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DoubleTweet: The Ayatollah & the Mufti

Friday, May 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — nicely done DoubleTweet from Hasan Hafidh ]
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Noting, as you no doubt know, that Sistani of Najaf, Iraq, is the “quietist” ayatollah followed by more Shiites than any other, the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran included:

And remembering that Rafidha is a derogatory term used by some unfriendly Sunnis for Shia…

Elegant.

Reuters + Daily Beast + Nasrallah = now I got it

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — piecing together an understanding – Shi’ite militia, Iraq ]
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Reuters reported today:

Pentagon slams “unhelpful” Iraqi code name for Ramadi offensive
WASHINGTON

May 26 The Pentagon on Tuesday said it was “unhelpful” for Iraq’s Shi’ite militia to have chosen an openly sectarian code name for the operation to retake the city Ramadi and added that, in the U.S. view, the full-on offensive had yet to begin.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren also emphasized that problems leading to last week’s Iraqi military withdrawal from the city of Ramadi included “both low morale amongst the troops” as well as problems within the Iraqi military command structure.

“There are many factors that caused Iraqi security forces to withdraw from Ramadi,” Warren said, noting that Iraqi forces “vastly outnumbered their enemy yet they chose to withdraw.” (Reporting by Phillip Stewart; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

That doesn’t tell us what the “unhelpful name” in question is.

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According to The Daily Beast, the “code name” is “Labaik Ya Hussein”:

The Iraqi government said it launched a campaign Tuesday to take back Anbar province from ISIS, two weeks after it captured the provincial capital of Ramadi. The campaign features a leading role for Iran-backed Shiite militias, raising fears that such an openly Shiite-led push threatens to exacerbate sectarian tensions in majority-Sunni Anbar. A spokesman for the Iran-backed militias even said the operation’s codename will be Labaik Ya Hussein —- a nod to the Shiite saint. “The Labaik Ya Hussein operation is led by the Hashid Shaabi in cooperation and coordination with the armed forces there,” he said. “We believe that liberating Ramadi will not take long.”

So that’s “a nod to the Shiite saint” eh?

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Nasrallah expands on the meaning of that “nod” in a fiery clip from 2009.

Ooh. Oh. Ah.

Insight into Iraq in Seierstad’s bio of Anders Breivik

Monday, April 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — another example of what I call “landmines in the garden” ]
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I wouldn’t have picked a bio of Anders Breivik as a likely source for insights into Iraq, but Åsne Seierstad‘s bio, One of Us, provides one all the same… first quoting the Qur’anic sura Al-Anfal (upper panel, below) in her epigraph to a chapter —

SPEC DQ Al-Anfal

— then commenting on that quotation (lower panel, above) a page later.

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What interests me here is Seierstad’s last sentence as quoted in the lower panel:

By naming the campaign of extermination after a sura of the Qur’an, the Iraqi government sought to legitimate its executions as a war against believers.

We have seen jihadists quote scripture often enough to suggest they have divine sanction for their acts of violence. Here it was Saddam Hussein in 1988 whose interpretation of the Qur’an provided that sanction. And I emphasize the word “interpretation” since Sura 8, Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War), was received shortly after the Battle of Badr, which it is understood to describe in detail, and its applicability by analogy to completely different circumstances such as Saddam’s campaign against the Kurds (and also, as Wikipedia notes, Assyrians, Shabaks, Iraqi Turkmens, Yazidis, Jews, and Mandeans) is indeed interpretive and subjective rather than “authoritative”.

Saddam Hussein’s “authority” in Quranic exegesis would be questionable at best — so long as one was not overheard questioning it in Iraq at the time.

Specifically, the very next verse of Al-Anfal clarifies the context. It does not say “When you find the unbelievers living in their villages and towns” — it says:

O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them.

But it is a little late for anyone to presume to give Saddam Hussein lessons in the book he once ordered written in his own blood, least of all myself.

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My overall point here is that the world’s scriptures in general offer paths towards paradise, pardes, pardis — a tranquil garden or orchard. Not infrequently, though, they also contain texts which can blow up in our faces if read not in historical context but with contemporary violent intent.

Landmines in the Garden.

Caveat lector.

Break it Down Show – LTG Daniel P. Bolger

Monday, March 30th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
  

Friend of ZP, Pete Turner and his partner Jon interview LTG Daniel P. Bolger, author of Why We Lost, at The Break it Down Show:

The General’s Account – With Daniel P. Bolger 

This is a great episode, a “must listen” event – insurgency, accountability, the GRU, the Taliban, counterinsurgency theory, ISIS, Boko Haram, strategy, “powerpoint generals”, ” the Fulda Gap Model”, ” we are the most irresponsible superpower in any era that I am aware of” and…..More!

The battle flags of religion

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — vexilla regis prodeunt, comparative version ]
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Two recent examples of religious iconography on the battle field.. from the Badr Brigade, outside Amerli, Iraq:

badr brigade

and from Pro-Russia fighters near the eastern Ukrainian city of Starobeshevo:

Christ flag

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The Vexilla regis is a hymn written by Venantius Fortunatus to welcome the procession bringing a fragment of the True Cross to St Radegunda‘s convent in Poitiers: the first line translates to “The banners of the king go forth”.

Here it is, illustrated with battle flags flown by Catholic and Royalist troops during the War in the Vendée:

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