- The commander of a powerful Iraqi armed militia appeared on Israel's border
- He vowed to "stand with the Palestinian cause" against Israel
- The move follows U.S. President Trump's decision on an embassy in Jerusalem
- Several other Iraqi militias have called for resistance on the issue
An Iran-backed Iraqi militia leader has been filmed on the Israeli border, declaring his “total readiness to stand with the [...] Palestinian cause against the brutal Israeli occupation.”
In a clip shared on social media, the commander of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Qais al-Khazaali, is shown apparently overlooking the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and the occupied Golan Heights from southern Lebanon.
He then appears at the Fatima Gate border post, where he signals that his militia will stand with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another Iranian ally.
The footage comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, sparking anger across the Muslim world.
With an army of 10,000 of foreign Iraqi fighters (as of 2015), this militia could significantly boost Hezbollah's resistence on the Israeli border as tensions between Israel and Lebanon rise.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which is armed and trained by Iran's Quds Force, was among several of Iraq’s powerful Shia militias to respond to Trump’s decision
Peace Companies, the armed wing of militias controlled by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has announced the formation of a brigade “to defend Jerusalem.”
“From tomorrow, we will start to register names of volunteers in all Iraqi provinces to defend Jerusalem,” spokesman Safa Tamimi told Rudaw on Friday.
“We will arm, train, and categorize the volunteers according to their specialty after the registration is over,” he said.
The unit was being formed “in response to Donald Trump who tried to put Jerusalem within the framework of Zionist conquests and declared it the capital of Zionism,” Tamimi added.
According to Tamimi, the new anti-Israel brigade will not form part of the Iraqi state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces fighting ISIS, unlike Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Peace Companies.
In contrast to most of Iraq’s Shia militia leaders, Sadr is not aligned to Iran and has held meetings with Saudi and Emirati leadership.
Supporters of Sadr, who have been responsible for a popular protest movement in Iraq over recent months, have also taken to the streets to demonstrate against Trump’s move.
Another Iran-backed militia, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, made headlines after declaring that Trump’s decision on Jerusalem could justify attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
“Trump’s stupid decision to make Jerusalem a capital for the Zionist will be the big spark for removing this entity from the body of the Islamic nation, and a legitimate reason to target American forces,” the group’s leader Akram al-Kaabi said, according to Reuters.
There are over 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq where they have been supporting the fight against ISIS in the north of the country. Employees at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad have reportedly been instructed to restrict their activities.
Many ordinary Iraqis have expressed cynicism, however, about involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“Let’s look after the youth of our homeland, rather than fighting in the countries of the world,” commented Mohsin Algbory on Facebook.
Sura Mohammed added “We aren’t lacking for wars and bloodshed, let’s liberate our country from the corrupt and the robbers that have starved our people.”
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Lots of comments made reference to those Palestinians who had joined ISIS in Iraq, including allegedly as suicide bombers in Iraqi cities.
Others complained about the influence of the militias, which are seen by outside commentators as a thorn in the side of post-ISIS Iraq.
It was suggested that al-Khazali's posturing on the Israeli border might have more to do with internal Iraqi politics and a rivalry against Sadr's militia than any real intent to take action over Jerusalem.
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