A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group has said that its forces will stand by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to defend it against any attacks by the United States and its allies. The spokesman of Harakat al-Nujaba, a Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) unit which also fights in Syria under the leadership of Iranian Quds Force, also warned of retaliation against Washington and its allies for the latest air strikes against the Syrian regime targets. In a statement condemning the strikes, Hashem al-Mousawi, the spokesman of the group, said: “The stupidity of the American government and its allies changed the dynamics of clashes and confrontation. And they should take responsibility for the consequences of this aggression.” He emphasized that the Syrian government’s allies will continue to support it. “Syria’s allies will not leave Damascus to provide an opening for America and its Takfiri allies. “Saudi money and Zionists’ provocation are the basis for the aggression against Syria’s sovereignty and the axis of resistance.”

Comment: Since the Sunday strikes by the US, Britain and France, Iran’s proxies and allies in the region have increasingly been threatening retaliation against Washington and its allies. Iraqi paramilitary groups close to Tehran fear that they could potentially be the next target. The head of an Iranian-backed bloc in the Iraqi parliament, for example, has cautioned that the Syria strikes could be a prelude to similar attacks against the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF). “America’s design is to target resistance groups everywhere, including units of Hash al-Shaabi stationed between Iraq and Syria,” Mohammad Naji, the head of the Badr Faction in the Iraqi parliament warned. Naji also accused the US military of trying to transfer ISIS groups from Syria into Iraq, and stressed that Hashd forces will not let this happen. He said the latest Syria attack could trigger a broader international conflict that will impact all countries and groups in the region.

There have also been unconfirmed reports in the Iranian and Lebanese media that Tehran-backed militia groups laid siege to an American air base northwest of Baghdad following the Syria strikes. A PMF commander reportedly threatened the US commander in charge of the al-Zahra base that the militia forces would attack the installation if it is used for flying fighter jets to attack Syria. The Lebanese paper added that the US military asked the Iraqi government to deploy army troops to break the siege.

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