Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia

FormedDecember 2006
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackFebruary 2009: JRTN attacked US troops with grenades in the Diyala province (Casualties unknown).[1]
Last AttackFebruary 18, 2011: Senior commander of JRNT accused of being involved in an IED attack in a car showroom in the town of Muqdadiyah (7 killed). [2]
UpdatedFebruary 15, 2012

Narrative Summary

Jaysh al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) is a large and prominent Sufi insurgent group in Iraq. JRTN was established in December 2006 following the execution of Saddam Hussein. The group emerged as reactionary force protecting Naqshbandis from the persecution they were facing in the hands of extremists such as AQI. The group also vehemently rejected AQI tactics that led to the death of many Sunnis and Iraqis, and thus decided to form their own group to fight coalition forces.[3] JRTN is named after the Naqshband Sufi movement, which began in 1389 by Baha al-din Naqshband.[4] The group's connection to Sufism yet embrace of violence is controversial, as many Sufi followers believe that Sufism strongly eschews harming others.[5] Due to the religion's peaceful and apolitical reputation, Sufism was tolerated under the Saddam regime and was even adopted by several Baathist party members.[6] However, as the official spokesman for JRTN claimed on Al-Zawra Iraqi channel, "We fight for the integrity and unity of Iraq, land and people, to maintain its Arab and Islamic identity," fighting as a nationalist rather than a Sufi.[7] 

The group fights for the extrication of foreign troops from Iraq and thus claims responsibility for launching over seventeen rocket attacks, five mortar attacks, fourteen road bombs, four sniper attacks and two large-scale attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq.[8] Though the group formally began in 2006, JRNT members have been involved in the 2003 al-Rasheed Hotel bombing, and the 2004 First Battle of Fallujah, where several Naqshbandia clerics were among JRTN casualties.[9]

Leadership

The role that Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri plays in the organization of JRTN is unclear. Some contend that he is a leader within the movement while other sources mention that he is highly linked from the outside. Regardless, "whether or not al-Duri is the actual operational leader of the JRTN, he is clearly a key personality for the organization."[10] A US battalion operations officer near Tikrit stated that al-Duri encouraged Iraqis to become more religious and is the reason why the Naqshbandi Order became increasingly popular amongst Baathists.[11]

  1. Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi (Unknown to Unknown): Leader.[12]
  2. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, aka Naqshbandi Sheikh. (Unknown to Unknown): [13]
  3. Abdullah Ibrahim Muhammad al-Juburi (Unknown to Unknown): Senior Militant.[14]
  4. Muhammad Ahmad Salim (Unknown to Unknown): Commander.[15]
  5. Wathiq Alwan al Amiri (Unknown to December 12, 2009): Media Coordinator; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009.[16]
  6. Abd al Majid Hadithi (Unknown to December 12, 2009): Former Media Manager, Propaganda Distributor; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009.[17]
  7. Muhanned Muhammed Abd al Jabbar al Rawi (Unknown to December 12, 2009): Media Gatherer, Producer, Show-caser; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009.[18]
  8. Qaid Shehab al-Douri (Unknown to November 21, 2010): Commander; arrested during a counter-terrorism operation on November 21 2010 in the al-Dour area east of Tikrit in Iraq's Salah ad Din province.[19]

Ideology & Goals

JRTN stems from one of the largest most influential Sufi order, the Naqshbandi order, founded by Baha al-din Naqshband in 1389.[20] It is the only Sufi sect to trace its lineage to the Prophet Mohammed through Abu Bakr, the first caliph, while most orders claim to be descendants of Abu Talib, the fourth caliph.[21] Group ideology includes following the teachings and examples of five prominent figures: Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Salman al-Farsi, Bayazid al-Bistami, Abdhul Khaliq-Ghujdawani and Shah Naqshband. Naqshband stems from the word "naqsh", which means "engraving" and "band," which means "bond." Thus, the order calls for the engraving of G-d's name in the heart and calls for a bond between an individual and his Creator.[22] Though most Sufis are pacifists, JRTN is also a nationalistic group with the desire to return to the former reign of Saddam's Baath Party, as they enjoyed many freedoms under the regime.[23] 

