Kata'ib Hezbollah Announces Suspension of Operations Against the U.S.
Translation and Overview
The recent drone attack that hit U.S. forces stationed in Jordan on the border with the U.S.-controlled Tanf pocket in Syria and killed three personnel has prompted calls for major American retaliation either against militant groups backed by Iran or against Iran itself. A statement issued on the day of the attack by the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq,’ an umbrella front group that includes Kata’ib Hezbollah, included mention of targeting the U.S. presence in Tanf, and it must be inferred that this is referring to the attack that hit the Jordan-Syria border outpost. Contrary to what has been frequently asserted in commentary on the incident, this attack should not necessarily be seen as ‘escalatory.’ The fact that personnel were killed this time, and so close to the Jordan-Syria border, is really more a matter of luck for the ‘resistance’ axis.
In any event, it seems likely that Kata’ib Hezbollah had a role in the attack, but as noted previously, the group’s involvement in operations against Americans poses a problem in that the Iraqi government still officially hosts American soldiers as part of combating the Islamic State, and yet Kata’ib Hezbollah has forces integrated into the Popular Mobilisation Commission, which is officially under the control of the Iraqi government.
Out of a supposed desire to avoid putting the Iraqi government in an embarrassing position, Kata’ib Hezbollah’s secretary general has issued a statement announcing the suspension of operations against the Americans, while affirming that the group will pursue “other ways” to support the people of Gaza. Even so, it is possible that Kata’ib Hezbollah could be involved in creating a new front group that targets the Americans while denying involvement in that new front group, or the group could return to declaring operations against the Americans again.
It is also notable that Kata’ib Hezbollah is seeking to distance Iran from being held responsible in any way for the attacks conducted by Kata’ib Hezbollah and its allies on the Americans, saying the Iranians have frequently opposed “putting pressure and escalating” against American forces in Iraq and Syria. Should this notion be given any plausibility? Only to a certain extent. It is unlikely that the Iranians are relaying specific orders to these Iraqi groups for targets to hit on every occasion or that they are directly managing and overseeing the specific operations. In other words, it is simplistic to see Iran as directly controlling these groups and all their actions, directing them where to go and what targets to hit and when.
Yet there is no doubt that the Iranians have seen the actions taken by these groups as pressure tools on the U.S. to reconsider its support for Israel’s campaign in Gaza, conveniently relieving Iran of the risk of having its own forces take military action in a bid to demonstrate real support for the Palestinian cause. It is probably Iran’s own lack of direct actions, interestingly, that contribute to suspicion about its intentions among at least some Palestinians (reflecting also a wider suspicion of Twelver Shi‘a). On one occasion, for example, on a service taxi that was going from Ramallah to Qalandiya barrier, I remember a couple of Palestinians complaining that Iran, in their view, is not really interested in the Palestinian cause, but rather just in advancing its own Shi‘i sect-centric interests: if Iran really wanted to demonstrate support for Palestine, then it should fire missiles at Israel just as former Iraqi president Saddam Husayn once did in 1991. Besides, in the view of one of them, the truth about Iran and its intentions was partly exposed by how the country openly features and boasts of its own Jewish population!
Below is the new statement from Kata’ib Hezbollah’s secretary general translated.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
'Fighting has been prescribed for you, and it is dislikable to you, and perhaps you hate something that is good for you and love something that is bad for you, and God knows and you do not know.'
The valorous path is adverse and difficult, and its burdens are great, and the free people who proceed on it realise that however high the costs grow, they are insignificant in the face of realising God’s contentment and supporting the oppressed. The Islamic Resistance- Kata’ib Hezbollah took the decision to support our oppressed people in steadfast Gaza, doing so by its own will and without any intervention from others: in fact, our brothers in the axis, especially in the Islamic Republic, do not know how we conduct our work of jihad, and often they opposed putting pressure on and escalating against the American occupation forces in Iraq and Syria. Out of compliance on our part with fulfilling our humanitarian and ideological responsibility, we have precisely implemented wisdom, circumspection and observation of the Shari‘i and ethical balances in the harshest and most intense circumstances.
So as we announce the suspension of military and covert operations against the occupation forces- in order to avoid putting the Iraqi government in an embarrassing position- we will continue to defend our people in Gaza by other means, and we counsel the free and courageous mujahidin of Kata’ib Hezbollah to engage in passive defence (temporarily), if any American attack takes place against them : ‘Certainly God will establish a matter that was destined, and to God belong affairs.’
Secretary General of Kata’ib Hezbollah
Abu Husayn al-Hamidawi