As the sectarian nature of Syria’s civil war grows, the theme of a larger pan-Shi`a struggle supportive of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad against radical Sunni elements is quickly becoming the norm. Reports have surfaced of Afghan Shi`a possibly fighting with pro-Assad militia organizations,[1] as well as a Shi`a fighter from the Ivory Coast.[2] Nevertheless, it is Iraqi Shi`a groups and individuals, mainly from Iranian-backed groups, that have sent the majority of militiamen to fight for al-Assad in Syria.

Beginning in early 2012, Iraqi Shi`a fighters started to trickle into Syria.[3] Participating Iraqi groups include Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hizb Allah, the Badr Organization, Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba (Harakat al-Nujaba), and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.[4] There is also the possibility that militiamen affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr, namely Liwa al-Yum al-Mawud, may be contributing fighters as well.[5] The employment of these Shi`a fighters in Syria has been widespread in major areas of conflict, especially Damascus. Their training, tactics and weapons further point to how Iran is using its ideologically loyal proxies to keep the Syrian regime in power.

This article examines the Iraqi organizations that supply fighters to Syria, in addition to their training, tactics and weapons. It finds that professional fighters and well-trained volunteer forces, with a strong adherence to Iranian revolutionary ideology, form the bulk of the Iraqi Shi`a militia contingent in Syria.

The Combatants: Ideology and Professionalism
The press and social media assert that many of the Iraqi Shi`a fighters operating as part of Syria-based Shi`a militias, such as Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (the al-Abbas Brigade), are somewhat disorganized “volunteers” who lack training.[6] In terms of messaging importance, the emphasis on volunteers demonstrates a specific narrative that is meant to unite disparate Shi`a behind an Iranian-organized effort. This has especially been the case for Iraqis, whose main clerical leadership, both radical and traditional, have not been supportive of Shi`a militia activities in Syria.[7]

Volunteer fighters are clearly fighting in Syria.[8] Yet according to the fighters themselves, members of Shi`a militias are both vetted by Iranian and Syrian authorities and often endure rigorous training regimens.[9] One Iraqi Shi`a militia commander told National Public Radio that Lebanese Hizb Allah manages some of the training.[10]

There has also been speculation over the ideological motivations of Iraqi Shi`a fighters in Syria. From Lebanese Hizb Allah to Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, organizations that have officially stated they have supplied Shi`a militiamen to Syria have all announced they follow Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary ideological concept of wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist).[11] According to one Lebanese Hizb Allah fighter, the group’s order to fight in the May-June 2013 battle of Qusayr was a direct religious order called a taklif shar`i.[12] According to Alia Ibrahim, the Beirut correspondent for Dubai TV, with the issuance of a taklif shar`i, “Supporters are obliged to follow his [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s] commands, and disobeying him is considered tantamount to disobeying God.”[13]

The Associated Press noted in June 2013 that highly organized Iranian proxy groups such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hizb Allah “are organizing much of the transfer of Iraqi fighters to Syria, according to Shiite politicians, clerics and militia members.”[14] One Asaib Ahl al-Haq commander told the news agency, “I personally get dozens of calls each day from people [volunteers] in the provinces and Baghdad who want to go…We send well-trained ideological fighters.”[15]

Iraq-Based Groups Supplying Fighters to Syria
Before March 2013, Iraq-based Shi`a militia groups denied that they were sending fighters to Syria.[16] When these groups posted death notices for fallen fighters, the location of death was not provided. Militants were generally described as having died performing their “jihadist duties.”[17] Only in March 2013 did Iraqi Shi`a organizations begin to announce the deaths of members killed fighting in Syria. Public funerals and social media posts suggest that a number of new and more established organizations are fielding fighters for Syria. Based on the casualty reports released by Iraqi Shi`a fighters in Syria, the majority of these militiamen originated from Basra, Maysan Province, Najaf, and Baghdad.[18]

The key Iraqi Shi`a militia groups that have sent fighters to Syria to operate under the banner of Syria-based militias include: Kataib Hizb Allah, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the Badr Organization.

Kataib Hizb Allah
The first “martyr” announcements came from Kataib Hizb Allah with the death of Ahmed Mahdi Shuweili in March 2013.[19] The Iraq-based Kataib Hizb Allah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi organization, neither hides its affinity for Iran nor disguises that Lebanese Hizb Allah is its role model.[20] Following the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, Kataib Hizb Allah rejected calls to put down its arms and has continued on a militant path in Iraq.[21] While deploying forces to Syria, Kataib Hizb Allah has been linked to attacks targeting Iranian dissidents in Iraq in June 2013.[22]

Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada
Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada is another supplier of Iraqi Shi`a fighters to Syria. It was allegedly created in May 2013 with its founding goal to “protect Shi`a holy sites.”[23] The group is reportedly led by Falah al-Khazali.[24] According to unnamed sources, however, Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani created the group after he left Kataib Hizb Allah and still currently leads it.[25] The group has not clarified the leadership confusion. In a May 8, 2013, statement issued by Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, it claimed it would defend Shi`a religious sites across the globe, had “fought the U.S. occupation in Iraq,” and wanted to “liberate Jerusalem.”[26] In May, it held three funerals for members killed in Syria,[27] and in late August it announced the deaths of eight more fighters.[28] The Associated Press also reported in May that its fighters had headed to Iran prior to flying to Syria.[29]

It is possible that Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada is a front for a Syrian civil war-focused military arm of the Basra, Iraq-based Sayyid al-Shuhada Movement.[30] The fact that most of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada’s publicly announced fallen fighters have originated from Basra also points to the possibility that there may be a link with the political organization.[31]

Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba
In June 2013, another new group emerged, calling itself Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba (also known as Harakat Nujaba). Like Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Harakat Nujaba announced its existence during a funeral in Maysan Province for seven of its fallen fighters.[32] The group also claimed to be a supplier of Shi`a fighters into Syria, particularly to the Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir militia.[33]

Asaib Ahl al-Haq
Formed in 2006 after it split from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq has been the recipient of extensive training from Lebanese Hizb Allah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).[34] The group is also a proponent of Iran’s wilayat al-faqih doctrine.[35] During the Iraq war that began in 2003, the group was a direct Iranian proxy that carried out hundreds of attacks on coalition forces and helped introduce the specialized explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead.[36] Despite Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s claims that it was considering giving up its armed elements, the group retains and continues to utilize them.[37]

In spring 2013, Asaib Ahl al-Haq released numerous death announcements and held funerals for fighters killed in Syria. The relatively larger numbers (when juxtaposed to the losses of other Shi`a groups) established Asaib Ahl al-Haq as one of the major suppliers of fighters to Syria. In July 2013, Asaib Ahl al-Haq announced that the fighters they were sending to Syria belonged to a special unit named Liwa Kafil Zaynab. Liwa Kafil Zaynab is not a new militia; instead, it is a separate unit within Asaib Ahl al-Haq, similar in scope to other military expeditionary units. The announcement of a subgrouping follows other geographically-oriented military units created by Asaib Ahl al-Haq during the Iraq war, such as the group’s Kataib Imam Hassan al-Askari, which primarily operated in Diyala Province.[38] Liwa Kafil Zaynab’s main goal is the “Defense of Sayyida Zaynab,” an important Shi`a shrine located in southern Damascus whose “defense” has served as a main theme with Shi`a militias operating in Syria.[39] Immediately following the announcement of its existence, the group created its own YouTube station that promptly issued videos of its fighters. These videos also openly stated that fighters from Lebanese Hizb Allah and Liwa Kafil Zaynab actively cooperated and supported one another in Syria.[40]

The Badr Organization
The Badr Organization, which recently split from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and extensive links to the IRGC, also supports Iran’s wilayat al-faqih.[41] Starting in May 2013, the group threatened to become more involved in the Syrian conflict.[42] The Badr Organization Military Wing’s Quwet Shahid al-Sadr later announced its existence at around the same time as Liwa Kafil Zaynab. In one social media post, the group claimed to have flown 1,500 members into Syria.[43] As with Liwa Kafil Zaynab, Quwet Shahid al-Sadr appears to be a subgrouping of the main Badr Organization militia which is tasked with actions in Syria. On July 21, 2013, the Badr Organization confirmed the group had suffered its first combat death in Syria.

Syria-Based Militias
Since many Shi`a fighters arriving in Syria come from established political and militant organizations, their presence in Syria has been obscured by efforts to repackage them as part of a number of Syria-based militia groups. Syria-based militia groups, which do not operate in Iraq publicly, include the al-Abbas Brigade, Liwa Zulfiqar, Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn and Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir.

Al-Abbas Brigade
The al-Abbas Brigade has served as the primary front group for Iranian-backed combatants and organizations based in Iraq. Numbers for the group range between 500-1,500 fighters.[44] The al-Abbas Brigade was the first prominently mentioned Shi`a militia in Syria and announced its presence to the world via a music video and Facebook posts in the fall/winter of 2012.[45] A Reuters report suggested that the al-Abbas Brigade may have been initially started by former members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, all Iraqi Shi`a, living in the area of Sayyida Zaynab.[46] It combined a local al-Assad-controlled militia and new Iraqi Shi`a fighters from a number of Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi`a organizations.

The group is also suspected to have connections to Lebanese Hizb Allah and other Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi`a groups, such as Kataib Hizb Allah, due to its name and tactics.[47] In fact, Kataib Hizb Allah once had an armed group named the “al-Abbas Brigade.”[48]

The al-Abbas Brigade’s own imagery also suggests further links between the militia and Iranian revolutionary ideology. Its imagery includes photos of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Hizb Allah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and symbols which draw their inspiration from IRGC and Hizb Allah logos.[49]

Liwa Zulfiqar
Liwa Zulfiqar, a group that shares many leaders and fighters with the al-Abbas Brigade, also reportedly operates in Damascus. The group has been photographed “raising the banner of Abu Fadl al-Abbas” in the northern section of Damascus called Barzeh.[50] Information on Liwa Zulfiqar’s force deployments are unknown. Through photos and videos released by Liwa Zulfiqar, the group actively promotes its Iraqi Shi`a identity and combat operations.[51] In another photograph released by the group, a sniper is shown with the group’s logos, wearing an Iraqi flag breast patch.

Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn
Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn is a Shi`a militia that operates in Damascus. The group’s imagery often promotes their affiliation with Sadrist militias and loyalty to Moqtada al-Sadr. Unlike fighters from other Iraqi Shi`a organizations, Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn’s fighters have not been pictured with photographs of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Instead, they have pictures featuring Moqtada al-Sadr. At times, personnel in the group have been presented as also having former military experience in the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi military connection has been a highlighted feature in Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn’s imagery. The group’s reported leader, Majid Abu Dhiba, is at times shown wearing Iraqi military insignia and camouflage fatigues. The group’s size is hard to ascertain; the largest number of their militiamen photographed at one time has been 16 members. It is likely the group is comprised of more fighters. Liwa al-Imam al-Husayn first publicly announced its establishment with the June 30, 2013, creation of a Facebook page.  Throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the group also announced it would be holding nightly iftar meals for the residents of the Sayyida Zaynab neighborhood.[52]

Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir
Another newer militia, Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir, claims to operate outside of Damascus in Aleppo. Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir announced its existence with a Facebook page on May 27, 2013.[53] On June 4, the first non-internet based evidence of its existence was presented at a mass funeral for seven members of the group.[54] While the organization claims to have strong links to Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba, its propaganda suggests a close relationship with Asaib Ahl al-Haq and also suggests a strong belief in Iranian ideological concepts.[55]

Training, Tactics and Weapons
According to the Saudi newspaper al-Sharq, training for Iraqi Shi`a militiamen headed to Syria was, at one point, organized by the IRGC and would occur over a two-week period in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj.[56] The newspaper added that Iraqi government sources claimed that these fighters were paid around $50 a day for their activities.[57] Iraqi government sources also asserted that Iraqi Shi`a fighters would train for longer periods in camps run by Iran’s elite IRGC Qods Force, primarily in the Iranian city of Varamin.[58]

Following their training, these fighters would be flown in small batches of 10-15 from Iran to Syria.[59] At Damascus Airport, these Iraqi Shi`a were bused to their areas of operation after a short meeting with Shi`a militia leaders.[60]

Iraqi Shi`a fighters, particularly those who had fought U.S. and coalition forces in an asymmetric manner, are not narrowed to a specific set of combat strategies. These groups have utilized a multitude of conventional tactics and techniques to project their power. Instead of being limited to the types of environments in which they engage Syrian rebel forces, these groups have also demonstrated abilities to fight in both urban and rural areas.

Iraqi Shi`a fighters often employ combined small unit tactics, with fighters wielding assault rifles (particularly Kalashnikov varieties), machine guns (namely versions of the 7.62x54mm PKM), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and sniper rifles (including anti-materiel type sniper rifles). The Shi`a militias have reportedly assembled defensive sniper positions, conducted ambushes and counter-ambushes, and established checkpoints in urban and rural areas. Additionally, direct cooperation, in the form of providing infantry support for Syrian armored units, has also been promoted in certain released video clips by the fighters. Like their rebel foes, Shi`a militias manned by Iraqi fighters have also used “technicals.” These improvised trucks and jeeps often feature recoilless rifles, 23mm and 14.5mm cannons, 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine guns, or rockets.[61]

Highlighting the use of specific weapons has been another feature of the foreign-manned Shi`a groups. The emphasis on particular weapons is also part of the training schedule organized by Iran. According to one former fighter, “You have to enroll on a 45-day training course in Iran to be specialized in using a specific weapon like rocket launchers, Kalashnikov, sniper rifle or RPGs.”[62]

Iraqi Shi`a operating as part of Syria’s Shi`a militias have demonstrated higher levels of training, with more utilization of snipers. Many of these sniper tactics were perfected in Iraq with Iranian aid during the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq.[63] Iraqi Shi`a snipers—using optics-mounted 7.62x51mm FAL-type, the 7.62×51 bolt-action Steyr SSG 69 rifles, and especially versions of the Russian 7.62x54mm SVD (also known as the Dragunov)—are a regular feature of al-Abbas Brigade, Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir, and Liwa Zulfiqar propaganda posted on the internet.[64] Occasionally, fighters wielding these weapons have functioned as designated marksmen on the squad level. In more publicized instances, teams of snipers and lone snipers are used in urban operations.[65]

The influx of Iraqi Shi`a fighters to Syria demonstrates that Iran is employing its ideologically-driven fighters from its network of regional proxies. As the conflict continues to be marketed as a pan-Shi`a conflict, Iraq also presents a fertile recruiting ground for new fighters. Iraqi Shi`a militias and fighters also benefit Iranian policy vis-à-vis the region’s Shi`a Muslims by demonstrating that Iran is supportive of efforts to “defend Shi’ism.” Tehran’s support of Iraqi Shi`a fighters in Syria displays a broader acceptance of its ideology in a community that has increasingly felt embattled.

Judging from the creation of two new organizations, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada and Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba, it is highly probable that as the war continues and more Iraqi Shi`a fighters are funneled into Syria, further announcements for new groups will be made. Nevertheless, these groups are likely to function as proxies for other forces offering training and equipment for Iraqi Shi`a fighters heading to Syria.

