Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn't widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein's air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.
But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria's rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.
Until now, much of the information about IS has come from fighters who had defected and data sets from the IS internal administration seized in Baghdad. But none of this offered an explanation for the group's meteoric rise to prominence, before air strikes in the late summer of 2014 put a stop to its triumphal march.
For the first time, the Haji Bakr documents now make it possible to reach conclusions on how the IS leadership is organized and what role former officials in the government of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein play in it.
Germany's Der Spiegel magazine has an excellent article on the origins of ISIS and its organizational and command structure. Given our earlier conversation about Seymour Hersh's expose on Osama bin Laden, I felt the timing to be opportune.
According to Christop Reuter's great reporting, the organization is a sophisticated protection racket that has its origins in a cadre of former Iraqi intelligence officers who have figured out how to mine sectarian tensions and the useful idiots among the religiously minded thrill seeking "jihad holy war" wannabe crowd to maximize their own financial and personal gain.
The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State should be read in its entirety.
The following sections are particular resonant as we try to locate the neoliberal plutocrats and the Christian fundamentalists in the United States relative to their peers in ISIS:
Although Iraq's dominant Baath Party was secular, the two systems ultimately shared a conviction that control over the masses should lie in the hands of a small elite that should not be answerable to anyone -- because it ruled in the name of a grand plan, legitimized by either God or the glory of Arab history. The secret of IS' success lies in the combination of opposites, the fanatical beliefs of one group and the strategic calculations of the other...
Attempts to explain IS and its rapid rise to power vary depending on who is doing the explaining. Terrorism experts view IS as an al-Qaida offshoot and attribute the absence of spectacular attacks to date to what they view as a lack of organizational capacity. Criminologists see IS as a mafia-like holding company out to maximize profit. Scholars in the humanities point to the apocalyptic statements by the IS media department, its glorification of death and the belief that Islamic State is involved in a holy mission.
But apocalyptic visions alone are not enough to capture cities and take over countries. Terrorists don't establish countries. And a criminal cartel is unlikely to generate enthusiasm among supporters around the world, who are willing to give up their lives to travel to the "Caliphate" and potentially their deaths.
IS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State's only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.ISIS, the Christian Right, the neoliberal plutocrats, and the Republican Party have much in common. Such an observation should be a taken for granted fact in America's public discourse. Instead it is treated as verboten and outside of the realm of "respectable" knowledge systems and discussion.
When will the American people wake up to the hustle that is being perpetrated on them by the elite class at the former's personal financial, moral, and political expense?