US offers reward for senior Iraqi figure in Lebanese Hizbollah

The US announced last week that it is offering a large reward for information relating to Muhammad al-Kawtharani—a significant figure in Lebanese Hizbollah.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The United States announced last week that it is offering a large reward for information relating to Muhammad al-Kawtharani—a significant figure in Lebanese Hizbollah, although he is an Iraqi national, born in Najaf.

The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering “up to 10 million dollars for information on the activities, networks, and associates of Muhammad Kawtharani, a senior Hizbollah military commander,” the State Department said, describing the announcement as part of its “standing reward offer for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the terrorist organization Lebanese Hizbollah.”

In February, Reuters reported that Kawtharani had stepped in to assume work in Iraq that Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had done before his assassination in early January.

Soon thereafter, Kawtharani, whom Reuters identified as Hizbollah’s representative in Iraq and “who worked closely with Soleimani for years to guide the Iraqi militias,” was meeting with them, both on how the Iraqi militias should work to counter the popular protests and coordinate in choosing a new Iraqi prime minister.

Last week, in announcing the large reward for information on Kawtharani, the State Department similarly said he had “taken over some of the political coordination of Iran-aligned paramilitary groups” that Soleimani had organized formerly.

“In this capacity, [Kawtharani] facilitates the actions of groups operating outside the control” of the Iraqi government “that have violently suppressed protests, attacked foreign diplomatic missions, and engaged in wide-spread organized criminal activity,” it continued.

Noting that Kawtharani was a member of Hizbollah’s Political Council, it said he had also promoted Hizbollah’s interests in Iraq, including its “efforts to provide training, funding, political, and logistical support to Iraqi Shia insurgent groups.”

Earlier US actions against Muhammed al-Kawtharani and his brother, Adnan Hussein

Already in 2013 – during the Obama administration – the US designated Muhammed al-Kawtharani a global terrorist. Not only was he working to promote Hizbollah’s interests in Iraq by supporting Shia extremists as the Trump administration later charged, Kawtharani was involved in sending Iraqis as fighters to Syria, where a vicious civil war had erupted two years before, in order to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is closely allied with Iran.

In 2018, the Trump administration sanctioned Adnan Hussein al-Kawtharani, Muhammed’s brother, whom it described as serving as his “right hand man.” Adnan was involved in facilitating “business transactions for Hizbollah inside Iraq,” the US said.

Read More: US highlights threat of Iran-backed terrorism

Iranian support for the Shia militias in Iraq, and Hizbollah’s role in helping to provide that support, goes back to the US-led war that overthrew Saddam Hussein, if not earlier.

In 2008, Michael Gordon, then writing for The New York Times, reported that Hizbollah was “training Iraqi militia fighters” at “several camps near Tehran that are overseen” by the IRGC’s Quds Force—which Soleimani led for some 22 years before his death.

Citing US sources, Gordon explained that “the Iranians believe it is useful to have Arabs train fellow Arabs” and “Hizbollah has considerable experience in planning operations and using weapons and explosives in Lebanon.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany