Overview

Also Known As:

Executive Summary

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN) is an Iranian-backed, U.S.-designated militia formed in 2013 by Akram al-Kaabi, co-founder of the IRGC-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).Public Notice 10,703, 84 Fed. Reg 9585, (March 15, 2019), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-03-15/pdf/2019-04508.pdf; “Militia Group Says It Will Topple Any Iraqi Gov. Hostile to Iran in ‘Weeks,’” Kurdistan 24, August 6, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/bf35833b-2b55-4df3-b6ec-1a4cf5da2d78. The exact relationship between AAH and HHN remains unclear. Kaabi denies there are any ideological disagreements with AAH, stating that the formation of HHN occurred due to disagreements “on style and how the work should be managed.”Ali Hashem, “Iraq’s Shiite Forces Claim Victory over IS,” Al-Monitor, March 16, 2015, http://www.mei.edu/publications/top-iraqi-militia-leader-fighting-iran-under-soleimanis-leadership-blessing-god. HHN is primarily comprised of former members of AAH, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), and possibly the “Promised Day Brigades.”Terrorist Groups in Syria: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 1st sess., November 20, 2013, 21, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg85643/pdf/CHRG-113hhrg85643.pdf.

HHN is closely tied to Iran and Hezbollah and has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS alongside the Syrian army, Hezbollah, and other Iran-backed Iraqi militias.Ahmad Majidyar, “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. Recent reports indicate that HHN has taken a new central role among the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) following the deaths of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and PMF deputy chief and Kata’ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

HHN’s secretary general, Akram al-Kaabi, has long been affiliated with Iranian-backed terrorist groups operating in Iraq. He began as a commander in the Sadrist militia Jaysh al-Mahdi, where he planned and led attacks against both the Iraqi army and coalition forces.“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; Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html; “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. In 2008, Kaabi was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department “for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq.”James Haines-Young, “US Sanctions Iranian Militia in Iraq: Here’s What You Need to Know about Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba,” National (Abu Dhabi), March 6, 2019, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-sanctions-iranian-militia-in-iraq-here-s-what-you-need-to-know-about-harakat-hezbollah-al-nujaba-1.833952. Kaabi formed HHN in 2013 in response to the rise of ISIS in Syria, calling for Iraqi Shiite militias to travel to Syria and fight on the behalf of the Assad regime.Amir Toumaj, “Iraqi Militia Leader Receives Warm Reception in Tehran,” Long War Journal, September 9, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/iraqi-militia-leader-receives-warm-reception-in-tehran.php; 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. At the same time, he threatened to attack Turkish forces operating north of Mosul.Amir Toumaj, “Iraqi Militia Leader Receives Warm Reception in Tehran,” Long War Journal, September 9, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/iraqi-militia-leader-receives-warm-reception-in-tehran.php. HHN fought against Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo city and its countryside during the regime’s 2016 offensive to retake the city.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. The United Nations accuses HHN of deliberately killing civilians attempting to flee the city during the offensive.Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles, “Syrian Army, Iraqi Militia Accused of ‘Slaughter' of Civilians in Aleppo,” Reuters, December 13, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo-un/syrian-army-iraqi-militia-accused-of-slaughter-of-civilians-in-aleppo-idUSKBN1420ZX.

According to Iraqi lawmaker Shakhwan Abdullah, HHN is “helping Tehran create a supply route through Iraq to Damascus.”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 December 2019, HHN and other pro-Iran PMFs attacked and killed more than 500 peaceful anti-government protestors in Baghdad.Seth J. Frantzman, “Iraq’s Government Linked to Murder as Protest Leaders Assassinated,” Jerusalem Post, December 17, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iraqs-government-linked-to-murder-as-protest-leaders-assassinated-611217.

Doctrine

HHN follows a Shiite jihadist ideology rooted in the teachings of Iraqi Ayatollah Mohammed al-Sadr and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 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. While HHN spokesman Hashim alMousawi has downplayed the group’s loyalty to Khamenei, HHN leadership has praised the Quds Force and declared “complete solidarity and support” with Hezbollah.“U.S. Sanctions Iranian Proxies in Iraq,” United States Institute for Peace, March 5, 2019,  https://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2019/mar/05/us-sanctions-iranian-proxies-iraq; Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba; 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. Furthermore, in August 2016, HHN leader Akram al-Kaabi spent a week in Iran meeting with top Iranian government officials and clerics, including the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei.Amir Toumaj, “Iraqi Militia Leader Receives Warm Reception in Tehran,” Long War Journal, September 9, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/iraqi-militia-leader-receives-warm-reception-in-tehran.php; “Iraqi Official Warns of US Plans for Permanent Military Base in Mosul,” Tasnim News Agency, September 4, 2016, https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/09/04/1178182/iraqi-official-warns-of-us-plans-for-permanent-military-base-in-mosul.

