Global Affairs

Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Shows Off American Tank

An Iran-backed Shiite Iraqi militia showed off a captured American tank in a recent video, Bill Riggio and Caleb Weiss reported today at The Long War Journal.

A video uploaded to YouTube appears to show a large Hezbollah Brigades convoy transporting weapons, troops, and armored vehicles to the front to fight the Islamic State.

Several American-made military vehicles, including an M1 Abrams tank, M113 armored personnel carriers, Humvees, and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP), as well as Iranian-made Safir 4x4s and technicals (armed pickup trucks) are in the convoy.

The Hezbollah Brigades is US-designated foreign terrorist organization that has been involved in killing American soldiers in Iraq.

Roggio and Weiss write that it remains “unclear if the Hezbollah Brigades seized the M1 from an Iraqi Army unit that dissolved in the face of the Islamic State’s onslaught, or if the Iraqi military gave the militia the tank.” The Hezbollah Brigades was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U. S. Treasury Department in 2009.

In a paper on Iraq’s Shiite militias written for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Matthew Levitt and Phillip Smyth noted that the Hezbollah Brigades (or Kataib Hezbollah) received “more sophisticated training and sensitive equipment than all other Iranian proxies in Iraq.”

In How Iraq Became a Proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was published in the December 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Spyer and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi explained how Iran uses its militia proxies in Iraq.

Precisely who are these militias, and how is Iran aiding them?

There are, at the very least, dozens of Shia militias in Iraq. The oldest date back to the days of the U.S. occupation prior to 2011 and are clearly proxies of Iran. They receive training and weapons from the IRGC, and are dedicated to implementing Iran’s ideological system of governance in Iraq.

Iran, however, does not want any of these groups to become powerful enough to break off and follow its own agenda. To prevent this, it maintains multiple proxy militias competing against each other. Among the main proxies in question are Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), which developed particularly close relations with ex-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; Kata’ib Hezbollah (with its front group Saraya al-Difa’ ash-Sha’abi); and the Badr Organization. All three of these organizations have deployed fighters to Syria to assist the Assad regime, and have also been participating in the Iraqi government’s military efforts in Anbar since the beginning of this year, when Fallujah and parts of Ramadi first fell out of government control.

Besides these three important actors, other Iranian proxies exist, including Saraya al-Khorasani, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Harakat al-Nujaba’, all of which have also deployed in Syria. These groups make no attempt to hide their ideological affinities with Iran, featuring portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on their social media sites and “martyrdom” funeral banners for slain fighters.

[Photo: Stahlgewitter Syrien / YouTube ]