Crispin Smith is an associate at a Washington-based national security law group, focusing on Iraqi security, human rights, and law of armed conflict issues. He is a cofounder of the Militia Spotlight platform.
Michael Knights is the Jill and Jay Bernstein Fellow of The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf states. He is a co-founder of the Militia Spotlight platform, which offers in-depth analysis of developments related to the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.
Qasem al-Jabbarin is a Kataib Hezbollah-directed facade group that specializes in roadside bombings against Iraqi supply trucks servicing the U.S. military in Iraq.
Name: Qasem al-Jabbarin (QJ) (Smasher of the Oppressors).
Type of movement: Facade group. Kinetic military operations. Domestic counter-U.S. operations.
History and objectives:
A prolific facade group, QJ has taken credit for improvised explosive device attacks against convoys on a weekly basis for much of 2020-2021.
QJ exists to claim attacks launched by fasail (armed groups). All attacks claimed have occurred inside Iraq and are directed at the coalition. QJ has not claimed rocket attacks, except for the January 5, 2022 rocket strike on Al-Asad Air base.
QJ was first referenced by muqawama (resistance) Telegram channels on September 17, 2020, when Sabereen News “previewed” the group and noted that QJ would soon announce attacks. Later that day, Sabereen posted an image of QJ’s first statement claiming two attacks on U.S. convoys.
Some time prior to 2020, Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) included a unit known as the "Brigade of Qasem al-Jabbarin." The unit was run by Muhammad al-Musawi and affiliated with the muqawama, but it is unclear if the current QJ is linked to that brigade.
QJ's name derives from a Shia phrase relating to the Mahdi (“قاصِمُ الجبّارينَ، مُديلُ المظلومِينَ” or "smasher of the oppressor and helper of the oppressed”). The group is sometimes styled “Saraya Qasem al-Jabbarin” (سرية قاصم الجبارين) or “Qasem al-Jabbarin Company.” Use of the singular noun instead of the plural for the military unit marker is relatively unusual. Compare “Kataib” (battalions), “Saraya” (companies), “Alwiya” (brigades), “Asaib” (leagues), and “Ashab” (companions). A singular was also used for the group “Usbat al-Thaireen” (League of the Revolutionaries).
Also unusual for a facade group, QJ does not appear to have its own official media or information operations outlet, though a number of small, copycat accounts share its name. Instead, it has relied on major militia outlets to publicize its statements, attacks, and claims (particularly the Unit 10,000 Telegram account affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah).
Probably a subordinate of Kataib Hezbollah, an assessment based on the locations of QJ's claimed attacks (mostly adjacent to Jurf al-Sakr) and the close affinity that KH-affiliated media accounts appear to have with the group. KH channels almost never ignore activity claimed by QJ and often publicize it widely, while sometimes dismissing other facade groups.
Direct command relationship with KH.
Linked to Sabereen News early on. More recently tied to Unit 10,000 and other KH-affiliated media accounts.
May be a successor to Usbat al-Thaireen, since UT's previously frequent claims stopped around the time that QJ began claiming convoy attacks. Yet QJ's claimed attacks differ from UT's, with the latter group taking credit for many rocket strikes while QJ has claimed none to date.
Very small number of roadside bombing cells with an operating area between Baghdad and Diwaniyah.
Apparent access to at least one rocket launch cell capable of working in Anbar and Baghdad, as of January 5, 2022