Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes

Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known widely by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, was the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia operating primarily in Iraq.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Special Report: The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran,” Reuters, November 12, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-mideast-crisis-militias-specialreport-idUSKCN0IW0ZA20141112;
“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.
Ibrahimi was believed to be the most influential commander of the Haashid Shaabi, the umbrella group of anti-ISIS Shiite militias also called Iraq’s popular mobilization forces (PMF), and played a key role in smuggling weapons from Iran to these militias in Iraq.“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. Ibrahimi was reportedly killed on January 3, 2020, in an airstrike on Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport that also allegedly killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force.Frank Miles, “Baghdad rocket attack kills Iranian military leaders including Gen. Qassim Soleimani, reports say,” Fox News, January 2, 2020,  https://www.foxnews.com/world/rockets-baghdad-airport-injuries-reported.

In addition to acting as the leader of KH, Ibrahimi served as Iraq’s deputy national security adviser and the deputy commander of the Haashid Shaabi.Liz Sly, “Pro-Iran militias’ success in Iraq could undermine U.S.,” Washington Post, February 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqs-pro-iranian-shiite-militias-lead-the-war-against-the-islamic-state/2015/02/15/5bbb1cf0-ac94-11e4-8876-460b1144cbc1_story.html; Phillip Smyth, “There Is No ‘Good’ Shia Militia in Iraq,” Daily Beast, April 17, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/17/is-there-a-good-shia-militia-in-iraq.html. He was also a former member of the Iraqi parliament.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Special Report: The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran,” Reuters, November 12, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-mideast-crisis-militias-specialreport-idUSKCN0IW0ZA20141112.

Nonetheless, Ibrahimi was for years linked to a series of deadly crimes. In 2007, a Kuwaiti court sentenced Ibrahimi to death in absentia for his involvement in the 1983 U.S. and French embassy bombings in Kuwait, attacks that killed six and injured nearly 90 others.Matthew Levitt, “29 Years Later, Echoes of ‘Kuwait 17’,” Weekly Standard, December 13, 2012, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/29-years-later-echoes-kuwait-17_666451.html;
“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.
Ibrahimi was also linked to the 1985 assassination attempt of Kuwait’s Emir.“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;
Richard R. Brennan et al., eds., Ending the U.S. War in Iraq: the Final Transition, Operational Maneuver, and Disestablishment of United States Forces-Iraq (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2013), 138-139, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR200/RR232/RAND_RR232.pdf.

According to Iraqi Major-General Jumaa Enad, Ibrahimi was “realistically and operationally” the leader of the PMF.Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675. Muen al-Kadimi, deputy leader of another Shiite militia in Iraq, the Badr Organization, confirmed that Ibrahimi was one of the highest-level commander in the PMF, saying that Ibrahimi “signs off on things.”Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675.

Ibrahimi believed in establishing a Shiite theocracy, and considered himself to be a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, according to Iraqi lawmaker Mishaan Jbouri.Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675. He reportedly served as an adviser and “right hand man” to Iran’s military envoy to Iraq, the IRGC-Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.Michael Knights, “The Evolution of Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq,” Combatting Terrorism Center, November 1, 2010, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq;
Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675.
Ibrahimi held both Iraqi and Iranian citizenship and his family reportedly still resides in Iran.Joshua Keating, “Iraq Is Becoming the Center of the U.S.-Iran Cold War,” Slate, December 30, 2019, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/kataib-hezbollah-mohandes-iran-shiite-iraq.html.

According to U.S. diplomat Ali Khedery speaking on behalf of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish officials in 2015, “the real prime minster of [Iraq] is [Iranian commander] Qasem Soleimani and his deputy is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis [Ibrahimi].”Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent, “The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq,” Foreign Policy, March 28, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/28/the-united-states-is-providing-air-cover-for-ethnic-cleansing-in-iraq-shiite-militias-isis/.

Ibrahimi was born in Basra, in southern Iraq. For years, he worked alongside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Badr Organization (previously called the Badr Corps). During the 1980s, he received military training from the IRGC in Iran, while the country was at war with Iraq.Joshua Keating, “Iraq Is Becoming the Center of the U.S.-Iran Cold War,” Slate, December 30, 2019, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/kataib-hezbollah-mohandes-iran-shiite-iraq.html. After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ibrahimi helped smuggle in a certain kind of improvised explosive device (IED) known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) from Iran into Iraq. EFPs were the primary killer of U.S. troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675.

From 2003 to 2008, Ibrahimi allegedly organized, trained, and equipped a network of militias in Iraq that U.S. forces called Special Groups, which led the anti-American insurgency. During this time, he also served in the Iraqi parliament and the U.S. made attempts to detain him.Nour Malas, “The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-militia-commander-beating-back-isis-in-iraq-makes-the-u-s-nervous-1464890675. He ultimately evaded capture and disappeared from parliament, reportedly fleeing to Iran. Ibrahimi resurfaced in Iraq in an official capacity in 2014, when Iraqi Shiites joined Iran-backed militias such as KH to fight against ISIS.Joshua Keating, “Iraq Is Becoming the Center of the U.S.-Iran Cold War,” Slate, December 30, 2019, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/kataib-hezbollah-mohandes-iran-shiite-iraq.html.

Ibrahimi and Soleimani were killed on January 3, 2020, in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. The Pentagon confirmed shortly after that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the strike because Soleimani was “actively developing plans” to attack U.S. troops and officials.Frank Miles, “Baghdad rocket attack kills Iranian military leaders including Gen. Qassim Soleimani, reports say,” Fox News, January 2, 2020,  https://www.foxnews.com/world/rockets-baghdad-airport-injuries-reported; Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, “Pentagon launched airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Defense Sec. Mark Esper says,” Washington Post, January 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/defense-secretary-says-iran-and-its-proxies-may-be-planning-fresh-attacks-on-us-personnel-in-iraq/2020/01/02/53b63f00-2d89-11ea-bcb3-ac6482c4a92f_story.html The PMF blamed the United States and Israel for Ibrahimi and Soleimani’s deaths. The strike reportedly killed at least five others, including the PMF’s airport protocol officer, Mohammed Reda.Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport,” Associated Press, January 2, 2020, https://apnews.com/5597ff0f046a67805cc233d5933a53ed. The strike followed a December 31, 2019, assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad by Iraqi protesters and members of KH. Protesters withdrew on January 1, 2020. U.S. leaders held the Iranian leadership responsible and promised retaliation.Frank Miles, “Baghdad rocket attack kills Iranian military leaders including Gen. Qassim Soleimani, reports say,” Fox News, January 2, 2020,  https://www.foxnews.com/world/rockets-baghdad-airport-injuries-reported. Ibrahimi was reportedly among the KH members involved in the attack.Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Militia supporters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019,  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html.

 
United States
July 2, 2009

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on July 2, 2009.“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.

United Arab Emirates
November 2014

The United Arab Emirates designated “Hizbollah Brigades in Iraq” as a terrorist organization in November 2014.“List of groups designated terrorist organisations by the UAE,” National (Abu Dhabi), November 16, 2014, http://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/list-of-groups-designated-terrorist-organisations-by-the-uae.

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