Daesh: Seeing from the Inside Reasons of Defeat & Construing the Future
By the Center for Arab Progress
Translated from Arabic by the Center for Arab Progress
It is too early to talk about a complete collapse of a hasty organization, and it is too early to determine what new form the group will take. It is a clear fact that the organization that the world has come to know since 2014 is beginning to disintegrate and collapse in 2017. And not only because of the global war on the organization, although it is the most important reason, but next to it is a series of internal problems that have been internalized and contributed to its dismantling.
By examining the internal data based on the interviews and the literature of the organization, we conclude that the beginning of the collapse of the organization was with the fall of the city of Tal Afar, Iraq. This has shaken the core and foundation of the organization. Furthermore, it can be said that the Hazimis rebellion is the most prominent problem that has struck the organization from the inside. A source familiar with the situation here observes six major problems that have struck the organization from within and interacted with each other to form a major cause for the Hazimis rebellion and military losses.
Before the Collapse
Daesh represents the third generation in what is known as the Global Jihad movement. The first generation is the al Qaeda generation in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. The second generation is the al-Qaeda generation of Iraq. The third generation was described by a series of new characteristics that distinguished it from the two previous generations. There is a visible shift from accepting the members according to networking and recommendations from other fellow, to opening membership to the public. This is popularly known as the conversion of “Jihad” from “Jihad for the elites” to the “jihad for the public”. Further, this new generation is characterized by the the establishment of a centralized control of all parties, and the expanded use of media and advertising, organized military work and tenacious hold of the land.
Daesh has built its organization and intellectual empire based on three important principles:
Principle 1: The application of Islamic law.
Principle 2: non-complacency in fighting the infidels in all their forms.
Principle 3: Victory and protection of the honor all female and male Muslims.
Daesh basis their ideology on the prophetic Hadith (Prophet Mohamed’s words), which preaches the prophet’s succession will be based on his prophecy and ideology. The Hadith explores that after the Prophet, there will come a series of Caliphates, then oppressive rulers who afflict the people in injustice, then the frail rulers who are forced and defeated. The Daesh leader announced his succession in mid-2014 in a post Caliphate era. This is after seizing the control of the city of Mosul, considering himself as the caliphate prophesied by Prophet Mohamed the Messenger of God.
The organization has established a coherent central government system headed by the Calipha, assisted by a body that combines legislative, advisory and executive work, called the delegated committee, which also includes senior religious, administrative and military leaders. Further, it governs through three central bodies:
First: the central offices which are 14.
Second: the central bodies and offices; where the body is less than a bureau, and the office is less than a body. they had two central bodies and three central offices.
Third: the geographical states, where there are 34 states.
This cohesive regime, which managed to control nearly 60% of Iraq’s territory and 55% of Syria’s territory, and its proclamation of the application of Islamic law in the areas it controls, led to the conviction of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Muslims around the world. Further, it welcomed the joining of nearly 130 thousand Muslims from outside Iraq and Syria, to become the largest terrorist organization known to the world in modern times.
This inflation in the size of the organization pushed the international community to declare a global alliance joined by nearly 80 countries, aimed at eliminating the organization and the overthrow of this state. However, the problem was not only with the global alliance, but with its opponents from other global Islamic groups, especially Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is in addition to the previous rivalry with other Islamic groups such as Sufis and all sects affiliated with the Islamic religion. As well as colliding with local Islamic militant groups in Syria and Iraq, some of which refused to join.
Even though a number of opponents of Daesh from the Islamic groups have recognized that they have established an Islamic state; given that they achieved its material and legitimate elements of land, population, army with an abstract Islamic doctrine, and the application of Islamic law. However, these Islamic Groups have refused to recognize that this Calipha is the one preached by the Prophet. This is considering that the prophecy alleges that the caliphate is characterized as filling the earth with justice. Further, they consider that the Daesh Caliphate is preaching religious extremism closer to the “Khawarej”(historically a group of people who disobey the Muslim leader and call for extremism). As well as, the prophecy states that this last Caliphate is meant to continue ruling till the end of times, and until Jesus Christ returns. Hence, these Islamic Groups considered the matter as premature to determine.
The Turning Point of the Breakdown: Interaction Inside and Outside
The causes that led to the collapse of the organization can be divided into two main parts.
The first part: the internal problems that plagued the organization, and led to the collapse of its foundations, values, and principles which they were based on. These foundations, values, and principles were especially used to recruit members, gain their loyalty, and attract millions of supporters. Further, what followed were financial and media tycoons with unprecedented capabilities in recruitment.
The second part: the international military effort against the organization significantly weakened its leadership and reduced its territories. Consequently, it led them to lose their strength and vital sources of funding, as well as a faded luster and reputation.
At a similar time, the internal and external causes interacted with each other, leading to the collapse of the organization as the world knew it. These internal problems accelerated the defeat of the military organization and fast-tracked their disintegration and collapse.
The surge of international military efforts against the organization in 2015 led to the loss of a lot of land in Iraq and Syria. Further, by the end of 2016, it pushed them back to their main centers in Mosul in Iraq and Raqaa in Syria. At the same time, they began to suffer severe internal problems even before the start of the battle of Raqaa. The organization was disintegrating from the inside, which contributed to its military defeat.
Before the end of 2016, the organization lost all areas in Iraq except for Mosul. In Syria, it lost its main centers in northern Aleppo starting from the Autumn of 2016, where they were losing Manbig (a city in north of Syria). Till reaching to loose Bab city by the end of the Winter of 2017. Before that, it lost its areas in the Syrian province of Hasakah.
The fall of the Iraqi city of Tal Afar before the end of August 2017 was a critical event in the course of the collapse of the organization. This is considering that the ideology of the organization fell in the way it lost the city. When the Iraqi fighters withdrew leaving the foreign fighters and their families alone in the battlefield. This led to an internal revolution within the organization. Also, because the Central Command of the organization was unable to manage the battle of Tal Afar. How the Iraqis fled and leaving the foreigners has dropped two basic principles: repealing fighting the infidels and feeble in protecting dignity.
The results of the battle of Tal Afar was the start of the majority of foreigners, especially in Syria, leaving the organization, retiring from the fighting, or joining the so-called Hazimites. Therefore, this lead towards the quick breakdown of the organization. It was the start of losing the cities on a faster pace from what is typically known of the organization. The foreigners in Raqqa who gathered at the city’s municipal stadium in early October 2017, together with some other Syrians, sought deals with Syria’s Democratic Forces. These deals were for securing their exit from Raqqa. This in return resulted in terminating the battle. It was followed by other deals with the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Deir al-Zour area, and increasing the number of deals from within the organization as well. This was all furthering the dismantling of the organization. Subsequently, they lose Deir al-Zour, the fields and Bu Kamal in Syria, and areas West of Anbar, which they never lost before even when they were weak in Iraq.
Internal Causes of Collapse
Nonetheless, the battle of Tal Afar was not the only reason for the collapse and disintegration of the organization. The internal problems of the organization on the other hand started before this battle. They kept increasing over time, which contributed to the military loss. The internal problems of the organization can be divided into two parts:
First: the rebellion of the Hazimis
The rebellion of the Hazimites or what is known within the organization as the “Slandering of the Beloved”, the ones who are most lethal within Daesh. The Hazimis are called that in relation to the Saudi Sheikh Ahmad-al Hazmi, who considers atonement as the basis of his dogma. The issue of this trend was strongly demonstrated for the first time before the middle of 2016, when a conglomerate of fighters from North Africa and along with some Saudis appeared and demanded for reforming the methods of the organization considering it as too lenient and does not apply the Islamic Shariaa strictly enough. At the time, the Calipha of Daesh Al Baghdadi had to intervene himself mid-2016, and had an exchange with the Hazimites. When they did not listen to him, he killed their leader and arrested their elders, and subjugated them to periodic courses in reorienting their dogma.
However, the Hazimis returned and reappeared before the Battle of Raqqa. They took advantage of the killings of large numbers of leaders from military from inside the organization especially the ones who defied them in the past. The Hazimis were able to take control over central location in the organization, especially in the Office of Research and Legal Studies and the posts in Commission Committee. Through their control, they issued, at the beginning of the year 2017, their famous statement “To destroy those who perished from knowledge”, which came in seven pages, and considered a victory for the thought of the most radical section inside the organization.