Tehran’s reliance on Lebanese Hizb Allah and its Iraqi Shi`a proxies in support of al-Assad demonstrates how these groups could be used in the future as a type of rapid reaction force to support Iranian interests elsewhere. Additionally, with the increase in trained, experienced, and ideologically motivated Iraqi fighters, their return home could further increase Iran’s influence in Iraq. Due to their adherence to wilayat al-faqih, these organizations or their fighters may not engage in rogue militant activities, but instead further the interests of Iran.

If the al-Assad regime does collapse, Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi`a militias within Syria will be on the ground to assist in salvaging the remaining al-Assad establishment. It is probable that they will also be utilized as a core anti-rebel combat force to fight in Syria and to secure vital geostrategic transportation links to Lebanese Hizb Allah.

Phillip Smyth is a researcher affiliated with the University of Maryland. He focuses on Lebanon and Syria and specializes in Shi`a militias in Syria. His work tracking Shi`a militia activity can be found on’s Hizballah Cavalcade.

[1] Meena Haseeb, “Afghans Involvement in Syria War to be Investigated: Mosazai,” Khaama Press [Kabul], April 8, 2013.

[2]  “Nakhstin shahid afriqaya madafa’herm hadhrat zaynab + ‘aks,” AhlulBayt News Agency, July 27, 2013.

[3] Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango, “Iraqi Sects Join Battle in Syria on Both Sides,” New York Times, October 27, 2012.

[4] Some of these groups, namely Harakat Hizb Allah al-Nujaba and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, may be fronts for Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hizb Allah.

[5] Al-Sadr, however, has denied sending any forces to Syria and instead blamed “splinter groups.” See Anissa Haddadi, “Syria: Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr Reported Sending Fighters to Prop Up Assad Regime,” International Business Times, November 23, 2011; “Moqtada al-Sadr Says His Followers Not Fighting in Syria, but Members of ‘Splinter’ Groups Could be Involved,” al-Arabiya, June 8, 2012; Ali Abel Sadah, “Sadr Gives Maliki ‘Final Warning,’” al-Monitor, May 29, 2013; Frud Bezhan, “Reports of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Political Demise May Be Greatly Exaggerated,” Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, August 19, 2013.

[6] Salah Nasrawi, “Iraqi Shia Dilemma in Syria,” al-Ahram Weekly, June 26, 2013; Tim Arango, Anne Barnard, Duraid Adnan, “As Syrians Fight, Sectarian Strife Infects Mideast,” New York Times, June 1, 2013; Suadad al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ites Flock to Assad’s Side as Sectarian Split Widens,” Reuters, June 19, 2013; “Footage from a Dead Iraq Shia Jihadists Phone-Cam: Iraqi Officer Volunteers Members of Abu-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade,” August 13, 2013, available at

[7] Hadeel al-Sayegh, “Iraq’s Clergy Strive to Maintain Legacy Amid Rise of Shia Militias,” The National [Abu Dhabi], August 6, 2013.

[8] In Al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ite Militants Fight for Syria’s Assad,” some of the Iraqi Shi`a groups that have claimed to have sent fighters denied any presence in Syria.

[9] “Iraqi Shiite Militants Start to Acknowledge Role in Syria,” Reuters, April 11, 2013; Mona Mahmood and Martin Chulov, “Syrian War Widens Sunni-Shia Schism as Foreign Jihadis Join Fight for Shrines,” Guardian, June 4, 2013.

[10] Kelly McEvers, “Shiite Fighters Drawn To Fight In Syria By Islamic Prophecy,” National Public Radio, June 20, 2013. The claim that Lebanese Hizb Allah and Iran were training/equipping Shi`a forces in Syria was also repeated by “Abu Mujahid” as early as October 2012. The Iraqi Shi`a fighter in Damascus told Reuters, “Iran is working there by using Hezbollah, there are officers and militants from Hezbollah-Lebanon training the citizens and developing their fighting skills and abilities.” See Al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ite Militants Fight for Syria’s Assad.”

[11] Wilayat al-faqih means the rule by the specialist in religious law. For Iraqi groups that support this principle, see Reidar Visser, “Religious Allegiances among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq,” CTC Sentinel 4:9 (2011).

[12] Mona Alami, “Hezbollah Fighter Details Ops in Qusayr,” Now Lebanon, June 4, 2013.

[13] Alia Ibrahim, “Hezbollah’s Mix of Prayer and Politics,” Washington Post, April 1, 2007.

[14] “Iraqi Shiite Fighters’ Role in Syria Grows More Prominent, Raising Sectarian Tensions at Home,” Associated Press, June 10, 2013.

[15] Sam Dagher, “Fighters Enter Syria to Defend Shi’ites,” Associated Press, May 23, 2013.

[16] Barbara Surk, “Fighting in Syria, Hezbollah Charts Risky Course,” Associated Press, May 29, 2013.

[17] Martin Chulov, “Hezbollah Commander Killed While on ‘Jihad Duties’ in Syria,” Guardian/Sydney Morning Herald, October 4, 2012.

[18] Phillip Smyth, “Roundup of Iraqis Killed in Syria,” parts 1-3, available at

[19] “Al-muqawama al-islamiyya kata’ib Hizballah ta’lan al-istishahid ahd afrahd khilal al-difla’ ‘an muqadisat w al-a’qida,” al-Etejah TV [Iraq], April 16, 2013.

[20] For details, see the group’s official webpage at

[21] Aref Mohammed, “Iraq Militia Says to Keep Weapons, Citing Instability,” Reuters, January 17, 2012.

[22] Ashish Kumar Sen, “Rocket Attack Kills 2 Iranian Dissidents, Wounds Dozens in Iraq,” Washington Times,  June 15, 2013; “Al Baghdadiya TV Watheg al Battat Iran MEK PMOI Attack Camp Liberty,” al-Baghdadiya TV [Cairo], July 14, 2013.

[23] “Tashyee’ Iraqi Fi Al Basra Qutil Athna’a Al Difa’a a’an Maqam Al Sayyida Zeinab Qorb Dimashq,” al-Quds al-Arabi, May 6, 2013.

[24] “Tashiya ahd ‘anasr kata’ib sayyid al-shuhada fi al-basra alathi saqat fi suriya,” National Iraqi News Agency, May 6, 2013.

[25] “Anshqaq amin ‘ala kata’ib hizb allah al-iraq w tashikeel kata’ib ‘sayyid al-shuhada,’” al-Masalah [Baghdad], April 14, 2013.

[26] For a copy of the statement, see figure 2 in Phillip Smyth, “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada: Another Supplier of Iraqi Shia Fighters in Syria,” June 3, 2013,, available at

[27] Adam Schreck and Nabil al-Jurani, “Iraqi Death Hints of Iran’s Role In Syrian Crisis,” Associated Press, May 6, 2013.

[28] On August 25, 2013, the official Facebook page for the Badr Organization’s military wing posted the announcement.

[29] Nabil al-Jurani, “Iraqis Mourn 2 Shiite Fighters Killed in Syria,” Associated Press, May 17, 2013.

[30] “Sayyid al-Shuhada’ Movement: ‘We’re for a federal region in the south,’” Niqash [Berlin], October 6, 2007.

[31] Schreck and al-Jurani; “Ibna al-Basra yashi’yun jethmani shaheedin sharaka fi hamaya merqad sayyida zaynab ‘aliha al-salaam,” Young Journalists Club (Iran), May 19, 2013. The term “Sons of Basra” was regularly used on social media by Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada supporters and in Iranian media to describe their fighters.

[32] “Al-Sadr al-Zawahiri yehdhur satbuqa saniya ‘alwiya,” al-Mada Press [Baghdad], June 16, 2013.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Sam Wyer, “The Resurgence of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq,” Institute for the Study of War, December 2012.

[35] Visser.

[36] Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama (New York: Random House, 2012), p. 327.

[37] Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt, “Political Role for Militants Worsens Fault Lines in Iraq,” New York Times, January 5, 2012.

