For immediate release | Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CEP Releases New Resources on Iraq’s Extremist Shiite Militias

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(New York, NY) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released new resources on the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), three of the most powerful militias operating within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF is a nationally sanctioned umbrella group composed of predominantly Shiite, anti-American, and anti-Sunni extremists. As the Iraqi army continues to lose ground to ISIS, Iraqi officials are turning more and more to these sectarian military groups, which are simultaneously amassing power within the Iraqi political system.

The Badr Organization began in 1983 as the military wing of an Iraqi political party that wanted to bring Iran’s Islamic Revolution to Iraq and fought with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. In 2003, it changed its name and rebranded following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Badr Organization is run by seasoned Shiite politician and leader of the PMF, Hadi al-Amiri, who has a history of instigating sectarian violence in Iraq. Between 2004 and 2006, al-Amiri reportedly ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis. The Badr Organization’s political branch holds 22 seats in the country’s parliament. Al-Amiri has himself been linked to a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force servicemen. According to a leaked cable from the U.S. State Department, “One of [al-Amiri’s] preferred methods of killing allegedly involved using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.”

Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) is an Iranian-backed Shiite militia and political party operating in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The group seeks to promote Iran’s political and religious influence, maintain Shiite control and oust any remaining Western influence in Iraq. Formed in 2006, AAH claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces. Founder and leader Qais al-Khazali was once one of the most wanted men in Iraq. In March 2007, al-Khazali was captured by coalition forces, but was released in 2010 as part of an apparent prisoner-hostage exchange. Al-Khazali himself reportedly led the January 2007 AAH attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers.  Following the U.S. exit from Iraq, AAH vowed to lay down its weapons, enter Iraqi politics, open religious schools, and deliver social services like another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Instead, AAH continues to commit sectarian violence, carry out homophobic attacks, and threaten the “interests” of Western countries participating in strikes in Syria. 

Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) is an Iranian-sponsored, anti-American Shiite militia that earned a reputation for targeting U.S. and coalition forces with roadside bombs and improvised rocket-assisted mortars (IRAMs) to attack U.S. and coalition forces and was responsible for some of the most lethal attacks during the conflict. After the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Iraq, KH fought with the Assad regime in Syria at the behest of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). KH has remained virulently anti-American, repeatedly boycotting battles against ISIS in which U.S. airpower contributes. The group’s leader, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, is also the deputy leader of the PMF, Iraq’s deputy national security advisor, and a former member of the Iraqi parliament. He has been sentenced to death in absentia for his alleged involvement in the 1983 U.S. and French embassy bombings in Kuwait, attacks that killed six, including five Americans, and injured nearly 90 others. Al-Mohandes has also been linked to the 1985 assassination attempt of Kuwait’s Emir. KH is the only Iraqi Shiite militia designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Explore the history, ideology and leadership of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militias at counterextremism.com.