Harakat al-Nujaba claims US troops targeted its militiamen in Iraq

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jan 30, 2018
Harakat al-Nujaba claims US troops targeted its militiamen in Iraq

The secretary general of Harakat al-Nujaba, an Iranian-sponsored Iraqi militia group fighting in Syria and Iraq, alleges that the US military has targeted the organization’s forces in Iraq, Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen and Iran’s Far News Agency reported. “The American forces attacked this movement’s forces in the region of al-Baghdadi in Anbar Province,” Akram al-Kaabi was quoted as saying. “By targeting the forces of this movement, the US forces aim to continue the Americans’ destructive designs,” the militia commander added. Kaabi, who was designated by the US Treasury in 2008, for fueling violence in Iraq, accused the US military forces stationed in Iraq of destabilizing the country and aiding terrorists.

Comment: Harakat al-Nujaba – also known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – is a militia unit within the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. The group operates both in Syria and Iraq under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC Quds Force. Kaabi makes no secret of his allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or his close relationship with Soleimani. Kaabi once famously stated that his forces would topple the Baghdad government if ordered by Khamenei.

It is not the first time that Kaabi has alleged a US military attack against his forces. His similar claim last year was debunked. On the other hand, Kaabi has a long history of anti-Americanism and was engaged in violence against American troops before 2011. Now that ISIS in Iraq and Syria is military defeated, Nujaba and other Iran-linked groups have dialed up propaganda against the US forces.

Last month, Nujaba threatened to attack American troops in Iraq and the broader region in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement about the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Trump’s foolish decision to make Jerusalem the Zionist capital will spark a major uprising to excise this entity (Israel) from the body of the Islamic nation, and is a legitimate justification to target American troops,” Kaabi said according to a statement published on Nujaba’s website.

In an interview with the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV on December 1, Kaabi also said that his forces would fight against US troops again if they stay in Iraq after the ISIS battle is over. “If the Americans intend to reoccupy Iraq, we will fight them again. And if they commit a stupid mistake in Syria or Iraq against the Nujaba and resistance forces, we will deal a crushing blow to them and will target all their interests in the region. If the Syrian and Iraqi governments decide to confront America, we will proudly stand by their side.”

Kaabi also has close relations with the Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shiite leaders from across the region. He travels frequently to Iran and Lebanon to meet high-ranking Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah. In October, he met with the top Shiite sheikh in Lebanon, Afif al-Nabulsi, the cleric who notoriously gave Hezbollah the religious authorization to participate in Lebanese politics. In November, Kaabi also held a meeting in Lebanon with the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, Hashim Safi Al Din, in which they stressed the need to preserve the achievements of the Islamic resistance in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, and confront the countries that are trying to eliminate them, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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.