On 20th Anniversary Of U.S. Invasion Of Iraq, Telegram Outlets Supporting Jihadis, Iran-Backed Militias Accuse Washington Of Crushing Innocent Muslims In Grinding War

March 21, 2023

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

Over the past few days, pro-Islamic State (ISIS), pro-Al-Qaeda, and Iran-backed militias in Iraq marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with posts accusing the U.S. of launching a barbaric war to further its agenda in the region.

Iraqis Part Of U.S. Game

On March 20, a Telegram channel linked to Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq published the poster titled "The American Joystick," suggesting the invasion was a U.S. game played at the expense of the Iraqi people.[1]

The poster accuses the U.S. of first supporting and later toppling the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein whom these militias accuse of oppressing the Iraqi Shi'ites.

At the top of the poster a text in Arabic reads: "The barbaric practices exercised by Americans with the people of the region by installing tyrants who serve their interests and later removing them through grinding wars that crush innocent people."

An image of a TV set is in the center of the poster, showing images of Saddam Hussein, flanked by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and slain Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. The three are depicted as video game characters.

Indicating that the video game is being played by America, the post features the U.S. flag next to the TV screen. It also portrays the U.S. as a player holding a joystick with an English label that reads: the "Killer Station." The player is selecting the "out" option to eliminate Saddam Hussein.

The post features a caption that reads: "We are passing the 20th anniversary of the brutal move of the U.S. army towards Baghdad to occupy it and bomb it with artillery and airstrikes. We must remember that this brutal approach practiced by America against the peoples of the region through installing tyrants who serve their interests and later removing them with fierce wars is nothing but a bloody and unjust game in which the innocent people are crushed."

After 20 Years, ISIS Endures

On March 20, a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Telegram channel highlighted a report published in the London-based Saudi newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, quoting the former U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel as saying: "President Obama ordered a response, so we formed a large alliance of 80 countries and organizations and returned to Iraq and Syria to defeat the ISIS Caliphate."[2]

Commenting on the report, the channel cited a 2016 quote attributed to slain ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammed Al-Adanani.

The quote asserts that the American "arrogance" caused "the stupid [U.S. President George] Bush to declare the cessation of military operations after a few days and [to] claim victory."

Glorifying subsequent ISIS attacks on U.S. troops, the post said: "So, we told him the war had not started yet. Bush lied but the mujahideen believed. This point turned the tide of the war against America and its allies. Its army was crushed throughout the land of two rivers and it fell into a hellish quagmire."

Further extolling the victories of ISIS, the quotes suggest that the U.S. troops under President Barack Obama were also defeated by ISIS. "We told them at the time that the battle was not a hot one, and swore to them that if you leave, you will return. The mule of the Jews lied, America lied, but the mujahideen believed. Here is the Islamic State, remaining with strength," concluded the post.

Empowering Shi'ites, Oppressing Sunnis

On March 19, "Al-Muhajja" a jihadi Telegram channel published a post arguing that the campaign to oust Hussein's Baathist regime was aimed at "empowering Iraq's Shi'ites for the first time in decades."[3]

Attacking the Shi'ites, the post claimed that the American war on Iraq showed the true face of Shi'ites. "Bush exposed the reality of the Shi'ites who abandoned their taqiyya [hiding religious beliefs and practices in the face of danger], which they used to practice under the cover of patriotism."

In contrast, it laments the losses suffered by Sunnis in Iraq, saying: "It has been 20 years since the killing of Sunnis and their displacement and torture under the pretext of fighting terrorism has begun."

In the face of this alleged injustice, the post lionizes the struggle of Sunnis, saying it was "20 years since mujahideen began writing history in blood."

Celebrating the fight against the U.S. military in Iraq, the post adds: "It has been 20 years since Allah blessed the Muslims in Iraq with the return of the religious duty of Jihad, which was lost by the changed rulers over decades!"

Suggesting the war was the result of an "international conspiracy that wanted to dislodge a Sunni regime," it closes by saying: "Allah cleverly brought to [U.S.] those who disturb their lives, the men of the difficult missions – the mujahideen!"


[1] Telegram, March 20, 2023.

[2] Telegram, March 20, 2023.

[3] Telegram, March 19, 2023.

The full text of this post is available to subscribers.

Please login or register to request subscription information from MEMRI


The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

Read More