Following a deadly rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq and subsequent U.S. airstrikes in response, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades threatens to further retaliate by continuing to target U.S. troops.
A newly released interrogation report shows that Qayis al-Khazali identified Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani as the two individuals Iran trusted “the most with attempting to implement the Iranian agenda in Iraq.” The pair went from being marginal players shortly after the US-led invasion in 2003 to leading the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, one of most powerful and influential military organizations in Iraq.
The League of the Righteous, which has threatened Americans in Iraq and also carried out several kidnappings, is the prime suspect. The Shiite militia has denied any involvement in the abduction of the three Americans.
Iranian-backed Shia militias are fighting for Assad in Aleppo as regime forces, backed by Hezbollah and Russian airstrikes, try to push back jihadists and rebels in the northern province.
Akram Abbas al Kabi, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and the leader of the Harakat Nujaba, said his group and others “will seek revenge” for what he claimed was a US airstrike that killed 10 members of the League of the Righteous.
US officials and generals continue to downplay the involvement of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in offensives in Iraq, and their dominance of the Popular Mobilization Committee.
Several Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups continue to operate in Tikrit, despite claims by US government officials that most of these militias had left the battle. The US continues to launch airstrikes to support Iraqi forces and these militias, many leaders of which are responsible for killing US and Coalition servicemen during the Iraq War.
The US has reversed its decision to avoid assisting Iranian-backed Shiite militias and is now providing direct air support in the battle for Tikrit. Many militia leaders and one militia fighting in Tikrit are on the US terrorism list.
A Human Rights Watch report says that the militias looted, burned thousands of buildings, and abducted at least 11 people during the Amerli offensive last summer. “The widespread burning of civilian homes by the militia groups in areas under their control appeared to have had no clear military objective and to represent collective punishment against residents of local Sunni villages,” HRW stated.
Several Shiite militias, which are supported by the Iranian Qods Force, and the Iraqi Security Forces have taken over several surrounding towns of Tikrit. These militias have published several photos and videos from these towns in recent days.
Shiite militias closely linked to Iran and Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani have taken control of key towns surrounding the central Iraqi city.
Several photos have been released by the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars showing Qassem Soleimani on the battlefield near Tikrit. Other photos circulating on social media show the leader of the Qods Force with various Shiite militias taking part in the current offensive in central Iraq.
Massive columns of Shiite militas, including some groups that are listed by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, have been leading the fight in Tikrit. Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani has been spotted at the front lines.
The League of the Righteous, a Shiite militia that is responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq between 2006-2011, helped Iraqi forces take control of Baiji. The US provided air support.
The League of the Righteous, which is responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers, was part of the Iraqi force that liberated Amerli. The group is closely tied to Iran’s Qods Force and three of its leaders are Specially Designated Global terrorists.
Hezbollah, which helped establish Shia terror groups in Iraq beginning in 2005, said that Ibrahim al Hajj, a trainer, was killed while “performing his jihadi duties” in Tal Afar.
Qais al Qazali, the leader of the League of the Righteous, said a controversial film “will put all the American interests Iraq in danger.” Qazali was released from custody by the US in 2009.
Prime Minister Maliki’s crackdown on the Sunni leadership threatens to plunge Iraq into civil war.