Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq

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Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)
عصائب أهل الحق
Participant in the Iraq War
Asaib-ahl-alhaq logo.jpg
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq flag.svg
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq's logo and flag.
Active July 2006 – present
Leaders Qais al-Khazali
Akram al-Kabi
Headquarters Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq
Area of
operations
Mainly Baghdad and Southern Iraq; also active in Iraq's Central regions and Syria
Strength 3,000 (March 2007)[1]
Less than 10,000 (July 2013)[2]
Part of Special Groups
Originated as Mahdi Army
Allies  Syria
 Iran
Kata'ib Hezbollah
Promised Day Brigades
Other Special Groups
Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas
Shabiha
Opponents Iraq War:
Iraq Iraq
Multi-National Force – Iraq
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Syrian Civil War:
Free Syrian Army
Islamic Front
al-Nusrah Front
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Battles
and wars

Iraq War

Syrian Civil War

Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH; Arabic: عصائب أهل الحق ‘Aṣayib Ahl al-Haq, "League of the Righteous") also known as the Khazali Network is an Iraqi Shi'a Islamist paramilitary group operating in Iraq and Syria. It is known as Iraq's largest "Special Group", the Americans' term for Iran-backed Shia paramilitaries in Iraq. According to a March 2014 report by The Guardian newspaper, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is controlled by Iran and operates under the patronage of General Qassem Suleimani of Iran's Quds Force.[3] The group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks on American, coalition, and Iraqi forces.[4]

History[edit]

Qais al-Khazali split from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army after Shi'a uprising in 2004 to create his own Khazali network. When the Mahdi Army signed a cease-fire with the government and the Americans and the fighting stopped, Qais al-Khazali's faction continued fighting, during the battle Khazali was already issuing his own orders to militiamen without Muqtada al-Sadr's approval. The group's leadership which includes Qais Khazali, Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji (a politician in Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadr Movement) and Akram al-Kabi, however, reconciled with Muqtada al-Sadr in mid-2005. In July 2006 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq was founded and became one of the Special Groups which operated more independently from the rest of the Mahdi Army. It became a completely independent organisation after the Mahdi Army's disbanding after the 2008 Shi'a uprising.[5] In November 2008 when Sadr created a new group to succeed the Mahdi Army, named the Promised Day Brigade, he asked Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (and other Special Groups) to join, however they declined.[6]

The group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks in Iraq[4] including the October 10, 2006 attack on Camp Falcon, the assassination of the American military commander in Najaf, the May 6, 2006 downing of a British Lynx helicopter and the October 3, 2007 attack on the Polish ambassador.[7] Their most known attack however, is the January 20, 2007 Karbala provincial headquarters raid where they infiltrated the U.S. Army's offices at Karbala, killed one soldier, then abducted and killed four more American soldiers. After the raid, the U.S. military launched a crackdown on the group and the raid's mastermind Azhar al-Dulaimi was killed in Baghdad, while much of the group's leadership including the brothers Qais and Laith al-Khazali and Lebanese Hezbollah member Ali Musa Daqduq who was Khazali's advisor was in charge of their relations with Hezbollah. After these arrests in 2007, Akram al-Kabi who had been the military commander of the Mahdi Army until May 2007, led the organisation.[5] In 2008 many of the groups fighters and leaders fled to Iran after the Iraqi Army was allowed to re-take control of Sadr City and the Mahdi Army was disbanded. Here most fighters were re-trained in new tactics. It resulted in a major lull in the group's activity from May to July 2008.[5]

In February 2010 the group kidnapped DoD civilian Issa T. Salomi a naturalized American from Iraq. The first high-profile kidnapping of a foreigner in Iraq since the kidnapping of British IT expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards (which was also done by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq). The group demanded release of all their fighters being imprisoned by the Iraqi authorities and US military in return for his release.[8] In Peter Moore's case, his four bodyguards were killed but Moore himself was released when the group's leader Qais al-Khazali was released in January 2010.[9] Prior to Qazali's release, security forces had already released over 100 of the group's members including Laith al-Khazali.[10] Salomi was released in March 2010 return for the release of 4 of their fighters, being held in Iraqi custody.[11] In total 450 members of the group have been handed over from US to Iraqi custody since the kidnapping of Peter Moore, over 250 of which have been released by the Iraqi authorities.[12]

On July 21, 2010 General Ray Odierno said Iran was supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that had been attempting to attack US bases. One of the groups was Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the other two were the Promised Day Brigade and Ketaib Hezbollah.[13]

In December 2010 it was reported that notorious Shi'a militia commanders such as Abu Deraa and Mustafa al-Sheibani were returning from Iran to work with Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq.[14] Iranian Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri was identified as the group's spiritual leader.[15]

On Friday, August 10, 2012, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia men stormed a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's Al-Amin al-Thaniyah district, converting it into a Shi'a mosque and banning Sunnis from entering it.[16]

In August and September 2012, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq started a poster campaign in which they distributed over 20,000 posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei throughout Iraq. A senior official in Baghdad's local government said municipal workers were afraid to take the posters down in fear of retribution by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militiamen.[17]

The group earned the respect of the Shia-dominated Iraqi government for some of their actions in Lebanon.[18]

Haidar al-Karar Brigades[edit]

The group's Syrian branch is called the Haidar al-Karar Brigades and is led by Akram al-Kabi, who is Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq's military leader and is stationed in Aleppo.[19]

According to a 2014 report by the Guardian on Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq's intervention in the Syrian civil war: "Hezbollah also claims its widespread intervention in Syria on the side of Assad is in defence of the [Sayyidah Zainab] shrine. So too does Kata'ib Hezbollah, another Iranian-backed Iraqi proxy, whose members are often buried alongside Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq fighters. Both Iraqi groups fight across Syria under the banner of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, which has been at the vanguard of attacks against the almost exclusively Sunni opposition across Syria.

