Consider this a low-tech hack, and Abu Hamed the ISIS analog of Chelsea Manning. Hamed, a jihadist disillusioned by what he asserts was a Ba’athist takeover of al-Qaeda in Iraq, left the group while taking a souvenir along the way — a memory stick that could undermine the entire ISIS network. Hamed provided documentation that identifies over 22,000 fighters in ISIS to Sky News, information that Western governments will find very useful indeed, if authentic:
Disillusioned with the Islamic State leadership, he says it has now been taken over by former soldiers from the Iraqi Baath party of Saddam Hussein.
He claims the Islamic rules he believed have totally collapsed inside the organisation, prompting him to quit.
I met him in a secret location in Turkey, and he said IS was giving up on its headquarters in Raqqa and moving into the central deserts of Syria and ultimately Iraq, the group’s birthplace. …
Asked if the IS files could bring the network down he nodded and said simply: “God willing”.
Sky News interviewed former head of MI-6 Richard Barrett, who called this an incredibly important intelligence haul, and not just because they can identify ISIS jihadis who may have come home to conduct terror attacks. Because of the need to maintain security, ISIS insisted on getting information on recruitment and transport — and that could unravel the entire organization:
The impression this leaves is that ISIS runs on gangster politics. One does not simply cross the border into Syria, Iraq, or Libya and declare themselves a sympathizer or member. Recruits have to have a patron or recruiter, and must pass through a network of trusted points along the way to be accepted. Thanks to the documentation that security requires, Western and Sunni Arab intelligence networks can arrest the recruiters and dismantle their lines of communication.
Of course, thanks to Sky News making this public, ISIS knows to start dumping these channels and reconstructing its network, too, but they won’t have the resources to efficiently change its entire structure. This gives the anti-ISIS alliance a big opening to do real damage. And Sky News isn’t alone in getting an intel coup, either:
The ISIS figure captured by American Special Operations forces in Iraq a few weeks ago was the terror group’s chief of its chemical weapons unit, a U.S. official said today. …
Iraqi officials have identified him as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, who used to work for the organization set up by Saddam Hussein to develop chemical weapons for his regime, according to the Associated Press.
Al-Afari was captured by elite Delta Force commandos a few weeks ago in northern Iraq, the U.S. official said. It was the first raid by the ETF, which is based in Iraq and designed to conduct raids against ISIS figures in Iraq and Syria. The idea is that interrogation of ISIS figures caught in raids will develop intelligence to target additional ISIS figures, officials said. Delta Force currently staffs the targeting task force.
Al-Afari is currently being held by the U.S. military in Iraq and will be turned over to Iraqi officials after interrogations have been completed, the U.S. official said. His capture was first reported last week, though U.S. officials declined to identify his identity or role within ISIS.
The rumors of a Ba’athist takeover of ISIS have floated for a long time, but seem a little odd. The Ba’athists were aligned with Bashar al-Assad in Syria during Saddam Hussein’s long reign of terror in Iraq. If Hussein’s former lieutenants have taken over ISIS, one might think that they would reach out to Assad and build an alliance before the cease-fire left them exposed on the battlefield. It might be that the Ba’athists are less interested in Assad and his Iranian connections now, and more interested in wresting control of Iraq away from the Shi’ite majority — and paying back the West for their fall. If so, it’s even more evidence that we pulled out of Iraq too soon and hadn’t finished the job.