Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN)

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]
UpdatedJuly 15, 2014

Narrative Summary

Jaysh al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) is a large and prominent Sufi insurgent group in Iraq.  JRTN is named after the Naqshbandi Sufi movement, which was founded in 1389 by Baha al-din Naqshband. [3] Beginning during Ottoman rule, the Naqshabadi order constituted more of a political association or patronage network than a religious association. Through the order, its members built connections with like-minded political and business leaders. [4] Due to Sufism’s peaceful and apolitical reputation, it was tolerated under the Saddam Hussein regime. [5] The Naqshabadi order recruited Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who became its patron sometime during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Al-Duri used his position in Hussein’s government to create a bond between the Baath Party and the JRTN during the Iran-Iraq War, thereby expanding the group’s popularity and solidifying his own power and influence. [6] JRTN was formally established in December 2006 following the political disarray in the Baath party after the execution of Saddam Hussein; the Baath party split, with some members following Muhammad Younis al-Ahmed, who was connected with the Al-Awda movement, and others following al-Duri and the JRTN. The JNRT first acted as to protect Naqshbandi order members from persecution at the hands of extremists such as AQI. The group also 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. [7]

From 2007-2011, JRTN fought for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and claimed responsibility for attacks involving mortars, road bombs, and rockets, as well as larger-scale attacks against Coalition forces. [8] However, JRTN’s ideology remained nationalistic; as an official spokesman for JRTN stated on Al-Zawra Iraqi channel, "we [the JRTN] fight for the integrity and unity of Iraq, land and people, to maintain its Arab and Islamic identity," fighting for nationalist, rather than Sufi, ideals. [9]

After the Coalition’s withdrawal in 2011, JRTN changed its goals to the overthrow of the Maliki government and the replacement of the constitution drawn up under Coalition auspices. [10]

JRTN increased its political operations to take advantage of the increase in anti-government protests in 2013; JRTN successfully increased support for its nationalistic platform and its anti-Maliki policies using the Free Iraq Uprising movement, which concentrated its efforts in Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul, and Hawija. [11] After Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) attempted to clear out a protest in Hawija’s “Pride and Honor” Square in April 2013, JRTN declared that it would begin attacking ISF in a new campaign against Baghdad. [12] Clashes between JRTN and ISF throughout 2013 demonstrated a shift to more conventional warfare, which was a shift from JRTN’s normal procedure of using covert cells to carry out attacks.  [13] [14] JRTN operations in 2013 may also have been directed against Kurds in an attempt to stamp out ethnic separatism incompatible with JRTN’s nationalist agenda. [15] 

It is becoming clear that members of JRTN have been providing critical assistance to ISIS’s operations in Iraq. [16] Al-Douri himself may be acting  as a commander of ISIS forces. ISIS success in capturing Iraqi cities was dependent on the military expertise and local connections brought by JRTN members. [17] However, cooperation between ISIS and the Baathists will likely be short lived; ISIS’s goal of creating a Caliphate is antithetical to the JRTN’s nationalism. Members of JRTN probably support ISIS only because of its anti-al-Maliki stance. There have been reports that ISIS has killed Baathists in Mosul in order to consolidate its authority and discourage sects that could feasibly negotiate with the government or oppose their vision for a Caliphate. [18] 

Leadership

  1. Sheikh Abdullah Mustafa al-Naqshbandi (Unknown to Unknown): Leader. [19]
  2. Wathiq Alwan al Amiri (Unknown to December 12, 2009): Media Coordinator; arrested by Iraqi and US forces in Tikrit Iraq December 12, 2009.[20]
  3. 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.[21]
  4. 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.[22]
  5. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, aka Naqshbandi Sheikh. (December 2006 to Present): Leader of JRTN and HCJL. While there has been a significant lack of information concerning al-Duri following the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, he is apparently still alive and active.[23]

Ideology & Goals

JRTN stems from one of the largest most influential Sufi orders, the Naqshbandi order, founded by Baha al-din Naqshband in 1389. [24] Though most Sufis are pacifists, JRTN is a nationalistic group that supports the interests of former Baath Party members[25] and has hoped to ultimately reinstate a regime led by the Baathist party. [26]  Indeed, JRTN stated in 2007 that it would be willing to negotiate with Coalition forces and the US but only if they would agree to restore some 600,000 security personnel to their jobs and the redact all laws and governmental changes established since the 2003 invasion.  [27] JRTN stated that all Coalition forces, including individuals, equipment and supplies, were legitimate targets at any time or place in Iraq; however, Iraqis were not considered targets unless they fight with Coalition forces. [28] 

