Special Groups (Iraq)
|Participant in Iraq War|
|Headquarters||Sadr City, Baghdad|
|Area of operations||Baghdad and southern Iraq|
|Part of||Mahdi Army (until 2008)
|Originated as||Mahdi Army|
|Became||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Promised Day Brigades
|Opponents|| Coalition (until 2009)
United States (until 2011)
Iraqi Security Forces
Free Syrian Army
|Battles and wars||Iraq War, Iraqi Civil War, Iraqi insurgency, Syrian Civil War|
Special Groups (SGs) is a designation given by the American military to the cell-based Shi'a paramilitary organizations operating within Iraq, backed by Iran. According to the Americans these groups are funded, trained, and armed by the Iranian Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
According to American General Kevin J. Bergner, the Special Groups receive between 750,000 and 3,000,000 dollars funding per month, from the Quds Force. These groups are separate from although possibly connected with the Jaish al Mahdi or Mahdi Army, of Muqtada al-Sadr. A distinction between these groups and the Mahdi Army has been maintained more clearly since al-Sadr called for a ceasefire at the end of August 2007 following Mahdi Army clashes with Iraqi Security Forces in Karbala, Iraq but the Special Groups continued fighting. After the disbanding of the Mahdi Army in 2008 its successor was announced as a group called the Brigade of Promised Day; however the largest special group which emerged after the Iraq spring fighting of 2008 was a group called the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq or Qazali Network. According to the Guardian newspaper in March 2014, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is controlled by Iran under Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani. Another large special group is Kata'ib Hezbollah (or Hezbollah Brigades) which started to operate independently from the Mahdi Army and the other Special Groups. Suspected leaders include Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali, Ali al-Lami, Azhar al Dulaimi, Akram al-Kabi, Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Abu Deraa.
Ever since the Islamic Revolution Iran has sought to back Shia Islamist paramilitary organizations across the Middle East. Many have been very close to the Iranian state particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, like the Movement of Vanguard Missionaries and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). During the Iran-Iraq War many of these groups fought for Iran, with SCIRI's Badr Brigade being led by Iranian officers. After the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, these Iranian-led militia men returned to Iraq where they retained their autonomy and Iran continued to support Shia Islamist paramilitaries.
In February 2010, the League of the Righteous kidnapped U.S. contractor Issa T. Salomi, a naturalized American from Iraq. They released a video of him where he read their demands, calling for the release of all the group's members, including several of the group's leaders who are currently imprisoned. Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack American bases, General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq,said on July 21, 2010. The Iranians have "gone to a more sophisticated program with a smaller set of extremists" and are now focusing on three groups, which he identified as Ketaib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), and the Promise Day Brigade.
Among the Special Groups, the Promised Day Brigades is said to be the largest with over 5,000 fighters, and they are also believed to pose the biggest long-term security threat to Iraq, according to American officials. Kata'ib Hezbollah is said to have around 1,000 fighters and is the most exclusively reliant on Iranian support. Asa'ib al-Haq is said to have less than 1,000 fighters as of 2011 and receives a reported 5 million every month in Iranian funding. The Promised Day Brigades is said to receive the least amount of Iranian funding and is the most independent of the three.
