Wed - 09 Feb 2022 - 11:42 PM

written by : Faris al-Omran Writer Archive -

Signs of operational co-ordination between Iran's proxies in Yemen and Iraq are further undermining the security of the Gulf states and the region, analysts said.

A fresh wave of violence directed at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) kicked off in January with a volley of drone and missile attacks originating in Yemen that were claimed by the Houthis.

Now, a new group has entered the fray.

On February 2, Emirati forces intercepted and destroyed "hostile drones" targeting the UAE. A shadowy Iraqi militia linked to Iran calling itself Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq claimed the attack, in a statement circulated by Iran's proxies.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree later "congratulated" Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq for the operation, and senior Houthi official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi praised the attackers in a message on Twitter, before deleting the post.

"Thank you, free Iraq and its mujahideen," his message read.

In various public statements, Qais al-Khazaali, the leader of Iran-linked Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq, has indicated he condones the attacks.

Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq claimed a January 2021 attack on Saudi Arabia, in which drones were launched at al-Yamamah Palace and other locations in Riyadh.

It also threatened to target the UAE, posting doctored images of the monumental Burj Khalifa skyscraper being struck by drones.

The little-known militia is seen as a front for Kataib Hizbullah.

In a statement following the February 2 attack, the UAE's Ministry of Defence said it was prepared to deal with any threats, and is taking "all necessary measures to protect the state".

The United States also has pledged to augment the UAE's security, deploying a guided missile destroyer and state-of-the-art fighter jets as part of a "range of actions" to help defend its Gulf ally.

Co-ordinated attacks

It is clear that Iran's proxies are co-ordinating their operations to harm regional and Gulf security on the direct orders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF), said military analyst Jalil Khalaf al-Muhammadawi.

"The attacks against the UAE and, before that, Saudi Arabia, clearly demonstrate that," he told Al-Mashareq.

Iran's proxies "receive support, funding and weapons from the Iranians to continue their terrorist and subversive activities in the region", he said.

The lawless Iraqi militias are not concerned with Iraq's interests, he added, or the serious harm that their attacks on foreign nations cause to the country's reputation and to its regional and international relations.

There was public outcry in Iraq following Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq's claim of responsibility for the latest attack on the UAE.

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr denounced the attacks and made it clear that he rejects the attempts to plunge Iraq into a "dangerous regional war".

In a statement, he stressed the importance of not allowing Iraq to be used as a launchpad for attacks on neighbouring countries and the region, calling on the government to deal firmly with those who seek to plunge Iraq into such conflicts.

"Iraq needs peace and prestige, and not to be subservient to orders from the outside," he said, in reference to the militias' loyalty to Iran.

In a post on Twitter, Anwar Gargash, diplomatic affairs advisor to the Emirati president, described al-Sadr's position as "rational" and "consistent with the principle of the sanctity of the sovereignty and independence of states".

The Iran-aligned Iraqi militias are driven by their failure to achieve political gains after the recent parliamentary elections, said political analyst Ahmed Shawki.

The recent attacks "are part of the policy of escalation and shuffling of cards pursued by the militias and planned by the Iranians", he told Al-Mashareq.

Through their actions, he said, the militias are "burdening Iraq with more crises and problems and igniting a devastating regional conflict".

Iraqis are by and large unified in their desire "to condemn the behaviour of these militias and their continued tampering with their country's sovereignty and interests", he added.
Fundraising for the Houthis

On January 23, Kataib Hizbullah launched a fundraising campaign to help the Houthis manufacture drones to target the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Promoted as a "campaign by the youth of Iraq", the effort is led by Amir al-Moussawi, of the Kataib Hizbullah-controlled Sharia Youth Gathering.

But Iraqis did not step up to contribute, despite efforts to promote the campaign and solicit donations from militia-owned satellite channels such as Aletejah, al-Ahad and al-Nujaba and from social media sites such as Sabreen News.

Analysts said this failure reflects growing popular discontent with the actions of Iran's proxies and their depletion of the country's wealth to fuel conflicts.

Kataib Hizbullah leader Abu Ali al-Askari on January 28 announced the militia had donated 1 billion IQD ($685,000) as a "gift" to the campaign.

Commenting on the "gift" on Twitter, journalist Shaho al-Qaradaghi noted that Lebanese Hizbullah, the Houthis in Yemen and the Syrian regime are funded by Iraqi money, while Iraqis are deprived of their country's resources and wealth.

* Faris al-Omran a correspondent for the USCENTCOM-sponsored Al-Mashareq website. The article was published by Al-Mashareq on Wednesday, 9 February 2022. The views expressed represent the author alone.