(New York, N.Y.) – Iran-backed militias continue to plan attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq more frequently, according to U.S. officials, as tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalate. The latest series of attacks follow the targeted U.S. strike against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the former leader of the Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) militia group. U.S. forces suspect that the near-constant rockets strikes are linked to KH and the IRGC. In an effort to disrupt the financial networks of these militias, the Trump administration designated entities providing support to or acting on behalf of KH, the IRGC, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).
On March 14, 2020, 33 Katyusha rockets were launched against Camp Taji, 17 miles north of Baghdad. The targeted section of Taji base housed U.S.-led coalition troops. The attack wounded three American and two Iraqi troops. The Iraqi military later found seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets that were ready to launch in nearby Abu Izam. There were no immediate claims of responsibility. Additionally, on March 11, 2020, suspected Iranian-backed militias in Iraq launched airstrikes from the Rashediya area of northeast Baghdad. The U.S. Department of Defense launched retaliatory strikes against KH positions, which it called “defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups … who continue to attack bases hosting … coalition forces.”
Under Iranian influence, Iraqi Shiite militias have targeted U.S. forces in Iraq and refused to participate in anti-ISIS operations alongside U.S. forces. The Iranian government has also reportedly lobbied the Iraqi government to order its Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to specific action. The PMF is Iraq’s 110,000-plus anti-ISIS volunteer force also known as Hashid al-Shaabi. The PMF includes Iran-linked Shiite militia groups such as AAH, the Badr Organization, and KH. AAH has received training, arms, and financial support from Iran, particularly through Iran’s external military branch, the IRGC-Quds Force, as well as from Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. According to the U.S. government, KH is also primarily funded by the government of Iran and, specifically, Iran’s IRGC-Quds Force. Members of both AAH and KH have trained in Iranian camps, with leaders having worked closely with the deceased IRGC-Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
To read CEP’s Iraq resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Kata’ib Hezbollah resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Badr Organization resource, please click here.