In an eyebrow-raising US sanction action, the State Department designated the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces fighting force Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada for allegedly engaging in the proliferation of advanced weapon technology.
On February 14, the US Department of State announced it had blacklisted the Iraqi militia pursuant to its little-known Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), which acts against foreign entities and individuals accused of helping those countries proliferate cruise or ballistic missiles as well as weapons of mass destruction.
The State Department notice provided no details on Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada’s activities, unlike the common practice of the US Department of the Treasury to issue press releases detailing the alleged nefarious activities of its sanctions targets.
Formed in Iraq in 2013, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada is closely aligned to Iran and has operated in the Syrian conflict alongside Kataeb Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, both supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Qods Force.
Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada military commander Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, a shadowy figure who holds both Iraqi and Iranian passports, was sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2008 for allegedly leading an “Iran-sponsored” network providing logistical support for attacks against US forces in Iraq.
The US Treasury said that al-Sheibani’s network “assisted members of a Shia militia group by transporting them to Iran for training and providing them with weapons for their activities in Iraq.”
“As of March 2007, Al-Sheibani, known to transport Katyusha rockets to be used for attacks against Coalition Forces, launched rockets against Americans and made videos of the attacks to get money from Iran,” the press release added.
Hezbollah helped train the Al-Sheibani network, according to US officials, who said that the Lebanese organization dispatched top experts to help bolster the organization between 2006 and 2008.
Al-Sheibani was close to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces assassinated by the US alongside IRGC-QF chief Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
While the US State Department’s INKSNA sanctions mainly encompass firms and individuals around the world, two other Iraqi militias have been previously blacklisted — Kataeb Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq — both allies of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
Levant Networks examined how the IRGC-QF and Hezbollah worked in tandem to woo Qais al-Khazali as the Iraqi split from Muqtada al-Sadr and formed the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia.