Strengthening hold of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq

INVOLVED IN THIS ARTICLE:

Kataib Hezbollah

Kataib Hezbollah

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC-Qods Force

IRGC-Qods Force

The U.S. State Department designated the group-Kataib Hezbollah (KH) as a terrorist organization in July 2009.

Kataib Hezbollah (KH), or Brigades of the Party of God, is an Iran-sponsored Shiite paramilitary group in Iraq. Although the group was officially founded in April 2007, its leaders have been actively engaged in anti-Western pro-Iran activities since the 1980s and have expanded their influence beginning in 2003 following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On its official website, the group says it is an Islamic jihadist organization striving to, among other objectives, “foil the American project in the region, by defeating the occupation and expelling it from Iraq, failed and humiliated”. “The establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran is only an essential stage in preparing the ground for the State of Divine Justice and an example of the rulings of Islam and the Guardianship of the Jurist”, the group further mentions on its website.

The U.S. State Department describes Kataib Hezbollah as “a radical Shia Islamist group with an anti-Western establishment and jihadist ideology”. The U.S. State Department designated the group as a terrorist organization in July 2009. According to counterextremism.com, “KH is reportedly the “most secretive” and elite of Iraq’s predominantly Shiite militias.

KH has long-standing ties to Iran’s external military branch, the IRGC-Quds Force, as well as to Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. KH has maintained a presence along the Iraqi-Syrian border since Iranian-backed Syrian and Iraqi militias captured the border town of al-Qaim from ISIS in November 2017. It is believed that the group is largely funded and commanded by Iran which is predominantly Shia.”According to an August 2019 report, “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups”, published by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, KH was assessed to have 400 active members in Iraq in 2011 while today KH maintain around 7,500 fighters assigned to Iraqi operations and 2,500 fighters assigned to Syria, to make a total of 10,000. On June 26, 2020, 14 Kataib Hezbollah (KH) members were detained by the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) for allegedly planning a shooting attack against government targets within Baghdad’s International Zone, as well as for conducting previous attacks.

Two rocket launchers and an unspecified number of rockets were seized during the raid at the KH headquarters in southern Baghdad. Shortly after the arrest, the Iraqi Government said in a statement it had acted on “credible intelligence” to prevent an imminent attack on the Green Zone, a large fortified area in the Iraqi capital where the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions are located.The arrests were carried out on the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, demonstrating intent to bring the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) under greater state control. The next day, more than a dozen heavily armed vehicles, which KH described as “loyalists”, reportedly showed up outside Kadhimi’s residence inside the Green Zone, ordering him to release the detained militiamen.

In a statement, KH Spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari described his group’s brazen show of force as an attempt “to prevent the situation from spinning out of control”. He called Kadhimi a monster and an American puppet and reiterated KH’s long-standing accusation that Kadhimi had collaborated with the United States to assassinate Iran’s powerful military leader Qassem Soleimani, along with KH’s founder, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in a January drone strike.

Those arrested were released on June 29, by a judge with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) citing a “lack of evidence” for any wrongdoing. Soon after their release, images of these KH members burning Israeli and the US flags and trampling over doctored portraits of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi were widely circulated.

The arrests increase the risk of fighting between the KH and state security apparatus, but not broader civil war risks. The arrests will likely fuel the Iran-aligned militias conflict with Kadhimi, as well as the divisions within the PMUs over split loyalties to Iran or Iraq.
The release of the KH members also signify the weakening of Prime Minister Kadhimi’s hold over Iraqi power structures.

Source » newdelhitimes

You May Be Interested