To give a brief introduction, Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib ('The Absent Imam Battalions'- the 'Absent Imam' referring to Imam al-Mehdi in Shi'a messianism) is one of dozens of Shi'a militias that have emerged as part of the 'Popular Mobilization' (al-Hashad al-Sha'abi) trend in response to the wave of Islamic State [IS] gains in northern and western Iraq in summer 2014. Like a number of militias (e.g. Hezbollah the Mujahideen in Iraq), Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib- led by a man known as 'Abu Dhir al-Fiqar', advertises itself as a 'Hezbollah brand', using Hezbollah's symbols in its insignia in particular.
The interview below I conducted and edited is with one Hussein al-Maliki, a commander in Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib who also serves as an adviser for a group known as 'Harakat Nasrallah al-Islamiya' ('The Islamic Nasrallah Movement'), whose name takes after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Brief though his answers may be, I hope they can be of some insight for readers.
Q: You are a leader of which brigade?
A: I am a commander in Liwa Ansar al-Hijja and now in Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib.
Q: What are your (Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib's) relations with Kata'ib Hezbollah [the most well-known and established Hezbollah brand in Iraq and Iranian proxy]?
A: Same manhaj [ideological program].
Q: So you are not affiliated with Kata'ib Hezbollah?
Q: How many fighters do you have and in what areas do you operate?
A: In all of Iraq. I cannot disclose the number.
Q: Do you receive weapons and support from Iran?
A: No comment.
Q: In your opinion who is behind IS?
A: America and Israel.
Q: And Saudi Arabia as well?
A: The biggest is America.
Q: So America is the Great Satan?
Q: If America sends its soldiers to Iraq will you fight them?
A: Myself yes. There remain the orders of the leadership.
Q: So Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib has no policy on this matter until now?
A: We follow the order of the leadership and the marja'iyya in the event of the entry of the Americans.
Q: Why does America support IS?
A: It wants to return to Iraq.
Q: To occupy it?
A: Yes. And in preparation for the appearance of the Imam [Mehdi], to wage war on him.
Q: So [also] to destroy the holy sites?
Q: Do you follow wilayat al-faqih as explained by Ayatollah Khomeini?
A: We follow the wilayat of Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Q: Are the Ahl al-Sunna brothers?
A: No comment. Each person has his own opinion about the Ahl al-Sunna.
Q: Do you think the Peshmerga is trying to divide Iraq?
Q: Does Harakat Nasrallah al-Islamiya have a relation with Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib?
A: No, but inshallah, we bring them close together.