Iran-linked militia calls up hundreds of volunteers to struggle US forces

ERBIL — Little greater than a month previous to the official finish to the US “combat mission” in Iraq, an Iran-linked armed group has referred to as for “volunteers” to struggle any forces remaining post-midnight Dec. 31.

A person generally known as Abu Ala al-Walai, commander of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), on Nov. 19 introduced a name for volunteers to struggle the “US occupation” ought to troops fail to go away.

US President Joe Biden had in July introduced after conferences with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that US forces in Iraq would “continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with” the Islamic State (IS), however that they’d not be “by the end of the year in a combat mission.”

KSS spokesman Sheikh Kadhim al-Fertousi claimed to Al-Monitor on Nov. 24 that “so far we already have 45,000” calls from would-be volunteers for the post-December struggle in opposition to US forces ought to they continue to be within the nation.

“We also received calls from organizations that also want to join, each of which has about 1,000 to 1,500” individuals, he stated. “Some used to fight alongside [popular Shiite cleric Muqtada al-] Sadr, while others fought in the past against IS.”

He stated that they had acquired a number of requests from girls who additionally needed to volunteer, however “we don’t usually accept this sort of request.”

The supply, he stated, had nonetheless “lifted our spirits.”

KSS was shaped in 2013, initially preventing alongside Syrian authorities forces in opposition to armed opposition teams there. They started preventing in opposition to IS in Iraq beginning in 2014.

The group has historic hyperlinks to Kataib Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

KSS fighters simply throughout the Iraqi border in Syria have been focused in no less than two assaults over the previous yr by US forces — in February within the first recognized offensive army motion taken by the Joe Biden administration declaredly in retaliation for rocket assaults on bases internet hosting worldwide forces, and in June.

Both assaults killed KSS fighters, whose our bodies have been introduced again into Iraq by the Qaim border crossing in Iraq’s western Anbar province. Kataib Hezbollah has a heavy presence in that border space as properly.

Fighters from the “muqawama” (Iran-led regional resistance) factions interviewed in Qaim by this journalist in earlier years who recurrently crossed into Syria claimed they have been defending Iraq even when they have been on the opposite facet of the border.

The KSS spokesman confused that “we are not hostile to non-Iraqis” and “we understand the importance of having good relations” with different international locations.

Meanwhile, as reported by Al-Ahad media outlet, an Iranian delegation met on Nov. 24 with the pinnacle of the Iraqi Judicial Council, Faiq Zaidan, on an investigation into what it calls “the airport crime.”

The “airport crime” referred to was the Jan. 3, 2020, assassination of Iraqi former deputy Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani by way of drone strike simply outdoors Baghdad’s airport.

Al-Ahad TV is run by Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), one other Iran-linked group of the muqawama. AAH, like KKS, has models throughout the government-incorporated PMU.

It was, nonetheless, designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department in January 2020.

In current days, Al-Ahad social media accounts have targeted an amazing deal additionally on scholar protests in Sulaimaniyah within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), railing in opposition to worldwide neighborhood cash allegedly being monopolized by the 2 principal households within the area with little spent on the inhabitants and its wants.

Many Sunni Arabs sought refuge within the KRI throughout the IS occupation of their land, and a few have remained. Iraq’s Kurdish and Sunni Arab communities within the nation have grown nearer lately, whereas friction stays between a lot of the Sunni Arab neighborhood and Iran-linked armed teams, who proceed to occupy areas comparable to your entire city of Jurf al-Sakr (now generally known as Jurf al-Nasr), the populations of that are nonetheless displaced a few years after IS was pushed out.

PMU commanders have informed this journalist in earlier years that the native inhabitants “will never be allowed to return” to the city within the Babil province because of its location near the Shiite holy metropolis of Karbala — to which tens of millions make pilgrimages yearly — and doable safety dangers.

The United States presently has forces in Baghdad, on the Ain al-Asad air base within the Sunni Arab province of Anbar, and at a base within the KRI regional capital, Erbil.

Ain al-Asad was focused by a significant Iranian missile assault in January 2020 shortly after the US drone killing of Soleimani and Muhandis.

AAH and KSS have been each accused earlier this yr of involvement in an assault in February on the Erbil International Airport adjoining to the bottom and on residential areas of town.

In current weeks, an apparently dismal exhibiting by the PMU-linked Fatah Alliance within the Oct. 10 elections and claims of voter fraud led to protests in Baghdad that have been supported by Iran-linked armed and political factions.

The Fatah Alliance misplaced just a few dozen seats in parliament, although outcomes aren’t but remaining and a few recounts are underway.

At least two protestors have been reportedly killed and over 100 amongst each protestors and safety forces have been injured in clashes throughout the protests.

Afterward, an assassination try was perpetrated in opposition to the Iraqi prime minister for which no group has but taken accountability, resulting in a spike in stress.

The Nov. 7 drone assault on Kadhimi’s residence reportedly injured a number of of his bodyguards, however he went on tv shortly afterward to say that he was nice.

KSS spokesman Fertousi claimed that the assault on the prime minister’s home had been staged, calling it “a charade” to “silence civilians who died as a result of an attack on the demonstrations” in opposition to the voting outcomes.

He additionally acknowledged that his group additionally had proof of the United States tampering with the elections and that the outcomes ought to be canceled.

On Nov. 23, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a travel advisory replace urging its residents to keep away from all travel to Iraq “due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, COVID-19, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support.”

Lt. Col. Joel Harper, a spokesman for the US-led worldwide coalition, famous in an electronic mail to Al-Monitor on Nov. 24 that: “At the invitation of the Republic of Iraq, the Coalition is completing its transition to a non-combat mission, and will soon operate in Iraq an advise, assist, and enable role. On Nov. 4, parties of the Coalition and Iraqi military discussed the status of the transition during a Military Technical Talk” and that that they had “noted the successful divestment during the preceding months of more than 1,800 armored gun trucks, cranes, water trucks, and other vehicles, which has increased the ISF’s mobility and capacity to protect the citizens of Iraq from” IS.

He added that the “next Military Technical Talk is currently scheduled for Dec. 9, 2021” and, “We always retain the right to defend Coalition and partner forces against any threat, and will do everything within our power to protect those forces. We will not hesitate to defend ourselves against any malign actors.”

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