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Targeting U.S. Forces in Iraq: Interview with Ashab al-Kahf
Over the past several years (especially since the American assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qasim Sulaymani), various new groups in Iraq have declared their existence via social media, adopting the moniker of the ‘Islamic Resistance’ and focusing on targeting U.S. forces in Iraq with an aim to removing what is considered to be an occupying force. Those U.S. forces are officially deployed to the country to assist the Iraqi government in ongoing operations against an Islamic State insurgency that in general is at a very low level of intensity and has certainly not experienced a ‘resurgence’ of the kind predicted by pessimists.
The new groups that have emerged with an aim to removing the U.S. ‘occupation’ are very obscure in nature: with the primary or sole information being what they say about themselves on social media or what other pro-‘resistance’ outlets on social media say about them. Their obscurity in turn raises various questions. Are they genuinely new groups, or just front groups for established ‘resistance’ factions that are integrated into the Hashd Sha‘abi Commission and thus as official governmental forces cannot target the Americans under their own names? What is their relation with Iran?
While inferences may be drawn based on extracting and comparing open source data, it must be recognised that there are limits to what we can know. Another avenue for inquiry should be reaching out to these groups and interviewing them, publishing these interviews as they are without distortion and agenda-driven omission.
In this regard, I reached out to one of the most well-known new groups targeting the U.S. forces- Ashab al-Kahf (“Companions of the Cave”)- and conducted an interview with them about their history and perspective on removing the U.S. presence from Iraq, as well as other issues such as the attribution to them of the killing of the American teacher in Baghdad last year.
This interview was conducted on 25 April 2023, and it is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
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Q: When was Ashab al-Kahf formed and why did you choose this name for your faction? What is the need for this faction when there are a number of factions of the Islamic Resistance striving to expel the American occupation from Iraq?
A: In the name of God and God’s blessings be upon Muhammad, Ali and the noble family. Hello brother. The date of the launching of the first nucleus was in 2017 and at the time the operations were being conducted without claiming them because of the political situation at the time and also the sympathy of many parties with the Americans, especially as most of the politicians were turning towards the Americans in the time of Da‘esh.
As for the name, we have seen a good omen in Ashab al-Kahf and their famous story as their number was few, no one knew of their activity and they were working on the basis of the heavenly visions that most were opposed to. They were claiming affiliation with the church until the principles changed and the churches and synagogues of the Jews became identical, and it was necessary for them to conceal their work so that they should not be known and at the same time they had to undertake their Shari‘i obligation. In addition, in the tradition one finds that the Ashab al-Kahf are the companions of al-Qa’im (God’s blessings be upon him) in the end-time and they will be with him and among his supporters in his blessed rise (may God hasten his deliverance). We have also chosen this name because of the significance of this sura in the Qur’an and the traditions regarding it in Islamic culture, among them that the head of our imam and sayyid al-Husayn bin Ali (God’s blessing be upon them) recited clear verses from it.
As for the need for forming a new faction, if the founder himself were the one who founded the previous factions, the question would be in its place and require a response. As for in reality, this faction was constituted with very small numbers, motivated by the Shari‘i obligation because of the security, cultural, military and economic threats posed by the American occupation as implementer, with the planning of the English and the administration of the Israelis. We believe at this time that the other relevant brothers in the Islamic Resistance have not dealt with the threats of the enemy in the required sense, otherwise there would be no need for forming a faction, especially as it requires Shari‘i permissions and Shari‘i responsibility.
Q: Do you have any link with any of the other factions? For example some say that the new names are a cover for the old existing factions in order to fight the American occupation, in that operating under the existing names is not allowed because those factions operate under the Hashd Sha‘abi Commission and therefore it is not allowed for them to target the American occupation under their well-known names. To clarify this point: some say for example that Ashab al-Kahf is merely another name for Harakat al-Nujaba’. So what is your comment on that? Were members of the group previously affiliated with other factions?
A: We have no link with any faction whether among the old or newly established factions as they call them, nor do we have a link with any Hashd or political party. Previously the Washington Institute and many Western outlets, Iraqi security apparatuses, the American intelligence, the rest of the foreign intel apparatuses operating in Iraq and the Iraqi media were claiming that Ashab al-Kahf is affiliated with the Kata’ib Hezbollah faction and they adopted this view for a long time. Then after some time they turned to the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq faction and also they adopted this view for a long time. Then after some time they turned to the Harakat al-Nujaba’ faction, and we do not know afer this where our name will be according to the very very erroneous information of the enemy.
We affirm that we are a faction that has no link with the other factions and there is no coordination or contact between us, and we think that even in the coming times there will be no coordination or contact. We also believe that the one who follows our stances and activities will find that we proceed on the basis of views that differ from the rest of our brothers in the factions, with all respect for them. We ask God to grant them success and the good outcome.
Q: Do the Iranian friends help you in your operations? Or the faction relies on self-support?
A: In all honesty, even if we do not accept these words, we nonetheless affirm that we do not receive aid from the friends as you have expressed, and they are our brothers and we have respect for them, but our support is self-reliance and the brothers in Ashab al-Kahf have specialities and cadres in the various specialities of organisational work.
Q: Some defend the presence of the American occupation as they portray it as helping the governmental forces in combating Da‘esh and is present by permission of the Iraqi government. So what is your response to these words? And what are the benefits from expelling the occupation from the country?
