Intro and Analysis
Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada is an Iranian proxy Iraqi Shi'a militia that first emerged as a participant in the Syrian civil war, fighting against the rebels as part of the 'shrine defence' [Sayyida Zainab] narrative. With the renewal of the Sunni Arab insurgency spearheaded by the Islamic State in Iraq this year, the group has also been participating in fighting alongside the government's regular armed forces and other Shi'a militias against the insurgents.
Logo of Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada
Dhi Qar Media Office: "The Islamic Resistance: Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada'". Dhi Qar is a southern province in Iraq, predominantly Shi'a in population, and serving as a recruitment base for the group. Note the banner featuring Ayatollah Khamenei (Supreme Leader of Iran), indicating Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada's ideological alignment.
The latest statement from Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada that I have translated below is a threat issued to Saudi Arabia in light of the death sentence handed down this week to the Saudi Shi'a cleric Nimr al-Nimr on sedition charges. The event has unsurprisingly gained widespread attention among Middle Eastern Shi'a. A couple other points to note:
1. Threats issued to Saudi Arabia and its interests abroad by Iranian proxy Shi'a militias in Iraq are nothing new: Wathiq al-Battat of Jaysh al-Mukhtar comes to mind.
2. Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada opens its statement by accusing the U.S. of being behind the current wave of destabilization of Iraq. The notion that the Islamic State is the creation of the U.S. is a widespread talking point in Shi'a militia discourse, particularly among Iranian proxies. This reflects their worldview- shared by the Iranian government, which promotes this idea to its population- that the U.S. is the real, ultimate enemy.
In a similar vein, note that when the new wave of destabilization broke out in Iraq in June with the Islamic State's rapid successes, Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib- an Iraqi Shi'a militia based in the Damascus area- similarly accused the "Great Satan" (ash-Shaytan al-Akbar- a term used by Iran and its proxies to refer to the U.S.) of being behind the whole thing. The powerful Iranian proxy in Iraq- Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which had ties with former PM Nouri al-Maliki- is also promoting this anti-American line.
At a policy level, this conspiracy theory meme has serious implications for the U.S. should there be a decision to redeploy conventional ground troops in any substantial numbers in Iraq, as such troops will almost certainly be the target of Shi'a militia attacks, hampering efforts directed at rolling back the Islamic State. This is so despite the fact U.S. airstrikes played a decisive role in allowing Shi'a militias to break the siege of Amerli by the Islamic State: unsurprisingly, they gave no credit to the U.S. Moreover, the soundness of a strategy of working with Iran as part of a broader coalition is readily in doubt if one of the two parties accuses the other of being behind the very phenomenon both are trying to fight.
Republic of Iraq
Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada
The Islamic Resistance* in Iraq
15 October 2014
Statement from Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada regarding the issue of what the Saudi judge issued against Sheikh al-Mujahid Nimr al-Nimr
In the time in which the forces of evil have been gathering against our enduring Iraq and in which what is happening in it [Iraq] on account of the international conspiracies led by the forces of global arrogance- at whose forefront is the Great Satan America- that also want to destroy the land of the holy sites: in this time comes the news of the issuance of the unjust death sentence against Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by one of the Saudi courts to concord with the outlook and thought-path of this sectarian kingdom- the so-called 'Saudi Arab Kingdom'.
Indeed the Islamic Resistance Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada expresses its condemnation of this oppressive ruling which also reveals the depth of the sectarian crisis that the regime of the Family of Saud is suffering from, as well as its hidden hatred towards the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt [Shi'a] (peace be upon them) and its determination to oppose the original direction of Muhammad. Thus it [Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada] asks the Iraqi government to rise to the level of responsibility and work to cut off diplomatic relations with the Wahhabi Kingdom of Evil.
In this context, Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada considers anything of Saudi origin on the level of building or person a target for it; and will not hold back capability in burning or destroying anything tied to this tyrannical kingdom if these authorities do not review this unjust execution decision.
Further, it does not escape Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada to mention that a section of the Ahl al-Bayt is living in a state of pressure and siege whose most recent signs are the terrorists' attacks and the support of the Great Satan for that. And especially [we have here] this media intimidation as regards the size of the gangs of Da3esh [derogatory term for the Islamic State] and the attempt to portray the great capital Baghdad as being at two bow lengths or nearer to falling.**
Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada
20 Dhu Hijjah 1435 AH
*- Muqawama Islamiya [Islamic Resistance] is a typical term used by Shi'a militias- Iranian proxies or otherwise- to refer to themselves.
**- A phrase derived from the Qur'an 53:8-10. To be sure, much of the recent discourse on 'Will Baghdad fall?' is quite ridiculous analytically. The city is heavily garrisoned by conventional security forces and Shi'a militias, and has a predominantly Shi'a population. In any case, the Islamic State has been operating in the Abu Ghraib area for quite some time: the proximity of some conventional fighters for the group to the capital- as well as the existence of cells within the city- is nothing new.