Over the past several years (especially since the American assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qasim Sulaymani), various new groups in Iraq have declared their existence via social media, adopting the moniker of the 'Islamic Resistance' and focusing on targeting U.S. forces in Iraq with an aim to removing what is considered to be an occupying force. Those U.S. forces are officially deployed to the country to assist the Iraqi government in ongoing operations against an Islamic State insurgency that in general is at a very low level of intensity and has certainly not experienced a 'resurgence' of the kind predicted by pessimists.
The new groups that have emerged with an aim to removing the U.S. 'occupation' are very obscure in nature: with the primary or sole information being what they say about themselves on social media or what other pro-'resistance' outlets on social media say about them. Their obscurity in turn raises various questions. Are they genuinely new groups, or just front groups for established 'resistance' factions that are integrated into the Hashd Sha'abi Commission and thus as official governmental forces cannot target the Americans under their own names? What is their relation with Iran?
While inferences may be drawn based on extracting and comparing open source data, it must be recognised that there are limits to what we can know. Another avenue for inquiry should be reaching out to these groups and interviewing them, publishing these interviews as they are without distortion and agenda-driven omission.
In this regard, I reached out to one of the most well-known new groups targeting the U.S. forces- Ashab al-Kahf ("Companions of the Cave")- and conducted an interview with them about their history and perspective on removing the U.S. presence from Iraq, as well as other issues such as the attribution to them of the killing of the American teacher in Baghdad last year.
This interview was conducted on 25 April 2023, and it is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
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