In recent days, and against the backdrop of the success of the military campaign by the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), top officials of Iran-supported Shi'ite militias in Iraq that are part of the Hashd Al-Sha'bi (the Popular Mobilization Units, PMU) have explicitly threatened American troops in the country. They have warned that if U.S. does not withdraw all its forces, they will launch a military conflict against them.
These threats followed reports that the coalition would maintain a presence in Iraq despite its success. On February 5, 2018, Iraqi government spokesman Sa'd Al-Hadithi announced that the battle against ISIS was over and that therefore the American forces in Iraq would be cut back. But, he clarified, the reduction process was still in its early stages, and there would not be a full withdrawal. Subsequently, Iraqi Prime Minster Haider Al-'Abadi said that there is government plan for gradually reducing international coalition forces, but that Iraq still needed coalition air power.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Bahon told Al-Hurrah TV that the U.S. forces' mission would now focus on advising and training the Iraqi army for the war against terrorism. According to a message from the international coalition, there would not be a full withdrawal, and some of its forces and advisors would be maintained in order to allow the Iraqi forces to prevent ISIS from reestablishing itself.
This is not the first time that Shi'ite militia officials have threatened to take military action against U.S. forces in Iraq. On November 1, 2017, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to the Lebanese Hizbullah, wrote that after the defeat of ISIS, the militias intended to act, even to use arms, to remove American forces from their country.
In should be noted that, according to the PMU Law, passed by the Iraqi parliament in November 2016, the PMU is part of the Iraqi armed forces and is subordinate to the chief-of-staff.
The following are translated excerpts from statements by Shi'ite militias regarding the international coalition's intention to maintain a presence in Iraq:
Kata'ib Hizbullah-Iraq: We Are Ready For A Confrontation With U.S. Forces In Iraq That May Break Out At Any Moment
Ja'far Al-Husseini, the military spokesman for Kata'ib Hizbullah-Iraq, a militia that is supported by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and is on the U.S. list of designated terrorist groups, threatened during a television interview that "the confrontation with the Americans is likely to occur at any moment," and that "we are serious about our intentions to expel the Americans from Iraq by force of arms, because that is the only language they understand." Speaking with the Al-Mayadin TV channel, which is identified with the Lebanese Hizbullah, Al-Husseini said that "the American presence in Iraq is an occupation, period… The International Coalition led by Washington was established against the will of Iraq, and the American forces entered Iraq by force… There is no Iraqi government decision about letting them remain... There is no need for the Americans, whether they are called [military] instructors or advisors." He added: "There is no stability in Iraq if the Americans are present; the Americans did not come to Iraq at the behest of the government."
Ja'far Al-Husseini (image: almayadeen.net February 5, 2018)
Al-Husseini repeated the claim that is often heard from Iranian leaders and supporters of Iran, that the U.S. is responsible for bringing the Islamic State to Iraq, and stressed that the Iraqi government is obligated to remove the Americans from the country. He said further, "Don't test our patience. Our fighters' weapons are currently limited, [but they] are waiting for the right moment. [This moment] may come in an hour or in a month. We are at the height of readiness for this confrontation, [aimed at] expelling the occupation. This time won't be like the previous times. The capabilities of the Islamic resistance in Iraq have multiplied ten-fold in terms of equipment and manpower. We are thus prepared for any future confrontation and ready to expel the American occupation and the American soldiers."
Symbol of Kata'ib Hizbullah-Iraq
An announcement published the next day on the militia's website stated that the U.S. intended to reoccupy Iraq: "While the American administration leaked news that it is beginning to withdraw its forces from Iraq, or to reduce their number, and the Iraqi government hastened to confirm this, the U.S. War Ministry [sic] spokesman is denying this news and stressing that Washington has no intention of withdrawing a single soldier from Iraq. In this way, the false claims of the U.S. and its new plan to reoccupy Iraq were officially revealed..." The announcement went on to say that the conflicting American statements were aimed at embarrassing the Iraqi government, which had for a long time said nothing about the U.S. presence in Iraq, and at provoking the Islamic resistance factions that oppose any American presence in Iraq.
Al-Nujaba Militia: If The U.S. Doesn’t Withdraw We Will Respond With Guns
Abu Wareth Al-Musawi, the spokesman for the Al-Nujaba militia (Harakat Hizbullah Al-Nujaba), likewise threatened that if the Americans didn't withdraw from Iraq the militia would take up arms against them. It should be mentioned that a bill has been introduced in U.S. Congress to designate Al-Nujaba, too, as a terrorist organization.
Symbol of Harakat Hizbullah Al-Nujaba
In an interview with the Iraqi website Baghdadtoday.news, al-Musawi called on the Iraqi government to "take a national stand that is in line with the objectives and the national sovereignty, and to put an end to the provocative American positions and announcements… Every day more impudent American announcements are made, as though Iraq has become part of the American axis or one of the American states. This is unacceptable, and we will not allow it… [The Iraqi government] must respond and take a firm stand with respect to the announcements from the Pentagon in opposition to withdrawal… [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi] should reassure the Iraqi people with respect to the withdrawal of the foreign and American forces from Iraq… If the American side refuses to withdraw, the response [of Al-Nujaba] will be the gun… Just as we fought for Iraqi sovereignty and to maintain the political process, we will resume our attacks on the foreign forces if they decide [to continue] the occupation and refuse to withdraw."
Nasr Al-Shamari, another militia official, stressed that today there are over 9,000 American troops in Iraq and said: "We do not want to drag the country into a new crisis; we want to preserve its integrity and its independence." He went on to clarify: "There has been no settling of accounts between the Americans and the [Iraqi] people. We will never forget the crimes of killing that these forces carried out."
Badr Organization: We Demand A Full Withdrawal Of American Forces
Badr organization spokesman Karim Al-Nouri likewise clarified that the organization is demanding a full withdrawal of American forces: "There must be coordination between the two governments on a full withdrawal, and not for [part of the forces] remaining, because their remaining will cause internal division in Iraq and will be a lodestone for terrorism."
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 5, 2018.
 Alarabiya.net, February 7, 2018.
 Alhurra.com, February 5, 2018.
 Army.mil, February 6, 2018.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7170, Iraqi Elements To Lebanese Daily Close To Hizbullah: We Will Fight U.S. Forces In Iraq After ISIS Is Defeated, November 8, 2017.
 Parliament.iq, November 26, 2017.
 Almayadeen.net, February 5, 2018.
 Kataibhizbollah.com, February 6, 2018.
 Aawsat.com, December 4, 2017.
 Baghdadtoday.news, February 6, 2018.
 Azzaman.com, February 7, 2018.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 8, 2018.