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Back into the Shadows? The Future of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Iran's Other Proxies in Iraq

Michael Knights

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CTC Sentinel

October 2020

History may be repeating itself as Tehran develops new, smaller, and more secure Iraqi cells reminiscent of the formation of KH itself.

Kata’ib Hezbollah was Iran’s most favored militant group in Iraq from its formation in the mid-2000s until the death of its founder Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020. Yet, the activities and influence of al-Muhandis and KH were not synonymous, as has been shown since his death. KH is still the engine room of anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq, but it is less politically agile and operates in a more hostile counterterrorism environment where deniability and secrecy have become more important again. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force is also leaning on a more diversified model in Iraq, drawing on non-KH factions like Saraya al-Jihad and Saraya al-Ashura, and engaging more directly with Iraq’s minorities, including Sunni communities and the Shi’a Kurdish Faylis and Turkmen...

Michael Knights is The Washington Institute's Bernstein Fellow and coauthor of its March 2020 study Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces. This article was originally published in the CTC Sentinel.