IS’s strong Baathist links gave the group a clear Iraqi identity and allowed it to make alliances with many other such groups upon its entry into Mosul. One of these alliances was with the Baathist-linked Naqshbandi Army, which is led by Ezzat al-Douri.
When IS forces stormed into Mosul in June 2014, the Naqshbandi Army’s Baathist network largely facilitated their entry. As the Iraqi journalist and analyst Hazem al-Amin notes, “Baath Party officers were the people who were in charge of capturing Mosul and the people of Mosul.”
After entering Mosul, however, IS revealed its true colors by forcing the former Baathists within the Naqshbandi Army and other groups to pledge allegiance to their “caliphate.” Some Baathists joined, swelling the ranks of IS’ military personnel, while others were killed or went into hiding, removing their uniforms to avoid detection. IS “took the revolution from us,” said a senior Baath Party official. “We couldn’t sustain the battle.”
As retribution for the betrayal, many former Baathists who remained inside Mosul have resurfaced and are now assassinating IS militants inside the city, heeding the Oct. 17 calls by senior Naqshbandi figures to rise up against IS. They form one of many anti-IS groups inside Mosul, such as Kata’ib al-Mosul, the so-called M-Resistance and the Prophet Yunis Brigades, working occasionally in conjunction with the Iraqi government’s security forces.
IS continues to pursue the Naqshbandi members, perceiving them as a strong threat to their control on the city. As former Naqshbandi Col. Qais al-Jibouri has said, Naqshbandi members are waiting for the right time to act and exact their revenge on IS. But he remains wary of the group’s future moves despite their anti-IS stance.