A prominent Iranian-supported Iraqi militia commander has visited the Lebanese-Israeli border and pledged to support Hezbollah in a potential war against Israel in the future, Iranian and Arab media reported. The news triggered condemnations from Lebanese officials and concerns in Israel. Over the weekend, a video clip circulating in social media showed Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (A.A.H.), appearing in military uniform touring the border in southern Lebanon accompanied by Hezbollah’s military officials. A.A.H. is a unit within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) and its forces have also been fighting in Syria under the leadership of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s Mehr News Agency wrote that Khazali’s trip to Lebanon and tour of the border region “carries important messages” to Israel and regional Arab states, and “confirms that the axis of resistance, from Iran to Syria and Lebanon and Iraq, has taken control of the region.”
Many Lebanese officials, however, denounced Khazali’s trip. Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a statement, describing it as a “flagrant violation” of Lebanese laws and called for the Iraqi militia leader to be banned from entering Lebanon again in the future.
Comment: Khazali’s trip to southern Lebanon is the latest indication that Iranian-backed Shiite militias from Iraq and across the region would join Hezbollah in any potential war with Israel in the future. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, warned earlier this year that any war launched by Israel against Syria and Lebanon would bring in Shiite fighters from different regional countries, including Iraq and Iran. Harakat al-Nujaba, another Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group fighting in Iraq and Syria, has also declared that it will help Hezbollah liberate the Golan Heights after the fight against ISIS is over.
A.A.H.’s relationship with the Lebanese Hezbollah is more than a decade long. According to the U.S. government accounts, the Lebanese Hezbollah upon a request by the Iranian government helped form and train A.A.H. in 2005 to carry out attacks against the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. Khazali has reportedly pledged allegiance to Khamenei, and his group takes orders from Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani rather than the government in Baghdad.
Earlier this year, Khazali said that his organization aims to establish a “Shiite full moon” not a “Shiite crescent.” In a video published in the Arab media, he added that an alliance of Shiite forces across the region would be ready to achieve that goal by the time the hidden Shiite Imam Mahdi reappears. He noted that the Shiite force will include the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) in Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthi movement in Yemen, the Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F) and other Shiite militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.