Iran-backed Shia militias target 2 U.S. bases in Iraq

Iran-backed Shia militias have targeted two U.S. bases in Iraq as the war between Israel and Hamas escalates. The attacks took place as Hezbollah Brigades, a dangerous Iranian proxy, threatened U.S. forces in Iraq with “the fire of Hell” if America did not withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Both attack on U.S. forces in Iraq took place on Oct. 17. The U.S. military said it repelled both attacks and no casualties were reported, according to Reuters.

An obscure Shia militia known as Tashkil al-Waritheen claimed credit for a failed drone attack on the Harir Airbase in Erbil Province in northern Iraq.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, “a network of shadow Iraqi militia groups backed by Iran and affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” claimed credit for the other failed drone attack at the Ain Al Asad Airbase in Anbar Province in western Iraq, according to Rudaw. The ‘Islamic Resistance’ is a euphemism used by Iranian-backed groups to refer to each other, including groups outside of Iraq, such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.

Over the past several years, Iran-backed Shia terror groups have launched sporadic attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria. However, the threat level has increased since Hamas’ brutal attack on southern Israel that killed more than 1,300 Israelis and foreigners.

Several Shia militias have issued direct threats to U.S. interests in Iraq and across the Middle East since Oct. 7. The Badr Organization, Hezbollah Brigades, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, are not only powerful and influential militias that are backed by Iran, they make up the backbone of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Other groups such as Asaib Ahl al Haq, Saraya Khorasani, Harakat al Nujaba, and Kata’ib Imam Ali, have yet to weigh in.

Hezbollah Brigades issued a new threat against U.S. forces in Iraq on Oct. 17. The group blamed the fighting in Gaza on “American-backed criminal Zionism” and warned that “these evil people [Americans] must leave the country. Otherwise, they will taste the fire of Hell in this world before the afterlife.”

“Indeed, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire,” the statement concluded.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) established the PMUs to be analogs to Lebanese Hezbollah. One PMU leader wishes to model the organization after the IRGC. Akram al Kaabi, the leader of the powerful Harakat al Nujaba, has sworn to follow the orders of Iran’s supreme leader and said he would overthrow the Iraqi government if instructed to do so.

The Iraqi Shia terror groups have a long history of attacking U.S. forces with great affect. More 600 American troops were killed by Iran and Hezbollah-backed and trained Shia militias in ambushes, IED and EFP attacks. The Shia militias were then recruited by the Iraqi government to fight the Islamic State as it rampaged across Iraq. The Iraqi Shia militias also fought against the Islamic State and anti-Assad regime forces in Syria.

It remains to be seen if these Iraqi militias militias will enter the fray against Israel in southern Syria and Lebanon. This battle-hardened force can serve as a force multiplier and strategic reserve for the so-called Islamic Resistance.

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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