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Of the arm, fist and rifle

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — product from a neat, brief convo with Ibn Siqilli aka Chris Anzalone ]
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I found the upper image in the same Visual References post from Chris Anzalone that I recommended recently in two comments here [figs 2, 3, 3B] and here. If you look closely — or is just my poor eyesight? — you’ll see the arm, fist and rifle to the left of the black banner in the upper half of the upper image.

Black banner? Did I just say black banner?

That upper image is the “logo of the Brigade of the Awaited Savior (Katibat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar)” according to Chris, and the text below reads, “O’ One Who Arises (al-Qa’im) [from] the family of Muhammad.”

So there you have Mahdism (the titles al-Muntazar and al-Qa’im are both indicators of the same returning great one as the term al-Mahdi itself) along with the well-known banner…

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What follows I have taken from a post on the Lebanese Expatriate blog, with some minor format changes to give the contents better graphical integration with the rest of the post:

For those with the slightest knowledge about Hezbollah and the Middle East, I am not sharing with you something new, but for those who receive this information as a revelation, check out the resemblance between the emblem of Hezbollah and that of the Pasdaran, a.k.a Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.

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— Hezbollah emblem to the left in yellow. Pasdaran emblem to the right in blue.
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So what’s new? Why am I shedding light on what is already obvious? Why target Hezbollah today, out of all the parties that have been selling Lebanon?

Today, more than ever, Hezbollah and Iran owe Lebanon an explanation. Take a look at the 10 Riyal postage stamp that is circulated in Iran.

 


Iranian 10 Riyal postage stamp showing the emblem of Hezbollah covering the whole map of Lebanon. A clear symbol of the hidden intentions and a direct breach for the sovereignty of Lebanon’s independence as a nation.

The stamp commemorates the martyrs of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Isn’t this an obvious breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty as a nation? I understand the bff relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, but why does Iran need to have Hezbollah’s emblem covering the Lebanese territories instead of the Lebanese flag? Why does Iran need to commemorate the Lebanese martyrs in the first place?

What does Hezbollah have to say about this in the first place? How can Hezbollah justify such a demeaning document? What can its big-bellied, tie-less MPs and representatives say to logically justify this? Will they even attempt to justify it, or consider it normal and not even worth concealing with the whole world’s knowledge of its non-matrimonial marriage to Iran.

As a Lebanese, I ask my government (which is controlled by Hezbollah) to question the Iranian ambassador about the motives of this stamp and ban its circulation.

As a Lebanese, I ask Hezbollah to denounce the usage and circulation of this stamp in Iran and ask the Iranian state for an apology to the Lebanese people and its government.

That’s taken from a post made in January, but I think it is no less relevant today, and adds to the general picture I’m painting.

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I put this post together as the result of an exchange with Chris in which I asked him whether a raised arm with slanted rifle was now a characteristic motif across many or all Shi’a jihadist movements, to which he responded:

Those groups influenced by Hizbullah &, by extension, Iranian Gov’t, seem to favor it, likely b/c it’s used by the Pasdaran.

I then asked whether he’d say Hizbollah got the motif from the Pasdaran or vice versa, to which he replied:

The former.

I stumbled across the DoubleQuote image and accompanying Lebanese Expatriate post myself, searching for the best image of a Pasdaran flag or logo while following up on Chris’ pointer to the Pasdaran — and that gave me yet another use of DoubleQuotes in the wild!

Hat-tip, #FF and thanks, Chris!

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Quiet note to self: compare the arm, fist and rifle motif here with the name of the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord group in 1970s Arkansas. Most interesting, the way we display value systems in titles and images…

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From the Comments section: jihadist use of DoubleQuotes

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — comments on two posts by Chris Anzalone aka Ibn Siqilli ]
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I’m bringing across two comments of mine from DoubleQuotes in the wild and making a separate post out of them — to give them more exposure, to emphasize the importance / interest of the two posts by Chris Anzalone that they are based on — and to be able to reference them in a post I’m currently working on. Both graphics are drawn from Chris Anzalone‘s Visual References post from last month, which gives essential visual support to his article, Zaynab’s Guardians: The Emergence of Shi`a Militias in Syria in the CTC Sentinel, just out.

