In an extensive interview in late 2020, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah provides a detailed explanation of the identity of the “resistance groups” that he says were responsible for militarily driving the U.S. army out of Iraq in 2011.
Nasrallah explains that the overwhelming majority of the operations carried out on U.S. forces between 2003 and 2011 were carried out not by Al-Qaeda and its likes, but by groups that were supported and trained by Iran’s Qassim Soleimani, groups that today form Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi (or Popular Mobilization Forces).
Source: Al Mayadeen Programs (YouTube)
Your eminence, how did Hajj Qassim (Soleimani) reach the stage of…as you mentioned earlier, there are two stages: the stage of (the US) occupation (of Iraq), then (came) the stage of Daesh. Can you give us some behind-the-scenes (information about) the role of Hajj Soleimani during the occupation of Iraq that ended with 150,000 US soldiers retreating in such a (cowardly) manner?
– Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah:
(To answer that,) I will go back to the same reasoning, i.e. (we have two stages). The (first) stage is from 2003 to 2011 in Iraq. I’ll call it “The Stage of Resistance against the American Occupation” (in which I’ll mention) the role of Hajj Qassim as well as Hajj Abu Mahdi and the leaders of the (Iraqi) resistance factions and movements. The (second) stage is that of (fighting) Daesh. (The second stage) was at a time when there was no problem if (everything relating to Hajj Qasim’s role) got out to the media. Therefore, everything (relating to Soleimani’s role) was clear for all to see by virtue of his public stances, the supportive public statements, the decision of the Iraqi government, the deployment of the Iraqi army and official forces, the (stance of) religious scholars that was of course in line with the position of (Iraq’s highest) religious authority, (the support of the) tribes and the people, and all that was under the (media) spotlight. Perhaps there is a hidden wisdom and (divine) mercy for (the second stage) to be under the (media) spotlight.
(However,) the entirety of (the first) stage was not only far from the spotlight, it was subject to unjust (coverage). It is good that you brought up this topic so that I elaborate on it. There was an impression at that time that it was al-Qaeda or militant groups – the term “Takfiris” was not common yet – who were fighting the (US) occupation, at a time when other groups supported the US occupation. This, of course, was not true. I assure you that the overwhelming majority of the military operations that were carried out against the US occupation forces in Iraq were carried out by these (Iraqi) resistance factions, which are now known. I will not mention their names so that I don’t name some and forget others. The US is aware of the (role of the resistance groups) because it made arrests and obtained recorded confessions through torture. The US knows these factions very well. It knows their leaderships, their military officials, their fighters, the operations they carried out against the US forces.
-The host: When did the resistance begin?
In 2003. The foundations were established in 2003, but the actual operations started in 2004.
-The host: Was Hajj Qassim preparing for the (resistance) before 2003?
No, before the US came to Iraq, the option of resistance was not on the table, because resistance is a reaction to the occupation. Before the American occupation of Iraq, there was no resistance to the American occupation of Iraq! The work of the resistance groups (during the US occupation) had evolved to the point that they were filming explosive devices striking (US) tanks and (military) vehicles, and (filming the moments) in which they would set up ambushes, and target American barracks and bases. They then would upload the videos with their names (on the internet). Of course, at some of the stages, there were many names (such as): Imam Ali Brigades, Imam al-Hussein Brigades, Ali al-Akbar Brigades, Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigades, etc. Then they decided on a couple of names that are well-known today. I remember at that time we were in contact with those factions of course, and the Americans knew that. I am not revealing a secret.
-The host: You were in contact (with the Iraqi resistance groups) from the start?
-Sayyed Nasrallah: Of course. They used to complain to us and say that these videos….
Excuse me your eminence. Since the United States is aware of the matter, let the public know (as well). When did this contact begin? When did the resistance in Iraq begin? We are talking about this particular resistance. (This topic) is unknown to public opinion. Even I, as a journalist, did not know about this matter for years.
It started…well, of course there were some declared positions, and some popular (unorganised) confrontations took place. However, if we are talking about the organised armed resistance, it started with youth groups who were members of different movements. In other words, they didn’t follow one specific path. Of course, they also did not have enough political cover because the country was going through a political process. While a political process was being discussed, there was a resistance movement that was progressing and growing bigger and bigger, (a resistance movement) established by groups of youth who later became a part of its structure. What is the point I was trying to say? When they were filming – these pictures and videos still exist and I suggest that Al Mayadeen brings this whole archive and brings attention to it – what was happening?…
-The host: Give us (the archive).
The archive is in the hands of our Iraqi brothers. We can bring it, or we can tell them to give it to you since you ‘mashAllah’ have (well-developed) offices over there (in Iraq). It is raw footage. The tanks, even Abrams tanks (were being destroyed) at the time. The United States was shocked by what was happening. The footage was clear. (The resistance) used to send it to Arab satellite channels, but none of them published it. All Arab satellite channels without exception. Al Jazeera… I mean, Al-Jazeera was covering (news) in Lebanon and Palestine, but it did not cover the operations of these factions in Iraq. However, it covered the operations of the other (Iraqi extremist) groups. I mean when (extremists) sent them videos or CDs, they would publish them; and the same applies to other Arab satellite channels. In Lebanon, there was no television channel that had the courage to cover these operations. (As mentioned in the Quran), “let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice”. Even though there is currently dispute and differences between us and Al Jadeed TV, yet that time, the only television channel, other than Al-Manar TV, that would dare to broadcast these videos was Al-Jadeed TV. Why would (Al Jadeed TV broadcast them)? I do not know. Anyway, there was a massive media blackout of these precise and excellent operations (by the Iraqi resistance factions).