In January 2020, Kaabi visited the family of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani after his assassination, and met with Soleimani’s successor, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani.“Iraq’s Pro-Iran Factions Ramp Up Threats to US after Iran Missile Strikes,” Agence France-Presse, January 8, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iraqs-pro-iran-factions-ramp-up-threats-to-us-after-iran-missiles/; “Commanders of Shi’ite Militias in Iraq Continue to Threaten U.S. Forces While Seeking to Mend Internal Rifts,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 13, 2020, https://www.memri.org/reports/commanders-shiite-militias-iraq-continue-threaten-us-forces-while-seeking-mend-internal; Tamer Badawi, “What is role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html. At the same time, the group stated its willingness to oust any government in Baghdad that opposed Iran.“Shia Militia Group Says It Will Topple Any Iraqi Gov. Hostile to Iran in ‘Weeks,’” Kurdistan 24, August 6, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/bf35833b-2b55-4df3-b6ec-1a4cf5da2d78.

Organizational Structure

A Washington Institute for Near East Policy report describes HHN as a “front group for Harakat Hezbollah and AAH to send forces to Syria.”Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf. The group fielded an estimated 10,000 fighters in 2019 and is reportedly part of the 12th Brigade of the PMF.James Haines-Young, “US Sanctions Iranian Militia in Iraq: Here’s What You Need to Know about Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba,” National (Abu Dhabi), March 6, 2019, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-sanctions-iranian-militia-in-iraq-here-s-what-you-need-to-know-about-harakat-hezbollah-al-nujaba-1.833952; 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. Despite this, Kaabi claims that HHN is “not affiliated with the [PMF] organizationally.”Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba.

In 2013, the group contained three subunits: Liwa al‐Hamad, Liwa Ammar Ibn Yasir, and Liwa al‐Imam al‐Hassan al‐Mujtaba—all of which were formed in or deployed to Syria.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf. In 2015, Kaabi said the group also contained a fourth subunit, the Golan Liberation Brigade, as well as a the reserve al-Tabia forces, a paramilitary volunteer militia established by Iran’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.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; Roi Kais, “Iranian Backed Militia Forms Golan Liberation Brigade,” Yedioth Ahronoth (Rishon Lezion), March 12, 2017, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4934399,00.html.

Liwa Ammar Ibn Yasir

In June 2013, HHN announced the formation of the subgroup Liwa Ammar Ibn Yasir (LAIY).Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf. The name refers to the Shia Ammar ibn Yassir shrine in Raqqa, Syria, that was destroyed by Sunni rebels.Phillip Smyth, “Understanding the Organizations Deployed to Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015, 5, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus138_Smyth-2.pdf. In spring 2014, the group was deployed in Iraq, despite its stated purpose of defending the Shia Sayyeda Zainab shrine in Damascus.Phillip Smyth, “Understanding the Organizations Deployed to Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015, 5, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus138_Smyth-2.pdf. In December 2016, Kaabi said that LAIY had 3,000 fighters in Aleppo.Amir Toumaj, “Array of Pro-Syrian Government Forces Advances in Aleppo,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/array-of-pro-syrian-government-forces-advance-in-aleppo.php. LAIY was also shown in Aleppo on social media posts in February and March 2014.“Appendix 7: Shiite Militia Geography,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_7.pdf.

