I have decided to publish my most recent work, An Analysis of the Iraqi Resistance, on my blog. Previously, this piece was used for the research for “An Insiders Look at the Iraqi Resistance” a major piece that appeared on the Islamist website Jihadunspun.com (JUS got the copyright but I did the research). That long-running top-billed piece is now down, but it is still archived on Alexa here . Note that this material is copyrighted and all reproduction for profit is forbidden under copyright laws.
For information about reprinting or purchasing one-time rights to this work, email me. This article is an in-depth analysis of the Iraqi resistance and is continuously being revised. It is presently 58 pages long in total. It lists all known Iraqi resistance groups who have ever fought in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad until 2005 and includes a brief description and analysis of each group. There are separate sections covering Size, Tendencies, Motivations, Structure, Foreign Assistance, Foreign Fighters, Regional Characteristics, Regions, Cities or Towns Controlled by the Resistance, Major Attacks and List of Groups by Tendency.
The article was intended to be a political science-type analysis of the Iraqi Resistance, and I tried not to take sides one way or the other. I used a tremendous amount of source material, mostly publicly available news reports from the Internet. Obviously, in an area like this you are dealing with a ton of disinformation along with the real deal, so I spent a lot of time trying to sort out the disinfo from the relative truth.
The problem is that one cannot simply discount sources of information such as Israeli and US intelligence, US military reports, reporting from the resistance itself, Islamist websites, etc. Of course these sources are loaded with disinfo and false analysis, but they also tend to have a lot of truth mixed in as well. In writing a piece like this, you pull together all the sources and get sort of a “Gestalt” view of the situation. When you examine all the sources at once in toto, you can kind of sort out the disinfo from the more factual material. Admittedly it’s a hit or miss game, but that’s about as good as we can do source-wise in the inherently hazy subject area of an underground guerrilla war.
Interviews with resistance cadre by the mainstream Western media were given particular prominence in this piece.
Syria: Although US propaganda has made much of the Syrian connection to the Iraqi insurgency, there does appear to be some truth there. Various Iraqi guerrilla groups have claimed that they get assistance, in one way or another, from Syria. MA claims they get money from Syria. Whether he meant the Syrian state or non-state actors in Syria is not known. The Martyr Khattab Brigade of foreign fighters claims to have a training camp in Syria. A cell in Baghdad claimed that Syrian intelligence operates in Iraq, but was unclear on their exact role.
Another group in Baghdad said they got weapons from Syria. They did not specify whether the weapons came from the state or non-state actors. Apparently, fighters and weapons are still able to cross various borders, including the Syrian border, into Iraq to help the insurgency. For a long time, the Syrians were not only doing little to stop the cross-border traffic in fighters and money into Iraq, most of which was being run by local Bedouin tribesmen, but they were possibly even helping these Bedouins run the traffic. More recently, the official support from the Syrian regime seems to have been dramatically reduced or even ended, but the Syrian hands-off attitude is little changed.
The official Syrian security presence at the border has been beefed up and makes some cursory efforts at stopping traffic, but reports indicate that they are easily bribed into looking the other way. The Syrian state does not seem to be actively involved in the cross-traffic anymore, but they do not appear to be doing much to stop it either. There seems to be a “look the other way” attitude in place instead. Fighters, weapons and money come from Syria, but it the available evidence suggests non-Syrian state actors (possibly the local Bedouin tribes or the insurgent groups themselves), not Syrian state actors, who are running the weapons and men across.
In 1-04, reports indicated that much of Syria’s northeast border area with Iraq had become something of an open-air arms market. The arms traffic was going across the Ninewa Province border with few difficulties. In addition to guerrilas, pro-Coalition Kurdish forces in northern Iraq such as the PUK were amongst the customers. As of 2-04, guerrilas in Baghdad continued to report significant quantities of weaponry being smuggled over the Syrian border and into Baghdad.
There have been numerous reports of Syrian fighters fighting in Iraq long after the fall of Baghdad. They seem to be especially notable around the Fallujah-Amiriyah-Ramadi region and over by the Qaim-Husaybah border region. guerrilas in the Qaim area reported in late 2003 that there were a significant number of Syrians fighting in the insurgency there. In December 2003, a Syrian woman was arrested in Basra with bomb parts as part of a conspiracy to bomb the port there.
Most recently, in 5-04, an AP reporter encountered a force of hardline Syrian jihadis in the Jolan District of Fallujah after the US withdrawal. They were extremely hardline Sunni Islamists reminiscent of the most hardline Syrian Muslim Brotherhood elements. In late 2003, guerrilas reported that Syrian students in Baghdad seemed to have suspiciously large amounts of cash on them, and that a number of these students, along with other foreign students similarly awash with suspicious cash, were supporting the insurgency financially. No one seemed to know where the Syrian students’ cash came from, or that of the other foreign students, for that matter.
So far, ~200 Syrians have been arrested so far on charges of insurgency in Iraq. Clearly, Syrians and other foreign fighters are fighting in Iraq. I estimate the size of this group as no more than 3-5% of the total insurgency. Clearly, men and weapons come over the Jordanian, Syrian, Kuwaiti, Saudi and Iranian borders into Iraq. At the moment, there is little to implicate the Syrian state in this traffic other than that they do not seem to be doing a lot to stop the traffic. One may indeed argue, why should they? A strong case could be made that this is a US problem. Policing the Iraq-Syria border for unwanted traffic is the responsibility of the US.