The prodigious gains that jihadist terror group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have made in Iraq have been in large part possible due to an unlikely alliance between ISIS and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party, who have used their military training to organize and control cities.
According to an exclusive report by Fox News, former Baathist officials and members formerly in hiding have lent a hand to ISIS forces in exchange for help toppling the current Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “[We are] unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form a Sunni Region,” a senior Baathist leader told the news organization.
The report notes that three former Saddam generals were heavily involved in the takeover of Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities now under control of ISIS. Eight of ten generals leading ISIS are believed to have originally been Baath Party members.
In addition to those fights, reports have surfaced that Ibrahim Izzat al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s former in-law and high-ranking Baathist general, is “openly directing operations of the Naqshbandis [new party formed by former Baath members] in Mosul.” Business Insider notes that al-Douri has been sufficiently protected to avoid capture despite authorities offering a $10 million reward.
Kurdish leaders tell Fox News that they have witnessed Baathists collaborating with ISIS. “As an effective fighting force alone, ISIS would never have been able to hold such large territories,” said one officer on the condition of anonymity. This week, ISIS executed the Kurdish judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death; it is believed the killing was vengeance for the sentence against Hussein.
In addition to killing Shi’ites and government affiliated individuals, reports have surfaced that ISIS has begun targeting individuals who do not appear to speak Arabic. According to one report, ISIS jihadists “capture the expatriates in Iraq and ask them the meaning of some Arabic words, failing which they are shot. The Sunni militants are reportedly even asking them to clean their shoes and clothes.” This has been of particular concern to the nation of India, which is already on high alert regarding Indian citizens in Iraq due to a mass kidnapping of migrant workers by ISIS.
The news of an ISIS/Baathist coalition follows that of another unlikely pairing on the other side of the war: Kurdish Peshmerga forces working in tandem with Iranian troops sent into Iraq to keep ISIS at bay. While the alliance is one of necessity and not an official one, Kurdish leaders have met with Iranian officials to discuss the ISIS threat and how to meet it.