A prominent Shiite leader based in the Iranian holy city of Qom has denounced a recent U.S. congressional bill that imposes sanctions on Harakat al-Nujaba, an Iranian-sponsored Iraqi militia group fighting in Syria and Iraq. “We condemn the plot executed by the Global Arrogance [U.S.] that blacklisted and sanctioned the Nujaba Islamic resistance,” Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri said in a statement according to Harakat al-Nujaba’s public relations office in Iran. He claimed that Washington has taken the “hostile” move because the militia group has foiled U.S. plans in the Middle East. Addressing Iraqi government officials, the senior cleric, who has significant followers in Iraq, said that Harakat al-Nujaba and other groups within the Popular Mobilization Forces will remain a strong pillar of Iraqi security and defense in the future – emphasizing that the fight against ISIS and terrorism is not over yet.
Comment: On November 3, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, entitled “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017,” which sought to impose terrorism-related sanctions with respect to Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat al-Nujaba groups.
Abu Waris al-Musawi, the spokesman for Harakat al-Nujaba, described the bill as a “conspiracy and a victory for the Islamic State and all other terrorist organizations supported by Washington.” He further claimed that the congressional bill is against Iraq’s security institutions and added that the group is waiting for the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Maliki to respond to the latest U.S. move. “This step is a plot,” Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted Musawi as saying. “After the defeat of their designs in Iraq, the last of which was the Islamic State, they want to set fire to the region. We are waiting for the official position of the government regarding this decision of America. The current groups within the Hashd al-Shaabi are part of the country’s security institutions and any decision against these groups, including the criminalization and sanctioning of them… will be a decision against the Iraqi security.”
Harakat al-Nujaba – also known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – is a prominent Iraqi sectarian group that operates both in Iraq and Syria under the leadership of I.R.G.C. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. It has been fighting in Syria since 2013. Kaabi has pledged allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The I.R.G.C. uses the Nujaba group not just to fight the Islamic State, but also as a pressure tool against the Baghdad government, regional countries, and the United States.
In March, the Nujaba movement announced the creation of a new brigade to seize the Golan Heights – claiming that “latest victories” against the Islamic State and Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria have allowed the group and its allies to focus on Israel. Leaders of the group claimed that members of the new brigade are highly-trained, well-equipped and capable of fighting the Jewish state. “Israel is weaker than a spider web. Islamic resistance is capable of confronting the axis of evil and annihilating the occupying Zionist regime,” Kaabi told Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news network.