US, Israel in sight of Iraqi militias, leaders over Jerusalem decision

“We can reach Israel through Syria,” the cleric said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi television channels on Thursday.
author_image Nadia Riva

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Several militias and influential religious figures in Iraq have strongly condemned the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, issuing thinly-veiled threats to American interests in the region.

Following US President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as the Israeli capital, the Iranian-backed Shia militia known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba announced they now had a “legitimate reason” to attack US troops in Iraq.

“Trump’s stupid decision…will be the big spark for removing this entity (Israel) from the body of the Islamic nation, and a legitimate reason to target American forces,” the group’s leader Akram al-Kaabi said in a statement.

Al-Nujaba, an Iraqi brigade formed to “liberate the Golan Heights,” was recently singled out by the US Congress in a bill looking to add them to its terror list, a move that sparked anger among another faction of the prominent Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, Sayara al-Ashura, which has already threated to target US forces and advisers based in Iraq.

“The US has become our direct enemy after the Congress’ decision against some Hashd al-Shaabi factions,” Abdullatif al-Amidi, a commander from Sayara al-Ashura, had threatened.

Sayara al-Salam, or Peace Brigade, a militia closely aligned with Iraq’s influential Shia cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, also directly threatened the US and Israel.

The armed group issued the threats as Sadr warned the people and leaders of the Arab world not to give up on the “occupied land” of Jerusalem.

“We can reach Israel through Syria,” the cleric said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi television channels on Thursday.

“Now, I am alone, but if all armed factions agree to confront Israel, I am ready to be the first soldier, not the first commander,” he added.

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf also condemned the move, saying all “efforts of the nation must be united in this way,” referring to the need for hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims to “return Jerusalem to its Palestinian owners.”

“We are capable of liberating Palestine as we have defeated terrorism,” Abdul Latif al-Hemyem, the head of the Sunni Endowment in Iraq, declared on Thursday.  

The move, however, has angered Arab leaders across the region but raises particular concerns for American interests in Iraq and Syria, whose presence remains significant in those countries in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and where the militias operate with impunity.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office expressed concern when the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem was announced. “The Iraqi government receives this news with the utmost worry and warns about this decision’s ramifications on the stability of the region and the world.”

The ruling Dawa Party leader and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in November announced that the US’ presence in Iraq was causing instability and called for the withdrawal of US troops.

“The stability of Iraq does not serve America and its allies,” he said, adding that Washington was “working on the instability of Iraq to maintain its existence in a manner of permanent occupation.”

The Iraqi sentiment will now likely extend to neighboring countries who oppose Trump’s decision.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany