Iran-Backed Militia in Iraq: ‘Enemy’ U.S. Troops Now ‘a Target for Our Forces’
A component of the Baghdad-sanctioned coalition of mainly Iran-allied Shiite militias in Iraq has threatened to attack U.S. troops if they refuse to leave the country, declaring that the United States “has become our direct enemy.”
The threat came from Abdullatif al-Amidi, the commander of the Saraya al-Ashura faction inside the umbrella organization of mostly Shiite militias loyal to Iran known as al-Hashd al-Shaabi, Arabic for Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/PMU), reports Kurdistan24.
PMF factions, including at least one with American blood on its hands—the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous)—have repeatedly vowed to target U.S. troops since they returned to Iraq to combat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in 2014.
Although the U.S. military has fought alongside the PMF, praising them for their contribution to the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently urged the Shiite militiamen to “go home.”
Moreover, Congress has proposed bipartisan legislation to impose terrorist sanctions on at least two PMF components, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, prompting some of their fellow militiamen to threaten American troops in Iraq again.
During a televised speech on Tuesday, Abdullatif al-Amidi, the commander of the PMF faction Saraya al-Ashura, warned, “The U.S. has become our direct enemy after the Congress’ decision against some Hashd al-Shaabi factions,” reports Kurdistan 24.
The Shiite militia commander urged American troops to immediately withdraw from Iraq because “they have now become a target for our forces,” noting that the U.S. proposal against two PMU components is explicitly “aimed at targeting the Islamic resistance and all Hashd al-Shaabi factions.”
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) recently introduced the bipartisan Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017.
Poe’s office explained that the bill would list “two of the most nefarious Iranian-controlled militias in Iraq and Syria: As-Saib Ahl Al-Haq and Harakat Hizballah Al-Nujaba” as terrorist groups and give President Donald Trump 90 days to impose sanctions on them once the commander-in-chief signs the bill into law.
According to Reuters, various members of the Baghdad-based parliament, which legalized the PMF as an official component of the Iraqi military in November 2016, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have rejected the proposal, saying they would not permit anyone who fought ISIS to labeled as criminals.
“Accusing us of terrorism is not new or surprising. It is not a coincidence, and does not shock us, because we have never been part of the American bloc or project,” Hashim al-Mouasawi, a spokesman for the Nujaba group, told reporters on Thursday.
During the press conference Thursday, Mouasawi reportedly conceded his group receives support from Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Tehran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Some PMU factions have openly threatened U.S. troops in recent years.
In March 2016, the AAH militia pledged to “deal” with American Marines deployed to northern Iraq “as forces of occupation.”
Saraya al-Salam, another arm of the PMF, also reportedly warned in mid-2016, “If the U.S. insists on sending troops to Iraq, they will be targeted as we are thirsty for American blood.”
Jaafar Husseini, a spokesman for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq, reportedly declared in September that U.S. troops must either leave Iraq after ISIS is entirely defeated or confront the Shiite forces.
In introducing his anti-PMF bill, Rep. Poe declared:
We must continue to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism wherever it may be. For years, Iran has supported a long laundry list of terrorist actors that do its bidding and work to effectively make Baghdad an Iranian outpost. Many of these groups have the blood of hundreds of U.S. service members on their hands, and they take pride in their allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader.
In December 2012, the Institute for the Study of War reported that the PMU’s AAH faction alone claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks on U.S. troops between 2006 and 2011.
Experts believe there are currently between 100,000 and 120,000 PMF fighters in Iraq.
Courtesy of the PMF militiamen, Iran has nearly accomplished its long-cherished goal of securing a “Shiite crescent” sphere of influence—a single land route that binds together territory held by several Islamic Republic allies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship in Syria, and the Iranian-controlled government of Iraq.