The United States added four Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force and Hezbollah officials who operate inside Iraq to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today. While the Treasury designation focused on the four Iraqis’ links to Hezbollah, which was described as “a terrorist proxy for the Iranian regime that seeks to undermine Iraqi sovereignty and destabilize the Middle East,” it practically ignored the fact that one of them is the Secretary General of the Imam Ali Battalions, aka Kata’ib Imam Ali.
Kata’ib Imam Ali is a key component of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an official military army of the Iraqi state that reports directly to the prime minister.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Shibl Muhsin ‘Ubayd Al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad ‘Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat to the list. They were described as “Hezbollah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group’s operational, intelligence, and financial activities in Iraq.” Hashim, Kawtharani, and Farhat were designated for acting as agents of Hezbollah in Iraq, while Al-Zaydi was listed as both a Qods Force and Hezbollah agent.
The designation of Qods Force and Hezbollah agents for activities inside of Iraq should come as no surprise. Iran’s networks inside Iraq are well-documented. The US has detained several Qods Force and Hezbollah leaders during the occupation of Iraq, including Musa Al Daqduq, the head of Hezbollah’s special forces who played an instrumental role in establishing Iraq’s Shia militias in Hezbollah’s image. Recently released transcripts of the interrogations of Qayis Khazali, an Iranian-backed Iraq who served as a top leader in the Mahdi Army and what became known as the Special Groups, provides further details about Iran and Hezbollah’s involvement with building the network of Shia militias in Iraq.
“This armed group primarily operates in Iraq, but has also dispatched fighters to Syria, and its members have trained in Iran and with Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Treasury continues.
The Imam Ali Battalions have been at the spearhead of many key battles against the Islamic State over the past several years. The Imam Ali Battalions were not shy about its activities in Syria. The group even released photographs of one of its training camps from an undisclosed location from inside Syria. [See Threat Matrix report, Iraqi Shia militias promote training camps in Syria.]
Treasury noted that Al-Zaydi “has served as a financial coordinator between the IRGC-QF and sectarian armed groups in Iraq and assisted in facilitating Iraqi investments on behalf of IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani.”
Al-Zaydi’s relationship with Soleimani was no secret; the two have been photographed multiple times together. Al-Zaydi and Soleimani have also been photographed with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operational leader of both the Imam Ali Battalions and the Popular Mobilization Forces. In his designation by Treasury in 2009, Muhandis was described as “an advisor to Qasem Soleimani.”
Among Zaydi’s other activities include smuggling oil for Iran, sending fighters to Syria, and conducting business and financial deals with Hezbollah to move money to Syria and Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based.
Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad ‘Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat
Treasury said that Hashim “oversees all Hezbollah-related operational activities in Iraq and is in charge of protecting Hezbollah interests in Iraq.” Additionally, Hashim provides “protection for Adham Tabaja, a Hezbollah financier who works closely with Al-Zaydi,” and “managed Hezbollah’s relations with sectarian armed groups in Iraq.”
Kawtharani was designated for business and financial dealing for Hezbollah in Iraq, and “has served as the right hand man for his brother and senior Hezbollah member Muhammad Kawtharani,” who is also a designated global terrorist.
Farhat has served as a Hezbollah adviser to the Iranian-backed Shia militias, and has collected “security and intelligence information” and provided analysis and reports “on the Iraqi security situation for Hezbollah and the IRGC-QF.”
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