Place of Residence:
Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq
Secretary-General of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia, Member of Iraqi Parliament
Released by the US in 2010 prisoner swap deal with AAH
Twitter, interviews and his position within the Iraqi parliament
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.
- Al-Khazali derives his influence mainly from his status as the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia
- Al-Khazali began to don the hat of a politician after the liberation of Mosul from Daesh in 2017
Qais Al-Khazali poses in public as an Iraqi politician whounderstands and defends the national interest. When he is asked abouthis Iranian connections, he answers that he goes there only once a yearas a tourist. His evasive responses are a cover for a violent sectarianagenda. Al-Khazali is one of the leading preachers of hate in Iraq andthe wider region.
He derives his outsized influence from his status as the leader ofAsa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH), which includes a large number of fighterstrained by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRG) and theLebanese Hezbollah. The number of AAH militants is estimated at about10,000. He is also considered a loyal soldier of Iran’s Shiitetheocracy.
“Listen carefully … If you (Sunnis) do not stop your maliciousprojects, I swear you will not be safe … will not be safe … will notbe safe,” he famously said in a televised speech in 2010.
On Aug. 22, 2014, the Sunni Musab bin Umair mosque in Diyala wastargeted during Friday prayers by militiamen, who killed 73 people. TheAAH militia was suspected of being behind the attack, despite itcondemning the atrocity.
“The August 22 attack is consistent with a pattern of attacks that HumanRights Watch has documented, including kidnappings and summaryexecutions, by Shia militias Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the Badr Brigades andKata’ib Hezbollah in Baghdad, Diyala and Babel provinces,” Human RightsWatch said after the attack in 2014.
Declassified US Central Command documents published by the Wall StreetJournal last year indicated that Al-Khazali was part of the planningbehind the Jan. 20, 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint CoordinationCenter in Karbala. He was arrested by US-British forces in March 2007and interrogated by US authorities after the raid, which, according toAl-Khazali’s confession documents, was planned by Iran to kidnap five USsoldiers, who were eventually killed.
Al-Khazali was handed to the Iraqi authorities in late 2009 after hepledged that his militia would give up their weapons. He was released inJanuary 2010, reportedly in exchange for the release of Peter Moore, acomputer consultant who had been kidnapped with four security guards inMay 2007 by the AAH.
The Wall Street Journal reported details of the investigations into theIranian role in supporting terrorist militias. Scrutiny of the relationsbetween Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shiite cleric, politician andmilitia leader, and Tehran revealed a desire by Al-Sadr to control theflow of Iranian money to political groups in Iraq.
The investigations revealed Iranian efforts to train the militia thatAl-Khazali was leading, and the relations between Tehran and Iraqipolitical figures, including the late Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani,then Iraq’s president.
These reports in August 2018 came at a time when the Trumpadministration was considering the inclusion of Al-Khazali and the AAHon the list of terrorist organizations to impose sanctions on. The groupclaims responsibility for 6,000 attacks on American soldiers and Iraqigovernment forces.
After completing his studies at the University of Baghdad in 1994,Al-Khazali was drawn to the ideas of the Grand Ayatollah Mohammed SadeqAl-Sadr, who opposed the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein andcriticized it in his sermons at Friday prayers.
Al-Khazali traveled to Najaf to join one of Al-Sadr’s schools to studyreligious sciences. When Al-Sadr and two of his sons, Mustafa andMu’ammil, were assassinated in 1999, his fourth son, Muqtada, entrustedAl-Khazali and one of his colleagues with supervising his father’sschools, offices and obtaining legitimate funds.
Al-Khazali won Muqtada’s confidence, and when the latter set up theMahdi Army, the first Shiite militia formed to fight US troops in Iraqafter the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam, Al-Khazali was picked asone of its field commanders and to be Al-Sadr’s spokesman. A year later,Al-Sadr formed an elite force called “Special Groups” to carry outlethal attacks against American forces. Again he instructed Al-Khazalito command these groups alongside Akram Al-Kaabi, one of Al-Sadr’sfather’s veteran students who heads the Al-Nujaba Brigades, a Shiitegroup that was sanctioned by the Trump administration last year. As afollower of Iran’s Wilayat Al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist)political system, the AAH has participated in the Syrian civil war asIran’s foreign legion alongside Al-Nujaba and other armed groups.
Al-Khazali began to don the hat of a politician only after theliberation of Mosul from Daesh in 2017 by the Iraqi military and Shiaparamilitary groups that constitute the Popular Mobilization Force(PMF). The PMF, which was given the status of an official Iraqi securitybody in 2015, draws fighters from an array of forces and ethnicities,but its leadership consists overwhelmingly of Shiite groups with closeties to Iran.
According to the journal War on the Rocks, “groups like Kata’ibHezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), the Badr Organization, AAH, Al-NujabaBrigades, and the Khorasani Brigades have received substantial training,arms, and direction from Iran. Iran still provides support to theseforces … these leading PMF forces and figures make no secret of theirlove for Iran and hatred for the United States.”
Now operating from behind a mask of political respectability — the AAHwon 15 seats in parliament in the May 2018 elections as Al-Sadiqoun bloc— Al-Khazali is seen by many in Iraq as being well placed to bolsterAAH recruitment, training and expansion.
US officials believe Al-Khazali’s participation in the elections was toempower the militia, following the model used by Hassan Nasrallah andHezbollah to establish Iran’s dominance in Lebanon. A senior US officialhas said that of its 15 seats, only two were won fairly and the restgained by corruption; the AAH denies this. Al-Khazali has declaredAl-Sadiqoun’s parliamentary presence a failure, yet locks horns withanyone who challenges the bloc’s religious sectarianism.