Iran-Supported Iraqi Militant Group Calls for Joint Efforts to Fight Israel in Meeting with Syrian Minister

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | May 10, 2017
Iran-Supported Iraqi Militant Group Calls for Joint Efforts to Fight Israel in Meeting with Syrian Minister

Akram al-Kaabi, the leader of Iran-supported Iraqi militia group Harakat al-Nujaba, sent a delegation to meet with the Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs Ali Haidar. According to Nujaba’s official website in Arabic, the Syrian minister praised the “important and central role of the Islamic resistance movement” in the Syrian conflict. Haidar also described the creation of the Golan Liberation Brigade by Nujaba as a positive step and added that the move has created “confusion” in Israel and among its supporters in the West. Mahmoud al-Moussawi, the head of Nujaba’s public relations, reiterated the group’s commitment to fight alongside the Syrian government forces “in one trench” to seize all Syrian regions under the control of opposition groups, defend the “axis of resistance,” and fight Israel. At the end of the meeting, the delegation gave the Harakat al-Nujaba Islamic Resistance award to Haidar.

Comment: Harakat al-Nujaba – also known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – is a prominent armed group within the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.). The group operates both in Syria and Iraq under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) Quds Force. 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 the P.M.F. not just to fight the Islamic State, but also as a pressure tool against the Baghdad government, regional Sunni states and Israel, and the United States. Kaabi once famously stated that his forces would topple the Baghdad government if ordered by Khamenei. Kaabi has also declared that he will deploy more forces to Syria once the Islamic State is defeated in Mosul.

In March, the Nujaba movement announced the creation of a new brigade to seize the Golan Heights – claiming that “latest victories” against the Islamic State and Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria have allowed the group and its allies to focus on Israel. Leaders of the group claimed that members of the new brigade are highly-trained, well-equipped and capable of fighting the Jewish state. “Israel is weaker than a spider web. Islamic resistance is capable of confronting the axis of evil and annihilating the occupying Zionist regime,” Kaabi told Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news network. 

The creation of the Golan Liberation Brigade further alarmed Israeli leaders about the increasing presence and influence of the Lebanese Hezbollah and other I.R.G.C.-supported groups in southwestern Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trip to Moscow sought assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin to prevent Iran from taking advantage of the conflict in Syria to station its proxies permanently on Israel’s northern border.

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 Nujaba announced the creation of  the Golan Liberation Brigade was organized by the Tasnim News Agency, which is a prominent I.R.G.C. media outlet. By focusing their propaganda against the U.S. and describing Israel as the “real enemy,” Iranian leaders are trying to justify their involvement in foreign conflicts and to convince the Iranian people and Muslims around the world that the Islamic Republic is the standard-bearer and true defender of Islam. But such claims ring hollow when most victims of the I.R.G.C.’s military adventurism and proxy wars are Muslims.