Islamic State: a letter from Raqqa

A fourth personal communication from the heart of territory where Islamic State holds sway.

Paul Rogers author pic
Paul Rogers
22 March 2015

Raqqa, 22 March 2015

Thank you for asking after my brother. When I last wrote I was confident that he would soon be back on the frontline, probably in Tikrit, but I am sorry to say that one of his wounds turned septic and for a week we thought he would lose his right leg. Fortunately his brigade commander heard what was happening and pulled sufficient weight for him to be brought back to one of our military medical centres here in Raqqa. The treatment has been excellent and he is now up and about. One of the good things about this is that I have been able to see him almost every day and we have been able to talk and share our visions of the future more than at any time since I first came here over two years ago.

You ask about how I see the war going and I will tell you, but first let me bring you up to date on my own news. You will recall that I originally came here to fight, following my brother and utterly determined to aid the cause after the huge suffering our family had experienced - my brother and I still talk fondly about our beloved father and his terrible death in that crusader airstrike.

My fighting life ended early when I lost my left arm in a Zionist air attack and since then I have worked for the leadership in the SOBRA team, my responsibilities being to monitor and analyse the western media, especially in Britain. They seemed to recognise my hard work and my ability to be ruthlessly independent in my analysis and I was promoted to run the whole unit early last year. You might expect that they don’t want to be presented with bad news but that is simply not the case. They are so hardened, not least from the experience of many of them against those crusader special forces in Task Force 145 in Iraq, and they are absolutely insistent on being told it as it is.

One of their increasingly significant requirements is for high-quality analysis of the political trends in those crusader countries that provide us with such dedicated recruits. Britain and France are important although they were also particularly concerned about Israel when it looked as though Binyamin Netanyahu would lose the election - a potential disaster for us since he has been such a marvellous recruiting sergeant for our cause. 

The relief at the result right across the movement has been palpable. Not only will he encroach still further on our lands but there is every chance of his stirring up a crisis between the crusaders and the hated apostates in Tehran. It may not happen soon, and there might even be an initial nuclear deal, but we are not in this for the short term so that is hardly important.

But what I really wanted to say is that the leadership instructed me last month to establish an election research unit within SOBRA to provide analysis of electoral trends in key crusader states, with an emphasis on impending elections. My first task, already underway, is to analysis the forthcoming British election and how we might influence it in the right way. I’ll say a bit more about that before I finish but first let me respond to your query about how the war is going.

It is two months since I last wrote to you and the short answer is that it is going more or less according to plan, especially in Tikrit. I know that would have surprised you a couple of weeks ago, given the way the Iraqi propagandists had been trumpeting their early progress but I’m sure you will have heard what has happened recently. In effect, the operation has stalled even though we have less than 1,000 fighters, facing 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and 20,000 Iraqi militia fighters supported by many Iranians including their special forces.

The Iraqis are losing at least sixty of their people every day, with scores more injured who are now clogging up their hospitals. For the time being they have stopped trying to advance and are waiting for reinforcements. At some stage we will suddenly withdraw all our forces and they will claim a great victory. We, on the other hand, will have ended up with hundreds more recruits having got firsthand combat experience while also taking territory elsewhere.  

I’m not sure whether you know that only last week we overran the headquarters of the Iraqi army’s 26th brigade at Thar Thar, close to Baghdad. We killed or captured many Iraqi soldiers and took truckloads of equipment and munitions before moving on.

There is also a huge advantage coming to us from the actions of the hated Iraqi Shi’a militias as they plunder and burn Sunni villages. This has been a persistent element of the war that has been going on for many months. One example was when a large Shi’a militia force tried to take control of Amerli (or “liberate” it, as they say) last summer. The fighting was hard and in the process they staged scores of reprisal raids against Sunni villages in the surrounding areas. At least thirty were attacked, the villages looted, men abducted and thousands of buildings burned to the ground. 

This has now been happening around Tikrit and we have no doubt that the effect will be to increase support for our cause right across the province, as happened around Amerli. Tacitus had it right when he said “they make a desert and called it peace”, and this will be repeated time and time again. In the short term they will make gains, including, no doubt, Tikrit, but in the longer term these will greatly play to our advantage.

We are being helped in many other ways too. Little by little other fighters are rallying to our cause, from Libya right through to Kazakhstan. Also, the museum attack in Tunis last week is having precisely the intended effect. Picking the afternoon of a cruise-ship visit and crusader tourists present there means that it had a worldwide impact, and hitting Tunisia’s tourist trade is hugely important. With its rampant graduate unemployment and hundreds of thousands of well-educated young people excluded from mainstream society, Tunisia has long been one of our best recruiting grounds, but the resurgence in the tourist industry and the employment provided was a worry for us. This will now be happily averted, and not only will the government crack down heavily on dissent but there will be more and more angry and frustrated people on the margins.

The attacks on the apostate mosque in Yemen are also very helpful especially in boosting our financial support base in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been hugely worried at the rapid increase in Iranian political influence in Iraq, a key part of their much-feared Shi’a crescent from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea, and their near-paranoia has been greatly boosted by the rise in Houthi power in Yemen with its obvious Iranian backing. For our people to attack apostate mosques to such an effect is a clear indication to our Saudi backers that we are increasingly a force to be reckoned with.

I mentioned earlier on that I would say more about our new Election Research Unit.  As must be obvious to any intelligent person, if we are wanting to increase the number of recruits coming to our cause from outside the region, then the more angry, resentful and marginalised young Muslims there are, the better. In the long term we have high hopes for Marine Le Pen and the Front National, even if her claims to being the “first party of France” are currently a bit over the top.

Our immediate concern, though, is with Britain and the forthcoming general election where we have some serious worries, almost as bad as the fear that Netanyahu would lose in Israel last week. Obviously what we want in Britain is the best performance possible from UKIP and Nigel Farage. They are great assets as they play to the fear of immigrants in general and Muslims in particular.  

The ideal outcome, which looked plausible a few weeks ago, would have been a weak Conservative Party trying to form a government but dependent on UKIP to form a new coalition. In our dreams the real delight would have been a weak Cameron as prime minister with Farage as deputy prime minister and home secretary (what the British call the interior minister). Just imagine having Farage in overall charge of community relations and immigration - it would have made our day!

Maybe it still will, but the problem is that there is a risk that Cameron will not even be in that position, especially as UKIP looks ominously to be past its peak. There is now a real possibility that Miliband could end up with the largest number of seats and our even greater worry is that he forms a minority government with tacit support from that Scottish lot, the extraordinary thing being that they actually want immigrants north of the border! Can you believe it? We could actually see a government in power that is favourable to minorities, including even Muslims. This really is our worst nightmare and hugely damaging to our growing support base there.

We have already passed on this analysis to the SOBRA leadership and they are putting together plans to try and prevent this, but they have already run into difficulties. One proposal was to make a determined effort to capture some British military who could then be treated as war criminals in the usual way, perhaps in an appropriate manner over Easter. 

The problem is that the British military have, for once and rather unusually, seen this coming and have recently minimised their exposure, including postponing new military training missions in Iraq until after the election. This is really annoying as it would have been by far the best way to really stir up Islamophobia in Britain and with it more support for UKIP.

I have no doubt, though, that SOBRA is looking at other ways of affecting the election result and you are likely to see something significant happen in the coming weeks. Even if it doesn’t, Britain does look like entering a period of political uncertainty and that, at least, is good news for us - uncertainty means scapegoats and we all know what that involves.

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