For immediate release | Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Iranian-Aligned Militias Contribute to Iraq’s Instability

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Popular Mobilization Forces are Described as Iraq’s “Hezbollah”

(New York, N.Y.) - A renewed spotlight has been placed on the power and influence of Iran-aligned militias in Iraq. Known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs), these predominantly Shiite, anti-American, and anti-Sunni extremists have created issues for Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. PMF militias, which include groups such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Organization, and Kata’ib Hezbollah, were implicated in a May 14 drone strike in Saudi Arabia, which was determined to have been staged from Iraqi territory. Shortly after September’s drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil production plants, Mahdi was forced to issue a swift denial that the attack had been launched from Iraq. On July 1, 2019, Mahdi issued a decree ordering the militias of the PMF to choose between full integration into the Iraqi armed forces or disarmament by July 31.

  • Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) is implicated in numerous acts of sectarian violence and potential war crimes in Iraq and Syria. Formed in 2006 by Qais al-Khazali, AAH has between 7,000 and 10,000 members and is one of the most powerful Shiite militias in Iraq. Until the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, AAH launched more than 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces, including highly sophisticated operations and targeted kidnappings of Westerners. The PMF is still in the process of implementing the decree and has asked for a two-month adaptation extension. Unlike other leaders in the PMF, Khazali supports the decree.
  • The Badr Organization is a Shiite political party and paramilitary force that acts as “Iran’s oldest proxy in Iraq.” Reuters notes that the group’s military wing is considered “perhaps the single most powerful Shi’ite paramilitary group” fighting in Iraq. Given the group’s deep ties to Iran and its political and military preeminence, analysts have compared the Badr Organization in Iraq to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The militia stands accused of gross human rights violations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow Michael Knights assessed Badr’s strength to be between 18,000 and 22,000 fighters as of August 2019.
  • Kata’ib Hezbollah earned a reputation for planting deadly roadside bombs and using improvised rocket-assisted mortars (IRAMs) to attack U.S. and coalition forces during the 2003 Iraq war. According to U.S. diplomat Ali Khedery, KH is responsible for “some of the most lethal attacks against U.S. and coalition forces throughout the [U.S.-led war in Iraq].” The group’s leader, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi—also known by his alias Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes—is the alleged mastermind behind the U.S. and French embassy bombings in Kuwait in 1983 and the assassination attempt on Kuwait’s emir in 1985.

To read the CEP report, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, please click here.

To read the CEP report, Badr Organization, please click here

To read the CEP report, Kata’ib Hezbollah, please click here.