Here’s the first, with Chris’ comment below:

Nasrallah & Bashar with the Qur'an (Poster)
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An Internet poster showing Hizbullah’s secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah (right) and Syrian president Bashar al-Asad. The photograph of Nasrallah was taken after the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel war and has clearly been edited to show light emanating from the book (presumably the Qur’an). The same is true of the posed image of al-Asad. Both are shown by the designer as pious (thus, presumably, deserving of support).

This pair ties the piety of the politician with the piety of the cleric, making a conceptual bridge between both Lebanon & Syria on the one hand, and politics & religion on the other. Not terribly surprising, but still, cleverly done.

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The use of “doubling” in the double cannibalism images presented below some from a little further into the same Visual References post, but serve a different function, making an association in time rather than one linking two contemporaries… They are designed to suggest that present Sunni brutalities have historical precedent — with tremendous spiritual and emotional resonance. Again, Chris’ own comment contextualizes the images:

1, Hind & Abu Sakkar the Syrian Rebel Heart-eater
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Internet poster comparing Abu Sakkar, commander of a Syrian rebel group, (right), who committed a politically symbolic act of cannibalism on video with an organ (said to have been the liver or heart) from a slain Syrian government soldier in May 2013, and Hind bint ‘Utba (left), one of the Prophet Muhammad’s most virulent enemies before his conquest of Mecca in 630 C.E. In some Islamic historical sources, she is said to have taken a bite of the liver of the Prophet’s uncle, Hamza bin ‘Abd al-Muttalib, who was also one of his greatest warriors, after the Muslims’ defeat at the Battle of Uhud near the city of Madina. The text at the bottom reads: “Some stick to their habits and traditions!!,” referring to Sunni Muslims. The image of Hind and Hamza is a still from Syrian film director Moustapha Akkad’s famous 1977 film The Message about the beginnings of the prophetic career of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Akkad was one of those killed in a bombings of hotels in ‘Amman, Jordan carried out by Al-Qa’ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq, then led by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi.

Taken together, the two “doublets” linked to above can add rich spoils to our understanding of Shi’a contributions to what Chris calls “the increasing sectarianization of Syria’s civil war”.

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Chechnya: of flags, prayers and swords, wolves, dogs, and hyenas

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — powered by a 2009 post from Ibn Siqilli ]

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As you know by now, I am fascinated by the oblique-angled windows on current affairs offered us by mythology, folklore, iconography… and for the record, I’ll specifically include flags under iconography.

Thus Amjad Jaimoukha‘s The Chechens: A Handbook (available here for Kindle at $135, a price every scholar can surely afford) caught my eye with the following quote:

The wolf (borz) is a potent national symbol, and its character traits are considered paragons to be emulated. Chechen men would be proud to be compared to wolves. ‘He was nursed by the She-Wolf,’ is a compliment implying adroitness and courage. Legend has it that it was the wolf that redeemed the world by standing heroically in face of the fury unleashed on doomsday. According to the Chechen ethos, the wolf is the only animal that would enter into an unequal match, making up for any disadvantage by its agility, wit, courage and tenacity. If it loses the battle, it lies down facing the foe in full acceptance of its fate — Chechen poise equivalent to the famed British ‘stiff upper lip’. This wolfish analogy is a depiction of how the Chechens have dealt with outside invaders for millennia.

According to mythology, god had created sheep for the wolf to enjoy, but man tricked it out of its ‘patrimony’, so it had to resort to ruse and robbery to reclaim its right.

That’s Chechen wolf-imagery in the upper flag, above.

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Three things to note in those two paragraphs from Jaimoukha:

What calling a Chechen a “lone wolf” does to self-esteem:

Chechen men would be proud to be compared to wolves.

the deft touch of apocalypse:

Legend has it that it was the wolf that redeemed the world by standing heroically in face of the fury unleashed on doomsday.

and asymmetric warfare:

According to the Chechen ethos, the wolf is the only animal that would enter into an unequal match, making up for any disadvantage by its agility, wit, courage and tenacity.