A: In the name of God: the one who defends the occupation’s presence in his land is one of two: either he does not understand what is happening around him and is ignorant of the matters of material life as well as religious belief, or he is an evil person who benefits from the enemy’s remaining and promotes and advocates its remaining.
The occupying American forces have been shown in video evidence, photos and thousands of reports and audio materials present with the intelligence of the Islamic Resistance and also present among others besides us, that they provide training, support and direction to the extremist terrorist organisations, among them Da‘esh. Also the Americans and their Western friends direct the fitna in Iraq between Sunnis and Shi‘a and among the Shi‘a. The American forces also serve as a forward military barrier to defend the temporary Israeli entity. Besides what we believe on the Shari‘i level, they and others are in Nato and their global crowd.
As for the benefits [of removing them], they are many and among them in brief:
. The electricity portfolio: which is controlled by General Electric and the other companies that come after it. All of them are in the hands of the Americans and the foreign forces in Iraq.
. The security portfolio also: the Americans and their devil Western brothers oversee the work of the Iraqi security apparatuses, which is a group of espionage programs in opposition to Iraq itself or those the Americans and their brothers consider to be their enemies, like Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. So they use Iraq and its security apparatuses as an intelligence and operational launching point in opposition to them. They also provide cover for the work of the Israelis and its concealment through their addresses in order to carry out evil aims in Iraq. They also conduct espionage at all times over Iraqi airspace and have control over it, and no one knows what the Americans bring into and take out of Iraq.
. The economic portfolio does not need detailing in terms of the World Bank, the control over Iraqi wealth, the recent dollar crisis, the control over Iraqi oil, and the contracting of agreements with states friendly to Israel and America in order to provide support for them at the expense of the Iraqi people: for example, the Iraqi gas that is stolen for Jordan and then Israel, and the huge oil contracts controlled by the English G4S company, which carries out evil security programs in Iraq and the region and exercises control over the oil extraction sites in Basra, Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.
They also continuously incite the Kurds not to be subject to the central government and to take away the rights of the Kurds and Arabs and the protection of them, for the sake of the American and Israeli interests in the region. They have also been intervening blatantly in the work of the Iraqi ministries since the fall of the Saddam regime until now, and their opinion has significant weight in the Iraqi field.
There is also the ongoing cultural assault on the religious culture in Iraq, customs and traditions, and the attempts to transform the people of this land through their destructive ideas like [gender] fluidity, family dysfunction, spreading obscenity in society, and encouraging alcohol and changing of taste and human nature in so far as the ugliness of humanity likes that and considers it to be right. People should be made to understand that all that has been mentioned and is called ‘culture’ is indeed culture, but it is Satanic and leads to the loss of the human being, of course according to our Islamic convictions and culture.
All that has been mentioned is negative intervention in Iraq, and if this devil is removed from Iraq, we believe that the situation in Iraq will be completely reversed for the better, if God Almighty wills.
Q: Media outlets have attributed to you the claiming of an operation that killed an American teacher in Baghdad last year. What is your response to this claim? I did not see a statement claiming responsibility. In general what is your position on targeting American civilians in Iraq who have no link with the occupation forces?
A: In the name of God. Regarding this matter the brothers in the war media issued at the time a statement that discussed other matters, but they touched briefly on the matter of the intelligence officer (troll) or what people in the media called the teacher, and at the time the point was: “Regarding the killing of the American person in al-Karrada, we did not issue any statement claiming the incident.”
Now we repeat what the brothers said at the time: we did not issue any statement claiming responsibility with regards to this incident, and the pages and channels at the time continuously transmitted a forged statement attributed to us, and it is completely untrue.
The other part of the question: there is absolutely no security or Shari‘i justification for killing the American civilian and this is not allowed legally in our view. But is there an American civilian in Iraq which is classed as one of the Third-World countries and resembles Afghanistan in security according to the Western media?
And were the troll and his very large team spread in Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates and Iraq with the activities that were very limited on security grounds in Iran, Afghanistan, Germany, the Latin American countries, Russia, and Indonesia and also very limited in China etc., civilians for example?! The problem is that the Israelis, Americans and English imagine that the situation in West Asia is like before, and the true reality is not as such. The foreigner who conducts espionage and performs an evil role in his various positions must be neutralised from the security and political scene so that stability can spread in our countries.
Q: How do you assess the current situation in Iraq under the new government? Do you have a message for this government?
A: In the name of God: [this government] does not differ much from the governments that preceded, or from those that will follow, because of the American and foreign presence in Iraq and their control over political decision-making and security apparatuses through the cover of the coalition, for they recruit dozens of officials of the security apparatuses on a daily basis. Finally the American act with complete freedom from the government, and the incident of the bringing down of their drone two days ago is the best evidence as they launched an air descent operation through their aircraft and seized what remained of it after it was struck in the air. Some of the official issued reports denying the truth as they said that it was not struck down but rather there was a technical fault, and in truth they will be very annoyed when an order comes from the brothers to publish the video that documents its being struck.
Our message to it [the government], even if it is not heard, is that they should really care for the Iraqi people and not only in media with the aim of deceiving the people so that it should be re-elected with seizure of the spoils. Rather it should unite with those who share with it in religious belief, geographic borders, customs and traditions, so that these peoples may have the say and the good of their countries, especially our noble Iraqi people.