The religious war in Syria and Iraq: a rare conversation between two enemies

Fortunately, guest posts have on to me today like kibbles from Ceiling Cat. Reader Dermot C sent me a 2.75-minute video this morning (and a transcription), as well as his comments on the mindset of some participants in the ISIS/(Iran + Iraq + US) conflict. With his permission, I reproduce his email (remember that ISIS comprises Sunni Muslims):


by Dermot C.

I thought you might be interested in this remarkable video dating from the 10th March on Iraqi T.V.  It features a 3-minute long conversation on a walkie-talkie between a member of Asa’ib Ahl Al Haq (AAH), the Iranian-backed Shia militia fighting ISIS in Iraq, and a member of ISIS.  The walkie-talkie had been captured from ISIS by AAH.

The video features no atrocity.

The discussion features the AAH militiaman mocking the ISIS rep. and predicting their annihilation.  It demonstrates two things.  There is the central role of the Islamic concept of martyrdom on both sides, as well as the absolute certainty on both sides that if they die in this war, heaven is awaiting them and hell awaits their enemies.

Given that ideology, it illustrates the notion that religion poisons this war. Both speakers believe that their death will gain them entry to heaven, thereby guaranteeing that more lives will be lost.  This is a fight towards a glorious and desirable death.

Contrast the end-game of this war with that of WW1.  The Germans capitulated when they realized that their supplies had run out and certain defeat and more German deaths were inevitable.  They averted that catastrophe.

I reproduce the transcript below, featuring an AAH rep., a member of ISIS and a T.V. reporter.  The link to the video is below.

ISIS:  Abu Omar Khattab, Abu Omar Khattab, can you hear me brother?

AAH:  I am Sayd Ayeeb from Asa’ib (anti-ISIS militia).  We are now in Abu Ajeel, and coming for you from Al Door, where are you now?

ISIS:  Our Hajj and us are coming for you.

AAH:  What Hajj?  What Hajj?  Your Sheikh was killed and Hajji Ahmed Abu Door has also been killed.  And your car has been damaged.  There were 3 ISIS terrorists inside.  We killed them all and destroyed their supplies.

ISIS:  With the will of God we will show you the days of Omar al Baghdad and Ummayad al Zarqawi.

AAH:  We are the soldiers of God.  We are the followers of God, we are his soldiers on the ground.  We are the followers of Mohammed, dearest to God.

ISIS:  I swear on the Kaaba, we won’t give you an inch. (Cries) We will complete our martyrdom mission.  (Mutters indistinguishable weeping threats) You’ll go to hell and us to heaven.

AAH:  What you said is a lie, our dead belong to heaven and yours in hell.  Right now we have advanced 75km.  Where are you guys?  And you say we won’t advance an inch?  We have already advanced 75km from ‘your’ land.  Where are you guys? …Enough with the lies, enough lies, stop lying.

Reporter:  Of course this conversation includes a member of ISIS and a local Iraqi volunteer in the area of Abu Ajeel and Abu Door.

AAH:  If you threaten us with martyrdom, we seek it.

Reporter:  Of course, this walkie talkie belongs to ISIS.

AAH:  Our martyrs will be in heaven and your dead in hell.  Our martyrs are in heaven and yours, where are they?  They’re here with us.  Come and take them.  These are your things, your cars, your equipment.  Cut the BS.

ISIS:  We will come, we will be martyrs.

AAH:  Martyrdom has nothing to do with you, it is innocent of you…Son, aren’t you Ahmed Door?  We have your belongings.  We are the Asa’ib Ahl Al Haq. (League of the Righteous)

JAC: Of course if the Greenwaldians and other apologists were to interpret this, they’d have to argue that all these inter-enemy communications, and the extreme emotionality about religion, is simply a cover, and they’re just masking their feelings about being impoverished and dispossessed men angered by Western colonialism. But it is worth remembering that an enemy who does not fear death, and indeed, seeks death because it sends you to paradise, is a formidable foe.



  1. Posted March 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s unbelievable just how far out of touch with reality these would-be martyrs are…and, similarly, how far out of touch with reality those who would deny the role of religion in this war are.


