BAGHDAD — Head of Iraqi militia supported by Iran has promised to revenge against America after four of his men were killed in a US bombing near the Iraq-Syria border last month, claiming it will be a military action that everyone will speak about.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Abu Alaa al-Walae, the commander of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, said that Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi’s election as president will strengthen Iran-backed militant groups throughout the Middle East for the next four years.
Al-Walae spoke to the Associated Press on Monday at an office in a Baghdad suburb near the Tigris River, despite the fact that he seldom conducts interviews with foreign news organisations.
On June 27, US Air Force jets attacked facilities used by Iran-backed paramilitary groups to assist drone attacks inside Iraq near the Iraq-Syria border, according to the Pentagon. A total of four militia members were slain.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi state-backed umbrella of predominantly Shiite militias, including those targeted by US strikes, stated their troops were on operations to prevent Islamic State infiltration and denied the presence of weapons stores.
The day following the bombings, US forces in eastern Syria were targeted by rocket fire, but no injuries were recorded.
The US has blamed Iran-backed militias for assaults against the American presence in Baghdad and military locations around Iraq, the majority of which were rocket strikes. The assaults have recently gotten more sophisticated, with extremists employing drones.
Since a US drone assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year, US military authorities have grown increasingly concerned about drone strikes targeting US military sites in Iraq. The bombing also murdered Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The incident infuriated Iraq’s largely Shiite MPs, prompting parliament to approve a nonbinding motion pressuring the Iraqi government to withdraw foreign forces.
An explosives-laden drone struck the military sector of the international airport in Irbil, Iraq’s northern Kurdish-controlled area, in mid-April, causing no deaths or damage. American forces are also stationed at the facility.
Since April, at least five drone assaults have been carried out by Iran-backed militias, according to US authorities.
A drone was shot down near the US Embassy compound in Baghdad shortly after midnight Monday. There were no injuries in this incident. The drone was launched by Iranian proxies, according to two US military sources, and it was armed with explosives and hovering above the US-led coalition base in Baghdad.
Officials stated that it was too early to determine the drone’s kind. According to the US Embassy, the compound’s defensive systems “engaged and destroyed an aerial threat.” “We are working with our Iraqi colleagues to investigate” the incident, according to the statement.
Al-Walae, who was dressed in black and wore an olive-green baseball cap, suggested that his militants may utilise drones in future attacks. He didn’t go into any specifics. When questioned if they had deployed drones against American forces in Iraq in the past, he dodged the question and moved on to other topics.
“We want it to be an operation where everyone claims to have exacted vengeance on the Americans,” al-Walae explained. “It will be a high-quality operation (that might come) from the air, the sea, Iraq’s border, the area, or anyplace else. It’s a full-fledged war.”
Al-Walae talked in an office with a poster of Soleimani on the wall. A framed portrait of al-Walae standing next to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, is on a table next to him.
Raisi stated in his first statements after being elected last month that he opposes the notion of meeting with President Joe Biden or discussing Tehran’s ballistic missile programme or backing for regional militias.
Al-Walae claimed that his men were among the first to move to neighbouring Syria to fight with President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2012, a year after the civil conflict there began out. He was formerly taken captive by US troops in Iraq. Their initial duty, he claimed, was to safeguard a Shiite holy place south of Damascus, the capital. Later, they battled in other regions of Syria.
Syria’s crisis has attracted Iran-backed militants from throughout the region, helping to shift the power balance in Assad’s favour. Thousands of Iranian-backed militants remain in Syria, with many of them stationed in the villages of Boukamal and Mayadeen near the Iraqi border.
Al-Walae also stated that he does not anticipate Iraq’s parliamentary elections to be held on schedule in October, and that they may be postponed until April of the following year. He blamed the delay on the country’s profound crisis, which included significant power outages throughout the hot summer.