Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : US Designates Iraq’s 'Ansar Allah al-Awfiya' as Terrorist

Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
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US Designates Iraq’s 'Ansar Allah al-Awfiya' as Terrorist

Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)
Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi (X)

The US Department of State designated an Iraqi faction and its secretary-general, who has political and military influence in the country since his defection from the Sadrist movement in 2013, as terrorist.

“Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya (HAAA) is an Iraq-based Iran-aligned militia group and part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI),” the Department said in statement.

The group and its Secretary-General Haydar Muzhir Malak al-Saidi, also known as Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi, were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, it added.

The statement said Washington remains committed to using all available tools to counter Iran’s support for terrorism and to degrade and disrupt the ability of Iran-backed groups to conduct terrorist attacks.

In response, HAAA issued a statement saying: “We bring to our proud people the news of the unjust designation issued by the Great Satan (America) against Sheikh Haydar al-Saidi and the movement.”

The US designation is “a tacit acknowledgment of their heroic struggle and honorable defense of the rights of oppressed peoples.”

“It is proof that Sheikh Haydar al-Ghrawi and Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya represent symbols of courage and dignity, having faced challenges and sacrifices with faithful hearts and unwavering resolve. Accusing them of terrorism is nothing more than a badge of honor and pride that history will bestow upon them,” it added.

US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, posted on X that the State Department's terrorist designation of reaffirms Washington’s commitment to countering the malign influence of Tehran and the threats posed by Iran-aligned militia groups.

The Washington Institute describes HAAA as one of the top Iraqi proxies for Iran's Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. It said this Sadrist breakaway faction has long garrisoned the Syrian border and killed Iraqi protesters to demonstrate its loyalty.

The United States has escalated in recent weeks its rhetoric against Iraqi factions.

Tracy Jacobson, US President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to Iraq, surprised Iraqi officials with unconventional statements about Iranian influence and Tehran-backed militias.

Jacobson warned that Iran “remains a malign actor and a destabilizing influence in the region that threatens to undo all of Iraq’s achievements. We recognize that the primary threat to Iraq’s stability and sovereignty are the Iran-aligned militias.”

Press reports said Washington’s recent change of rhetoric could pave the way for attacks on pro-Iranian militias in the country, despite the Iraqi government's appeasement efforts.

During his visit to Washington last April, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani reassured the US that his government is able to protect US interests, including the embassy in Baghdad.

However, the targeting of US-branded restaurants by Iraqi factions still worries Washington.

- Who is Harakat Ansar Allah al-Awfiya? -

HAAA first appeared in 2013 after a group of armed militias have defected from the Sadrist movement in Iraq.

Since, the group played key political roles, including its alignment with former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari to participate in the general election in 2014.

In 2018, the group participated in the general election with the Fatah Alliance led by Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Ameri.

According to the Washington Institute, the group has a political entity in Maysan province, south Iraq, where it holds several provincial council seats. It said the group placed fourth in Maysan's 2013 provincial council elections, a showing that allowed its deputy Murtadha Hamood Ali al-Saidi to become head of the council's integrity committee.

Also, the group is one of the top Iraqi proxies for Iran's Quds Force and has killed Iraqi anti-government protesters in November 2019.

On April 4, 2020, HAAA was one of eight resistance groups to threaten attacks against US targets and prime ministerial candidate Adnan al-Zurfi, whom they accused of being “an American agent.”

Also, in early summer 2023, a reliable open-source article reported that Ghrawi was one of a select group of eight resistance leaders to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

The US said on January 28, 2024 that HAAA members were involved in the deadly drone attack that killed three US soldiers near the Syrian-Jordanian border.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
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Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas

Israeli forces retreated from some Gaza City districts overnight after a fierce, week-long military offensive, leaving dozens of dead and wrecked homes and roads in the Palestinian enclave's biggest urban area, residents and rescue service said on Friday.

The offensive, 10 months into Israel's campaign to eliminate Hamas militants, took place as US-backed mediators sought to finalize a peace deal that would free remaining hostages taken by the militants in their cross-border rampage on Oct. 7.

According to Reuters, the Gaza Civil Emergency Service said teams had collected around 60 bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past week from the area of Tel Al-Hawa and the edges of the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City.

Both residents and rescue teams cautioned that while tanks withdrew from some areas, Israeli snipers and tanks continued to control high ground at some locations, and warned residents against trying to return to their homes in those areas.

"There are bodies scattered in the streets, dismembered bodies, there are bodies of entire families, there are also bodies inside a home of an entire family that was completely burned," Gaza Strip Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said in comments carried by media in Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli military had said on Thursday that its forces were working to dismantle Hamas capabilities in Gaza City, and that it "follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm." It said the same was not true of Hamas.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they had fought fierce battles against Israeli forces, attacking them with anti-tank rockets and mortar fire, killing and wounding many. There has been no Israeli army comment on those claims.

Home to more than a quarter of Gaza's residents before the war, Gaza City was largely razed to the ground in late 2023, but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have returned to homes in the ruins. Israel has once again ordered them out, though it is unclear where residents can go safely. Israel controls most of Gaza's borders and is also attacking central and southern Gaza.