    • Kevin
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      This conviction US/THEM-Heaven/HELL is shared by many evangelical Americans who believe the rapture is for them and Satan is for all seculars. The difference is, the nearly every Christian in America would be unwilling to kill for this belief.

      • gluonspring
        Posted March 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. Not just seculars. The Christian sect of my youth, only a few million people strong, were sure that all the other so-called “Christians”, who really weren’t Christians in our eyes, were going to Hell. All the other 2 billion “Christians” were wasting their time with their false beliefs. And we were sure of ourselves. “Narrow is the way, and there are few who find it”, we should say to our being outnumbered 100-1 by other flavors of “Christians”. And of course, all the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and others were definitely damned too. It was an exceedingly perverse way to grow up.

  2. Randy Schenck
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Yes, nothing religious about this fight.

    I see no place in this dispute for Western Nations and totally fail to understand the popular idea that ISIS is somehow a direct threat to us. It is over the top propaganda to think we have a place in this.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Except as victims.

      ISIS has been able to pull away more disaffected europeans to participate in their terrorism than in the Ukraine war. (The latter which happens on Europa’s soil and else would affect it.)

    • Taz
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I completely agree. My feeling is that it would much better if ISIS is defeated by Muslims.

      • Draken
        Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        They’re too close for comfort, if the Kurds can’t stop them, Turkey is next.

        • Posted March 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          Turkey is a NATO member. Of the four times that Article 4 consultation rights have been requested, Turkey’s been the member to do the invoking three times. If DAESH ever makes an attempt at crossing Turkey’s border, it’s guaranteed that Turkey will respond by invoking Article 5…and then all of NATO comes marching to Turkey’s rescue and DAESH’s crushing.

          A part of me that I’m not especially proud of almost wishes that DAESH does just that….


  3. David W.
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Religion is more like a veneer covering the bloody struggle for power in Syria. Assad has managed to divide his enemies by letting ISIS alone to concentrate his forces against the revolutionaries who more directly threaten his regime:

  4. Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I have thought for some time that the middle east is undergoing something similar to the religious wars that Europe experienced a few centuries.

    Catholics and protestants were at each other’s throats (and still are, in some places). Kings were beheaded. Churches destroyed. Icons clast.

    Blaming western imperialism is easy, but it ignores the fact that Islam has been just a wee bit imperialistic itself. Where is the nation whose citizens converted to Islam by force of reason alone?

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      One wonders how Islamic imperialism may have progressed if not for the interference of the Mongols.
      I just learned a bit of Mongol history.
      You did not want to be on the wrong side of them.

      • Dermot C
        Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Nor Tamerlane: the bloke built pyramids of skulls outside the Muslim cities that he had besieged. And Samarkand, the beauty of the beast. x

    • Posted March 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      “Icons clast.”

      Love it.

  5. Mike L
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps when they have all killed each other and gone to heaven they will kill allah.

  6. @eightyc
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink


    Maybe they think they’re Klingons.

    • Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      More likely, Klingons are a stand-in for bronze age humans. Conan, and the like.

      We wear high-tech clothing, but our gods are still bronze-age goat herder tribal gods.

      And our politics is still tribal.

  7. Alex Shuffell
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    That was a really weird conversation. Both arguing about who is going to be martyrs.
    ISIS:”We will complete our martyrdom mission.” …
    AAH: “We will come, we will be Martyrs.”

    To me it sounded like:
    ISIS: “You’re going to kill us first.” …
    AAH: “No, we’re going to die first!”

    • Sastra
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      As opposed to US General Patton’s dictum:

      “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        It also has the schoolyard ring of:
        “My daddy is stronger than your daddy!”
        “No, my daddy once…” did some great feat or another. Too bad these fools’ insecurity complexes lead to death and destruction. Well, I hope they enjoy they’re “white raisins…of crystal clarity.” It’s scary witnessing the Middle Ages play out again in contemporary times.

  8. Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Sam Harris has an enlightening video of a supposedly moderate British Muslim who refuses to condemn many of the excesses of Islam (e.g. stoning adulterers and gays) and resorts to the lamest excuse, “I’m not a theologian.”

    This is what Islamists want to bring to your society.