Following the Coalition’s withdrawal in 2011, JRTN changed its goals to the overthrow of the al-Maliki government and the replacement of the constitution. [29] The group has contended that the al-Maliki dominated government is unfit to govern Sunnis because it is a puppet of the Iranian government and has persecuted Sunnis. [30] 

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

• January 5, 2010: Listed by the Department of the Treasury pursuant to E.O. 13438: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. [33]

• Listed by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. [34] [35]

Resources

JRTN likely relies on extortion of the business sector and donations from tribal leaders for revenue. JRTN may also receive donations from Baath Party diasporas in countries around the Middle East, including Jordan, Yemen, and Syria. [36]

External Influences


Geographical Locations

JRTN has been active in Salah al-Din province and Kirkuk province. [37] However, JRTN’s base of operations is in Niveh Province. [38]

Targets & Tactics

Immediately after JRTN’s formation in 2006, local cells were designed arround Amirs, each of whom 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. [39] JRTN has used light and medium rifles, IEDS, and anti-tank RPG-7’s in urban warfare. [40] By 2011, a greater emphasis on military-style discipline and structure began to characterize JRTN. Forward deployed cells were organized within JRTN to mimic the military, with brigades, platoons, battalions, and companies, even though the actual structure was more ad hoc than this nomenclature may indicate. [41] JRTN also created an intricate system of organizing attacks. First, personal recommendations concerning the cell’s reliability were collected; then, JRTN leaders personally visited and evaluated the cell. After the cell was finally approved, JRTN sent trainers, usually former Revolutionary Guard elites, to prepare the cell tactically. Apparently, the JRTN used this process for both its own cells and cells from independent insurgent groups contracted for a single attack.. [42] 

Political Activities

JRTN has posted links to video clips of attacks on various Jihadi forums and published a monthly magazine to promote group ideology, describe its operations against the enemy, ask for donations, and preach its ideology. [43] JRTN maintains Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq, a political branch that aids in local publicity. [44] In 2013, JRTN successfully increased support for its nationalistic platform and its anti-Maliki policies using the Free Iraq Uprising movement, which concentrated its efforts in Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul, and Hawija. [45]

Major Attacks

  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).[46]
  2. February 2009: JRTN attacked US troops with grenades in the Diyala province (Casualties unknown).[47]
  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).[48]
  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).[49]
  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).[50]

Relationships with Other Groups

From 2007-2011, JRTN may have helped oversee the finances, intelligence, and logistics for other militant groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq, 1920 Revolutionary Brigade, and even AQI in exchange for videotapes of their attacks, which JRTN would post to its online media outlets. [51]

Members of JRTN have been providing critical assistance to ISIS operations in Iraq. [52] Al-Douri, may be a key commander of ISIS forces. ISIS success in capturing Iraqi cities has depended on the military expertise and local connections brought by the Baathists; without help from members of JRTN, ISIS would likely not be nearly as effective. [53] However, cooperation between ISIS and the Baathists will almost certainly be short lived; ISIS’s goal of creating a Caliphate is most likely opposed by the Baathists, who possess nationalistic ideology and have likely supported ISIS only because of its anti-al-Maliki stance. [54] 

Community Relationships

The former Baath Party officials who comprise JRTN leadership bring the group significant tribal connections. In particular, JRTN members have connections with tribes in Kurkuk, Rashad, northern Diyala, Salah al-Din and Hawija. However, echoing the Hussein regime’s strategy, JRTN prefers connections to a wide range of sub-tribes over an unwieldy alliance between the preeminent tribes, who would be more prone to intractable differences. [55] Indeed, in 2010, some US military operatives characterized JRTN cells as familial groups. [56]

From 2007-2011, JRTN consistently tailored its anti-Coalition stance to match the particular dispositions of local populations; it has particularly emphasized the Sunni perspective, playing on fears of Iranian sponsored Shiite insurgency and framing the Coalition as the "unbeliever-occupier" in Iraq. [57]

More recently, thousands of Sunni insurgents, upset by the new government’s failure to absorb them into the military, were being recruited by JRTN. [58] 


References

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  57. ^ Knights, Michael. “The JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency.” The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. July 1, 2011, retrieved on July 9, 2014 from https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-jrtn-movement-and-iraq’s-next-insurgency
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