Pro-Iranian Iraq militia scorns US sanctions as ‘ridiculous’

Kataeb Hezbollah vows to keep up attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria after Treasury sanctions six people affiliated with it and another group over assaults on troops

File: Members of Iraqi Kataeb Hezbollah marching in military uniforms step on a representation of an Israeli flag in Baghdad, Iraq, July 25, 2014, during the annual 'Jerusalem Day' march. (AP/Hadi Mizban)
File: Members of Iraqi Kataeb Hezbollah marching in military uniforms step on a representation of an Israeli flag in Baghdad, Iraq, July 25, 2014, during the annual 'Jerusalem Day' march. (AP/Hadi Mizban)

Iraq’s powerful pro-Iranian armed group Kataeb Hezbollah has denounced as “ridiculous” sanctions unveiled this week by the United States over recent attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria.

American forces deployed in those two countries have been attacked more than 55 times since mid-October, according to the Pentagon, coinciding with US ally Israel’s war on Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

In a statement released late Saturday on Telegram, Kataeb Hezbollah spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari said attacks by “the Islamic resistance in Iraq” were part of a “strategy of attrition,” dismissing sanctions as ineffectual.

“The inclusion of certain brothers in the so-called ‘American sanctions list’ is ridiculous,” Askari argued, saying “such actions will not dissuade our courageous fighters.”

The US Treasury said on Friday it had sanctioned six individuals affiliated with Kataeb Hezbollah as well as the leader of another pro-Iranian group in Iraq which Washington said was also involved in attacks against US troops.

In its statement, the Treasury said Kataeb Hezbollah was trained, funded and supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and “is behind a spate of recent attacks against the United States and partners in Iraq and Syria following the horrific attacks by Hamas against Israel.”

A devastating October 7 attack on Israel launched by the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, who were slaughtered in their homes, on the streets, or at an outdoor music festival. At least 240 people of all ages — including the elderly and infants — were abducted and taken captive to the Gaza Strip.

Israel launched has launched an air, land and naval assault to destroy Hamas and remove it from power in Gaza, where it has been the de facto regime since 2007. The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry claims upwards of 12,000 people in the Strip have been killed, but the figures cannot be verified and do not distinguish between civilians and terror group fighters. Some of those killed are also victims of hundreds of misfired rockets aimed by terror groups at Israel that fell short inside Gaza.

Illustrative: American soldiers drive a Bradley fighting vehicle during a joint exercise with Syrian Democratic Forces at the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, December 8, 2021. (Baderkhan Ahmad/AP)

Attacks on US forces in the region since the start of the Israel-Hamas war have caused minor injuries to dozens of troops, according to the Pentagon.

Most were rocket or drone attacks claimed by a group called “the Islamic resistance in Iraq.”

“The calculated strikes of the Islamic resistance in Iraq… are part of a strategy of attrition of the enemy, deciding the level of escalation of operations, trajectory and timing,” said the Kataeb Hezbollah spokesman.

The group was designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department in 2009.

The United States has about 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and another 900 in Syria, deployed as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

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