Although Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) has been active in Iraq since at least 2007, Western media did not cover the group significantly until the summer of 2008. At that time, the United States and coalition forces announced the arrests of various KH operatives, and the group began to receive limited coverage as a result.
The Long War Journal was one of the first Western media outlets to cover the arrests. In a July 21 article, the Long War Journal announced the coalition forces’ arrest of a KH propagandist, and added that “[l]ittle information is publicly available on the Hezbollah Brigades [KH]” group itself.Bill Roggio, “Hezbollah Brigades propaganda specialist captured in Baghdad,” Long War Journal, July 21, 2008, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/07/hezbollah_brigades_p.php. The outlet then introduced KH as an “offshoot of Iranian-trained Special Groups,” a U.S. classification for Iranian-backed paramilitary cells in Iraq. It went on to describe KH’s logo which, as author Bill Roggio noted, resembled the logo of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Roggio continued by outlining the group’s claims of responsibility for attacks on U.S. and coalition targets, including an improvised rocket-assisted mortar (IRAM) attack a few weeks prior.Bill Roggio, “Hezbollah Brigades propaganda specialist captured in Baghdad,” Long War Journal, July 21, 2008, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/07/hezbollah_brigades_p.php. Throughout the rest of the summer, the Long War Journal continued to cover the group as Multinational Forces Iraq and the U.S. army announced arrests of suspected KH operatives.Bill Roggio, “Coalition forces capture Hezbollah Brigades operative in Baghdad,” Long War Journal, July 31, 2008, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/07/coalition_forces_cap.php; Bill Roggio, “Iran continues to train Shia terror groups for attacks in Iraq,” Long War Journal, August 15, 2008 http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/08/map_details_irans_op.php. Around that time, other outlets mentioned KH in passing, including the Associated Press.Associated Press, “U.S.: Iraqi Shiite Terror Squads Receiving Training in Iran,” Fox News, August 15, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/08/15/us-iraqi-shiite-terror-squads-receiving-training-in-iran/.
Reuters, on the other hand, did not provide major coverage of the group until 2013 and 2014. During this time, extremism and sectarianism once again rose to the surface of Iraq’s political landscape. As a result, KH was often mentioned by Reuters tangentially, and in relation to the general trend of resurgent sectarian tensions in Iraq.Suadad al-Salhy and Sylvia Westall, “Insight: Iraqis hesitate on the edge of chaos,” Reuters, September 19, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/19/us-iraq-sectarian-insight-idUSBRE98I0FA20130919; Ned Parker, Ahmed Rasheed, and Raheem Salman, “Sectarian strife threatens Iraq ahead of election,” Reuters, April 27, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/27/us-iraq-strife-idUSBREA3Q0FE20140427.
At the time, the New York Times tended to rely on Reuters when mentioning developments related to KH and other Shiite paramilitary groups. Indeed, the New York Times did not publish original articles mentioning KH by name until the fall of 2014.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” New York Times, September 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html. In its first article mentioning KH by name, the New York Times described the group as one of Iraq’s three main Iranian-backed Shiite militias. It distinguished KH from Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and the Badr Organization, stating that KH “shares the Iranian patronage and ideology of the Lebanese group of the same name, but has no other known links to it.”David D. Kirkpatrick, “Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” New York Times, September 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html. The introduction ignored the body of research made by the U.S. government that linked Lebanese Hezbollah to Kata’ib Hezbollah through training and support systems.“Treasury Designates Individual, Entity Posing Threat to Stability in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 2, 2009, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg195.aspx; “Country Reports on Terrorism 2009: Chapter 6. Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, August 5, 2010, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2009/140900.htm. In the same September 2014 article, the New York Times specifically noted that KH was opposed to any cooperation with the United States, and quoted the militia as saying that it would “not fight alongside the American troops under any kind of conditions whatsoever.”David D. Kirkpatrick, “Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” New York Times, September 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html. New York Times author David D. Kirkpatrick framed this anti-American stance as “[u]nderscoring the tensions in the de facto alliance” between Iraq’s Iranian-backed Shiite militias.David D. Kirkpatrick, “Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” New York Times, September 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html.