Kata’ib Hezbollah issues warning to US on Blinken’s Baghdad visit

Al-Askari’s statement echoes Shia religious leader Muqtada Sadr, who in late October called on the Iraqi government to close the US embassy in Baghdad because of Washington's support for Israel.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The spokesperson for the Iraqi militant group Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), Abu Ali Al-Askari, in a statement on Monday issued a stark warning to the US in anticipation of a Baghdad visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“The visit of Antony Blinken, son of a Jew, America’s Secretary of State, is not welcome in the Iraq of Ali and Hussein, and if he comes, we will meet him with an unprecedented escalation,” Al-Askari's statement read, while making a xenophobic reference.

The militant group, which was listed as a terror organization by the US in 2009, also warned that if the siege of Gaza continues, the group will “work to close American interests in Iraq and disrupt them in the region.”

The ultimate goal is to close “the American embassy and [prevent] those holding American citizenship from entering the country. We will get to it in our own, non-peaceful way, because dealing with murderers is cowardice,” Al-Askari concluded.

Al-Askari’s statement echoes Shia religious leader Muqtada Sadr, who in late October called on the Iraqi government to close the US Embassy in Baghdad because of Washington's support for Israel.

Moreover, the statement comes as an Iraqi government source to Shafaq News Agency confirmed that Blinken is scheduled to visit Sunday night.

KH is believed to receive funding from Iran, and is one of several such militant groups operating in Iraq, part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) alliance of Shia militias.

The group is also part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI), a movement that claimed responsibility for several drone and missile strikes on Coalition bases in Iraq and Syria, including several attacks in Erbil, since the outbreak of the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.

As the Washington Institute’s Hamdi Malik and Michael Knights state, the IRI is “an umbrella brand matching the nomenclature that all Iran-backed Iraqi armed groups have previously used to describe themselves, often as the prefix to their specific group names."

"Moreover, top groups such as Kataib Hezbollah (KH) have not made separate or competing claims for attacks in their typical areas of operations (such as al-Asad [Airbase]). Therefore, it is highly likely that groups like KH, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada consider themselves part of the IRI brand,” they concluded.