For example, they were committed to avoiding civilian (casualties). They have videos in which the bomb is planted, then an American tank passes by, and by chance a civilian passes by, so they delay the execution (of the operation) for an hour or two until another American tank comes in the absence of civilians, then (the bomb) is detonated. Why? Because it is a (religiously) devout resistance. It is a resistance forged by people of the country who consider civilians their brothers and their (own) families. Therefore, they do not want to kill them, even in the context of resisting the (US) occupation.
This (Iraqi) resistance worked hard until 2011 when the US knew that these groups – who had different names – are the ones responsible for this resistance. They also learned – here we go back to our brother Hajj Qassim – that these resistance groups receive moral, financial, military, arms and training support from the Quds Force and Hajj Qassim Soleimani.
I was hesitant to talk about this in public as it could be considered an evidence (that can be used against Iran). However, (the US) already has a stronger evidence i.e. the people who were arrested and made confessions that included the locations of their training camps and the side who provided them with weapons and funding. The solid evidence (that confirms that the operations were conducted by) the real Iraqi resistance…why am I saying the “real” Iraqi resistance, because Ayman al-Zawahiri would come out and say (his group Al-Qaeda) had carried out 5,000 suicide bombings) in Iraq. Well, let us count how many suicide attacks were carried out against the US in Iraq? The resistance movements that I am talking about did not carry out a single martyrdom operation. They only used bombs, ambushes, missile strikes and so forth. Therefore, (if we are talking about) suicide bombings, we agree that you (al-Qaeda) are responsible for them. Count with me, how many suicide operations were carried out (during this period against the US forces)? 100? 200? Not more. And I am exaggerating when I say 100 or 200. In other words, 4,800 suicide operations (were carried out) against the Iraqi people, whether Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians, in churches and in mosques etc. The truth is, what was happening in Iraq was not a process of ethnic cleansing, but rather human cleansing i.e. killing people left, right and center. However, this (Iran-backed) resistance was a precise, committed, disciplined, and purposeful resistance whose aim was to pressure and exhaust the (US) occupation forces to push them to withdraw.
The real support for this resistance came for the Quds Force and Hajj Qassim Soleimani. Therefore, what I said earlier, and this is what the Iranians said in the media as well, when US-Iraqi negotiations took place to conclude this strategic agreement with Obama on the withdrawal of US forces, who did the US talk to? Of course, the US did not contact them directly, but through intermediaries. But who did it contact? It contacted the Iranians, (notably) the Quds Force (headed by) Hajj Qassim Soleimani. (The US said:) ‘can you please speak with the Iraqi resistance factions and tell them to stop and leave us alone for two or three months until we withdraw without coming under fire?’ Therefore, during this stage of resistance, the resistance was real and serious.
Furthermore, the commander of the US Central Command in the region – a part of his forces are in Iraq – and the leaders of the US army in Iraq have, on more than one occasion, threatened Hajj Qassim Soleimani and the Quds Force with bombing their sites in Iran if they do not stop supporting the Iraqi resistance factions. They even specified targets that included targets in a camp in Karash, which is a camp where resistance fighters from several countries would undergo (military) training. They chose their targets (and said) that we will bomb these specific locations. However, the Islamic Republic (of Iran) did not change its position. As you know anyway, the position of his eminence the (Supreme) Leader Imam Khamenei – may God protect him – and the officials in Iran, was in line with the Iranian official position that was supportive of the Iraqi resistance. I mean, they were not hiding it.
– The host:
Excuse me your eminence, it was not only an assumption. All the reports at the time stated that Iran is not only supporting the political process, but also interfering in Iraqi affairs just like the US. No one mentioned that Iran was actually supporting the resistance through General Qassim Soleimani…
Look, (Iran’s decisions during) the Iraqi experience that took place from 2003 to 2011 was based on an advanced (strategy), as (Iran) took into account the lessons it had derived from the outcomes of all previous experiences. Faced with (the US occupation) of Iraq, a group of (Iraqi) leaders and political groups endorsed political action and the political process, and were against military action and (any form of military) resistance to (the US) occupation. A second group was in favor of military action i.e. resistance. While a third group believed in political, popular and civil resistance, but was against any military action. What did (Iran) use to do in previous experiences? It used to choose and support one party. (However,) this time (during the US occupation of Iraq), the Islamic Republic supported all parties. If you (Iraqis) believe that the political process will restore Iraq’s sovereignty through the constitution, elections, the government, the participation in the government, and negotiations with the US, go ahead, no problem. If you support military action (against the US), rely on God and go ahead. If you support the option of political action and popular civil resistance, go ahead and we have your back. (Why did Iran do that?) Because all these tracks would have led to the same goal, but of course the media only covered the first line of support while the second (i.e. military resistance) was kept in the dark.