Iraqi Shia militia warns the United States about involvement against Hamas

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), one of Iran’s main proxies inside Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), issued a short warning to the United States about getting involved in the current conflict between the Hamas-led Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel. 

“Palestine is not Ukraine,” KSS’ statement begins, “so any direct American entrance into the conflict for the crumbling entity [Israel] will make all American positions in the region legitimate targets for the Axis of Resistance.” 

KSS goes on to further state that if America does intervene, “blows will be met with blows and on that day, then there will be no more red lines.” 

The so-called “Axis of Resistance” is the name that Iran’s various militias and proxies use to refer to their collective alliance around the Middle East. This includes a myriad of militia groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Bahrain, and Yemen. 

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which also operates inside Syria, is one of the larger Iranian proxies in Iraq and is closely linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

One of KSS’ top leaders is Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, who was listed by the US government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2008 for attacking US and British forces, as well as Iraqi political and military leaders. Sheibani is himself directly tied to the IRGC and especially its Qods Force. 

In addition to now threatening the United States, in the past KSS has also threatened to attack Saudi Arabia and send troops to aid the Houthis in Yemen. 

Other proxies of Iran inside Iraq, primarily the Hezbollah Brigades (which is also currently holding an Israeli citizen captive) and Harakat al-Nujaba, have also praised Hamas’ invasion of Israel and the killing of Jews. Both groups stopped short of directly threatening the United States, however. Iraq’s PMU organization itself has also praised Hamas’ invasion. 

Unlike the recent statement from an Iranian-backed group in Bahrain – in that violence is unlikely to materialize on the island – threats against US personnel in Iraq (and Syria) should be taken somewhat seriously.

Iran has made a concerted effort over the last few years to create new so-called ‘resistance groups’ in Iraq that have either claimed or legitimately attacked US troops or contractors (though many of these alleged new groups are likely just fronts for older, more established groups). Iranian-backed Iraqi groups have also struck at US troops based in Syria

So though KSS’ statement is undoubtedly part of Iran’s propaganda game it is playing to project a wide, united front across the Middle East, the threats from KSS – and potential future threats from other militias in Iraq – should not be entirely dismissed by US policymakers as they continue to assist Israel in its fight against Palestinian terrorists.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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