“ISIS Forces That Now Control Ramadi Are Ex-Baathis Saddam Loyalists”
The Intercept, June 3, 2015
“The fall of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, to the Islamic State last month has frayed nerves in Washington, but what few appear to grasp is that ISIS’s May offensive has given Ramadi back to its former owners — the ex-Baathist Sunni terrorists known as the Former Regime Loyalists. The FRLs, as they’re called, were Saddam Hussein’s most ardent followers, the same fighters whom the United States fought non-stop for eight years. Their resurgence has implications not just for the United States but for ISIS itself. For while these forces may fly the ISIS flag today, their ultimate plans for Iraq are quite different than those of the ‘caliphate.’ ISIS’s roots in Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party are deep — many of the group’s most devoted commanders, advisers and fighters started out as Baathists. The ex-Baathists essentially run ISIS, and their past is evident in the tactics they are using now. … Haji Bakr is a classic example of an ex-Baathist spy who brought his Saddam-era human intelligence skills to ISIS. He was a former Iraqi air force intelligence officer from the Directorate of Military Security who may have been part of the original IED development team, the Al Ghafiqi project. Working for ISIS, his flow charts, questionnaires, dossiers and biographical histories about anyone under their control were all straight from Saddam Hussein’s playbook. This level of micro-detail on enemies gave the FRLs and now ISIS information dominance in Iraq and Syria. But the FRL’s greatest achievement may be training ISIS to create similar databases of deeply personal, psychological profiles and factual knowledge on every foreign fighter, jihadi bride or Iraqi who either joins or is conquered by ISIS. That database is just waiting to be exploited by the world’s intelligence communities. … Simply put, ISIS today is essentially a Baathist-organized amalgam of virtually every Sunni tribal and jihadist insurgent group the United States has fought since April 2003. It is fueled by the ideology of al Qaeda and is under the nominal leadership of foreign terrorists. No matter that foreign fighters are the amirs with high-level roles, and that it took 12 years to usurp and merge all of those groups and to liberate the Sunni governorates. Ex-Baathists like Haji Bakr and al-Douri have helped ISIS’s Iraqi ‘caliph,’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, manage it brilliantly.”
Quickie analysis: The chickens of 2003 coming home to roost.