They, along with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are helping turn the tide in favour of the Assad regime, which in late 2012 was losing control of Damascus to rebel groups who were finding serious cracks in the regime's inner cordon. "Then came a strategic decision by all the Shia groups to defend Assad whatever the cost," said a regional ambassador previously based in the Syrian capital. "You could see the turnaround in Assad almost immediately. Even in his speeches, it was like 'we can do this.'"

Estimates of the numbers of Shia fighters in Syria range between 8,000 and 15,000. Whatever the true figure, the involvement of large numbers of Iraqis is not the secret it was in the early months of Syria's civil war, which is now being fought along a sectarian faultline."[20]

2014 Iraq elections[edit]

Main article: Al-Sadiqoun Bloc

The organization had candidates running in the 2014 Iraqi parliamentary election[21] under the banner of Al-Sadiqoun Bloc. However an electoral meeting of estimated 100,000 supporters of Al-Sadiqoun was marred by violence as a series of bombs exploded at the campaign rally held at the Industrial Stadium in eastern Baghdad killing at least 37 people and wounding scores others, according to Iraqi police said. The Shia group organizers had planned to announce at the rally the names of its candidates for the parliamentary election. The Al-Sadiquun Bloc ended up winning just one seat out of 328 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.

Strength[edit]

The group's strength was estimated at some 3,000 fighters in March 2007.[1] In July 2011, however, officials estimated there were less than 1,000 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militiamen left in Iraq. The group is alleged to receive some $5 million worth of cash and weapons every month from Iran.[2] In January 2012, following the American withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, Qais al-Khazali declared the United States was defeated and that now the group was prepared to disarm and join the political process.[22]

Funding[edit]

The Organisation is alleged to receive training and weapons from Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force as well as Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. By March 2007, Iran was providing the network between $750,000 and $3 million in arms and financial support each month. Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, a former Badr Brigades member who ran an important smuggling network known as the Sheibani Network played a key role in supplying the group. The group was also supplied by a smuggling network headed by Ahmad Sajad al-Gharawi[23] a former Mahdi Army commander, mostly active in Maysan Governorate.[24]

Organisational structure[edit]

As of 2006 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq had at least four major operational branches:[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fox News Insurgents Who Killed Five GIs in Brazen Karbala Attack Captured
  2. ^ a b US officials name 3 Iraqi militias armed by Iran to kill Yanks
  3. ^ Controlled by Iran, the deadly militia recruiting Iraq's men to die in Syria, The Guardian, 12 March 2014
  4. ^ a b "The Insurgency," Operation New Dawn, Official Website of the United States Force-Iraq
  5. ^ a b c d Asaib Ahl al Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network
  6. ^ Iraq’s ‘Promised Day Brigade’ – the reforming of the Shiite Militia
  7. ^ The People of Righteousness: Iraq’s Shi’a Insurgents Issue Demands for Hostages
  8. ^ "Iraqi militants post video of kidnapped US citizen". PressTV. 6 February 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Martin Chulov (3 January 2010). "Cleric freed in move expected to prompt handover of kidnapped Briton's body". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Bill Roggio (1 October 2009). "Iraqi police detain Hezbollah Brigades leader". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Julie Watson (12 August 2010). "San Diego man recounts Iraq kidnapping". UT San Diego. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Washington Post U.S. failure to neutralize Shiite militia in Iraq threatens to snarl pullout
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "In Iraq, Iran's Special Groups to flourish". UPI. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Religious Allegiances among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq
  16. ^ "عصائب اهل الحق تستولي على مساجد النواصب". Iraq News Network. Posted and retrieved on 10 August 2012
  17. ^ Yahoo News Iran ayatollah is poster boy for influence in Iraq, September 25, 2012
  18. ^ Daragahi, Borzou (27 May 2014). "Middle East: Three nations, one conflict". ft.com. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Omar al-Jaffal (29 October 2013). "Iraqi Shiites join Syria war". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Controlled by Iran, the deadly militia recruiting Iraq's men to die in Syria, The Guardian, 12 March 2014
  21. ^ "Dozens killed as blasts hit Iraq poll rally". Al Jazeera English. 25 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Iraq Shi’ite militia says U.S. has ‘failed,’ pledges to lay down arms in wake of Sunni bombings, January 5, 2012
  23. ^ Iran's Hard Power Influence in Iraq
  24. ^ New York Times The Struggle For Iraq

External links[edit]

Official site[edit]