US House approves sanctions against two Iraqi militias linked to Iran
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US House of Representatives passed a law calling for the imposition of sanctions on two Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq: As-Saib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) of Qais al-Kaabi and Harakat of Akram al-Kaabi Hezbollah al Nujaba.
The measure is in an amendment to the Defense Ministry’s budget, officially known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday. It is now awaiting Senate approval before it becomes law.
The legislation provides for sanctions to be imposed on “officials, agents, affiliates or detained or controlled” by AAH and Nujaba.
The legislation also requires the White House to provide Congress, within 180 days, with “a report including a detailed list of global entities for which there is a reasonable basis for determining that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] has a participation âof 33% or more.
AAH is led by Qais al-Khazali, who was responsible for the deaths of five US soldiers in Karbala in 2007 and was subsequently arrested and detained by the Coalition. However, he was released three years later in exchange for a British citizen, kidnapped and held hostage by AAH.
Khazali ran in the Iraqi elections on May 12 and won 15 seats on the âConquestâ list, led by Hadi al-Amiri, who also heads the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella organization of the militias. . The strongest among them, including Amiri’s Badr organization and Khazali’s AAH, are supported by Iran.
Thus, Khazali will sit in the Iraqi parliament and could even become a member of the next Iraqi government.
Entifadh Qanbar, an Iraqi-American and head of the Future Foundation in Washington DC, denounced this as “shameful”.
Ahmed al-Taie, an American soldier and nephew of Qanbar, was kidnapped by AAH in 2006. Qanbar personally met with Khazali in an attempt to secure his nephew’s release, but to no avail as the group subsequently executed him.
“Khazali should be in Gitmo,” Qanbar told Kurdistan 24, “not in the Iraqi parliament”.
Kaabi, a Shia cleric, trained in Iran, replaced Khazali as head of the AAH after Khazali’s arrest. Kaabi founded Nujaba in 2013, according to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) Meir Amit, which has close ties to the country’s defense establishment.
Nujaba has particularly close ties to the IRGC’s Quds Force, reports ITIC. It is one of the “most powerful and important Shiite militias in Iraq“, with three brigades totaling 9,000 combatants, two deployed in Iraq and one in Syria.
Representative Ted Poe (R, TX) sponsored the amendment sanctioning the two militias. Kurdistan 24 spoke to him on Wednesday, the day before the House approved the NDAA, including its amendment.
Iran is trying to become “the dominant regional influence in many countries,” Poe said, “and Iraq is one of them.”
“They are all over the world,” he continued. “They are in Iraq, they are in Syria, they are in South America, they are in Yemen, and they are causing mischief everywhere.”
Qanbar suggested that AAH’s relatively strong performance in the Iraqi elections was due to Iran’s orchestrated manipulation of the vote count.
âThese elections are rigged,â he complained.
But Qanbar also noted that the previous statement by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, supporting the UN call for a full investigation of the election fraud complaints, had been “extremely helpful.”
“It stimulated the willingness to look at the results,” he said.
Following Nauert’s statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi held a large meeting and presented “a long list” of electoral issues to be investigated, “Qanbar said.
Editing by Nadia Riva