The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a conceived al-Qaeda organization attempting to unite the Iraqi insurgency, recently issued its own response to the U.S.-Iraqi Security Plan. The so-called “Plan of Nobility” is aimed not only at countering the Baghdad Security Plan, but is also attempting to position the ISI as the sole, legitimate political and administrative body representing Sunni Arabs. One way it has done this is through a wave of media activity describing the Plan of Nobility.
In early February, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the self-styled head of state for the ISI, issued an audio message declaring a counter-offensive security plan to the one jointly initiated by the United States and the Iraqi government. Various communiqués outlined in detail the different strategies, tactics and operations that the ISI plans to implement against Iraqi and coalition forces through the Plan of Nobility. In a February statement on the islammemo.cc forum, the ISI claimed that it had acquired new anti-aircraft weapons that were responsible for the recent downing of U.S. helicopters and that they have pioneered new IED technology, as well as other technologies to counter U.S. minesweepers and jamming devices. The ISI’s Plan of Nobility also addresses future operations and attributes past operations as being part of its counter-offensive. For example, the ISI issued a communiqué and video on March 2 and March 4, reporting the execution of 14 Interior Ministry officials in Diyala province in retaliation for the rape of Sabreen al-Janabi. The ISI also announced it was planning future operations to avenge this dishonor. On March 13, the ISI took credit for a series of attacks on detention facilities, particularly the one in Mosul in which 140 prisoners escaped (http://islammemo.cc, March 13).
Aside from the tactical security considerations in the Plan of Nobility, the flush of announcements by the Islamic State of Iraq is part of their political campaign to promote themselves as the foremost resistance group in Iraq and the only way that Iraqi Sunnis can counter the “Safavid puppet government” in Baghdad. The ISI is using the Plan of Nobility to consolidate their leadership by persuading other groups to join their coalition through publicizing Baghdad meetings in which insurgent and tribal leaders agreed to adopt ISI proposals and work under ISI leadership. The ISI is also promoting itself as an administrator and a legitimate political entity in al-Anbar province and not just as an insurgent force. In February on the almuhajiroun.com website, the ISI issued a statement chastising Arab satellite channels for distorting the truth and equating the ISI solely with al-Qaeda. ISI messages stress that al-Qaeda is only one part of the ISI and that it includes many other groups. The ISI’s attempt to broaden its definition beyond the al-Qaeda organization is reflective of its desire to reverse its political isolation and increase its recognition by other insurgent and mainstream political Sunni groups.
ISI assertions have not been without resistance from some elements of the Iraqi insurgency and from Sunni Arab tribes who are at odds with al-Qaeda in Iraq. The al-Anbar Salvation Council and al-Qaeda have been involved in tit-for-tat operations against each other for the better part of a year. Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the al-Anbar Salvation Council, has argued that the “Islamic State of Iraq is only a virtual announcement that is not connected to reality with the existence of other strong insurgent groups like the Islamic Army, 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Rashideen Army and others” (al-Hayat, February 20). Al-Hayat has also reported that “al-Qaeda has waged a war of liquidation with the primary targets being the leaders of the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Army” because the ISI has failed to convince these groups to unite under their banner. For their part, indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups view themselves as more legitimate than al-Qaeda’s ISI and bristle at attempts by the group to monopolize the insurgency (al-Hayat, January 8). ISI’s efforts to place other insurgent groups under its subordinate command have led to tension and splits within the Iraqi insurgency. As the ISI attempts to assert more political authority over Iraq’s Sunni Arab population, these tensions will likely increase.