Iran’s Proxy Militias In Iraq Step Up Attacks Targeting U.S. Military Personnel

Iran’s Proxy Militias In Iraq Step Up Attacks Targeting U.S. Military Personnel


Iran’s Proxy Militias In Iraq Step Up Attacks Targeting U.S. Military Personnel 

Iran-backed proxy militias continued launching drone and rocket attacks on U.S. military personnel in Iraq, after the U.S. struck two facilities in Syria last week. Since then, the U.S. has not carried out additional strikes. On October 31, Kataib Hezbollah (KH), a secretive, loyal, and lethal Iran-backed Iraqi militia, claimed to have hit Ain al-Assad airbase in western Iraq, where U.S. troops are based, in a drone strike.  

This attack was an escalation in Iran’s multi-pronged proxy war against the U.S. and Israel, as KH is a prominent militia within the Iran-helmed ‘Axis of Resistance.’ KH has extensive and well-documented operational, financial, ideological, and material ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The shadowy IRGC-backed militias—which participated in several of last week’s attacks against the U.S. as part of the ‘Islamic Resistance of Iraq’—are sometimes front groups for more established groups like KH.  

Israel and Palestinian Territories 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Travels to Qatar To Meet With Leader Of Palestinian Terrorist Group Hamas, While Israeli Combined Ground And Air Operations Accelerated in The Gaza Strip 

On October 31, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an IRGC Quds Force affiliate implicated in the planning of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, met with Ismael Haniyeh, the chief of Hamas’s political bureau, in Doha, the capital of Qatar. According to the Iranian English-language news network, Press TV, Abdollahian met Haniyeh to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip. Abdollahian said that “the resistance groups in the region make decisions independently and they do not necessarily wait for political decisions.”  

The next day, Israel killed a senior Hamas commander, Muhammad Asar, head of the group’s anti-tank unit. He played a key role in the October 7 terrorist attacks. Israel also destroyed a command-and-control network and underground tunnel system through a combined ground and air operation at Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.  

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) continued airstrikes in the Gaza Strip to facilitate the expansion of ground operations. On October 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the beginning of the “second stage” of the war. The ground offensive began with limited raids into the Gaza Strip and quickly transformed into a larger scale assault on Gaza City, which by November 2 the IDF had surrounded. Israeli forces are engaged in close-quarter fighting in the city, with Hamas terrorists adopting a hit-and-run technique from the tunnels. The IDF aims to neutralize Hamas’s high-ranking political and military leadership in Gaza City.  

On November 2, IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari disclosed that Haniyeh was expected to visit Iran on his private jet. This will allow Iran to coordinate activities within the ‘Axis of Resistance.’ Hagari followed up by saying, “Iran is pushing its proxies around us, the Houthis, Hezbollah, and others, in order to distract us from focusing on Hamas and Gaza. We are focused on Hamas.”  

Lebanon and Hezbollah

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah Delivers His First Speech Since the October 7 Hamas Terrorist Attack Against Israel

In the days leading up to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s first speech since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has engaged in limited escalation on the northern front, probably calculated to avoid devastating reprisals while at the same time conveying the image that it is committed to the Palestinian terrorist groups. Hezbollah claimed to have shot down an Israeli drone with a surface-to-air missile and launched multiple strikes against targets in Israel. Israel has responded with airstrikes in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah targets.

On the morning of November 3, Nasrallah delivered his long-anticipated address from an undisclosed location. He said that Al-Aqsa Flood—referring to the October 7 terrorist attack—was kept secret from the rest of the ‘Axis of Resistance,’ a coalition of IRGC-backed terrorist militias that do Iran’s bidding across the Middle East. He added that the Palestinians planned and decided to conduct the attack on their own. Supreme Leader Khamenei has said the same thing, denying foreknowledge of the terrorist attack and Iran’s role in the operational planning and training for the attack.

Hezbollah is also testing the Iranian concept of a unified ‘Axis of Resistance,’ where various actors are expected to join in war if one member is attacked—similar to Article 5 of NATO. He communicated that Hezbollah is supporting the war against Israel on the northern front. As Israeli ground forces advance and Hamas’ defeat approaches, internal pressure within Hezbollah (and the rest of the ‘Axis of Resistance’) to act against Israel could increase and precipitate further escalation.

A Wall Street Journal report said that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor, planned to facilitate the transfer of SA-22 air defense systems to Hezbollah, which could impede Israel’s control of the airspace over southern Lebanon. Later reports indicated that Syrian President Assad agreed to transfer those Russian-supplied systems to the Wagner Group for delivery to Hezbollah. 


IRGC-Backed ‘Imam Hossein Division’ Relocates From Syria to Southern Lebanon To Assist Hezbollah 

A contingent from the ‘Imam Hossein Division,’ an elite IRGC-backed unit whose activities have to date been focused in Syria, has arrived in Lebanon to assist Hezbollah, according to the IDF. Considered to be an advanced IRGC-backed “fighting force”—heavily-armed and comprised of thousands of fighters—the ‘Imam Hossein Division’ was responsible for an intense drone and rocket strike against Al-Tanf Garrison, which houses U.S. military personnel, in October 2021.  

Israeli Airforce Strikes Military Targets In Syria In Retaliation For Rocket Attack Launched From Syria, Raising Tensions with Russia 

According to Syria’s Defense Ministry, the IDF struck Syrian armed forces in the early morning hours of October 30 in the Daraa countryside. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said that the airstrikes targeted an artillery battalion, in response to a rocket attack launched by Hezbollah-linked Syrian and Palestinian groups operating in Syria. For years, Israeli fighter jets have freely operated in Syrian skies, in part because of a tacit understanding with Russia, which backs Assad. However, as the IDF has intensified its airstrikes in Syria targeting both Assad’s forces and IRGC-backed militias, Russia has shown disapproval. Israel in turn said it will end its practice of warning Russia ahead of its airstrikes in Syria.