Iraqi Shia militia ‘willing to send fighters to Yemen’

The leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada (KSS), an Iraqi Shia militia with close ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), recently stated that he is willing to send his men to Yemen to fight alongside the Houthis against the Saudi-led coalition in the country.

Abu Waala al Wa’eli, the Secretary-General of KSS, said in a press statement on Saturday: “I declare I am a soldier standing at the signal of Sayyid Abdel Malek al Houthi [the leader of the Houthi movement.]” He continued with “I announce that Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada is a faction among your factions O’ Ansar Allah [the official name of the Houthis].”

This is not the first time that KSS has threatened to fight outside of Iraq and Syria. In 2015 after Saudi Arabia executed the Shiite cleric Nimr al Nimr, KSS said that Saudi Arabia is “a legitimate and permissible target” and would it “strike and destroy” the country. The group threatened to target Saudi Arabia inside the Kingdom as well as Saudi interests inside Iraq.

KSS is closely linked to the IRGC and fights in both Iraq and Syria. One of its senior leaders is Abu Mustafa al Sheibani, the leader of the infamous Sheibani Network. Sheibani was designated as a global terrorist by the US government in 2008 for attacking US and British forces, as well as Iraqi political and military leaders.

Sheibani was also directly linked to the assassination of an Iraqi Interior Ministry colonel, and the attempted killings of Najaf’s police chief and deputy governor. The Iranian-backed militia is also part of Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), which is an official part of the Iraqi government.

In a statement released yesterday on the Houthi’s Al Masirah news site, Abdel Malek al Houthi expressed his gratitude for both Lebanese Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada.

“We express our thanks and appreciation for all the free and honorable people who expressed solidarity with our people … starting with the master of the resistance and the jihad of God’s promise and man of loyalty and great honor, Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah,” al Houthi said. He ended his speech by saying “we also want to express our thanks and appreciation for the free and loyal people of Iraq, who declared their position of solidarity with the people of Yemen,” referring to the statement made by KSS.

Houthi propaganda output over the past year have expressed more pro-IRGC tendencies. For example, al Houthi has twice spoken publicly of sending his forces to fight alongside Hezbollah and other Shia militias in the event of a new war with Israel.

Shia militias around the Middle East have also made it clear that they view the Houthis as part of the “axis of resistance,” a network of state and non-state actors led by Iran that operates against the United States and its allies in the Middle East and beyond. This is not surprising as Iran, and its proxy Lebanese Hezbollah, actively supports the movement with weapons, training, and money.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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