Akram Al-Kaabi

Akram al-Kaabi is the U.S.-designated secretary-general of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (“Movement of the Party of God’s Virtuous”), an offshoot of Iran-backed Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php. Nujaba is closely tied to Iran and Hezbollah. Under Kaabi’s leadership, Nujaba has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS alongside the Syrian army, Hezbollah, and other Iran-backed Iraqi militias.“Top Iraqi Militia Leader: Fighting for Iran under Soleimani's leadership Is “Blessing from God”,” Middle East Institute, April 5, 2017, http://www.mei.edu/publications/top-iraqi-militia-leader-fighting-iran-under-soleimanis-leadership-blessing-god; Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Hashd Brigade Numbers Index,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog, October 31, 2017, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2017/10/hashd-brigade-numbers-index.

Nujaba is part of Iraq’s Haashid Shaabi, the umbrella group of anti-ISIS Shiite militias also called Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF coordinate anti-ISIS military ventures between the Syrian army and Iranian-sponsored militias.“Top Iraqi Militia Leader: Fighting for Iran under Soleimani's leadership Is “Blessing from God”,” Middle East Institute, April 5, 2017, http://www.mei.edu/publications/top-iraqi-militia-leader-fighting-iran-under-soleimanis-leadership-blessing-god; Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Hashd Brigade Numbers Index,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog, October 31, 2017, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2017/10/hashd-brigade-numbers-index.

After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kaabi served as a commander in Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi (“the Mahdi Army,” a.k.a. JAM Special Groups). As a leader in the Mahdi Army, Kaabi planned and led attacks against the Iraqi government and members of Coalition forces, according to the U.S. government. Iran ordered Hezbollah in 2005 to create a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces. Under Nasrallah’s orders, a covert Hezbollah unit trained members of JAM who then formed AAH.“Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 19, 2012, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1775.aspx.

The United States accuses Kaabi of providing financing and weaponry for JAM’s violent activities. In April 2008, for example, Kaabi paid a JAM leader 50 million Iraqi dinars (approximately $41,684) for carrying out three separate improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against Coalition Forces in Baghdad. Under Kaabi’s command, JAM claimed responsibility for rocket and mortar attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces.“Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Fueling Violence in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 16, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1141.aspx.

Kaabi claimed that after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, he turned AAH over to its current leader, Qais al-Kazali, in order to devote himself to Islamic studies in seminary. Kaabi formed Nujaba in 2013 after ISIS began to capture large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Kaabi has denied ideological divisions with AAH resulted in Nujaba’s creation. He told Al-Monitor in 2015 that the groups merely “disagree on style and how the work should be managed.”Ali Hashem, “Iraq’s Shiite forces claim victory over IS,” Al-Monitor, March 16, 2015, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/iraq-shiite-hezbollah-nujaba-victory-islamic-state.html.

Kaabi is openly hostile to the United States. While the PMF and the United States share an enemy in ISIS, Kaabi has been adamant that the United States remains an enemy. According to Kaabi, the United States and ISIS are “two faces of the same coin.”Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Iraqi Shiite militia leader says he would overthrow government if ordered by Iran’s supreme leader,” Long War Journal, November 12, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/11/us-designated-terrorist-of-iraqi-militia-reportedly-in-aleppo.php. Kaabi called U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “legitimate justification” to target U.S. troops in Iraq.“SHEIKH AKRAM AL-KAABI: TRUMP'S DECISION REGARDING JERUSALEM IS A LEGITIMATE JUSTIFICATION FOR TARGETING AMERICAN IN IRAQ,” Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, December 8, 2017, https://bit.ly/2u0Rb1u. Kaabi has claimed various incarnations of Nujaba have carried out more than 6,000 attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq since 2004.Ali Hashem, “Iraq’s Shiite forces claim victory over IS,” Al-Monitor, March 16, 2015, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/iraq-shiite-hezbollah-nujaba-victory-islamic-state.html.

Kaabi is deeply loyal to the Iranian regime and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. All of Nujaba’s logistical support and military training comes from Iran, according to Kaabi. Both Kaabi and his followers adhere to the Khomeinist doctrine of Velayat-e Faqih, or Guardianship of the Jurist, which places religious oversight over all aspects of the government.Ali Hashem, “Iraq’s Shiite forces claim victory over IS,” Al-Monitor, March 16, 2015, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/iraq-shiite-hezbollah-nujaba-victory-islamic-state.html; Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/. Kaabi has declared that he would follow any order from Khamenei, including overthrowing the Iraqi government.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi,” U.S. Department of State, March 5, 2019, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-harakat-al-nujaba-han-and-akram-abbas-al-kabi/. According to Iraqi officials, Nujaba is helping Tehran build a supply line from Iran to Damascus through Iraq.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/. Iran reportedly pays Nujaba fighters $1,500 a month.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/. According to the State Department, Nujaba is “funded by but not under the control of the Iraqi government.”“State Department Terrorist Designation of Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi,” U.S. Department of State, March 5, 2019, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-harakat-al-nujaba-han-and-akram-abbas-al-kabi/.

Nujaba has featured images on its website of Kaabi holding hands with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah aided the IRGC’s Quds Force in creating the so-called Special Groups—Iran-backed militias in Iraq.Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php. In August 2017, Kaabi sent a letter to Nasrallah declaring Nujaba’s “complete solidarity and support with your loud cry against the oppressive Zionist regime.”Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/. In March 2017, Nujaba formed the Golan Brigade to capture the Golan Heights from Israel, which took control of the territory of the 1967 Six Day War.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/.

Kaabi has also praised deceased Quds Force command Qasem Soleimani. Kaabi told Iranian reporters in 2016 that the Iraqis “need him and his colleagues.”“Voluntary Forces Can Retake Mosul Single-Handedly: Iraqi Figure,” Tasnim News Agency, August 28, 2016, https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/08/28/1170391/voluntary-forces-can-retake-mosul-single-handedly-iraqi-figure. Nujaba released a song in 2014 praising Soleimani for confronting both the Americans and ISIS. Nujaba also posted photos on its website of Kaabi and Soleimani together on what the group claimed to be the Syrian frontline.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/.

After Soleimani’s death in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on January 3, 2020, Kaabi joined other militant leaders in promising revenge. Kaabi announced that Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq were unified and ready to “execute a harsh, deliberate response to the American terrorist forces.”Agence France-Presse, “Iraq’s pro-Iran factions ramp up threats to US after Iran missile strikes,” Times of Israel, January 8, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iraqs-pro-iran-factions-ramp-up-threats-to-us-after-iran-missiles/.

 
United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designed Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on September 16, 2008.“Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Fueling Violence in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 16, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1141.aspx.

The U.S. Department of State designated Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 on March 5, 2019.“State Department Terrorist Designation of Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi,” U.S. Department of State, March 5, 2019, https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designation-of-harakat-al-nujaba-han-and-akram-abbas-al-kabi/.

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