As one Iraqi city after another has fallen to the jihadi juggernaut that is ISIS (or ISIL), military and intelligence experts have been baffled by the group’s stunning victories on the battlefield. Whether humbling the US-trained Iraqi army, surviving relentless bombardment by the Syrian Air Force, or fighting toe-to-toe with Hizbullah and IRGC special forces commandos, this motley crew of unkempt radicals and rootless cosmopolitans in medieval garb is a YouTube-sharing, hashtag-tweeting, fatwa-issuing paradox.
That is, until now. High-level sources at the Pentagon have confirmed to The Qnion that they have unlocked the secret to ISIS’s (or ISIL’s) success: a medieval Islamic manual on the art of war, long thought to have been lost.
“It’s of a piece with their old-timey kind of aesthetic,” said one source who commented on condition of anonymity. “They wear the clothes, they’ve got the black banner, they’ve got the project to re-establish the caliphate. We’ve seen all this before. But what makes ISIS (or ISIL) different is that they’ve also got this ancient text, which has become a total game-changer.”
Unlike other jihadist groups which have been undone at times by sophisticated counter-insurgency (COIN) strategies deployed by the US and its allies, ISIS (or ISIL) has managed to escape unharmed.
“This text is a kind of counter-counter-insurgency (CO-COIN) manual,” says noted COIN expert Andrew Muxe. “It’s COIN kryptonite.”
The contents of the medieval manuscript are a closely guarded secret. However, Iraqi troops have recovered fragments of its teachings copied into the diaries of fallen ISIS (or ISIL) jihadists. The Qnion’s star reporter Bala Tafnis was able to access these fragments, which we translate below in a Qnion exclusive.
On holding territory upon capturing it – The learned sage Abu Uthman Abd al-Malik ibn Zayd al-Kufi (may he rest in peace) said: “After the conquest of a village or hamlet or town is complete, round up all the men and adolescent boys and give them two choices: (1) either to be put to death in a grisly mass execution; or (2) to pretend to be dead while witnesses from nearby villages are brought to the site of the “grisly mass execution,” at which point many of them will faint from terror and have to be revived and sent back to their homes where they will spread the news of your horrific military prowess. In the meantime, the men and boys whose lives had been saved will be so grateful to you that they will spread word of your mercy and magnanimity. This maneuver is known to the ancient sources as a “win-win”.
Finally, once they have spread word of your mercy and magnanimity, round up the men again and put them to death in a grisly mass execution.”
On confusing your opponents – The esteemed shaykh and wonder of his age Abu l-Fada’il Ibn Zubayr al-Qayrawani (may he rest in peace) said: “Let there be great confusion about your origins, your creed, your objectives, and especially your name. Let all who attempt to refer to you be struck by a confounding paralysis. Cultivate ambiguity.”
On winning the population to your side – The learned jurist and poet Abu Hamza al-Balkhi (may he rest in peace) said: “No sooner than you have finished pillaging and rampaging in a given territory, set your sights upon improving the living conditions of its inhabitants. Collect garbage from the street corners, direct mule traffic, sweep the public spaces, organize poetry festivals, and hire entertainers to provide levity and mirth for the villagers. Make their lives so wonderful that they will deplore the return of the Sultan’s rule. Anyone who complains that things aren’t actually so much better than they used to be should be decapitated.”
On material support – The scholar and preacher Ibn Zakariyya al-Baghdadi (may he rest in peace) said: “The Sultan will contrive to choke off your supply lines and to turn the population against you by starving you of resources. Retaliate by seizing the Sultan’s properties in the countryside and selling his own goods (cattle, musk, camphor, precious gems, and so on) back to him at a premium. He will not be happy about it, but that is not any of your concern.”
On relations with other rebels – The theologian and astronomer Shihab al-Din Hasan al-Marwazi (may he rest in peace) said: “Your success will inspire other groups to imitate you and follow your example. Make alliances with these groups in the interests of fighting a common enemy. Over time, your ruthless strategies will begin to disturb them. Seize the moment to accuse their leadership of being Byzantine stooges or Sasanian flunkies, and draw their fighters into your ranks.”
On recruitment – The bookseller Jamal al-Din al-Iskandari (may he rest in peace) said: “The Sultan will, from time to time, open the doors of his dungeons to release the foulest, most bloodthirsty, and mentally unbalanced prisoners in the hope that they join your movement and sully your cause with their twisted antics. Welcome these prisoners with open arms, for they make the best fighters.”
On projecting historical gravitas – The historian Abu Ali Ibn al-Zajjaj (may he rest in peace) said: “Each time you pass from one territory to the next, commission a poet to write an ode about the meaningless of old borders, and the dawn of a new imperium. This will impress people, even if they don’t know what you mean.”