US Designates Iraq’s 'Ansar Allah al-Awfiya' as Terrorist

Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
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US Designates Iraq’s 'Ansar Allah al-Awfiya' as Terrorist

Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)

The US Department of State designated an Iraqi faction and its secretary-general, who has political and military influence in the country since his defection from the Sadrist movement in 2013, as terrorist.

“Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya (HAAA) is an Iraq-based Iran-aligned militia group and part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI),” the Department said in statement.

The group and its Secretary-General Haydar Muzhir Malak al-Saidi, also known as Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi, were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, it added.

The statement said Washington remains committed to using all available tools to counter Iran’s support for terrorism and to degrade and disrupt the ability of Iran-backed groups to conduct terrorist attacks.

In response, HAAA issued a statement saying: “We bring to our proud people the news of the unjust designation issued by the Great Satan (America) against Sheikh Haydar al-Saidi and the movement.”

The US designation is “a tacit acknowledgment of their heroic struggle and honorable defense of the rights of oppressed peoples.”

“It is proof that Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi and Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya represent symbols of courage and dignity, having faced challenges and sacrifices with faithful hearts and unwavering resolve. Accusing them of terrorism is nothing more than a badge of honor and pride that history will bestow upon them,” it added.

US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, posted on X that the State Department's terrorist designation of reaffirms Washington’s commitment to countering the malign influence of Tehran and the threats posed by Iran-aligned militia groups.

The Washington Institute describes HAAA as one of the top Iraqi proxies for Iran's Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. It said this Sadrist breakaway faction has long garrisoned the Syrian border and killed Iraqi protesters to demonstrate its loyalty.

The United States has escalated in recent weeks its rhetoric against Iraqi factions.

Tracy Jacobson, US President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to Iraq, surprised Iraqi officials with unconventional statements about Iranian influence and Tehran-backed militias.

Jacobson warned that Iran “remains a malign actor and a destabilizing influence in the region that threatens to undo all of Iraq’s achievements. We recognize that the primary threat to Iraq’s stability and sovereignty are the Iran-aligned militias.”

Press reports said Washington’s recent change of rhetoric could pave the way for attacks on pro-Iranian militias in the country, despite the Iraqi government's appeasement efforts.

During his visit to Washington last April, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani reassured the US that his government is able to protect US interests, including the embassy in Baghdad.

However, the targeting of US-branded restaurants by Iraqi factions still worries Washington.

- Who is Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya? -

HAAA first appeared in 2013 after a group of armed militias have defected from the Sadrist movement in Iraq.

Since, the group played key political roles, including its alignment with former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari to participate in the general election in 2014.

In 2018, the group participated in the general election with the Fatah Alliance led by Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Ameri.

According to the Washington Institute, the group has a political entity in Maysan province, south Iraq, where it holds several provincial council seats. It said the group placed fourth in Maysan's 2013 provincial council elections, a showing that allowed its deputy Murtadha Hamood Ali al-Saidi to become head of the council's integrity committee.

Also, the group is one of the top Iraqi proxies for Iran's Quds Force and has killed Iraqi anti-government protesters in November 2019.

On April 4, 2020, HAAA was one of eight resistance groups to threaten attacks against US targets and prime ministerial candidate Adnan al-Zurfi, whom they accused of being “an American agent.”

Also, in early summer 2023, a reliable open-source article reported that Ghrawi was one of a select group of eight resistance leaders to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

The US said on January 28, 2024 that HAAA members were involved in the deadly drone attack that killed three US soldiers near the Syrian-Jordanian border.



Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The Middle East was reeling Sunday from deadly violence with Israel bombing Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen in quick succession in response to attacks from Iran-backed militant groups.
Despite Washington's top diplomat asserting a deal is near the "goal line" to end more than nine months of devastating war between Israel and Gaza rulers Hamas, the Israeli military said it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen, as it pressed on with its offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, Agence France Presse reported.
Dozens have been killed since Saturday across the Gaza Strip, the civil defense agency said, including in strikes on homes in the central Nuseirat and Bureij areas and displaced people near southern Khan Yunis.
Residents said a major operation was underway in the district of Rafah in the south, reporting heavy artillery and clashes.
The deadly strikes in Gaza came hours after Hezbollah and its ally Hamas said they fired at Israeli positions from south Lebanon, while Yemen's Houthi group vowed to respond to Israeli warplanes hitting a key port.
The fire left raging by the strikes on Hodeida port "is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Detailing the first strikes claimed by Israel in Yemen, Gallant warned of further operations if the Houthis "dare to attack us" after a Houthi drone strike killed one in Tel Aviv on Friday.
In Hodeida three people were killed and 87 wounded, health officials said in a statement carried by Houthi media.
Netanyahu travels to Washington
The trio of militant groups has vowed to keep up attacks on Israel until a truce ends the violence in Gaza, which lies in ruins, with most residents forced to flee their homes.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel's military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,919 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The war has also unleashed hunger and health crises in Gaza, with Israel and the United Nations trading blame for vital aid supplies failing to reach those in need.
After the detection of poliovirus in Gaza sewage, though no individual cases, the World Health Organization said there were "monumental" constraints to mounting a timely response.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday the agency believes many more diseases are "spreading out of control" inside Gaza.
The premier is due to address US lawmakers Wednesday in Washington, where he will be under pressure to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday a truce was within reach.
"I believe we're... driving toward the goal line in getting an agreement that would produce a ceasefire, get the hostages home, and put us on a better track to trying to build lasting peace and stability," he said.