The JRTN believe in targeting the "unbeliever-occupier" forces in Iraq. Several tenants comprise the JRTN canon. Most fundamentally, coalition forces including individuals, equipment and supplies, are legitimate targets at any time or place in Iraq. In conjunction, Iraqis are not considered targets unless they fight with Coalition forces. The JRTN will not fight other jihadi groups and will cooperate with them if they are dedicated to the same agenda. As far as funding, JRTN core values stipulate that funding will only be accepted from Muslim supporters. The JRTN upholds that secrecy is integral in planning and conducting operations and that no participation in the political process under occupation will be tolerated.[24]

Designated/Listed

The US OFAC announced on January 5, 2010 the blocking of property of JRTN according to Executive Order 13438, an order that blocks property of "certain persons who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq."[25] The listing entails an order to freeze any assets that JRTN members may have under US jurisdiction and bans US personal interacting with the group financially or commercially.[26] According to Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, "Today's designation is an important step in protecting Coalition troops, Iraq Security Forces and innocent Iraqis from insurgent groups like JRTN that use violence to undermine Iraq's progress toward a more democratic and prosperous future."[27] 

Resources

Some experts contend that Saddam's former Vice President Izaat al-Douri, a fanatical Sufi, is outside Iraq fundraising for the insurgency, channeling resources to JRTN since it has become "the de facto armed wing of the Baath party."[28] JRTN also publishes a monthly magazine publicizing the group's operations and promoting its ideology, through which it solicits donations. The group's magazine articles call upon Muslims to donate, stating that funding jihad is equivalent to fighting and fulfilling one's jihadi religious obligations. However, the amount of funding and its source is unknown.[29]

Geographical Locations

JRTN carries out operations in Baghdad, al-Anbar, Ninawa, Diyala and Salah al-Din provinces.[30] The group is also active in the Kirkuk province, affirmed by the arrest of two suspected JRTN members by security forces in the al-Madina area of Al Huwayjah district of Kirkuk.[31]

Targets & Tactics

JRTN have resorted to guerilla tactics to fight a war of attrition against the Coalition. Major General Ahmad al-Naqshbandi admitted that the group's fighters might not be able to directly confront US forces, and thus laid out a two-pronged strategy that includes a defensive phase followed by an assault phase. Tactics to be implemented in the first phase include attacking soft targets to minimize number of jihadists lost, learn from the enemy and train jihadists to be more skilled, and cooperate with other jihadi groups to "widen the jihadi base."[32] During their formation in 2006 a local Amir (commander) headed a small group of 7-10 JRTN fighters. Local Amirs were arranged in every province and were led by the "Amir al-jihad," the grand sheikh of al-Naqshbandia.[33] JRTN weapons used in urban warfare include light and medium rifles, roadside bombs and anti-tank RPG-7 grenade launchers.[34] 

JRTN also uses the web and print as tools to expand membership and influence. Its army posts links to video clips of attacks against the Coalition on various jihadi forums. In addition, the group publishes a monthly magazine to promote group ideology, describe its operations against the enemy and ask for donations. The magazine also provides religious and secular articles that describe Sufism and jihad.[35] Furthermore, JRTN related attacks air on al-Ray satellite television, a broadcasting company believed to be based in Syria with connections to al-Douri's New Ba'ath Party.[36] The channel programming includes videos, interviews with jihadists and commentaries and works to "cross the Sunni-Shi'ite divide to appeal to all insurgent organizations with the common theme of removing the coalition forces.[37]

Political Activities

JRTN works to overthrow the Maliki government. The group contends that Shiite dominated government is unfit to govern Sunnis, as it is a puppet of the Iranian government and has persecuted Sunni citizens.[38] The group hopes to reinstate a regime led by the Baathist party. Al-Douri, a key member of the group and leader of the New Baathist Party boasted that they would gain power and "Invite President Obama to negotiations soon."[39]

Major Attacks

JRNT also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings operations that occurred in October 2003, including shooting a rocket array at the Green Zone's al-Rasheed hotel during a visit by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.[40] Only one rocket actually hit the building causing minimal damage. No one was hurt.[41]

  1. 2009: A child recruited by JRNT threw an RKG-3, an anti-vehicle grenade, at a passing US convoy in the Kirkuk province. The attack was taped and circulated on the Internet (Casualties unknown).[42]
  2. February 2009: JRTN attacked US troops with grenades in the Diyala province (Casualties unknown).[43]
  3. August 31, 2010: JRTN claimed responsibility shooting and killing a US soldier in the city of Tikrit in Iraq's Salah ad Din province (1 killed).[44]
  4. October 4, 2010: JRTN made a statement on Al Jazeera claiming responsibility for attacking a US soldier in Baghdad on an unspecified date. However, the claim could not be independently verified (0 killed).[45]
  5. February 18, 2011: Senior commander of JRNT accused of being involved in an IED attack in a car showroom in the town of Muqdadiyah (7 killed).[46]