    • Dermot C
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Asim Qureshi of CAGE was found out after about a week in the UK, when he refused to answer the question, “Sharia conditions being met, what is the penalty for apostasy?” Even British Ahmadi Muslims, supposedly a liberal sect, refuse to answer that question. That was a bad week for CAGE because the Rowntree Trust (a Quaker philanthropic organization) and the Roddick Foundation withdrew their huge donations.

      People such as Asim Qureshi would be described as ‘soft Islamists’ according to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. But you can read precisely what is meant by that here, in their report on the Islamic Education and Research Academy.

      In which, for example, the well-known Hamza Tzortzis, who has door-stepped PZ Myers and Dawkins and debated Krauss, is quoted as saying that beheading would be a painless method for killing ex-Muslims. No wonder that the website of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain has as its first side bar the link ‘Covering your Internet Tracks’.

      The other well-known British soft Islamist, Mehdi Hasan, political editor of PuffHo and contributor to the New Statesman, hero of the flaky-tendency left, can be heard on this video saying:

      …the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to Islam…are described in the Quran, quote, as ‘a people of no intelligence’…because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices…about the existence of God. In this respect, the Quran describes the atheists as ‘cattle’, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.

      And there is much worse from him.

      All these ‘soft Islamists’ use the concept of da’wa, basically dialogue and proselytization. They will publicly call it dialogue but the reality is that they are evangelizing. And highly dishonest, too.

      Allele akhbar. x

  9. Jimbo
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    My Greenwaldian translation was slightly different. The emotional dialogue appears to refer to a recent ISIS vs AAH soccer match. Their talk of war, threats of violence, and martyrdom are simply metaphor for ‘I demand a rematch…that goal didn’t count…you had too many players on the field…our strikers are second to none…I’m taking my ball and going home.’

    Clearly we miscontrue the true meaning concealed in these passages which is a brotherhood of like-minded rivals engaging in male bonding on the soccer field.

  10. colnago80
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Earlier today, there were a series of homicide bombings in Yemen which killed 137 people, apparently ISIL Sunni attacks against Shiite Mosques. No sir, no religious war here (not). I’m sure that Greenwald will blame it on US Imperialism and/or Zionist reactionaries.

    • gluonspring
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Those were Zionist Shiite Mosques.

  11. annalane
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    This is the cognitive damage done by indoctrinating young minds through the threat of eternal hell. Young children have been brought up in fear and this is the result. Infantile thinking on grown men. Breaks my heart to think of what lies ahead if this thinking isn’t eradicated very soon.

  12. Posted March 20, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Permalink


  13. Keith Cook or more
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Did not the American forces and Allies in the Pacific theater in WW2 face this type of opposition in the Japanese. Their allegiance to Emperor Hirohito had about the same effect as Allah on these delusional waring dingbats.
    The American forces were so demonized by the Japanese hierarchy the soldiers that did surrender were surpriced by their humane treatment (apart from those who were shot immediately by sheer hate) the face of war is ugly…
    but judging by these two, it’s a black comedy.

    • bacopa
      Posted March 20, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      The comparison to Japan is not quite apt. Yes, there were the kamikaze, the Okinawa suicides, and sometimes fierce resistance. But officers had a lot of exposure to western military doctrine and would sometimes negotiate surrenders. I would recommend Dower’s War Without Mercy as a good overview.

      One consequence of the not always followed “no surrender” doctrine is that Japanese POW’s had no training in their rights as prisoners and no training in resisting interrogation. POW’s would often give aid to the enemy because they had never learned how not to.

  14. Draken
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    These guys should learn to rap. Oh wait, music not allowed, damn.

  15. merilee
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Worse than “yo mamma wears combat boots.”

  16. Posted March 20, 2015 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Shashank Patel.

  17. Posted March 26, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Dreamkid and commented:
    This is a tragic conversation between Shi’ite militia and ISIS on a captured ISIS radio. They both think they are going to heaven and the other is going to hell.
    I think they (and most Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, Yazidis, Libyans and the rest) are ultimately just completely politically disenfranchised, and have resorted to taking action according to a simple framework that allows them to take control back of their lives. The worship of god has nothing directly to do with it as it is the political framework of Islam that they are using to give them a structure and meaning to their lives. That’s the dangerous part of Islam, and needs to be separated from the actual religion.

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