna be my final comment on the whole issue, if you come to a place like Fallujah and expect no provocations, you should not be dealing with such issues. Going into Fallujah was going to trigger something, that was clear, and responding by killing 15 people (or 13 maybe ?) is exactly what the "hostiles" wanted from you ... on that level, a job well done, sure, as the events of 2004 proved, that's a no brainer !

Side note, the reference to ISIS in the context of 2003 is misplaced, unless of course, this is again an attempt at rewriting history. But you're entitled to your opinion, I'm not arguing about that, just saying that making the wrong assessment, even and especially now, is quite worrying and shows how uncomfortable the basic truth is, which is that Bush/Cheney's Neo-Con croonies are the people who broke Iraq and turned it into what it is today. This is no personal criticism of you, just a personal reflection on where the real responsibilities lie. I've dealt with Islamic fundamentalists of all creed from the mid-1980s to 2012, I have an idea what they can be made responsible for and what not.



I don't generally get involved in domestic politics. They bore me.

While it would be dishonest to deny the role of the "neocon" crowd in pursuing bad policies, I am also all too aware of a tendency to blame outsiders for everything and spin conspiracy theories in the ME. Well, I tend to notice that trend in Washington DC too.

"Besides, it shows that you didn't understand what was at work in Saddam's post 1991 Iraq, which was actually a weakening State relying more on tribal and sectarian structures to stay in power and keep its opposition in check."

Actually, that's what I thought it was all along.

"Your take on things is that Iraq was already broken, or on its way there, when the US invaded."

Broken? No. In decent shape? No. That said, while the Bush/Cheney administration deserves its share of criticism for what they are responsible for in Iraq, it is not entirely truthful to blame Iraq's predicament solely on them. The sanctions were from 1991-2003 and fell under Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. Regime change in Iraq was also a goal of the Clinton administration. There were also other policies like screwing the Shia post Gulf-I.

On top of that, it was Saddam's decision to pursue policies like launching the Iran-Iraq war, Gulf War I, and various domestic policies sure to encourage, if not create outright chaos in the event of a regime change.

Expecting no provocations in Fallujah? Let us not be naive. We came to know pretty much every dirty Muj trick in the book. Problem is, much of the the press, most politicians, and some of the legal types didn't.

How much did the 82nd Airborne guys know in Fallujah in April 2003? I don't know. What I do know is there was a preplanned insurgency/terrorist campaign in the works by the regime and hard-core Islamist groups like JTWJ and AAI prior to the March 2003 onset of OIF.

Failing to comprehend the existence of a preplanned insurgency was a failure of the Bush/Cheney crowd that they deserve full blame for. I think we can end this on agreement on that.


Yes, as Shelby Foote says, "You fight with your people".


Col. a couple of recent articles of interest with regard to IS leadership deaths/woundings/assassinations. First, this article says a new leader of ISIS has been appointed. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/is-isis-replacing-its-injured-leader-abu-bakr-albaghdadi-with-a-former-physics-teacher-10199521.html
Second, this article says that a resistance cell is killing ISIS leaders. http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/230420151
Third, this article says that 10 doctors south of Mosul were killed for not treating IS fighters. http://www.christianpost.com/news/isis-executes-10-doctors-for-refusing-to-treat-wounded-jihadis-in-terror-group-137299/
Viewed in context one might wonder if good intelligence and direct action is taking its toll on IS leadership. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri's killing does not appear to be an isolated event but part of a recent pattern of high ranking deaths.

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