Relationships with Other Groups

JRTN has called for the unification of the resistance against occupational forces and thus works with several anti-Coalition groups. The group facilitates money, weapons, information, and safe-houses for groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq, 1920 Revolutionary Brigade,and the Islamic State of Iraq. In exchange, these groups videotape the attacks and hand them over to JRTN to be placed on the Internet and TV.[47] While generally fundamentalists like al Qaeda consider Sufi groups transgressors, there has been an instance of cooperation between JRTN and al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

In 2004, Sufi and Salafist al-Qaeda members fought together in the battle for Fallujah under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi, a Sufi.[48] Though post-Fallujah al-Qaeda antagonized Sufis and their sacred places, desecrating tombs of Sufi saints, the relationship between the two groups has become unclear. According to Brookings Institute, in May 2011, Iraqi Sunni Arabs have been increasingly supportive of JRTN, providing the group with money. However, as indicated in a US intelligence report, JRTN has been funneling that money back to AQI, "which has greater operational capabilities and allows the Naqshbandis to claim that they are not responsible for the deaths when they occur- something AQI is still all-too-happy to take credit for."[49]In addition, contact has been reported between JRTN and Al Qaeda, as according to US Brigade General Craig Nixon, "Al Qaeda's power may be on the wane, after influcting so many civilian casualties. But the Sufi-inspired order can present itself as a more indigenous resistance."[50] 

JRTN is linked to the "New Baath Party" that is led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, an adherent of the Naqshband order. Many of the New Bath Party members are former officials and soldiers from the Saddam Hussein regime, which is similar to the cohort that makes up JRTN.[51] US military officers contend that many JRTN members are believed to be former Iraqi military officers, in light of JRTN statements being infused with military terminology[52] as well as their vetting procedures of new recruits involving putting new members in a 90-day trial period in which they are required to carry out low-level attacks, endure physical abuse, and background checks to ensure they are not affiliated with AQI.[53] 

However, factions within the "New Baath Party" oppose a strong connection with JRTN. For example, Senior Baath Party member, Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad al-Muwali and his followers are politically divided with al-Duri's wing of the party. The Yunis faction aims to return to the political process and re-legitimize the political party while al-Douri advocates for the creation of a separate Sunni Arab Iraq.[54] Several New Baath Party members have opposed an affiliation with JRTN as the party becomes reduced to a militant movement that overshadows political efforts.[55]

Community Relationships

There is concern that JRTN will rival the transitional government in Iraq because though they target coalition forces, they try to establish a base of connections with local Iraqis.[56] JRTN takes advantage of the poor economic conditions in Iraq by paying unemployed or underemployed Iraqis to carry out attacks such as planting IEDs or launching rockets.[57] The group also places a strong emphasis on attacking coalition forces and not targeting Iraqis, as seen by their rejection of AQI tactics in which several Sunni Iraqis have been casualties.[58] 

People such as Ibrahim al-Sumadaie of the Iraqi Constitutional Party fear that JRNT could become increasingly attractive to Sunnis aggrieved by a Shiite dominated government or those who switched sides to the Coalition forces to fight al Qaeda, such as the Awakening Councils, who now feel abandoned.[59] Security officials contend that thousands of Sunni insurgents who are upset by Maliki's failure to absorb them into the military are being recruited by JRTN and will pose a threat to stability.[60] JRTN provides a niche for Sunnis as the group is "much less explicitly Baathism, Arab nationalist socialism, as much as it is about creating this area where Sunnis can be Sunnis."[61] 

According to a US intelligence officer, members of this group are "very respected within the local government or very influential with their native communities and don't necessarily display their acts of terror on the streets," which makes it difficult to obtain warrants issued by the Iraqi court to arrest them.[62] Furthermore, some US military operatives characterize JRTN cells a familial organization. "They all have the same family name, they all have the same dad or the same grandfather, and are especially tied to the Sheikh Maqsud sub-tribe of the Al-Douris. So at its most fundamental level, JRTN is an Al-Douri family business."[63]


References

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