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. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN) is closely tied to Iran and Hezbollah. Under Kaabi’s leadership, HHN 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.

HHN 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 orders from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, 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 HHN’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 HHN 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 HHN’s logistical support and military training come 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, HHN 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/. As of 2017, Iran reportedly paid HHN 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, HHN 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/.

HHN has featured images on its website of Kaabi holding hands with Hezbollah‘s Nasrallah. Hezbollah aided the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), a special branch of the IRGC tasked with achieving sensitive missions beyond Iran’s borders, in creating these Iran-backed militias in Iraq.“Part 2: Pro-Iran Militias in Iraq,” Wilson Center, April 27, 2018, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/part-2-pro-iran-militias-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 HHN’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, HHN 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 commander 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. HHN released a song in 2014 praising Soleimani for confronting both the Americans and ISIS. HHN 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/.

Kaabi continued to call for the expulsion of U.S. forces in Iraq. In one statement on April 14, 2023, Kaabi stated his group would consider U.S. forces in Iraq to be “legitimate targets” if they do not leave.“Leader Of Pro-Iran Iraqi Militia Akram Al-Kaabi: U.S. Ambassador On Iraq Carries Out Blatant Acts Of Sabotage; U.S. Forces Remain Legitimate Target And Will Be Expelled From The Region,” Middle East Media Research Institute, April 16, 2023, https://www.memri.org/tv/leader-pro-iran-iraq-militia-akram-al-kaabi-reject-american-presence-legitimate-target-martyrdom. Upon the start of the Hamas-Israel war in the Gaza Strip in October 2023, an umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) emerged. The grouping quickly launched dozens of attacks on U.S. forces and military bases across Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the U.S.’s stance on the Gaza crisis. The IRI is reportedly a coalition of all Iran-backed Shiite militias operating in Iraq. Among the groups included are HHN, Kataib Hezbollah (KH), AAH, and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada (KSS), as well as lesser-known militias, such as Tashkil al-Waritheen.Hamdi Malik and Michael Knights, “Profile: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 21, 2023, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/profile-islamic-resistance-iraq. HHN is considered one of the strongest factions of the IRI, and by January 2024 the militant coalition had carried out more than 100 attacks.Raya Jalabi and Felicia Schwartz, “US air strike kills commander of Iran-backed militia in Baghdad,” Financial Times, January 4, 2024, https://www.ft.com/content/6c70205d-e2b0-4f1a-bb19-835f7aa2b268.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Asaib Ahl al-Haq
Type(s) of Organization:
Militia, political party, religious, social services provider, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Iranian-sponsored, Islamist, jihadist, Khomeinist, Shiite
Position(s):
Co-founder; former commander of Syrian branch

AAH is an Iranian-backed Shiite militia and political party operating primarily in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Lebanon. Until the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, AAH had launched more than 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Extremist entity
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba
Type(s) of Organization:
Militia, religious, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Iranian-sponsored, Islamist, jihadist, Khomeinist, Shiite
Position(s):
Founder and secretary-general

AAH is an Iranian-backed Shiite militia and political party operating primarily in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Lebanon. Until the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, AAH had launched more than 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

  • Designations
  • Rhetoric

United States

Return to Full Database

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On January 23, 2019, two car bombs exploded outside of a mosque in Benghazi, Libya, killing 41 people and injuring 80 others. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but remnants suggested an ISIS affiliate was responsible.  

View Archive