In late 2007, al-Qaeda’s second man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, conducted an open dialogue through the internet in which he answered questions posed by members of jihadi internet forums. Since then, some Iraqi jihadi group leaders have imitated al-Zawahiri’s example by answering questions put to them through jihadi forums. One such interview was conducted through two forums with the spokesman of the Saad Bin Abi Waqas Army, Shaykh Salah al-Din Jabouri (muslm.net, October 19).
To the first group of inquiries, al-Jabouri said that the Saad Bin Abi Waqas army (the Saad Army hereafter) is an Islamic jihadi group fighting to expel the occupiers from Iraq, exalt God’s word by strengthening Islamic Sharia (law), follow the Prophet’s Sunna, and implement a Salafi-Jihadi Islamic regime. Al-Jabouri is optimistic that Caliphate rule will make a comeback soon. The Saad Army, according to al-Jabouri, is present in the two parts of Baghdad – divided by the River Tigris – and in the southern districts of the city.
Recently the Saad Army has deployed to Mosul, says al-Jabouri, who urges interested volunteers from Mosul to contact the Saad Army in person or through their website. The Saad Army is comprised of experienced jihadis equipped with weapons stolen from ex-Iraqi military depots, according to al-Jabouri, who adds: “Our Jihad is defensive. We are fighting in Iraq and our eyes are on occupied al-Aqsa [the mosque in Jerusalem]”. Although the Saad Army and the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades have the same political and jihadi position, the disassociation between the two occurred due to differences in jihadi methods and expertise between the two groups.
Al-Jabouri admitted that, like many other jihadi groups, the Saad Army is suffering from a lack of funds and has had to sell real estate to sustain jihadi operations. The Saad Army spokesman called on Muslims to donate money, noting that the Saad Army coordinates field and media activities for a range of other jihadi and Sunni political groups, including the Association of Muslim scholars, the Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance and the Jihad and Liberation group, even though no official association between the groups yet exists.
When asked whether the Saad Army consents to the actions of al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Jabouri dodged the question, saying fallouts with some Jihadi groups are due to ideological differences, adding only that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISI – widely regarded as an al-Qaeda affiliate) is another jihadi group participating in “defensive jihad” against the occupier. The Saad Army, however, has declined invitations to join ISI because the ISI lacks the prerequisites of a state.
The Saad Army spokesman also commented on Iraq’s Sunni-Shi’a divide. Unlike al-Qaeda and other extreme Salafi-Jihadi groups, al-Jabouri does not deem all Shiite factions infidels, just the Imami “Twelvers” faction, largest of the various Shiite groups.  The Saad Army equates the Twelvers with the “Jews and Crusaders.” On the question of a possible political settlement with the government, al-Jabouri states his refusal to negotiate with the authorities, denying suggestions such talks have taken place with the Americans in neighboring Jordan.
In response to a question on jihadi use of the internet, al-Jabouri revealed the Saad Army uses the internet to pull up manuals on conventional and chemical weapons manufacturing, locate enemy military targets through Google Earth and boost the fighting spirit of the mujahideen. Websites also have a role in breaking the morale of enemy soldiers by posting video clips of jihadi operations.
Although the majority of forum participants made supportive comments on al-Jabouri’s interview, pro-al-Qaeda participants rejected al-Jabouri’s reasons for not uniting with other jihadi groups and urged jihadis in the shura (consultative) council of ISI not to accept the disunity pretexts of other jihadi factions.
In a recent interview with Alrai TV (the Syrian-based successor to Iraq’s al-Zawra TV, best known for its continuous broadcast of Iraqi jihadi videos), al-Jabouri said that the Saad Army has acquired large quantities of arms from Iraq’s old weapons manufacturing facilities with the help of ex-Iraqi military personnel (the undated video was posted on the Saad Army’s website, saadarmy.com). The core of the Saad Army operates in Baghdad and the towns south of the city: al-Mahmoudiya, al-Latifia, al-Yousofia and al-Haswah.
On the influence of the tribal Awakening councils (al-Sahwa), al-Jabouri said that the councils are protecting American forces in Iraq. The Americans do not intend to pullout of Iraq and need the Awakening councils to fight the jihadi formations on their behalf. Reasserting the Saad Army’s intentions to keep fighting even after a U.S. pullout, al-Jabouri declared the group will keep up jihadi activities until all of the American-installed Iraqi government apparatus is eliminated and replaced with an Islamic Sharia government. Al-Jabouri is very optimistic about the future of Saad Army operations: “We still possess tons of weapons we haven’t revealed yet. The Amirs of the Army met two months ago and pledged to continue the fight until we expel the occupier.” Al-Jabouri denies receiving any foreign funds or volunteers from abroad, saying that many Iraqi locals directly contact the different divisions and join the Saad Army. In conclusion, al-Jabouri declared that if the Democrats win the U.S. elections and decide to pull out of Iraq, the Saad Army would refrain from attacking the withdrawing American forces.
The fact that the core of Saad Bin Abi Waqas comprises ex-Iraqi army soldiers implies a nationalist inclination for the group, regardless of the ostensible Salafi-Jihadi rhetoric they use to lure in volunteers and funds. Although not as extreme as al-Qaeda’s Salafi-Jihadi forces, the ex-military and intelligence operatives of the Saad Army could prove more capable of penetrating current Iraqi security and military agencies, a resistance method already recommended to the group by a visitor to their website.
1. Imami “Twelver” Shi’ism (Ithna Ashariya) is the largest branch of Shi’i Islam. The majority of Shiites in Iran and Iraq are adherents of Imami Shi’ism, which recognizes the spiritual and political authority of twelve “Imams” (leaders of Islamic communities) as successors to the Prophet Muhammad through the line of the fourth Caliph, Ali. The twelfth Imam, Muhammad ibn al-Hassan, was hidden by God (a process known as “occultation”) in 872 and will return one day as the Mahdi (“the expected one”) together with the Nabi ‘Isa (the Prophet Jesus) to restore an Islamic order of peace and justice.