Kataib Hezbollah, one of the main Shia militias in Iraq, has announced it’s suspending operations against US troops in Iraq and Syria.
“We announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces,” Kataib Hezbollah said in a statement on Tuesday. The group said it was suspending the operations because it did not want to cause “embarrassment to the Iraqi government.”
The Pentagon said it would ignore the announcement and that it would not change the US response to the drone attack in northeastern Jordan that killed three US troops. The Pentagon has said the attack had the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah, but the group has not taken credit.
The US is also blaming Iran for the attack since it arms Kataib Hezbollah and other Iraqi militias, but the Pentagon has admitted it has no evidence Tehran was directly involved.
According to Al Mayadeen, Kataib Hezbollah said Iran was not involved in its operations. “Our brothers in the Axis [of Resistance], especially in Iran, do not know the specifics of our jihadist work, and they have repeatedly declared opposition to our escalation against the US forces in Iraq and Syria,” said the group’s leader, Abu Hussein al-Hamidawi.
Al-Hamidawi said Kataib Hezbollah would continue to work to defend Gaza through other means. US bases in Iraq and Syria have come under attack about 160 times since mid-October, according to the Pentagon. Most attacks have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a shadowy umbrella group of Iraqi Shia militias. The US has blamed Kataib Hezbollah for some of the other recent attacks and targeted the group with airstrikes.
Kataib Hezbollah was founded in 2003 following the US invasion of Iraq and is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of Iraqi militias that was formed in 2014 to fight ISIS. The US and the PMF were on the same side during major battles against ISIS, and the PMF is still part of the Baghdad government’s security forces.
Recent US airstrikes against the PMF have enraged Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who is calling for an end to the presence of the US-led coalition in Iraq. The US and Iraq have opened negotiations that could potentially lead to a US withdrawal, although, for now, the US appears determined to stay.