Kataib Hezbollah vows to force US forces to leave Iraq
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Once led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who the US viewed as a terrorist for more than a decade, the group is made up of hard core pro-Iranian cadres and has an arsenal of weapons.
Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian-allied group, has vowed to force the US to leave Iraq. It is the most recent threatening statement in a year of tensions between pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and US forces, which are in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS coalition. But rocket attacks by Kataib Hezbollah have resulted in three rounds of US airstrikes against the groups and its leaders since December 2019.
The paramilitary group is the tip of the Iranian spear in Iraq. Once led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who the US viewed as a terrorist for more than a decade, it is made up of hard core pro-Iranian cadres and has an arsenal of weapons. The brigades are linked to other Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps elements in the region. The group is closely allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon and has operated in Syria.
Kataib Hezbollah said on Sunday that the decision to “remove the Americans” is irreversible. Group member Abu ali al-Askari said that the US only knows the “language of power” and that it would face the growing power of groups like Kataib Hezbollah.
This group is part of a wider network called the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashd al-Shaabi, a collection of Shi’ite militias raised in 2014 to fight ISIS but which include many pro-Iran groups. They are now part of the official paramilitary forces. When Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi tried to crackdown on their rogue activities in late June, detaining 14 members of Kataib, the members were released quickly.
Now the group is preparing for a new round of pressure on the US. This comes in the context of the US pressure on Iran. Tehran wants to strike back and uses groups like Kataib Hezbollah to do it. US forces in Iraq have been consolidating their positions and also adding air defense to key facilities in preparation to face threats.