[38] See for a list of operations by Asaib Ahl al-Haq subgroups (including Kataib Imam Hassan al-Askar) and where they were carried out, available at

[39] These details were originally on the group’s official Facebook pages, but they have been removed.

[40] See the video marked, “AAH-LKZ fighters, including Karar join Lebanese Hizballah fighters near Damascus Airport,” at Phillip Smyth, “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s Liwa’a Kafeel Zaynab,”, August 14, 2013, available at

[41] Joel Wing, “Iraq’s Badr Organization Maintains its Longtime Ties With Iran,” Musings on Iraq blog, July 10, 2013.

[42] See figure 5 at Phillip Smyth, “Breaking Badr: Is Iraq’s Badr Organization Operating in Syria?”, June 25, 2013, available at

[43] The post was dated July 13, 2013.

[44] Al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ite Militants Fight for Syria’s Assad.” For the higher number, see “Bafidiyu ashrita musajila w suwr tuwkid qatl hizballah fi aldakhil al-suri,” Elaph [London], April 19, 2013.

[45] Nicholas Blanford, “Video Appears to Show Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiites Fighting in Syria,” Christian Science Monitor, January 18, 2013. For more details on the music videos created to support al-Abbas Brigade and Shi`a fighters in Syria, see Phillip Smyth, “The Songs of Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas: Militant Iraqi Shia Music & Syria,”, July 3, 2013.

[46] Al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ites Flock to Assad’s Side as Sectarian Split Widens.”

[47] Blanford.

[48] Ibid.

[49] “Militant Shia Organizations & Iranian Revolutionary Symbolism” chart and image figures 7, 8, and 9 in Phillip Smyth, “What is the Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA)?: Assessing Syria’s Shia ‘International Brigade’ Through Their Social Media Presence,”, May 15, 2013, available at

[50] See, for example, a Liwa Zulfiqar Facebook post dated August 12, 2013, available at

[51] See Liwa Zulfiqar’s official Facebook page. Also see AhlulBayt News Agency, August 20, 2013. In the photo set, “Abu Hajar” a former leader for the al-Abbas Brigades and now a leader of Liwa Zulfiqar, is shown visiting Iran.

[52] See Liwa Imam Husayn’s official Facebook page, available at

[53] See Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir’s official Facebook page.

[54] “Al-Sadr al-Zawahiri yehdhur satbuqa saniya ‘alwiya.”

[55] See figures 9-10 in Phillip Smyth, “Liwa’a ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir: A New Shia Militia Operating In Aleppo, Syria,”, July 20, 2013, available at

[56] “Ajnabi yaqatun fi suriya: al-tadreeb lisbu ‘ayn fi madinat sanandaj al-iran al..w kamsun dawlan youmiyan al-mutadhuwa’ al-iraqi,” al-Sharq, June 13, 2013.

[57] Ibid.

[58] “Iraqi Shiite Fighters’ Role in Syria Grows More Prominent, Raising Sectarian Tensions at Home.”

[59] Mahmood and Chulov; Al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ites Flock to Assad’s Side as Sectarian Split Widens.” Photos of Iraqi Shi`a fighters being bused to combat zones are featured in figure 3 in Smyth, “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada: Another Supplier of Iraqi Shia Fighters in Syria.”

[60] Ibid.

[61] See figure 35 in Smyth, “What is the Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA)?: Assessing Syria’s Shia ‘International Brigade’ Through Their Social Media Presence.”

[62] Mahmood and Chulov.

[63] Richard N. Haass and Martin S. Indyk, Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2008), p. 197.

[64] See figures 30-34 in Smyth, “What is the Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA)?: Assessing Syria’s Shia ‘International Brigade’ Through Their Social Media Presence.” Also see photo marked figure 17 and videos marked “AAH-LKZ Sniper Firing” and “Another AAH-LKZ Sniper Video” in Smyth, “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s Liwa’a Kafeel Zaynab.”

[65]  Ibid.

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