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As to prayers, the use of the takbir, “Allahu Akbar” above the swords in the lower flag is part of the muezzin’s call to prayer, and recited during the prayers themselves.

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It was Ibn Siqilli‘s post, Portraits of Resistance & Jihad in Chechnya & the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus with its three flags at the head of the post that set me off on this pilgrimage — and I’d also like to pay tribute to the sincerity of belief which gives rise to such a photo as this one, also taken from that post:

We’re back at prayer again…

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On the topic of lone wolves — as I hope the quote above illustrates, word choices can have unintended impacts! Of note, Brian Michael Jenkins in Stray Dogs and Virtual Armies: Radicalization and Recruitment to Jihadist Terrorism in the United States Since 9/11 makes a distinction between stray dogs and lone wolves:

Analysts have tended to call such individuals “lone wolves,” in my view, a romanticizing term that suggests a cunning and deadly predator. A few of those recorded here display this kind of lethal determination, but others, while still dangerous, skulk about, sniffing at violence, vocally aggressive but skittish without backup. “Stray dogs,” not lone wolves, more accurately describes their behavior.

JM Berger talks about lone wolves in The Utility of Lone Wolves, or lack thereof:

If there were any doubts that lone wolves can be deadly, they were dispelled by Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-Muslim crusader who in July killed 69 young people in a coordinated attack using guns and a car bomb.

and again in The Boy Who Cried Lone Wolf:

Does it matter that some (but not all) of the terrorist network members described above were actually undercover law enforcement agents or informants? It doesn’t change the fact that none of these individuals was working alone. They were receiving advice, concrete assistance, and passive reinforcement from people they believed — rightly or wrongly — to be part of larger terrorist organizations.

None of this means that these guys aren’t dangerous, and none of this is to argue that they shouldn’t have been arrested. But they are not lone wolves. They are essentially al Qaeda volunteers …

But I’ll let Tim Furnish have the last word on nomenclature. In a comment here on Zenpundit he told us he’d originally entitled his HNN blog post “The Brothers Tsarnaev: Hyenas in the Service of the Mahdi” — and in the post itself he writes:

But viewing them from outside, analytically, as lone wolves may give them too much credit; while classifying them as stray dogs neutered of religious ideology gives the Islamic element too little. Perhaps a new paradigm, one of roaming hyenas, best describes the Tsarnaevs — characterized by anomie (fitting into neither domestic nor foreign contexts), the ability to feign surrender when necessary, and a propensity for attacking only the defenseless.

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And oh, by way of cosmic irrelevance, my googling brought me here:

It’s a web-wild-world we live in!

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Recruitment, poetry and tears

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — Hegghammer on testing and trusting as precursors to AQ recuitment ]
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I’ve been having trouble finding any of the anasheed Ibn Siqilli was posting on his site, many of which have been taken down — but this one, found in a comment of his on Leah Farrall‘s site, has somehow survived:

Craftsmanship in search of emotion, in service to the jihad.

Thomas Hegghammer has a fascinating article out titled The recruiter’s dilemma: Signalling and rebel recruitment tactics from which I’ll only tease you with the bits of special interest to me, viz those that speak to religion (roughly, scripture and ritual), and culture (narrative, music and poetry).

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First, matters clearly involving religious piety and its expressions:

At the same time, personal piety at the time of recruitment was certainly a necessary condition for joining. Failure to observe any of the basic rituals or engaging in sinful behaviour – by skipping prayers, smoking, or watching Hollywood films – would have constituted a very negative sign. Moreover, even at the far end of the piety spectrum there were small signs that distinguished the extremely pious from the very pious. These signs were not in material objects such as clothes, but rather in body language and habits. QAP martyrdom biographies would highlight the piety of some but not of others, which suggests some variation. Judging from texts and videos, the behaviours that were appreciated included reading the Qur’an at every available spare moment, weeping while reciting the Qur’an, frequent minor pilgrimages (umra) to Mecca, efforts to acquire religious knowledge, etc. However, to observe these signs, recruiters needed to already be in direct contact with the recruit.

