Dr. Hamdi Malik is an Associate Fellow with the Washington Institute, specializing in Shia militias. He is the co-founder of the Militia Spotlight platform, which offers in-depth analysis of developments related to the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. He is the coauthor of the Institute's 2020 study "Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces."
What to make of HaN spokesperson Nasr al-Shammari's admission that his group is a member of the top militia committee?
Nasr al-Shammari, spokesman for Harakat al-Nujaba (HaN), admitted in a February 28 television interview that his militia is a member of the Iraqi Resistance Coordination Committee (al-Haya al-Tansiqiya lil-Muqawama al-Iraqiya, or Tansiqyia for short). This makes HaN the third self-described member of the so-called Tansiqiya.
The Tansiqiya emerged on October 10, 2020, when the (then anonymous) committee issued a statement to announce a conditional truce and to give “the foreign forces a conditional opportunity...to prepare a limited and specific timetable” for withdrawing their troops from Iraq. Since then, parent militias have begun to claim membership in the Tansiqiya, implicating themselves in the coordination body and demonstrating their control over rocket and bombing cells.
First Among Equals: Kataib Hezbollah
One day after Tansiqiya’s statement, Muhammad Mohi, spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah (KH), seemed to signal that KH had assumed leadership over the Tansiqiya by making the first statement in support of the truce. He told Reuters: “The factions have presented a conditional ceasefire...It includes all factions of the (anti-U.S.) resistance, including those who have been targeting U.S. forces.”
Mohi made follow-on statements that seemed to speak for the Tansiqiya on November 6 and November 8, 2020, identifying KH and the Tansiqiya in the latter interview by stating: “As we said earlier, there are conditions set in order for the truce to be respected.” In another interview with Iran's al-Alam TV, published on November 24, 2020, Mohi again identified KH as a member of the Tansiqiya, stating, “We still stick to our principles, and that is why we gave them this conditional period and this conditional opportunity.” Mohi also told BBC Persian that “there is no deadline and we will give time for a full U.S. pullout,” once more admitting that his group is one of the militias that decided to halt attacks on U.S troops and interests.
Next Up: Asaib Ahl al-Haq
Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) also claimed to be part of the Tansiqiya, and hence responsible for some of the attacks. This admission was broadcast two days after the November 17, 2020, rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which was later (December 20) linked to AAH by an arrest.
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of AAH, appeared on al-Iraqiya TV on November 19, 2020, and talked about attacks against U.S. troops. “We realized that the operations started to come to fruition. The American side started getting hurt and couldn’t bear this situation, therefore began a psychological pressure, that the embassy would be relocated and that’s going to be harmful for Iraq.” He went on to say that the truce was over—“The conditions were not met, and the truce has ended”—a clear admission that he is one of the leaders who decides on truce or war.
Sensitivity over HaN’s Status and Khazali’s Role
Probably seeking to draw a reaction from Nasr al-Shammari, the anchorman on the February 28 broadcast quoted a source saying that HaN is not part of the Tansiqiya and that only KH, AAH, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), and Kataib al-Imam Ali (KAIA) are full members of this committee. He went on to say that according to his source, AAH leader Khazali is responsible for adopting and announcing the committee's stances.
Shammari looked unimpressed by this piece of information and insisted that his group is indeed a member of the muqawama coordination committee. He disputed Khazali’s leadership role, stating: “There is no one specific person who adopts the coordination committee’s stances. The stances are decided by consensus.” It is possible therefore that HaN did not intend to reveal its role in the Tansiqiya but was driven to the revelation by its unwillingness to appear subordinate to AAH. Both Khazali and HaN leader Akram Kaabi are breakaways from the Sadrist movement and have a history of rivalry in media profiles, recruitment of Sadrist manpower, and status.