Iraq

Spotlight on Global Jihad (January 16-22, 2020)

In the Idlib region, fighting resumed on the initiative of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, after a three-week hiatus (despite the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey on January 12, 2020). In the Euphrates Valley, ISIS has continued its intensive activity against the Syrian army and the SDF. The most noteworthy event was the killing of 15 soldiers in a Syrian army convoy ambushed by ISIS operatives.
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Spotlight on Global Jihad (January 9-15, 2020)

January 12, 2020, a ceasefire agreed upon between Turkey and Russia entered into effect in the Idlib region. Even after the ceasefire was declared military friction continued between the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and the Syrian forces. In Iraq, there was a meeting of senior commanders from the Popular Mobilization which examined the continuation of the campaign against ISIS following the killing of Qassem Soleimani and of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization). In Niger, ISIS operatives attacked a Niger army base near the border with Mali. The Niger army sustained about 100 fatalities.
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Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, profile of an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Qods Force

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. The two other militias are the Hezbollah Battalions (Kataeb Hezbollah) and the Nujaba Movement (Harakat al-Nujaba or Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba). These three militias played a key role during the fighting against the US forces while they were deployed in Iraq. They consist of commanders and operatives who had acquired extensive fighting experience and maintain particularly strong ties with the Qods Force. In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.
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Spotlight on Iran (December 29, 2019 – January 12, 2020)

Last week’s events were marked by a significant escalation between the United States and Iran following the assassination of the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Qasem Soleimani, in an American strike in Baghdad. In an initial response to Soleimani’s elimination, the IRGC launched ballistic missiles toward the Ayn al-Assad base in western Iraq, in which U.S. forces are present. Shortly after Soleimani’s assassination, his deputy, Esmail Qa’ani, was appointed in his stead, as the commander of the Qods Force. Qa’ani vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death, persist in his path and remove the United States from the region. Qasem Soleimani’s assassination provided an opportunity for a meeting between the heads of the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with senior Iranian officials. A delegation of both organizations, who came to Tehran to participate in Soleimani’s funeral, met during their visit with the incoming Qods Force commander.
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Spotlight on Global Jihad (January 8-2, 2020)

The dramatic events that occurred this week, especially the elimination of Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and the firing of missiles in response at two US bases in Iraq couldimpair the effectiveness of the US-led campaign against ISIS. In the Syrian arena, there was no change in the situation on the ground this week. In the Iraqi arena, ISIS conducted its activity at low intensity. This week, there has been a decrease in ISIS’s activity around the world, with the exception of Northern Sinai, where “routine” attacks against the Egyptian security forces continued. There was one unusual incident in Russia, where two Caucasus Province operatives carried out a stabbing and ramming attack against members of the Ingushetia police force (two dead).
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Responses in Iran and Initial Assessment of the Impact of Eliminating Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

On January 2, 2020, American drones struck two vehicles in Baghdad ferrying senior commanders of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The strikes killed Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Deputy Commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi (the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Iraq) and several Qods Force and Hashd al-Shaabi members who were in the targeted convoy.
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Iraq

The Republic of Iraq (الجمهورية العراقية – Al-Jumhūrīyya Al-‘Irāqīyya) borders with Turkey in the north, Syria and Jordan in the west, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the south, and Iran in the east. Iraq has a population of over 31 million, the vast majority of whom are Arabs (97% Muslim, 65% Shiite and 35% Sunni). In northeastern Iraq there is an autonomous Kurdish entity known as Iraqi Kurdistan. There are no relations between the State of Israel and Iraq, and Iraq refuses to recognize Israel.

After the Iraq war, the country was run by a coalition of countries that had invaded Iraq, headed by the United States. In 2005, civilian control was transferred to the interim Iraqi government that was appointed after a general election for a temporary parliament, which was held for the first time in the history of Iraq. In 2006, a permanent Shiite government was formed, and thus a change of government took place in Iraq, which had been in the hands of the Sunnis up to that time. In December 2011, the last American soldiers stationed in Iraq left the country.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, a branch of Al-Qaeda was established in Iraq, headed by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. This branch later evolved into ISIS. This branch, which enjoyed widespread support among the Sunni population in Iraq, carried out terrorist attacks directed against Shiite civilians and against the Iraqi regime. In 2014, in the city of Mosul, ISIS declared the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and took control of vast areas in western and northwestern Iraq, with the intention of taking control of the Iraqi capital Baghdad as well. In the years that followed, through efforts by the Iraqi security forces and local militias supported by the United States, these areas were liberated and ISIS slowly began to lose its power.