Observers warned of the step taken by Iran to turn the
Iraqi Shiite Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, also known as the Khazali Network, led by Qais al-Khazali, into another version of the
Lebanese Hezbollah militia.
They said the move would create a parallel entity to the state, which will be financed and equipped independently from Iraq. Experts said Tehran is creating militias parallel to the IMIS in Iraq and is working to empower them.
The New York-based Wall Street Journal said that Iran has assigned Khazali, who is listed on the US sanctions list, to empower his militia in the style of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The US House of Representatives last week passed a bill that calls on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on groups "that threaten stability and peace in Iraq and to designate them as terrorists," the newspaper said, adding that "the bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, names Mr. Khazali and his militia."
"Qais al-Khazali gained notoriety on the battlefields of Iraq, fighting to expel US troops after they invaded 15 years ago. Now Mr. Khazali wants to oust American forces again, but this time through the Iraqi political system after making major gains in an election earlier this year," the newspaper said.
The newspaper added that Khazali’s evolution from Iran-allied outlaw to aspiring statesman "illustrates Iraq’s changing political landscape and the Trump administration’s dilemma as it tries to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the Middle East."
"As the US tries to weaken Iran’s proxies—an array of mainly Shiite militias that have proliferated in Iraq and Syria in recent years—some of them are now boosting their profile through the very democratic process the US introduced to Iraq," the newspaper added.
Khazali's role against Iraq
A US report on the arrest of Khazali in 2007 has exposed the plot carried by Iran against Iraq.
Although the report has not officially been published by the US government, the Wall Street Journal has been able to publish part of it.
According to the report, Khazali told the investigators during a 2007 interrogation about the security precautions taken by Iranians to hide their training of Iraqi militias, as well as confirming that Iran provides and smuggles sticky bombs and explosive devices to Iraqi militias.
Khazali also admitted that Iran planned to attack the Americans in Karbala, adding that Iran provided weapons to Shiite militias in order to attack US forces and exert pressure on them to leave the country.
He pointed out that his militia was among those that received training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in military bases near Tehran, including Khomeini's base, which Khazali admitted that he visited it.
“There are Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah conducting the training at these bases. The Iranians are experts in full-scale warfare, while the Lebanese are experts in urban or guerrilla warfare," Khazali said during the interrogation.
He said that the Iraqi Shiite militias' main aim was to carry out attacks against British forces in order to force them to withdraw from the country, as well as exerting pressure on the United States to withdraw as well.
Khazali noted that he traveled personally to Iran to raise funds and support for his militia, meeting with Iranian officials, including top IRGC general Qasem Soleimani.