Liwa al‐Imam al‐Hassan al‐Mujtaba

On July 23, 2013, the creation of Liwa al-Imam al-Mujtaba (LIHM) was officially announced on social media.Phillip Smyth, “Hizballah Cavalcade: Liwa al-Imam al-Hassan al-Mujtaba: A Shia Militia Fighting in Rif Damasq/Ghouta,” Jihadology, October 5, 2013, https://jihadology.net/2013/10/05/hizballah-cavalcade-liwaa-al-imam-al-hasan-al-mujtaba-a-shia-militia-fighting-in-rif-dimashqghouta/, This group claims to predominantly protect the Damascus Airport and sections of rural Ghouta.Terrorist Groups in Syria: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 1st sess., November 20, 2013, 21, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg85643/pdf/CHRG-113hhrg85643.pdf. LIHM also has publicized subunits: Kata’ib al-Ashtar (Ashtar Battalion), the “mortar and rocket battalion” Kata’ib abu Hamr (Abu Hamr Battalion), and the Martyr Ahmed Kayara unit.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf. The Ahmed Kayara unit was named after Abu Hamza, a commander in the largely Iraqi Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas.Aymenn Jawad al- Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba. The Kata’ib al-Ashtar unit has been described as a “rapid response unit” and was reportedly deployed to al-Buidha, Rif Dimashq.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf; Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 7, 1,  https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_7.pdf. LIHM also fought in the southern Damascus suburb of Hajira and the southeast suburb of Jaramana in November 2013.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 7, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_7.pdf.

Liwa al‐Hamad (Praise Brigade)

Liwa al-Hamad, or the Praise Brigade, was first announced in a YouTube video in July 2013.Phillip Smyth, “Hizballah Cavalcade: Liwa al‐Imam al‐Hassan al‐Mujtaba: A Shia Militia fighting in Rif Damasq/Ghouta,” Jihadology, October 5, 2013, https://jihadology.net/2013/10/05/hizballah-cavalcade-liwaa-al-imam-al-hasan-al-mujtaba-a-shia-militia-fighting-in-rif-dimashqghouta/. The group is less present on social media than other HHN subunits and little is known about the group’s activities. The Praise Brigade was reportedly in Aleppo in January, March, April, and May of 2014, according to the group’s Facebook posts.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 7, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_7.pdf.

Golan Liberation Brigade

In 2017, HHN media announced the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade.Roi Kais, “Iranian Backed Militia Forms Golan Liberation Brigade,” Yedioth Ahronoth (Tel Aviv), March 12, 2017, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4934399,00.html. Upon its formation, Kaabi stated that the group was prepared to work with the Syrian Arab Army to “liberate” the Golan Heights from Israel.Ahmad Majidyar, “Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Group Launches New Brigade to ‘Liberate’ Golan Heights,” Middle East Institute, March 9, 2017, https://www.mei.edu/publications/iran-backed-iraqi-militia-group-launches-new-brigade-liberate-golan-heights. He claimed the unit was well equipped and included “special forces” fighters.Don Lieber, “Iran-Backed Militia in Syria Says It’s ‘Fully Prepared’ to Battle Israel,” Times of Israel, November 27, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-backed-militia-in-syria-says-its-fully-prepared-to-battle-israel/.

Financing

HHN was formed in 2013 with direct support from the IRGC.“Shia Militia Group Says It Will Topple Any Iraqi Gov. Hostile to Iran in ‘Weeks,’” Kurdistan 24, August 6, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/bf35833b-2b55-4df3-b6ec-1a4cf5da2d78. Kaabi openly admitted in 2015 that “technical and logistical support comes from the [Iranian] Islamic Republic.”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. In a 2015 interview, Kaabi acknowledged that HHN “received military and logistical support from the Republic [of Iran] in continuing form and according to the needs of the fronts.”Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba. He also confirmed the gifting of a reconnaissance aircraft (known as Yasir) by the IRGC to the group.Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba.

In May 2019, a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy stated that U.S. and Israeli intelligence were concerned that Iran was supplying “long-range artillery rockets” to its Iraqi proxies, including HHN.Michael Knights and Assaf Orion, “If Iran Deploys Missiles in Iraq: U.S.-Israeli Response Options,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 13, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/if-iran-deploys-missiles-in-iraq-u.s.-israeli-response-options. The report claimed that HHN and other Iranian-backed PMFs are able to import missiles and equipment from Iran without Baghdad’s knowledge.Michael Knights and Assaf Orion, “If Iran Deploys Missiles in Iraq: U.S.-Israeli Response Options,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 13, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/if-iran-deploys-missiles-in-iraq-u.s.-israeli-response-options. Additional funding comes via the Iraqi government, thanks to HHN’s membership in the PMF system.Laurie Mylroie, “US Sanctions Pro-Iran Militia in Iraq as Terrorist Group,” Kurdistan 24, March 7, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/7abb816f-93b4-4525-b1a2-ca39cf791385.

Recruitment

The group has been described as a “leading network of recruiters for foreign fighters in Syria” and a “pioneer of online recruitment for foreign fighters.”James Haines-Young, “US Sanctions Iranian Militia in Iraq: Here’s What You Need to Know about Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba,” National (Abu Dhabi), March 6, 2019, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-sanctions-iranian-militia-in-iraq-here-s-what-you-need-to-know-about-harakat-hezbollah-al-nujaba-1.833952. New recruits reportedly began in Iranian training camps before deploying to Aleppo, Syria, where they were then placed in HHN.Phillip Smyth, The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015), Appendix 2, 1, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PF138Appendices/PF138_Appendix_2.pdf. It is unclear if this system continued after the Assad regime’s capture of Aleppo city in December 2016.

Training

In a January 2019 interview, Kaabi openly stated that the group receives “all levels of training, arming and the provision of advice through the presence of leaders and field advisers from the brothers in the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards,” as well as from Hezbollah.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; “Al-Nujaba Militia Leader Sheikh Akram Al-Kaabi: IRGC And Lebanese Hizbullah Officers Have Guided Us In Fighting The American Forces Since 2004: ‘We Started Using Explosively Formed Penetrators... They Would Explode inside the Tank, Destroying It and Killing’ the Americans Inside,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 24, 2019, https://www.memri.org/reports/al-nujaba-militia-leader-sheikh-akram-al-kaabi-irgc-and-lebanese-hizbullah-officers-have; Roi Kais, “Iranian Backed Militia Forms Golan Liberation Brigade,” Yedioth Ahronoth (Tel Aviv), March 12, 2017, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4934399,00.html. Kaabi further stated that the group received a reconnaissance aircraft from the IRGC, as well as training to use it.Aymenn Jawad al- Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba.

Key Leaders

  • Akram Al-Kaabi

    Co-founder; former commander of Syrian branch
  • Nasr al-Shammary

    Deputy secretary-general
  • Hashim al-Mousawi

    Spokesperson
  • Bashar al-Saidi

    Spokesperson

History

 

Violent Activities

A bill introduced in the U.S. Congress in November 2017 cited allegations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that HHN participated in the 2016 siege of Aleppo, where “pro-Iraq militia groups executed dozens of civilians.”Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act, H.R. 4238, 115th Cong. (2017), https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4238/text?r=2&s=1. U.N. spokesman Rupert Colville said that civilians were “being shot in the street trying to flee and shot in their homes” during the Aleppo siege. He went on to specifically name HHN as one of the Iraqi militias involved.Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles, “Syrian Army, Iraqi Militia Accused of ‘Slaughter’ of Civilians in Aleppo,” Reuters, December 13, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-aleppo-un/syrian-army-iraqi-militia-accused-of-slaughter-of-civilians-in-aleppo-idUSKBN1420ZX.

Designations

Designations by U.S. Government:

Designated as a terrorist organization by the United States on March 7, 2019.Public Notice 10,703, 84 Fed. Reg. 9585, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-03-15/pdf/2019-04508.pdf.

Associations

Ties to Extremist Entities:

Mahdi Army

Kaabi was the military commander of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army until 2007.Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Muqtada al Sadr Reactivates Mahdi Army, Promised Day Brigade,” Long War Journal, January 3, 2020, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/muqtada-al-sadr-reactivates-mahdi-army-promised-day-brigade.php; James Haines-Young, “US Sanctions Iranian Militia in Iraq: Here’s What You Need to Know about Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba,” National (Abu Dhabi), March 6, 2019, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-sanctions-iranian-militia-in-iraq-here-s-what-you-need-to-know-about-harakat-hezbollah-al-nujaba-1.833952; Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html. Kaabi was also a student of Sadr’s father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, and maintains important relationships with other Sadrists in the Madhi Army.Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Muqtada al Sadr Reactivates Mahdi Army, Promised Day Brigade,” Long War Journal, January 3, 2020, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/muqtada-al-sadr-reactivates-mahdi-army-promised-day-brigade.php; Tamer Badawi, “What is role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html.
Hezbollah

