While the Treasury designation focuses on the four Iraqis’ links to Hezbollah, which is described as “a terrorist proxy for the Iranian regime that seeks to undermine Iraqi sovereignty and destabilize the Middle East,” it practically ignores the fact that one of them is the Secretary General of the Imam Ali Battalions, or Kata’ib Imam Ali, a key component of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an official military arm of the Iraqi state that reports directly to the prime minister.
Today’s clashes in Ninewa and Erbil are just the latest in a recent series between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shia militias, and Kurdish Peshmerga forces over disputed areas in northern Iraq.
Kata’ib Imam Ali and Kata’ib al Sabriun join other IRGC-controlled Iraqi Shia militias training inside Syria.
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.
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.
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.