On October 14, 2023, the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that delegations of military officials from Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'ite militias have recently arrived in Syria and Lebanon, in order to gather information and coordinate their activities with "local" militias ahead of their possible involvement in the conflict with Israel.
The report emphasizes that the militias have received no clear directive from Iran to become involved in the war, but that they are preparing to implement such a directive should it arrive. If correct, this scenario lines up with statements made since the October 7 inception of the Hamas-Israel war by leaders of many of these Iraqi militias, who have expressed their unreserved support for Hamas. These militia leaders have even threatened military action against Israel and U.S. interests in the region if Israel crosses any "red lines" in its campaign against Hamas or launches a second front in Lebanon, or if the U.S. intervenes militarily to assist Israel.
It should be noted that some of these Iran-backed militias have forces deployed in Syria that are fighting alongside the Bashar Al-Assad regime against Syrian rebel forces. Some of these militias, such as the Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haqq militia and the Badr Movement, are represented in the Iraqi parliament as part of the Coordination Framework; their involvement in the war would have significant implications for the Iraqi government's official position regarding the war, as well as its relations with the U.S.
If these militias receive orders to open a front against Israel or the U.S., this would be an actualization of the "unification of fronts" strategy that has been openly advanced by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, on Iran's directive, since May 2021. Several Iraqi militias have already indicated that they are willing to participate in this plan.
The following is a summary of the main points of the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report.
Report: Delegations From The Militias Have Arrived In Syria And Lebanon To Gather Information
The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report stated that according to "knowledgeable Iraqi sources," several "commanders from the armed factions loyal to Iran have arrived in positions in Syria and Lebanon, on the backdrop of the escalation in the Gaza Strip." The sources were reported as saying that although the leaders of the Coordination Framework (which comprises Shi'ite parties, most of which are armed militias) in the Iraqi parliament have received a "recommendation from a regional power" – i.e. Iran – to wait to be informed of a "final status" regarding developments in Gaza, "it appears that the officials in the field have begun to move towards positions in Damascus and Beirut."
Also according to the report, delegations from these militias, which include senior officers and fighters, have in the past few days arrived at Lebanon's and Syria's borders with Israel in order to gather intelligence and "to better familiarize themselves with the details in the field," as well as to coordinate with local militias. This is in "in advance of any possible operation."
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The report stressed that while Iran has not yet issued clear instructions, it has clarified that the decision regarding direct involvement in the fighting with Israel will come "soon" and "in accordance with the expansion of the arena of the war and the involvement of other elements."
The delegations, according to the report, provided the leaders of the Iraqi militias with details, information, and possible scenarios so as "to inform them and in order to plan." The sources stressed that the militia leaders have no intention of taking action without clear instructions from Iran, which have not yet been received.
Adding that according to the information it had received and that had been confirmed by three members of the Coordination Framework, the report continued: "Tehran has announced to its allies in Iraq that it has formulated a plan regarding the war in the Gaza Strip."
Report: Iran Has Instructed The Militias To Recruit Volunteers For The War Against Israel
According to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report, the outreach apparatuses if the parties belonging to the Coordination Framework have been publishing reports about "the Iraqi resistance [factions'] intentions to be on the ground and to carry out attacks against the American and Israeli interests." The report added that many in the Coordination Framework have used the term "geographically open conflict" to describe the Iran-backed resistance factions' possible responses to the war in Gaza.
Stating, for example, that on October 12, 2023 former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki had called for assisting the resistance in Gaza, saying that the attack on Jerusalem is a religious matter that affects all honorable people in the Arab world, the report also pointed out that Al-Maliki did not speak about a plan to take an active part in the fighting in Gaza.
In addition, the Al-Sharq Al-Aqsa report quoted Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the U.S.-operated "Free Europe" radio, as saying that in the past few days there had been a meeting of IRGC Qods Force deputy commander Gen. Mohammed Reza Falah Zada, Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Mohammed Kadhim Al-Sadeq, Nouri Al-Maliki, and the leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, including the Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades. In the meeting, according to the report, the Iranians requested intensification of the anti-Israel propaganda campaign and of support for Hamas. They also requested that volunteers be recruited to fight in the war against Israel. They also asked the militias to prepare to implement Iran's instructions.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat assessed that not all the heads of the parties in the Iraqi government are eager to become involved in a broad Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but that Iran and other allies in the region could pressure them to do so following the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip.
Also in its report, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat stated, citing "close associates" of the leaders of the Coordination Framework, that one of the main concerns is that there will be a direct threat to the "allies" in Lebanon and Syria, and that Iran is attempting to prevent this by all possible means, but that so far the Iraqis do not know how this is to be done.
Report: Iraqi Militias Say Iraq Will Stop Implementation Of The 2008 Strategic Agreement With The U.S. If U.S. Uses Its Bases In Iraq For Israel's Benefit
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also noted in its report that members of the Coordination Framework have been discussing the possibility that the U.S. will use its bases in Iraq (Ayn Al-Asad and Al-Harir) in order to carry out an attack or to send forces to assist Israel. A member of the Framework reported that in such a case, Iraq would stop implementation of the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Iraq, which sets out the principles of the U.S.-Iraq relations on the political, economic, cultural, and security levels.
 See MEMRI JTTM Reports: Leaders Of Iran-Backed Militias In Iraq Vow Support To Palestinian Factions In Hamas Attack, Threaten To Respond To Any Israeli Or American Attack Against Them, October 7, 2023; Iran-Backed Militia Unit Listed Under Iraqi Government Sponsored Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Releases Video Message Extending Support To Hamas In Attack Against Israel, October 9, 2023; Senior Officials Of The Iran-Led Axis Of Resistance: U.S. Intervention To Help Israel Fight The Palestinians In The Current Campaign Will Lead To The Involvement Of The Entire Axis Of Resistance And ‘Open The Gates Of Hell On It, October 9, 2023; Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Leaders Threaten Retaliation Against U.S. If Washington Intervenes Against Hamas After Its Attack On Israel: 'If America Intervenes, We Will Intervene Without Hesitation', October 9, 2023; Leader Of Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades Threatens To Target Israel, U.S. Forces With Missiles, Drones 'If Necessary'; Calls On Iraqis To Make Donations To Gazans, October 11, 2023; Iran-backed Iraqi Kata'ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada' Milita: The U.S. Forces In The Region Will Be Legitimate Targets If America Intervenes, October 11, 2023; Leader Of Shi'ite Iraqi Militia: If U.S. Persists In Supporting Israel, We Will Attack Its Interests In Iraq And The Region, October 13, 2023.
 See MEMRI Reports: Al-Nujaba Spokesman: Golan Liberation Brigade Is Ready For Action; Any Violation In Jerusalem Will Lead To Attacks On Israeli, U.S. Interests In Region, July 16, 2021; Hizbullah Brigades: Responding To Nasrallah's Call For A New Equation That A Threat To Jerusalem Equals Regional War, July 17, 2023.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 14, 2023.
 Radiofarda.com, October 13, 2023.
 Iq.usembassy.gov, accessed October 16, 2023.