Qais al-Khazali poses as a politician who respects and protects the Iraqi political system, but he always avoids revealing his loyalties and movements. When asked about Iran, he answers that he goes there only once a year as a tourist. But his political evasiveness is nothing but a mask for his odious practices. He is one of the leading advocates of hate and its preachers in Iraq and the region.
“Listen carefully… If you (Sunnis) do not stop your malicious projects, I swear you will not be safe … will not be safe… will not be safe,” he famously said in a televised speech in the early 2010s.
On Aug. 22, 2014, the Sunni Musab bin Umair mosque in Diyala was targeted during Friday prayers with explosives, killing 73 people. Khazali’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia was suspected of being behind the attack, even though AAH condemned the bombing.
“The August 22 attack is consistent with a pattern of attacks that Human Rights Watch has documented, including kidnappings and summary executions, by Shia militias Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, the Badr Brigades and Kita’ib Hezbollah in Baghdad, Diyala and Babel provinces,” Human Rights Watch said after the attack.
Leaked documents from the US published by the Wall Street Journal also proved that Khazali was the part of the planning behind the January 20, 2007 attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karabala.
Khazali was arrested and interrogated by US authorities after the Karbala Provincial Council raid, which, according to Khazali’s confession, was planned by Iran to kidnap five US soldiers, who were eventually killed. Khazali was handed over to the Iraqi authorities in late 2009 after he pledged that the militia he led would give up their weapons, and he was released shortly afterward.
The Wall Street Journal reported details of the extensive investigations, after Khazali’s arrest by the US authorities, into the Iranian role in supporting these terrorist militias. The investigations looked at the relations between Iraqi Shia cleric, politician and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iranians, and showed Sadr’s desire to control the Iranian money flowing to political groups in Iraq. The investigations also revealed the Iranian efforts in training the militia that Khazali was leading, as well as the relations between Tehran and Iraqi political figures such as the late President Jalal Talabani.
These leaks in December 2018 came at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump is considering the inclusion of Khazali and the AAH on terrorist lists.
US officials say that the real motive behind Khazali’s political rise is to empower his AAH militia in the same way as Hassan Nasrallah did with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
After completing his studies at the University of Baghdad in 1994, Khazali became attracted to the revolutionary ideas of the Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who has publicly opposed the Baathist regime and openly criticized its leadership’s practices in his sermons at Friday prayer. Khazali travelled to Najaf to join one of Sadr’s religious schools to study religious sciences and get closer to Sadr.
When Sadr and two of his sons, Mustafa and Mu’ammil, were assassinated in 1999, his fourth son, Muqtada, entrusted the task of supervising his father’s schools, offices and obtaining legitimate funds (zakat), to Khazali and one of his colleagues.
Khazali won the young Sadr’s confidence and friendship, and when Muqtada set up the Mahdi Army, the first Shiite militia formed to fight US troops in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Khazali was assigned to be one of its prominent field commanders and the spokesman of its superior leader, Sadr.
A year later, Sadr decided to form an elite force called “Special Groups” to carry out qualitative attacks against Americans across the country, and again he tasked his close friend Khazali to command these groups alongside with Akram al-Kaabi, one of Sadr’s father’s veteran students who currently commands Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujabaa.
Khazali is a soldier in the Iranian Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist project and the leader of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia, which includes a large number of fighters trained by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The number of AAH militants is estimated at about 10,000, and the militia claimed responsibility for 6,000 attacks on the US and Iraqi forces.
The AAH pledges allegiance to the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist regime and has participated in the Syrian war as an extremist militia in the names of al-Nujaba Brigade and Hassan al-Mujtaba Brigade. It is described by the Mahdi Army as the “league of falsehood” and “slaves of the dollar.”
Khazali’s donning of a political mask after the liberation of Mosul in 2017 can only be interpreted as an opportunity for recruitment, training and expansion within Iraq, whether among the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which was adopted as an official Iraqi body in 2015, or after the AAH - League of the Righteous - won 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament in the May 2018 elections as part of Al-Sadiqoun Bloc. Khazali declares that the bloc is a failure, yet he stands in it shouting and waving, with his militia face and his hatred, pouring accusations against anyone who is different or dares to oppose his convictions and ideas.
A senior US official says that out of the 15 seats won by Khazali, only two were fairly earned, the rest having been obtained corruptly, a claim AAH denies.
Khazali accused the people of Nineveh (a governorate in northern Iraq) of treachery, saying that they support Daesh because they want to change the current situation. He said that his AAH militia had a different aims.
“The people of Nineveh, in their stand and rhetoric, are historically the dustbin of history,” he said.
Threatening Iraqi Sunnis
After the abduction of his brother, Khazali said in a televised speech: “Listen carefully… If you (Sunnis) do not stop your malicious projects, I swear you will not be safe … will not be safe… will not be safe.”
On Popular Mobilization Units
“Popular Mobilization Units have the final word. They were able to enter all the areas held and raped by the separatists. With the same courage, the same ability, the same vigilance, the same responsibility that we said previously we say now. Oh Masoud Barzani, oh separatists: do not expect that you are safe if you continue with the defilements and violations on the Iraqi army and Iraqi cities, we will reach you in Irbil and hold you accountable in Irbil … Kurdish Irbil is quite close.”
On Iran and its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Khazali and other leaders of AAH have often declared their allegiance to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In November 2014, Jabir al-Rajabi, representative of the AAH militia in Iran, pledged the fealty of his organization to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a speech in the Iranian city of Qom during a ceremony honoring the members of AAH and Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades who were killed in Syria.