Radical Islamists’ Terror of the Iraqi elections

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 2

As expected, the days approaching the January 30 election date are witnessing an intensification of insurgent activity, which is making the security situation on the ground appear desperate. However, amid the carnage the tone of the mujahideen is appearing similarly desperate. On January 16 the al-Ma’sada jihadist forum posted what was billed as the “Final statement to all who desire security” from the Islamic Army in Iraq. It warned that “If you have a nearest and dearest … for whom you are afraid, and if you do not wish to see their corpse on the 30th January roasting on piles of filthy election papers, give them this warning … let him not cast himself into a perdition that will follow him in this world and the next … let him not think that the soldiers of infidelity and apostasy can protect him.” The statement goes on to deplore the perfidy of the Muslim sheikhs that support the election: “they who have lost the credibility even of their own people,” since they recognize that these are potentially “a more perilous foe for the Nation than her very enemies!” The declaration then goes on to warn against the impious delusion of democracy, and warns “not to allow your street or district to be defiled by the existence of these (election) centers of filth, for their presence there imperils your life, and that of your family and neighbors” since the army “will not accept that any Iraqi participate in establishing a rule unlegislated by God.”

This shrill sensitivity to elections may have something to do with the bitter experience of the Algerian mujahideen. As eruditely illustrated by analyst Amir Taheri in his essay in Arab News, the terrorists in that arena — where the parallels with the present methodology of the Iraqi mujahideen are strong — were delivered a body-blow by the government’s holding of an election in 1995. The terrorists, Taheri records, “did all they could to prevent the election. They burned down voter registration bureaus and murdered election officers. Masked men visited people in their homes and shops to warn that going to the polls would mean death.” Yet, he explains, when polling day came there was a wholly unexpected enthusiasm among the Algerian public to vote terrorism out of the system (www.arabnews.com).

Just as with the Algerian experience the terrorists are making great efforts to knock out high profile officials and politicians. The previous statement by The Islamic Army in Iraq was posted on al-Ma’sada on January 12, when it issued a hit list containing the names: Iyad Allawi, (top U.S. military official in Iraq) George Casey, (Governor of Fallujah Major General) Abd al-Qadir Muhammad Jasim Mohan, (Provincial Governor) Duayd Kashmula, (Minister of Defence) Hazim al-Sha’lan, Gary Lake, (government candidates) Falah al-Naqib and Qasim Daud, (governor of Najaf) Adnan al-Dharfi and (interim Iraqi president) Ghazi al-Yawir. It then goes on to remind “all the brigades in every region of the need to prepare a list specific to each region, to distribute it, and begin carrying it out upon all those targets who do not publish their repentance”, adding that certain names had been omitted from the published list for (probably operational) reasons.

If Amir Taheri’s parallel is correct, the silent majority is likely to mobilize, far more than is expected, to isolate the insurgents and demonstrate the futility of the assassination strategy in a power system in which no individual is indispensable. Given that Algeria is the only other Arab country to be seriously threatened by Islamist terrorists — and the first to defeat them — the portents would therefore appear to be positive.