Kaabi was pictured with Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah during a visit to Lebanon in 2018.“Al-Nujaba Militia Leader Sheikh Akram Al-Kaabi: IRGC and Lebanese Hizbullah Officers Have Guided Us in Fighting the American Forces Since 2004: ‘We Started Using Explosively Formed Penetrators... They Would Explode inside the Tank, Destroying It and Killing’ the Americans Inside,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 24, 2019, https://www.memri.org/reports/al-nujaba-militia-leader-sheikh-akram-al-kaabi-irgc-and-lebanese-hizbullah-officers-have. He has since returned for subsequent visits. Kaabi has declared HHN’s “complete solidarity and support” with and for Hezbollah.“U.S. Sanctions Iranian Proxies in Iraq,” United States Institute for Peace, March 5, 2019,  https://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2019/mar/05/us-sanctions-iranian-proxies-iraq; Aymenn Jawad al- Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba; 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 an interview with Al-Nujaba TV, Kaabi stated, “Both Nasrallah and Mughniyah sympathized with us. Both said that they had tried to contact us many times prior to the events in Najaf, and that had they succeeded we would have been able to accomplish greater victories, and to change the balance of power significantly. But they said that this was the will of the Lord and that Hizbullah will not deny us anything. They said: ‘All of our capabilities and expertise are at your disposal.’”“Al-Nujaba Militia Leader Sheikh Akram Al-Kaabi: IRGC and Lebanese Hizbullah Officers Have Guided Us in Fighting the American Forces Since 2004: ‘We Started Using Explosively Formed Penetrators... They Would Explode inside the Tank, Destroying It and Killing’ the Americans Inside,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 24, 2019,  https://www.memri.org/reports/al-nujaba-militia-leader-sheikh-akram-al-kaabi-irgc-and-lebanese-hizbullah-officers-have.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

The IRGC-Quds Force provided direct support to HHN, which included a visit by commander Qasem Soleimani to HHN positions in Aleppo in 2016.Amir Toumaj, “Array of Pro-Syrian Government Forces Advances in Aleppo,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/array-of-pro-syrian-government-forces-advance-in-aleppo.php. HHN was formed in 2013 with direct support from the IRGC.“Shia Militia Group Says It Will Topple Any Iraqi Gov. Hostile to Iran in ‘Weeks,’” Kurdistan 24, August 6, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/bf35833b-2b55-4df3-b6ec-1a4cf5da2d78. Kaabi openly admitted in 2015 that “technical and logistical support comes from the [Iranian] Islamic Republic.”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. In a 2015 interview, Kaabi acknowledged that they “received military and logistical support from the Republic [of Iran] in continuing form and according to the needs of the fronts.”Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba. He also confirmed the gifting of a reconnaissance aircraft (known as Yasir) from the IRGC.Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Interview and Analysis,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s Blog, April 15, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba. After Soleimani’s death, Kaabi was pictured with the new Quds Force commander, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, in January 2020.Laurie Mylroie, “US Sanctions Pro-Iran Militia in Iraq as Terrorist Group,” Kurdistan 24, March 7, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/7abb816f-93b4-4525-b1a2-ca39cf791385.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)

HHN is often described as a breakaway group from AAH, which Kaabi co-founded alongside current AAH leader Qais al-Khazali.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; Amir Toumaj, “Array of Pro-Syrian Government Forces Advances in Aleppo,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/array-of-pro-syrian-government-forces-advance-in-aleppo.php. Kaabi led AAH from 2007 to 2010 while Khazali was in an Iraqi prison.Sam Wyer, The Resurgence of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of War, 2012), 12, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ResurgenceofAAH.pdf.
Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH)

KH representatives were seen at a PMF meeting after U.S. forces killed the leader of KH in January 2020.Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html. Al-Monitor analyst Tamer Badawi claims that HHN has been chosen by the IRGC to lead a new unifying process between all Iranian-backed PMF groups after Soleimani’s death.Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html. KH’s presence at the meeting indicates an intrinsic link between the two groups with potential for greater collaboration.Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html.

Ties to Extremist Individuals:

Qasem Soleimani

Qasem Soleimani was pictured inspecting HHN positions in Aleppo in 2016 and participated in HHN-IRGC meetings on at least five occasions.Nakissa Jahanbani “Beyond Soleimani: Implications for Iran’s Proxy Network in Iraq and Syria,” Combatting Terrorism Center, January 10, 2020, https://ctc.usma.edu/beyond-soleimani-implications-irans-proxy-network-iraq-syria/; Amir Toumaj, “Soleimani’s Presence in Aleppo Underscores Strategy of Crushing Rebels,” Long War Journal, September 7, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/soleimanis-presence-in-aleppo-underscores-strategy-of-crushing-rebels.php. After Soleimani’s death in January 2020, Kaabi visited his family.“Commanders of Shi’ite Militias in Iraq Continue to Threaten U.S. Forces While Seeking to Mend Internal Rifts,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 13, 2020, https://www.memri.org/reports/commanders-shiite-militias-iraq-continue-threaten-us-forces-while-seeking-mend-internal.
Qais al-Khazali

