Counter-Terrorism: The 1920 Revolutionary Brigades Rebel


September 19, 2007: The trend in Iraq is unmistakable. "Concerned Citizen" groups are forming throughout the country armed and able to stop attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Six months ago, these groups were united together as an insurgent network, which was a mix of nationalists, Islamists, and former Iraqi soldiers fighting Coalition Forces. Today, they have taken oaths to end their fight against the Iraqi Government and against AQI, are registered in a biometric (fingerprints, DNA, eye scan) database, and are being recruited into the Iraqi Army and Police. Six months ago, many of these fighters were members of one of the largest insurgent organizations in Iraq.

The 1920 Revolutionary Brigades were formed not long after the Fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The group was synonymous with the Islamic Resistance Movement (IRM). Some reports indicated that a similar group was formed as an anti-Saddam movement in the 1980's. The group was a nationalist movement with the goal of expelling Coalition Forces from Iraq. The group did not conduct large-scale attacks on civilians like AQI, but rather focused on attacks directed at Coalition Forces. During the elections in 2005, they followed through with their ideology and defended the polls against AQI.

The relationship between AQI and 1920 has always been strained, although 1920 was a larger organization and maintained some support for AQI. However, AQI saw 1920 as needing to abandon their nationalist ideals and embrace Islamism. In their fight against the Coalition, they were untied. They worked together until the Coalition grew to include larger portions of the new Iraqi Security Forces.

Other cracks in the relationship between 1920 and AQI started in 2004 in Fallujah. There, 1920 appeared as a victor in the First Battle of Fallujah. With the rush of Islamists into the city after the April battle, 1920 was forced to accept sharia law. Members of 1920 were tortured, tried, and executed at the hands of the AQI predecessor, Jama'at Tawhid wa Jihad.

The next crack occurred with an exchange of words, then bullets, between the groups concerning their uniting under a single banner. The quasi-relationship ended with the March 28 assassination of the Military Emir of the Group, Harith al-Dhari. The victim was also the nephew of another al-Dhari, who is a key politician in the Association of Muslim Scholars. At this point, the separation widened and the two groups broke into skirmishes.

In early 2007, 1920 then split into the Islamic Jihad in Iraq, and the Islamic Conquest. Within a month, the Islamic Jihad went back to being the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade and the Islamic Conquest became Hamas in Iraq. This split appeared to be in name only.

In June 2007, 1920 decided that "the enemy of their enemy was their friend" during the Battle of Baqoubah. The first steps in real reconciliation occurred with US forces providing ten AK-47s to 1920 fighters. Since then, 1920 has joined forces with Coalition Forces. They have forsworn attacks on the Coalition, taken up arms against Al Qaeda, and are joining Iraqi Security Forces. 1920 has become the Baqoubah Guardians, the Knights of the Two Rivers, the Freedom Fighters, and, most importantly, Iraqi soldiers and police.


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