The influence of this radical section sparked renewed differences within the organization. This drove the Daesh Calipha to pursue the help of Bahrain’s Turki al-Binali, who was one of the most important figure of legitimacy of the organization after the killing of Saudi Osman Al-Nazih in the battles of Ain Al Arab in 2015. Daesh Calipha appointed Turki Al Binali as Chairman of the Commission Committee to impede the Hazimis. Before his death in mid- 2017, Turki Al Binali succeeded in thwarting the Hazmis and corrected the situation in the Commission Committee and in the Legal and Research Office.
Nevertheless, after the killing of Turki Al Binali, the dispute returned and raged strongly within the organization with the Hazimis. A new statement was issued mid September 2017, which cancelled the previous statement, and issued a new statement “to destroy those who perished from the knowledge”. This divided the organization again, but this time in a more violent manner than before. In Al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zour the dispute and fighting erupted between the organization and the Hazimis. Many people were killed and hundreds were arrested. This coincided with the escalation of fighting in Mosul and Raqqa between Daesh and its opponents. The organization began to collapse from the inside with the intensification of stalemate that interacted with other internal crisis such as outer military action against the organization.
Second: administrative and legal disputes
In addition to the Hazimis rebellion, many administrative problems and legal disputes within the organization have accumulated over the period of the Daesh Calipha. Moreover, his principles and his pure Islamic image was significantly distorted among his members and supporters. These issues can be summarized in the following below:
1 – the issue of the captivity of Yazidis
The issue of the abduction and captivity of Yazidi women at the end of 2014 led to wide disagreements within the Daesh organization, which is contrary to what many had expected. Although the most radical members of the organization were the ones who allowed for the captivity of the Yazidi women, at the same time the Daesh leadership did not take any formal position to counter it. This is due to most of the legislators in Daesh approved the practice of captivity. As well as, many Muslim Clerics in Saudi Arabia and other countries of approved of such practice.
Nonetheless, a number of the organization’s leaders, especially the Iraqis, have asked that Daesh does not advocate this matter further. As it has a negative impact on the members of the organization who had disagreements. Some were against the captivity practice for non religious reasons, others were keen of getting their share of the captivated women. Although the dispute over the issue of the Yazidis occurred at the height of the power of the organization and its control, and it did seem like a great issue in the beginning. However, it came to be the start of the internal differences that paved the way for the emergence of Hazimis. It came as response and evidence of the fragility of many of the leaders and factions of the organization in strictly applying Islamic law.
2- Marrying the women of the fallen fighters:
Daesh adopted an internal policy based on marrying off the women of fallen fighters to other fighters. While ensuring the expenses of marriage, which do not exceed a little dowry and home and financial aid monthly. However, in 2015, the city of Raqqa witnessed a great controversy within the organization. Some of the judges of Raqqa married off women who did not complete their Islamic Iddah (a requirements of women have to wait for 3 months before being allowed to marry someone else). Some members saw this practice as a violation of the Islamic Shariaa texts. This intensified the dispute among the organization’s members once more especially around the Court of Justice. Further, this further escalated later and it impacted the cohesion within the organization.
3 – Dispute over the Court of Justice:
The dispute over the judiciary in Raqqa was widened to reach the demands of jurists and figures of social elites in the areas of Raqqa, Aleppo and Deir Al-Zour, who sought to reconsider the mechanisms of appointing judges. Further, they pursued to subject their rulings to the supervision of higher bodies and central intervention in their work mechanism. This especially became an issue as more contradictory provisions were surfacing in civil cases among the judges in various States of Daesh. People began to resort to multiple judges in more than one state, especially between Raqqa and Aleppo, to eliminate matters of marriage, divorce and financials.
Nonetheless, things were exacerbated in the organization, after increasing complaints against the Raqqa judges in 2016, they discovered that there were judges working with security services hostile to Daesh. This led the organization to execute a number of judges. The problems in Raqqa escalated thereafter, especially since the executed judges had issued judgement in civil cases. There was now an absence of justice that was promised by Daesh. And thus the status of succession on the platform of the prophecy was significantly weakened, and emerged the skepticism towards the organization as a whole.
4- Performance of the Public Security Bureau:
The security apparatus in Daesh played a substantial role in the establishment and in the failure of the organization as well. Even though the idea of security apparatuses was not unusual for Terrorist organizations, yet the role of the security apparatuses was different in Daesh. In the past appeared an agreement between the leader of the organization Ibrahim Al Badri (Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi) and Colonel Samir Khleifawi (Haji Bakr) on establishing a controlled security apparatus that is tied up with the structure within the organization. Further, Haji Bakr applied his military and security background and utilized his security and military counterparts to establish a security apparatus that is similar to the Iraqi Security from the Saddam era. This security apparatus was also copied from the security forces from former East Germany. Consequently, this resulted in the security apparatus representative always present in all the locations of the organizations structure. These security representatives were closely monitoring the work of the leadership and sending report to the Calipha of the organization.
The security apparatus workers were affected by their difficult experience in Iraq, especially during the stage of the organization of the Shura Council led by Zarqawi. Further, there was the stage of the Islamic State of Iraq led by Baghdadi I and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and the major breakthroughs that led to the killing of the organization’s leaders. This resulted in the tightening the control on the work. Further, it drove them to become more of an anti-espionage device, who work according to suspicion. They also got wide power from the Calipha, which were beyond the powers of the governors and a large number of princes.
Since the first moments of the declaration of the Calipha, the security apparatus has gained a bad reputation within the organization. However, the intensification of the war against the “state” and its loss of positions, the killing of leaders, the differences with the Hazimis, and the increase in infiltration has made security apparatus in a state of panic. Their work contributed like any oppressive regime in hatred towards their members and their supporters. They were especially loathed by the people of the areas governed by the organization. Before they even knew it the internal conflicts turned into settling accounts and assassinations. After that came the interference of security apparatus in the course of the fighting, and the arrest of retreating soldiers and military commanders from the front lines.
5 – Atonement of the Turkestan Islamic Party:
The Turkestan fighters are considered to be the most respected foreign fighters in the Syrian arena. For they have suffered a lot to reach Syria, adhering to their religion, showing no extremism or exaggeration, and not taking part in any internal fighting. Yet, all their battles were against the Syrian regime. Although Turkestan has an ideology close to al-Qaeda, if not identical, Turkestan maintained their independence and did not join Daesh or al-Qaeda. They helped solve the crisis of the al-Aqsa Army when they intervened in favor of Daesh. They facilitated the departure of Daesh fighters from Hama to Raqqa.
However, because of the refusal of the Turkestan Islamic Party to renounce their allegiance, the Calipha purged the Turkestan fighters. Not only that, but he also targeted one of their leaders, who is handicapped because of an injury in committing a suicide bombing in a Center for Quran Memorization. This enticed internal conflicts as many Daesh fighters objected to the targeting to the Turkestan party.
6 – Atonement of Egyptian preacher Abu Ishaq al-Hawaini:
The Egyptian preacher Abu Ishaq al-Hawaini is considered one of the most favored preachers in the atonement thought campaign. For they love his speech especially as he is a specialist in the science of Hadith, which is rare among the preachers. At the same time, he was not been praised by any of leaders since all his interpretations are considered fanatic in nature. However, the strict Daesh and Hazimis who only like their direct supporters have started to get attached to the preacher Alhawaini, and gave him a radio station. This led to a split among those in the organization, and a growing conflict among the factions. It was followed by a conflict among Egyptians and others, which already increased the aggravation internally.
Many supporters of Daesh considered that the students of Al-Hawaini and his supporters in Egypt are close to the number of members of the organization, if not increased. The leadership had to show more respect towards these followers, but did not do so. Thus this exacerbated the problems and differences, and continued to accumulate and interact to weaken the organization from the inside.
The security and political circles in the region and the world are preoccupied with the question of: What comes after the collapse of the Calipha State? Where will thousands of ideological fighters go after their defeat from major cities?
Because of the bitter and bloody experience with the social milieus, the bet will be on the failure of political solutions in both Syria and Iraq. The failure of democratic states to achieve justice and equality for their people and thus the continuation of injustice and marginalization of large segments of the population. Taking advantage of the experience and mistakes of the failed ruling in the state of the Calipha.
This paper does not rule out Lebanon as the next stop, if the political conflict and the state crisis continue after the Hezbollah invasion of the state and society, opening the door to the forces of terrorism to expand and spread the country into a quagmire of chaos.
The greatest danger is what threatens Egypt, which is subjected to a continuous war for years with terror center in North Sinai, has already reached what the different circles between 150 – 200 elements, were transferred from Syria to Libya and then to Sinai, mostly Palestinians and Egyptians who served in the first for the elite forces.