Kaabi co-founded AAH alongside current AAH leader Qais al-Khazali and led the organization from 2007 to 2010 while negotiating for Khazali’s release from an Iraqi prison.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; Amir Toumaj, “Array of Pro-Syrian Government Forces Advances in Aleppo,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/array-of-pro-syrian-government-forces-advance-in-aleppo.php; Tamer Badawi, “What is Role of Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Uniting PMU?,” Al-Monitor, January 28, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/iraq-iran-pmu-nujaba-muqtada.html; Sam Wyer, The Resurgence of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of War, 2012), 12, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ResurgenceofAAH.pdf.

Rhetoric

View All

Unnamed HHN official, August 2019

“[The] Americans know that if any Iraqi government takes a step against Iran, it will be toppled in some few ‎weeks.”“Shia Militia Group Says It Will Topple Any Iraqi Gov. Hostile to Iran in ‘Weeks,’” Kurdistan 24, August 6, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/bf35833b-2b55-4df3-b6ec-1a4cf5da2d78.

Nasr al-Shammary, May 13, 2019

“Confrontation with the United States will only stop once it is eliminated from the region, along with the Zionist entity.”Abu Adnan Zeed, “Iraqi Factions a Wild Card in US-Iran Blame Game,” Al-Monitor, May 18, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/05/iraq-us-troops-iran-nujaba.html.

Akram al-Kaabi, March 2019

“We in the Iraqi resistance stand with [Lebanese] Hizbollah…and we will stand with Hizbollah in any Israeli attack or action against it.”Laurie Mylroie, “US Sanctions Pro-Iran Militia in Iraq as Terrorist Group,” Kurdistan 24, March 7, 2019, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/7abb816f-93b4-4525-b1a2-ca39cf791385.

Akram al-Kaabi, January 2019

“…[W]e are fighting a policy – the policy of the U.S. and British regimes, or the entire Zionist occupation. The Zionists constitute an army for which a state was created and for which they want to create a people. All the forces and all the Israelis on the land of Palestine are occupiers – even the newborn babies. There are no exceptions. They constitute an army brought over by the British occupiers, who created this cancerous tumor and planted it in the region.”“Al-Nujaba Militia Leader Sheikh Akram Al-Kaabi: IRGC and Lebanese Hizbullah Officers Have Guided Us in Fighting the American Forces since 2004: 'We Started Using Explosively Formed Penetrators... They Would Explode inside the Tank, Destroying It and Killing' the Americans Inside,” Middle East Media Research Institute, January 24, 2019,  https://www.memri.org/reports/al-nujaba-militia-leader-sheikh-akram-al-kaabi-irgc-and-lebanese-hizbullah-officers-have.

Akram al-Kaabi, February 2018

“Israel is weaker than a spider web. Islamic resistance is capable of confronting the axis of evil and annihilating the occupying Zionist regime.”Ahmad Majidyar “Qom-Based Cleric Lashes out at U.S. for Blacklisting Harakat al-Nujaba,” Middle East Institute, November 28, 2017, https://www.mei.edu/publications/qom-based-cleric-lashes-out-us-blacklisting-harakat-al-nujaba.

Akram al-Kaabi, December 2017

“Trump’s foolish decision to make Jerusalem the Zionist capital will spark a major uprising to excise this entity (Israel) from the body of the Islamic nation, and is a legitimate justification to target American troops.”“الشيخ اكرم الكعبي : قرار ترامب بشأن القدس مبرراً شرعياً لأستهداف القوات الامريكية في العراق” Al-Nujaba, December 8, 2017, https://bit.ly/38CtvRq.

Akram al-Kaabi, August 2017

Kaabi sends letter to top Hezbollah official professing “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/.

Akram al-Kaabi, November 2015

“My enemy’s enemy cannot be my friend if he is already my enemy. America is an enemy.

 

“[T]he PMF cannot stage a coup unless a religious authority makes a decision to change the rule in Iraq. If a religious authority decides, we rely on Allah and go ahead. It would be normal for us to implement.

 

“We should not have such an alliance because America is corrupt in every detail… America and Daesh [pejorative term for the Islamic State] 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.

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