Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — ISIS in Iraq, the battle of Badr, and 5,000 swooping angels ]


Two days ago, under the title Iraq army capitulates to Isis militants in four cities, the Guardian reported:

The extent of the Iraqi army’s defeat at the hands of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) became clear on Wednesday when officials in Baghdad conceded that insurgents had stripped the main army base in the northern city of Mosul of weapons, released hundreds of prisoners from the city’s jails and may have seized up to $480m in banknotes from the city’s banks.

Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters.

It’s that second paragraph that interests me.

Supposing you were among the 800 ISIS fighters at the point when those 30,000 Iraqi soldiers desert the field, will your mind not move instantly to the Qur’an 3.124-25, verses which describe how 300 Muslims decisively defeated 1,000 fighters of the Quraysh at the seminal battle of Badr?

When thou saidst to the believers, “Is it not enough for you that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down upon you? Yea; if you are patient and godfearing, and the foe come against you instantly, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand swooping angels.”

— or to Qur’an 8.9?

When you were calling upon your Lord for succour, and He answered you, “I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.”

The impact on ISIS morale must be enormous — surely God is assisting them!

To win a battle is one thing. To win a battle when outnumbered is another. To win a battle when outnumbered with the blessings of God is a third and yet more powerful thing.


Well, yeah.

After I’d written this, but before posting it, I came across Ibn Siqilli’s blog post today titled Translation of the Message from Abu Muhammad al-’Adnani al-Shami, Official Spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, after Mosul, in which al-Shami says, quoting yet another Qur’anic verse about the battle of Badr:

Allah ta’ala? said, {[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”} [Al-Anfal: 12]

All praise is to Allah, who fulfilled His promise, kept His slaves firm, gave victory to His soldiers, and alone vanquished the Rawafid. All praise is to Allah who filled their hearts with terror and their feet with defeat. All praise is to Allah who made their weapons, equipment, vehicles, and wealth, war booty for the mujahidin.


And yet, and yet — there’s also Kirkuk.

Indeed, it’s possible that angels weren’t required in either instance, and that the Washington Post got it right in an article titled Iraq disintegrating as insurgents advance toward capital; Kurds seize Kirkuk.

If God gave ISIS the melting away of Iraqi forces in Mosul and elsewhere, he appears to have given the Kurds a similar melting-away of Iraqi forces in Kirkuk, where the oil sits… Thus the BBC reports on the Kurdish situation:

Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have taken full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk as the army flees before an Islamist offensive nearby.

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

Even the melting away of the army on two fronts, however, doesn’t stop the Iraqi propaganda machine. The WaPo article linked above also contained this more than slightly surreal item for a propagandap-quote collection::

Meanwhile, in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and in towns and cities further south, young men flocked to recruitment centers to volunteer to fight the extremists, underscoring the sharpening sectarian divide that risks engulfing all of Iraq in war.

State television broadcast footage of the long lines, accompanied by patriotic songs whose lyrics tout the army’s achievements: “We’re the soldiers of the nation, we shall never retreat.”


There is more to say on such varied topics as the major Shia shrines and hawza or seminaries at risk, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani‘s call to arms, the role Iran and the IRGC is adopting, and the presence of senior Ba’athist officers in the ranks of ISIS, etc — but this must do for now.

I’ll return with more from Ibn Siqilli shortly, but leave you with this — from my POV, the most horrifying part of al-Shami’s statement, coming right at the end of his rant, and specifically threatening the two Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf:

The Rafidah [lit. “those who reject”, ie the Shia] will continue to curse you as long as some of them exist. Truly, between us is a settling of debts. … There will be a heavy and long account. However, the settling of debts will not be in Samarra and Baghdad, rather in Karbala al-munajjasah (the defiled) and Najaf al-ashrak (the most polytheistic).