At first glance, Iraq’s resistance factions appear conflicted over the targeting of US occupation troops. But a deeper look suggests this is a strategic ploy, and that their common overarching objectives remain firm.
The secretary general of the Iraqi resistance faction Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Hussein al-Hamidawi, is known for his potent yet precise statements. His words carry weight, often containing coded messages that resonate strongly within his faction and beyond.
Following the US assassination of a key leader in the organization, Wissam Muhammad Saber – also known as Abu Baqir al-Saadi – Hamidawi issued a message containing a carefully chosen verse from the Quran: “Our Lord, pour patience on us, make us stand firm, and help us against the disbelievers.” Interestingly, the context of the verse is an invocation by the army of Prophet Saul against Goliath and his forces.
Hamidawi’s use of the verse likely signals Kataib Hezbollah’s continued resolve against American military presence in the region, despite its recent announcement that it would suspend military operations against US occupation troops in Iraq and Syria. That decision was reportedly taken after immense pressure from the Iraqi government following the Tower 22 operation on the Jordanian–Syrian border, which killed three US soldiers and injured several dozen others.
Factional strategies and regional conflicts
Sources inform The Cradle that Kataib Hezbollah’s suspension of activities is part of a broader strategy aimed at preventing further military escalation in West Asia. Some even speculate that it could pave the way for a potential ceasefire in Gaza, where a genocidal campaign has been waged by Israel for the past four months following the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood resistance operation.
Meanwhile, the visit of Brian Nelson, the US Department of Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, to Baghdad in the aftermath of the Tower 22 operation signals a new phase in Iraq’s internal political dynamics.
Security measures were notably enhanced during Nelson’s visit, reflecting the gravity of the situation. Iraqi parliamentary sources reveal that Nelson issued harsh warnings of sanctions being imposed on the Iraqi government, particularly targeting the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), if Baghdad’s efforts to quell resistance activities fall short.
The ramifications of such sanctions extend beyond the resistance factions, impacting various sectors of the Iraqi economy and predominantly Shia-owned institutions. Should these sanctions intensify to affect the PMU itself – an integral part of the Iraqi armed forces – the repercussions would be far-reaching, affecting over a million people, including families of martyrs and wounded personnel, and exacerbating existing socio-political tensions within the country.
Although Kataib Hezbollah is one of the largest and most powerful Iraqi resistance factions, its decision to suspend operations doesn’t imply a halt in military actions by Iraq’s smaller factions. While the move by Hamidawi aligns with a broader regional strategy, particularly the Paris negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire in Gaza, not all Iraqi factions have explicitly endorsed it. In particular, Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi’s Al-Nujaba movement has not overtly signaled its support for Hamidawi’s decision.
Analysts suggest that this discrepancy is likely a deliberate strategic maneuver between Kataib Hezbollah and Al-Nujaba. The latter’s strength primarily lies in Syria, which somewhat mitigates the urgency for clear alignment with Iraqi political affairs.
Sudani’s struggle for stability
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani finds himself in a precarious position since the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. Iraq’s fragile domestic, economic, and political situation has topped his agenda since he first assumed leadership in late 2022, and his cabinet has launched an ambitious agenda to address public grievances through extensive infrastructure projects. But the eruption of war in the Gaza Strip has shattered the fragile ceasefire between Iraqi factions and the US presence in Iraq and Syria, diverting his attention elsewhere.
Facing mounting pressure, the Iraqi premier, under the auspices of the Coordination Framework comprising Shia political forces, initiated negotiations with Washington to redefine the role of US forces in Iraq, with the goal of expelling them and other foreign forces. This move followed intense US airstrikes targeting sites in Iraq and Syria in response to the Tower 22 operation, which has deeply exacerbated tensions between Baghdad and Washington.
The Iraqi government’s stance towards the US hardened further when the US falsely accused Baghdad of having prior knowledge of the airstrikes, labeling it as a betrayal. Despite Baghdad’s denial, Washington’s apology, albeit belated, failed to assuage Iraqi anger, especially considering the recent Turkish, Iranian, and US strikes within Iraqi territory.
Furthermore, Sudani’s inability to secure a meeting with US officials or gain an invitation to the White House – unheard of for any previous Iraqi prime minister in the years following the 2003 invasion of Iraq – illustrates the poor state of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Nevertheless, Sudani has managed to successfully convince both the US and resistance factions to prioritize ceasefire negotiations in Gaza in their military calculations against each other. This diplomatic initiative aimed to shift focus away from escalating tensions within Iraq and positively impact the narrative surrounding Iraqi statehood and sovereignty.
Given the nature of West Asia’s current explosive dynamics, all possibilities remain on the table, including the failure of Gaza truce negotiations, which could resurrect secondary military fronts in the region. Such an outcome would expose the US as a failed peace broker that favors its ally, Israel, above all other considerations.
Moreover, Washington’s frantic attempts to compartmentalize crises in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen from those in occupied Palestine and southern Lebanon persist. This strategy aims to garner political support for pressuring resistance factions – particularly in Iraq – but it is a view that Arabs across the spectrum reject, with recent public opinion polls showing populations fingering the US as the region’s biggest threat – even within allied states.
Consequently, the Iraqi factions are compelled to seek alternative avenues to exert pressure and influence outcomes in Palestine. This may entail exploring new arenas and employing novel methods, as suggested by sources within the Iraqi resistance.