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December 30, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8447

Reactions In Iraq To The Recent Violent Conflagration – Hizbullah Brigades: 'Trump Will Pay A Heavy Price In Iraq And In The Other Countries Where His Criminal Forces Are Found'; U.S. Bases Will Be Crushed

December 30, 2019
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 8447

In the past 24 hours, tension between the U.S. and the Iran-supported Iraqi Shi'ite militias, headed by the Hizbullah Brigades, has peaked, following yesterday's U.S. aerial attacks on five Hizbullah Brigades positions in Iraq and Syria. The Hashd Al-Sha'bi – the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU – announced that over 25 of its members had been killed, among them Abu Ali Khazali, commander of a battalion of its 45th Brigade.[1] The U.S. attacks came after the December 27 rocket attack on the K1 military base near Kirkuk in northern Iraq, which houses U.S. and coalition forces and which killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded several U.S. service members. This was the worst and most recent of several rocket attacks on bases in Iraq at which U.S. troops are stationed. Some of the attacks were against a complex in Baghdad's Green Zone where the U.S. Embassy is located and where diplomats reside. To date there has been no claim of responsibility for any of these rocket attacks, although at one point Iraqi security forces announced that they had killed "three terrorists" who had fired rockets, but did not announce their identities. The U.S. has said that the rocket attacks are being carried out by the Shi'ite militias, headed by the Hizbullah Brigades, which have in the past year threatened several times to harm U.S. interests which, they say, are within range of their weapons.[2]

The Hizbullah Brigades' response to the U.S. attack came quickly. Elements in the organization warned that "[President] Trump must know that he will pay a heavy price in Iraq and in the other countries where his criminal forces are found" and that "our forces are ready to crush the bases of the American occupation." Other PMU-member militias also threatened retaliation against U.S. forces in Iraq.

It should be noted that it was reported that immediately after the U.S. attack, four Katyusha rockets were fired at Camp Taji, a base north of Baghdad where American forces are also deployed.[3] 

Iraq's political echelons condemned the U.S. attack; members of Parliament representing the militias even called for "eye for an eye" retribution. Hizbullah in Lebanon also condemned the attack; an announcement by the organization stated that "there is no escape from the fact that those who made the decision to carry out this criminal act of aggression will soon discover the stupidity, results, and ramifications of this decision."[4]

It is also notable that Iran's response to the U.S. attack has so far been low-key, conveyed by low-level officials, despite the fact that the Hizbullah Brigades are Iran-backed and are subject to its authority.


The damaged Hizbullah Brigades outpost. (Source: Nasnews.com, December 29, 2019)

This report will review the statements in response to the U.S. aerial attack by Iraqi Shi'ite militias, members of the Iraqi parliament, and Iran.

Statements By The Iraqi Shi'ite Militias

Hizbullah Brigades: The Only Option Is Conflict; We Are Ready To Crush The U.S. Bases

Several hours prior to the U.S. attacks, the Hizbullah Brigades issued an announcement stating: "The evil American crows carried out a premeditated attack on our sons defending our western borders, in violation of Iraq's sovereignty and of its people's honor. In light of this heinous crime, the Hizbullah Brigades leadership calls on the military and security forces, as well as on the popular national forces, to prepare to open a new page of heroism and self-respect and to expel the oppressive American occupier from our sacred land."[5]


Photo accompanying the announcement.

The Hizbullah Brigades intelligence division said in a statement: "We are in a state of alert and are holding ongoing meetings  to discuss how to respond appropriately to the attacks... Our battle today with America and its mercenaries is currently open to all options. Our only choice is conflict. There is no consideration that will prevent us from responding to the crime of striking the defenders of the homeland from among the sons of the PMU. [President] Trump must know that he will pay a heavy price in Iraq and in the other countries where his criminal forces are found."[6]

Hizbullah Brigades military commander Abu Ahmad Al-Basri warned: "Our forces are ready to crush the bases of the American occupation and to crush their rotten heads. We await instructions."[7]

Ja'far Al-Husseini, the Hizbullah Brigades military spokesman in Iraq, told the Lebanese Hizbullah television channel Al-Manar: "The leaders of the resistance factions are meeting to discuss the response to the attacks. All options are on the table; we await orders from the leadership regarding the response to the aggression. There will surely be a suitable response. The Americans have already been attacked by the Iraqi resistance. Our resistance capacity has increased tenfold.[8]

PMU Deputy Commander: The Response Will Be Harsh

As stated, the PMU militias also warned of a brutal response to the U.S. attack on the Hizbullah Brigades. PMU deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis vowed that the blood of the dead and wounded would have been shed in vain, adding that there would be "a harsh response against the American forces in Iraq."[9]

Asa'eb Ahl Al-Haq: We Must Confront The U.S. Forces In Every Legitimate Way

The Asa'eb Ahl Al-Haq militia condemned the U.S. attack and called for expelling the American forces in "every legitimate way." A statement it issued in Arabic read: "The ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty necessitates a brave and determined stand against the unrestrained behavior that is evidence of the barbarity and arrogance of the U.S. administration, its disregard for the security of the peoples, and its aspiration to destabilize secure countries. These attacks are a continuation of the previous attacks carried out by the Israeli enemy against PMU positions, and prove that the enemy is [united] on one front.

"Therefore, we call upon the national political forces to unite against this cowardly aggression, to move past their disagreements, and to act to overcome the obstacles and crises that allow America to interfere so blatantly in Iraq. We believe that the American military presence has become a burden for the Iraqi state, even a source of threat and aggression against our forces and our security apparatuses. It is thus incumbent upon all of us to confront it so as to expel it in every legitimate way, before it further threatens the security and stability of our beloved Iraq."[10]

Al-Nujaba Movement: The Banners Of The Mujahideen Will Fly Over The U.S. Fortresses

In a statement, the Al-Nujaba movement said: "The Great Satan, with its oppressive army and oppressive tools, has added another crime to its list of deadly crimes, with its attack on the mujahideen of the PMU and the Islamic resistance deployed on the border to defend the homeland from ISIS, which was created by America, the epitome of evil. [This Satan – that is, the U.S.] has boldly claimed responsibility for this aggression against the regular forces of the Iraqi state... [Addressing the U.S.:] You will see from us things [i.e. operations] that will bring down your flag and thwart your plans... Your encounter with the mujahideen is nigh, and then their banners will fly over your fortresses, that you thought would protect you..."[11] 


The statement

In Iraqi Political Echelons, Calls To Speed Up Law To Expel U.S. Forces From Iraq

Iraqi political leaders condemned the U.S. attack, but in a diplomatic and restrained manner. Iraqi President Barham Salih informed to the U.S. attache in Iraq that the attack had violated the two countries' bilateral agreements and harmed Iraq. The spokesman for outgoing prime minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi said that the attack had harmed Iraq's sovereignty, which could harm security in Iraq and the region.[12] Parliamentary speaker Muhammad Al-Halabusi also said that the attacks had harmed Iraqi sovereignty, but called for restraint and for adherence to the guidelines of the Iraqi armed forces' commander in chief – that is, the prime minister. He also called for preserving the security of the diplomatic representations and the international coalition forces, including the Americans, on Iraqi soil.[13]

Iraqi MPs Representing The Shi'ite Militias: Pass A Law Expelling U.S. Forces From Iraq, Respond "Eye For An Eye"

In contrast, members of parliament representing the Shi'ite militias called for not settling for a diplomatic response but also  for "responding eye for an eye – and even more"[14] and reiterated the calls for a law expelling the U.S. forces from Iraq. MP Falah Al-Hazali, of the Al-Fatah Alliance which includes PMU militias, called the U.S. attack a continuation of that country's crimes in Iraq and a significant challenge to Iraq's stability. He said: "The Americans have not learned their lesson from their defeat in Iraq. They must go back to the archives and history to see what the resisting Iraqi people did to them, when it turned its soil into a graveyard for [the U.S.] occupying forces. There must be a national stand against the ongoing damage to the PMU and to [Iraq's] security forces. Parliament must pass a law expelling the foreign forces, including the Americans, from Iraq. Anyone thwarting [the passage of such a] law is collaborating with the Americans..."[15]

MP Hassan Salam, of the Al-Sadiqoun parliamentary faction, which is the political arm of Asa'eb Ahl Al-Haq, called the attack an absolute violation of Iraqi sovereignty reflecting contempt for Iraq's security. He said that the goal of the U.S. attacks was to prevent the PMU forces from operating against ISIS, which according to him is sponsored by the U.S. and Israel. Calling on the Iraqi government, security apparatuses, air forces, and military air force "to distance themselves from the language of diplomacy and condemnation and respond 'eye-for-an-eye and even more," he added that "the political factions and parliament must stop the dithering and quickly pass a decision to expel the American forces from Iraq..."[16]

Iran's Reaction

As noted, although the Hizbullah Brigades are supported by Iran, Iran's official response was low-key, and was delivered by low-level representatives who focused primarily on condemning the U.S. attack. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sayyed Abbas Moussavi condemned the U.S. aggression on Iraqi soil and against the PMU positions, and called on the U.S. to respect Iraq's sovereignty and its territorial integrity and to stop interfering in its internal affairs. He added that the attacks proved that the U.S. was supporting ISIS and called on it to take responsibility for its "illegal actions" and to end its occupation of Iraq.[17]

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei denied that Iran had been involved in the attacks on the K1 base, calling the claim that it had been "baseless" and no justification for the U.S. bombings and killings. He warned that "these careless operations" would only fan the flames of hatred of the U.S. occupation and would exacerbate the insecurity in the country.[18]

 


[1] Almehwarnews.com, December 29, 2019.

[3] Almanar.com.lb, December 29, 2019.

[4] Almanar.com.lb, December 29, 2019.

[5] Kataibhezbollah.com, December 29, 2019.

[6] Baghdadtoday.news, December 30, 2019.

[7] Almehwarnews.com, December 29, 2019.

[8] Almanar.com.lb, December 30, 2019.

[9] Alalamtv.net, December 29, 2019.

[10] Ahlualhaq.com, December 29, 2019.

[11] Afaq.tv, December 29, 2019.

[12] Almehwarnews.com, December 29, 2019.

[13] Alnujaba.com, December 30, 2019.

[14] Ahlualhaq.com, December 29, 2019.

[15] Alnujaba.com, December 30, 2019.

[16] Ahlualhaq.com, December 29, 2019.

[17] Tasnimnews.com, December 30, 2019.

[18] Farsnews.com, December 30, 2019.

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