Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Group Launches New Brigade to “Liberate” Golan Heights

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Mar 09, 2017
Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Group Launches New Brigade to “Liberate” Golan Heights

A powerful Iran-supported Iraqi Shiite militia group has announced the creation of a new brigade to “liberate” the Golan Heights from Israel, the Iranian media reports. “After the latest victories [in Syria and Iraq], we established the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’. This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan,” Hashem al-Moussawi, the spokesman of Harakat al-Nujaba said at a press conference in Tehran yesterday. He revealed that the militia group has been fighting in Syria for the past four years.

Mouassawi did not limit his threats to Israel, however, as he also threatened Saudi Arabia and its regional allies against any attempts to confront Iran. “We advise the anti-Yemen Saudi coalition that when they could not defeat a small country such as Yemen, it is better they do not wish to move toward Iran, which is a powerful and developed country.”

Comment: The creation of the “Golan Liberation Brigade” is the latest indication of the fact that the mission of Iran-sponsored Shiite militia groups will not remain confined to Iraq and Syria. In a similar remark last month, Nujaba’s leader Akram al-Kaabi emphasized that his forces were prepared to cooperate with the Bashar al-Assad regime to “liberate” the Golan region from Israeli forces. He added that his militiamen’s presence in Syria was aimed at “resisting” Israeli “plots” which he claimed were “supervised” by the U.S., Turkish, and regional Sunni Arab governments.

The latest statements by the Nujaba group are likely to further alarm the Israeli government, which is already concerned about the increasing role of Iran-backed militia forces along its borders. This is also because the militia group has close ties with Israel’s arch enemy Lebanese Hezbollah as well. Last month, Nujaba militiamen commemorated the “martyrdom” anniversary of Hezbollah’s former military leader Imad Mughniyeh by firing missiles in northern regions of Iraq’s Salahuddin Province. The group also has close operational links with the Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria.

Harakat al-Nujaba – also known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – is a sectarian Iraqi militia group that operates under the leadership of I.R.G.C. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. The leader of the group, Akram al-Kaabi, makes no secret of his allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or his close relationship with Soleimani. The I.R.G.C. uses the Nujaba group and other powerful Shiite units within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) not just to fight the Islamic State, but also as a pressure tool against the Baghdad government, regional Sunni states and the United States. Kaabi once famously stated that his forces would topple the Baghdad government if ordered by Khamenei. Unlike some other P.M.F. units that receive their political and religious guidance from Iraq's top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Kaabi has repeatedly made it clear that he only emulates Khamenei. Kaabi has recently declared that his forces will leave Iraq for Syria to fight alongside the I.R.G.C. forces and Syrian Army once the Islamic State is defeated in Mosul.

Recently, the I.R.G.C.-affiliated media outlets have raised the profile of the Nujaba group, and senior Iranian leaders have held meetings with its top commanders. Indeed, the press conference in which Moussawi made the provcative remarks yesterday was organized by the Tasnim News Agency, which is a prominent I.R.G.C. media outlet.