Piety, however, was not enough. Recruiters would also need to see signs of ideological commitment of a more political nature, in particular approval of violent activism.

Particularly interesting to me here is the sentence, These signs were not in material objects such as clothes, but rather in body language and habits.

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And then, culture…

To find out whether a person had really been abroad for jihad, recruiters would solicit signs of jihad experience, either by engaging the recruit in conversation, or if in a larger group, steer the conversation toward the topic of foreign jihad fronts. They would presumably look for displays of three types of knowledge, the combination of which would be very hard to acquire for a person who had not been to any of the major battlefronts.

The first was knowledge of people, places and events specific to the conflict in which the recruit claimed to have taken part. [ more … ]

The second type of distinctive knowledge was weapons expertise. [ more … ]

The third type was familiarity with ‘jihad culture’, a set of peculiar practices and artistic expressions that emerged in the Arab Afghan community in the 1980s and developed in subsequent jihad fronts. One important component was anashid, battle hymns sung a capella during training and socializing. A similar component was poetry. Arab fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya would continuously compose new poems and recite them in the camps. Veterans would be familiar with at least part of this material and would share it during social gatherings in the kingdom. Yet another aspect of jihad culture was the telling of war stories from the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. While some of these stories were part of the basic religious education of most Saudis, it required extra effort to learn many or all of them, and to be able to cite them verbatim, as custom required. In the training camps and the trenches, such stories were told all the time (Nasiri, 2006), so jihad veterans typically knew many more such stories than the average Saudi.

Of course, non-veterans could acquire some of this knowledge if they wanted to, but to mimic jihad experience, impostors would need to emit large and consistent clusters of correct signs – a considerable challenge.

I’m reminded of Abdullah Azzam‘s book The signs of Ar-Rahmaan in the Jihad of Afghanistan, which I quoted in an earlier post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad.

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Here’s how bad we are at learning the local mores of the various war zones we keep dropping in on, in the words of FPRI’s Adam Garfinkle, in Mali: Understanding the Chessboard, posted recently:

As the article says, when the Tuareg rebellion in Mali gained steam after the denouement of the Libya caper, greatly stimulated by the return of heavily armed Tuareg brethren from that fight, these three Tuareg commanders defected to the rebels, bringing soldiers, vehicles, ammunition and more to the anti-government side. Anyone who was surprised by this is at the very least a terminal ignoramus. And anyone in the U.S. military who failed to understand the ethnic composition of the country’s politico-military cleavages, such that he let U.S. Special Forces training be lavished on Tuareg commanders, was clearly insufficiently trained to do his job. And believe me, that’s about as nice a way to put that as I can summon.

How do things like this (still) happen, after what we should have learned from years of dealing with Iraqis and Afghans and others on their home turf? I happen to know someone who teaches in the U.S. military education system, and this person happens to be a field-experienced Harvard Ph.D. in anthropology. This person tries very hard to clear away the thick fog created by the innocent Enlightenment universalism that pervades the American mind—the toxic fog that tries to convince us that all people, everywhere, are basically the same, have the same value hierarchies, the same habits of moral and tactical judgment, and mean the same things by roughly comparable translated words.

Now imagine how good we’d be at infiltration, getting the anasheed, poetry and stories right…

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Graphical footnotes, 1: Iwo Jima and the Muj

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — another insight into mujahideen ethos via their graphics, this time from their Soviet era campaign ]
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First, a current graphic which I’ve already shown you in a recent post on jihadist imagery — then a version of the same visual idea from earlier days:

credits: above, Ibn Siqilli, below, Mathew Trevithick for Foreign Policy

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Ibn Siqilli‘s image is contemporary, Trevithick‘s is drawn from his fascinating series of images titled The Not-So-Funny Papers, which I missed myself when it first came out, and warmly recommend. The legend the flag in Trevithick’s piece carries is “Jihad”.

This post is intended as a footnote to my earlier post, Iwo Jihad? — the muj have clearly been at this business of graphical borrowing for a while…

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