Republican senator Ted Poe presented a bill to the US Congress on November 3 suggesting the US government to consider the Iraqi armed groups of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (Nujaba) and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) as two proxies of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The bill accused Nujaba and AAH of being armed and founded by the IRGC as well as trained by Hezbollah. The bill also accused AAH leader Qais Khazali of pledging allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and conducting attacks against the US troops in Iraq between 2006 and 2011.
Nujaba and AAH were also accused of deploying forces in Syria to support the Syrian government. Additionally, the bill says that the groups have violated human rights in Syria and Iraq.
“AAH and Nujaba deploy forces to Syria to fight on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, including participating in the 2016 siege of Aleppo where the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights alleges pro-government Iraqi militia groups executed dozens of civilians,” the bill says.
The bill also noted that Nujaba formed “a unit tasked to liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli”. Nujaba was also accused of securing a land route for Hezbollah between Iran and Lebanon, although such a route is not possible right now because ISIS still occupies a notable part of the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The Congress referred the bill to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as for now. If the bill is approved, the US president will have to sign an order to sanction both Nujaba and AHH groups and all persons related to these two groups within 90 days of the bill approval.
A main problem facing the bill is that Nujaba and AHH are both part of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which is recognized by the Iraqi government as a part of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The PMU has also been the main force in the war on ISIS since 2014.
AHH was formed back in 2006 by its current leader Qais al-Khazali in order to fight US troops in Iraq. Since 2006, the group had conducted dozens of attacks against the US Army in Iraq until its withdrawal in 2011. Later during 2014, AHH deployed some units to Syria and supported limited operations of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) around Damascus. AHH played a limited role in Syria.
Nujaba was formed in order to support the Syrian government in 2013. The group is led by Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, and has over 10,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Nujaba played a key role in breaking the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda branch in Syria) siege on Nubl and Al-Zahraa towns in the northern Aleppo countryside in February 2016. Later it played a key role during the battle for Aleppo city.
In November 2017, Nujaba led an attack on the last ISIS stronghold in Syria, al-Bukamal city, from inside the Iraqi territory, according to Iraqi sources.
Nuajaba and AHH will not likely be affected by any US sanctions, in reality such a move could boost the two groups popularity among the people of Iraq.
Nujaba members are in Syria: