Politics Magazine

An Analysis of the Iraqi Resistance – Structure of the Resistance

Posted on the 26 September 2014 by Calvinthedog

I have decided to publish my most recent work, An Analysis of the Iraqi Resistance, on my blog. Previously, this piece was used for the research for “An Insiders Look at the Iraqi Resistance” a major piece that appeared on the Islamist website Jihadunspun.com (JUS got the copyright but I did the research). That long-running top-billed piece is now down, but it is still archived on Alexa here . Note that this material is copyrighted and all reproduction for profit is forbidden under copyright laws.

For information about reprinting or purchasing one-time rights to this work, email me. This article is an in-depth analysis of the Iraqi resistance and is continuously being revised. It is presently 58 pages long. It lists all known Iraqi resistance groups who have ever fought in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad and includes a brief description and analysis of each group. There are separate sections covering Size, Tendencies, Motivations, Structure, Foreign Assistance, Foreign Fighters, Regional Characteristics, Regions, Cities or Towns Controlled by the Resistance, Major Attacks and List of Groups by Tendency.

The article was intended to be a political science-type analysis of the Iraqi Resistance, and I tried not to take sides one way or the other. I used a tremendous amount of source material, mostly publicly available news reports from the Internet. Obviously, in an area like this you are dealing with a ton of disinformation along with the real deal, so I spent a lot of time trying to sort out the disinfo from the relative truth.

The problem is that one cannot simply discount sources of information such as Israeli and US intelligence, US military reports, reporting from the resistance itself, Islamist websites, etc. Of course these sources are loaded with disinfo and just false analysis but they also tend to have a lot of truth mixed in as well. In writing a piece like this, you pull together all the sources and get sort of a “Gestalt” view of the situation. When you examine all the sources at once in toto, you can kind of sort out the disinfo from the more factual material. Admittedly it’s a hit or miss game but that’s about as good as we can do source-wise in the inherently hazy subject area of an underground guerrilla war.

Interviews with resistance cadre by the mainstream Western media were given particular prominence in this piece.

AN ANALYSIS OF THE IRAQI RESISTANCE: The First Year, March 2003-May 2004




Many fighters at the cadre or cell level have only the most vague notions about the leadership of their group or how their group is funded; in fact, many seem to have no idea who the actual leadership of their group is. Baath Party members made up 30% of guerrilla cadre in 1-04 but probably much less since the Mahdi Uprising.

Before Saddam’s capture, Saddam loyalists were quite prevalent at the higher levels of the resistance, including command and control, recruitment, planning, weapons procurement, funding and logistics, but they were not so prevalent in terms of actual armed combatants. After Saddam’s capture, the top-level leadership of the resistance has become much more murky, and the pro-Saddam element is in disarray. By 11-03, Iraqi resistance fighters were often fighting outside their home area as a precautionary measure.

Presently, the structure of the typical Iraqi resistance cell is eclectic indeed. Fighters simply form cells in their home district, made up of all of those fighters who wish to fight in the area. In some places, especially with the Islamic resistance, prospective fighters are vetted and trained before being accepted into fighting units, and a number of prospective fighters are rejected.

In a typical area, the fighting unit will often be made up of former regime members, nationalists, Sunni and/or Shia Islamists, Baathists, and even Communists and Leftists. The commander of that particular cell will simply be whoever has the most military experience; this individual could well be a Baathist, former regime member, nationalist, Sunni or Shia Islamist, or even a Leftist. Fighters simply aggregate together and typically do not discuss or deal with ideology or differences. The fact that many cells are made up of fighters of widely disparate ideology does not seem to be causing many problems.

Certain types of guerrilla groups such as some of the foreign fighters, may be ideologically inclined; for instance, there are foreign fighters who are fundamentalist Islamist extremists. They often with to maintain ideological purity within their unit, however, even these fighters, with their extreme ideology, have been known to collaborate well with Iraqi Islamists, nationalists, Baathists, and former regime members. The fact that such pragmatism and flexibility has developed amongst the guerrillas so rapidly is stunning in light of common, apparently false, stereotypes about the rigidity and tribalism of Arabs.

There has been little or no infighting between guerrilla units, another commendable feature from a military standpoint. Many insurgencies have seen their fire sapped by continuous infighting and purges amongst various guerrilla factions.

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