|Muqtada al-Sadr||Promised Day Brigade||Spiritual Leader||In Iran, since 2006. Returned to Iraq in January 2011.|
|Qais al-Khazali||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Leader||Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, released on January 5, 2010|
|Laith al-Khazali||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Deputy Leader||Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, released June 9, 2009|
|Akram al-Kabi||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Acting leader||At large|
|Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani||Sheibani Network||Leader||In Tehran, Iran, since 2008, returned to Iraq in September 2010.|
|Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis||Kata'ib Hezbollah
|Top Advisor to Kata'ib Hezbollah
and Iran's Quds Force
|Azhar al Dulaimi||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Karbala Raid mastermind||Killed May 18, 2007 by U.S. forces in Baghdad|
|Ali Musa Daqduq||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Top advisor to Qais al-Khazali
Head of Hezbollah operations in Iraq
|Captured on March 20, 2007 in Basra, handed over to Iraqi authorities on December 15, 2011 Released November 2012.|
|Abu Yaser al-Sheibani||Sheibani Network||Deputy Leader||Captured on April 20, 2007|
|Ali Faisal al-Lami||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Captured on August 28, 2008, released in August 2009|
|Tahseen al Freiji||Promised Day Brigade||Social Political Leader ||At Large|
|Akran Hasnawi||Hasnawi Network||Leader||Killed on May 3, 2008 in Sadr City|
|Mahdi Khaddam Alawi al-Zirjawi||Promised Day Brigade||SG Sadr City Commander ||At Large|
|Baqir al-Sa'idi||Promised Day Brigade||Training||In Iran, possibly returned to Sadr City|
|Jawad Kazim al Tulaybani||Promised Day Brigade||Rocket Specialist||At Large|
|Haydar Mehdi Khadum al-Fawadi||Own Group||Leader||At Large|
|Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
|Arrested January 10, 2007, released 26 June 2009|
|Abu Deraa||Own Group
AAH since 2010
|Fled to Iran in late 2008. Returned to Iraq in on 20 August 2010.|
|Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi||Own Group in Maysan||Leader||At Large|
|Mohamed al-Zameli||unknown||Local commander (Wasit)||Detained on 23 January 2009|
|Muhammad al-Tabatabai||Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq||Cleric||At large|
- "English youth incinerates Iranian he wrongly thought was preying on kids". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "The Official Website - United States Forces – Iraq". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Controlled by Iran, the deadly militia recruiting Iraq's men to die in Syria, The Guardian, 12 March 2014
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- "Armed Iraqis Wary of Security Plan". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
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- "Press Briefing, July 2". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
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- United States Department of the Treasury Treasury Designates Individuals, Entity Fueling Iraqi Insurgency
- "Iraq: Return of Sheibani's killer squads". UPI. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "U.S. Turns Over Terrorism Suspect Ali Musa Daqduq to Iraq". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Gordon, Michael (16 November 2012). "Against U.S. Wishes, Iraq Releases Man Accused of Killing American Soldiers". NY Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
- "Iraq official: U.S. forces arrest Ali al-Lami". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "U.S. general: 2 Iraqi election chiefs linked to Iran". The Washingtion Times. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "US military killed Mahdi Army commander Arkan Hasnawi in May 3 strike". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Bolton, Kent (2008-05-21). "Hydrablog: U.S. Deploys a Purpose-Driven Distinction". Hydrablog.csusm.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- "Foundation for Defense of Democracies". Defenddemocracy.org. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- "Kuwait Times - Leading English Daily in Kuwait". Kuwait Times. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "US: Shiite 'Special Group' Responsible For Deadly Baghdad Car Bomb". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "Rogue Iraq militia 'ordered bomb'". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "U.S., Iraqi forces arrest top aide to al-Sadr". msnbc.com. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Sadrists Deny Negotiating with US
- Al, Asharq (2015-02-25). "ASHARQ AL-AWSAT". Aawsat.com. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- John J. Lumpkin. "Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi Iraqi insurgency Cell Leader". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "Special Groups leader detained in Wassit : Aswat Al Iraq". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "Religious Allegiances among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq - Combating Terrorism Center at West Point". Retrieved 7 November 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Special Group Member.|
- Coalition forces target Special Groups leader, 49 criminals killed - 21 Oct 2007
- Raid in Baghdad's Sadr City kills 49 Special Groups operatives - 21 Oct 2007
- DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Sherlock from the Pentagon - 04 Oct 2007
- Cooling The Clash With Iran - 16 Sep 2007
- Gen. Petraeus Opening Remarks to Congress - 11 Sep 2007
- Two Suspected Secret Cell Terrorists Detained by Coalition Forces - 12 Jul 2007
- MNF-I spokesman details secret cell involvement in Iraq - 02 Jul 2007
-  - 15 Nov 2008
-  - 26 Apr 2009
- Special Groups training
- Recent Attacks in Iraq: Al-Qaeda in Iraq or Special Groups?