Iran-backed Iraqi militia says it is ‘ready for a war of attrition,’ called Israel its ‘enemy’

Hezbollah Brigades, an Iranian proxy that operates a powerful militia primarily in Iraq but also in Syria, said it is “ready for a war of attrition that may extend for years,” and described Israel, which is at war with Hamas in Gaza, as its “enemy.”

“The Iraqi people affirm that they stand at the forefront of the free nations who believe in the right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves,” Hezbollah Brigades official Abu Ali al-Askari said in a statement released on Oct. 26.

“Hezbollah Brigades has the capacity to fight against its enemies and confront them by relying on the internal resources of the resistance,” al-Askari said. He is likely referring to the “Axis of Resistance” or the “Islamic Resistance,” the grouping of Iranian proxy and allied militias that span Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Gaza, and the West Bank.

“We are ready for a war of attrition that may last for years, firmly believing in victory,” al-Askiri continued.

Al-Askari then noted that “the escalation against the enemy would be gradual,” and it would expand its scope in the region while increasing the lethality of the attacks. It is likely that Hezbollah Brigades is also referring to expanding the war to target U.S. interests in the region. Iraqi militias supported by Iran are already assaulting U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, with at least 13 strikes recorded so far and 20 soldiers injured.

Al-Askiri explicitly calls Israel its “enemy” and orders it to “cease killing innocent civilians in Gaza, end the siege, and abandon the policy of displacement.”

Hezbollah Brigades has issued threats against the U.S. and Israel in the recent past. Just days after Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, Hezbollah Brigades warned the U.S. that “Our missiles, drones, and special forces stand ready to direct qualitative strikes against the Americans in their bases and against their interests if it intervenes in this battle” and that “known positions of the Zionist entity [Israel] and its allies will also be hit by our missiles, if necessary.”

Listed by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Hezbollah Brigades is led by Ahmad al-Hamidawi. It was founded by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who was listed by the U.S. government as a specially designated global terrorist in July 2009 and was described as “an advisor to” former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Force – Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Muhandis, Qais Qazali, and a Hezbollah commander known as Musa Ali Daqduq played a key role in the Iraqi Shia militias’ formation and subsequent attacks on U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi forces. The U.S. killed Muhandis and Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad in 2020.

Qods Force has provided Hezbollah Brigades with training, funds, weapons, and intelligence support. The terror group is responsible for killing hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq. It is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an official, independent military arm of the Iraqi government that reports to Iraq’s prime minister, and is modeled after the IRGC.

Hezbollah Brigades is one of many Iranian backed militias operating in Iraq, Syria, and beyond. These militias serve as a strategic reserve for Iran and are hostile to the U.S. and Israel. It is likely they will weigh in militarily if Israel invades Gaza or a full-on war breaks out with Hezbollah in the north. With hundreds of thousands of fighters in their ranks, these militias can potentially reinforce Hezbollah in Lebanon, open a new front in southern Syria, and attack U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria in force.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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