Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad


Emblem of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad, featuring a quotation from the Qur’an- “And fight in the path of God those who fight you but do not commit transgression” (2:190), followed by the slogan “One Iraq.”

Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad- whose name translates to “the Army of Baghdad Revolutionaries”- is by no means a group of great influence in the overall Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq. Nonetheless, it is important to document as many groups as possible for the sake of completeness.

This brand name appears to have first emerged in the summer of last year, with a series of tweets put out in support of the Sunni Arab protests; for instance, from 20 July: “Today we see how the companions of principles who have come out in demonstrations and established sit-ins against oppression and the oppressors have terrified the oppressors with their demands for their rights.” Another tweet from the same day denounced the troubles for “Iraqis” created by “the occupation and its collaborationist government.” The account further urged for the continuation and broadening of sit-ins.
Perhaps more importantly, the group released a two-part interview with its official spokesman Hamdan al-Safi. In the first part, he explains the origins of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad as analogous to military organization in the protest squares of the provinces from the components of ‘jihadi’ factions that played a “real role” in resisting and expelling the American occupation. Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad, he explains, is similarly composed of the youth of colleges and schools, educated persons, religious scholars (‘ulama) and tribal sheikhs. He proceeds to claim that members of the group are not exclusively from the Baghdad area and that there is coordination with the “revolutionaries of the provinces.”

He then explains at length the significance of the various aspects of his group’s logo. One of the most recognizable features of it is the old Ba’athist flag, together with the artwork from the monument of Liberation Square in Baghdad, a symbol most notably used by the Naqshbandi Army (JRTN)’s activist wing Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq, which was an active participant in the Sunni Arab protests at a number of sites.

For comparison, the logo of Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq, featuring the Ba’athist flag and the Liberation Square monument’s artwork.

The other major overlap with JRTN messaging comes in al-Safi’s explanation of his group’s slogan “one Iraq,” which he explains as encapsulating Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad’s aim for “the unity of Iraq in land and people, without any existence of separation between the sons of the Iraqi people in all their sects…and their regions.” He also denounces notions of regionalism and federalism as a “Safavid-Zionist-American project…that aims for the division of Iraq.”

The parallels with JRTN appeals to cross-sectarianism and denunciation of any notions of ‘division’ (contrasting e.g. with the Islamic Army of Iraq’s traditional support for a Sunni federal region) are striking. In this context, we should also note the repeated stress on the notion of intifada by al-Safi, another parallel with the JRTN in light of the latter’s activist wing.

Further clarification of the group’s origins and aims was provided to me in an interview:

“Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad is a group of jihadi factions that were fighting the American enemy, but after many of the factions had become weak and had ceased their field work and turned to media…we decided to form the army with a legitimate military leadership composed of scholarly staff. As for our relations [with other factions like JRTN and IS], they are good and we coordinate with all the jihadi factions. We have no tension with any faction and we are not against any ideological program. Our goal is the liberation of Iraq…and we believe in one, united Iraq, and we are against sectarianism and federalism.”

In short, there is a clear nationalist, revolutionary framework here, and talking points pretty much identical to JRTN: the rejection of notions of federalism and the superficial appeal to cross-sectarianism being most noteworthy. The claim of good relations with all factions parallels the JRTN too with its refusal to declare war on any faction considered to be waging war on the central government, such that IS is not mentioned by name in statements even as there is official distancing from events like IS’ displacement of Christians from Ninawa province.

Around the same time as al-Safi’s interviews in summer 2013, Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad social media began advertising photos of purported members of its group:

Purported members of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad, July 2013. Commenting on a photo from the same set, a JRTN-linked Facebook account- Ahrar aliraq- wrote: “God give you victory”- illustrating the affinity between JRTN and Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad.

As above.

Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad fighters. Photo put up in August 2013.

Purported training for members of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad: released August 2013.

”Moment from one of the lessons of the anti-aircraft commandoes’ patrol”- Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad. Photo released in August 2013.

Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad also released a data table for July 2013 of claimed military operations. Fitting the group’s name, these operations are claimed for the Baghdad area, which I have translated below. Note the group’s use of conventional army language in describing its operations, which reminds one of JRTN’s insistence on its status as a ‘national resistance army.’



Units undertaking the operation

Place of operation

Number of times of operation

Type of operation

1st Brigade Support Squadrons

Baghdad and its suburbs


Firing an al-Tariq Missile

1st and 3rd Brigade Support Squadrons

Baghdad and its suburbs


Firing a Katyusha Rocket

2nd and 4th Brigade Support Squadrons

Baghdad and its suburbs


Firing of different types of missile

2nd Brigade Support Squadrons

Suburbs of Baghdad


120mm mortar operation

2nd Brigade Support Squadrons

South and west Baghdad


82mm mortar operation

1st Brigade Support Squadrons

Areas of Baghdad on the left side of the Tigris


60mm mortar operation

2nd and 3rd Brigades

Baghdad and its suburbs



Assault Squadrons

North and northwest Baghdad



1st and 2nd Brigade

Baghdad and its suburbs


Sniper ops


Below are some more photos released by Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad:

Purported Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad fighters in an ambush.

”One of the training meetings for the mujahideen of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad.”

In keeping with al-Safi’s claims in summer 2013, a photo released in January 2014 claiming Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad fighters in Anbar.

Supposed tribal sheikh members of Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad.

The group’s Youtube channel advertises some recent claimed operations on video, most notably firing projectiles at Baghdad airport and Taji military camp (north Baghdad). Overall, we can draw the following analytical conclusions:

. There is nothing particularly outstanding about Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad. In terms of overall influence in the insurgency its standing seems to be on a par with Saraya al-Madina al-Munawara (i.e. a very minor faction).

. Ideologically there seems to be virtually nothing to distinguish it from the JRTN’s political rhetoric. It may not be inaccurate to view Jaysh Thuwar Baghdad as a mere front-group for JRTN.

. Despite the group’s small size, the explicit rejection of federalism by the broader JRTN/Ba’athist component of the insurgency, as well as the revolutionary aims of this component and other groups like Jaysh al-Mujahideen, has important implications when it comes to considering a ‘political solution’ to the current crisis. The fact remains that the conception of a supposed Sunni Arab majority/plurality in Iraq that should be ruling Baghdad has much currency in the renewed insurgency. The non-IS insurgents in particular may end up learning the hard way- in the face of subjugation by IS- that this is not the case.