Article In Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar: Resistance Factions In Iraq Are On The Brink Of Unlimited Confrontation With The U.S.

September 30, 2020

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On September 29, 2020, the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar published an article stating that the Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq are preparing for unlimited confrontation with U.S. forces in Iraq, and that a decision has been made "to hurt the Americans" and to prove that the militias are capable of forcing the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with the decision of the Iraqi parliament and with Iran's decision to oust the U.S. from the region, especially from Iraq and Afghanistan, following the January 3, 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Commander of the Al-Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The article, titled "Resistance [Factions] On the Brink of Unlimited Confrontation; the Time for Ambiguity is Over," was published following recent reports in U.S. media that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo firmly conveyed to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi that if he fails to take steps to halt the attacks on the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. will shutter the embassy within a few weeks.[1] This follows an increase in attacks on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and on U.S. and U.K. military convoys across Iraq. Responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by relatively new armed groups, loyal to Iran, whereas established militias, such as the Hizbullah Brigades, Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, and the Al-Nujaba movement have distanced themselves from the attacks.[2]

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[3]

The article in the Al-Akhbar daily (Source: Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 9, 2020)

"At the end of last year, the U.S. was on the brink of having to contend with a replay of 'Tehran 1979' [i.e. the Iran hostage crisis], when its largest embassy in the world was almost breached in response to the American occupier's planes attacking PMU positions on the Iraq-Syria border. Following the response to these attacks, the 'crazy' decision was made to assassinate the man who, according to the U.S., was responsible for damaging its 'prestige,' General Qasem Soleimani. Since then, all bets were off in Tehran's dealings with Washington, and the decision was made that Tehran and its allies in the axis of resistance will settle for nothing less than the exit of occupying forces from the region, as recompense for the blood of Soleimani. Over the past months, U.S. forces were given warnings, while the path of diplomacy has stalled. These messages made their way to Washington, causing it to issue unprecedented threats against Baghdad. Regardless of the question of whether these threats are serious or not – the factions began preparing for a new phase, under the banner: unlimited confrontation."

According to the author, some believe that the threats made by the U.S. are natural precursors to unlimited confrontation on Iraqi soil, especially if U.S. President Donald Trump is reelected. Meanwhile, he writes, others believe the threats are an attempt to strengthen the position of the U.S. in negotiations with Iran. The author notes that "of these two opinions, confrontation is more likely than negotiations, especially since there is no indication that Iran will back down on its demand that occupying U.S. forces leave the region, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, as recompense for the assassination of the martyr Qasem Soleimani."

The author then reports that according to "security information," the occasional claims of responsibility made by new organizations for attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, "are nothing but a 'media coverup' created by [well-known] resistance factions, who have developed a strategy  which began this year of confrontation with the occupying forces, following the assassination of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Unites [PMU]."

The article cites a senior official representing the factions who set the outline for the confrontation. According to the official, the resistance factions view the messages conveyed by the U.S. as unimportant, since they pose a threat to the state and the government, and "not to us. We view the American presence in the country as an occupation to be resisted." The official added that the U.S. government has not honored the Iraqi parliament's decision that all foreign forces should exit Iraq, that the Iraqi government has not set an official timetable for the retreat of said forces, and that the strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Iraq has yielded no clear results. All this, the official stated, justifies the activities of the resistance. The official noted that for several months now, the resistance factions have taken precautionary measures, since they "expect the situation on the ground to move toward 'severe' confrontation," as the U.S. presidential election draws near. He stated that during the last few months, the tactic was "IED's with a message." But the next phase, it was decided, will be to "hurt the Americans" and prove that the factions are capable of forcing Washington to withdraw its forces from Iraq.

As for the responsibility [for the attacks] claimed by new and unknown factions, the official said that each phase will have its own circumstances and methods, and that the established factions will return to the arena of fighting and confrontation, under their real names, and claim official and full responsibility.

The official added that the factions are not ashamed of "having Iran to thank" for supporting them, but that they reject the claim that they are implementing "Iran's agenda" in Iraq. According to him, "our decision is independent, and is based on our sound belief that diplomacy is not the solution for dealing with Americans[.] The time they were once given is now over, and we are now facing a completely different phase, in light of the threats and messages issued by Washington."

The report claimed that the U.S. has a target list, chief among which are Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, the Hizbullah Brigades, and the Al-Nujaba movement, and other "jihadi" organizations. The report emphasized that "for some time now, the leaders of the factions have implemented several steps in order to protect themselves, their fighters, and their bases..."

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