For more than six months a series of tweets have detailed the alleged covert alliances and conspiratorial machinations behind the ascension of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the Islamist group taking over large parts of Iraq.
Taken together, the tweets form a slanted but valuable picture of ISIS and one of the only portraits of its leaders. Perhaps even more important, the account is still active, sending out tweets days ago about ISIS’s current strategy in Iraq and what it plans to do next.
(One in the eye for ISIS by Mystery Tweeter or to be Taken with a Pinch of Salt)
Sitting over a keyboard somewhere, likely in a Syrian town now held by rebel forces, is @wikibaghdady, the leaker behind the anti-ISIS account. He may be a former ISIS member who defected to ISIS’s rivals in Syria, the al Qaeda-backed Al Nusra front, as some analysts have speculated. Or, “he” may actually be more than one person, with @wikibaghdady serving as the avatar for a group effort to undermine ISIS’s official story and knock it from its perch atop the jihadist movement. Whatever the case, @wikibaghdady has put ISIS in uncomfortable positions, revealing the true name of the group’s leader and a deeply controversial association.
The on-line gang fight goes back to Syria and the competition between jihadist groups there for turf, religious authority, and the spoils of war.
Brian Fishman, a fellow at The New America foundation and ISIS analyst who has been following the group for years, is cautious about @wikibaghdady’s claims but called the account, “at minimum a keen observer of events in Syria,” and “a key source of ideas that should be investigated through other means.” A similar assessment came from Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Delma institute in Abu Dhabi and expert on radical groups in the region. “The account does seem to offer credible insider information about ISIS,” Hassan said, “but it is not wholly accurate…[and] should be taken with a pinch of salt.”