While most of Iraq’s armed Shi’a resistance has entered the political process, some independent Shi’a resistance groups remain in the field, determined to expel the American occupation by force of arms. Leading among these is the Kata’ib Hizbullah (Brigades of the Party of God), who have released an interview with one of their field commanders on the movement’s website (kataibhizbollah.org, April 4). The interview was circulated in a number of mostly Shiite-based jihadi websites and forums.
The Brigades’ commander, whose name was withheld for security reasons, commenced the interview by revealing his participation in the first insurgent attack on a U.S. patrol near the U.N. building in Baghdad on October 10, 2003. The attack was carefully planned, says the commander, using homemade explosives developed by the Iraqi group’s bomb experts. At the time of the American invasion, Hizbullah didn’t perceive U.S. tanks and soldiers as saviors from Saddam Hussein’s tyrant regime, as did many others. According to the commander, "We were on the opposite side, carefully watching as the U.S. tanks and soldiers entered our streets… thinking that the war was over and Iraq had become a U.S. settlement."
The commander described the emergence of the independent Shi’a brigades that would coalesce into the Iraqi Hizbullah:
"During the early days of the [movement’s] establishment, we used to operate as completely separate groups. Certainly, this method of activity was the result of security precautions that we took for fear of the future. Therefore, we used to represent detached brigades. To some extent, each brigade was not aware that other brigades existed."
Later, the group established a secure network and clear strategic and tactical objectives. Consequently, all the brigades combined under one command named Kata’ib Hizbullah.
The movement believes it was the first group to start organized resistance to the occupation as the foundation and experience of the movement’s fighters dates back to Saddam Hussein’s time. During Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, Hizbullah recruits were thoroughly scrutinized before enlistment, but no major attacks were carried out against the regime because the Iraqi security and intelligence agencies penetrated and controlled every aspect of Iraqi life. The commander provided a few reasons for the Brigades’ lack of success against Hussein’s regime, including the brutality of Saddam’s intelligence apparatus, inexperience in building weapons’ caches and explosive charges and the Western, American and Arab support for Hussein’s regime.
At first, Hizbullah procured the raw material for explosives from the local market, though the heavy infiltration of Ba’athist security agents in the market made this difficult to do without detection. The Brigade’s munitions experts would then prepare the charges in safe places.
"Although setting up safe clandestine laboratories wasn’t possible during the former regime, it doesn’t mean the [current] occupation is less brutal and tyrannical than the former regime. The occupation failed to copy Saddam’s tyrannical intelligence and security system that was embedded among the people. It had a limited form of this system and this is the main reason for the failure of the occupation to hamper the establishment and development of jihadist activity."
The Hizbullah Brigades believe firmly in the mandate of the Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) system, which calls for an Islamic jurist (or jurists) to exercise guardianship over the people. This system, currently only applied in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is incorporated into the Iranian constitution, where the Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Ali Hosayni Khamenei) plays the role of the Guardian. After defeating the occupation forces, the Brigades seek to erect an Islamic Shiite state with the religious authority of Wilayat al-Faqih embedded in its political system. In order to conduct proper jihad, the Brigades operate within the religious framework of Wilayat al-Faqih because this religious authority preserves the unity of the movement. Secondly, Wilayat al-Faqih decides the religious justification for attacking certain targets and determines compensation for innocent civilians harmed in these attacks. The commander alleges the Brigades’ attacks seldom injure or kill innocent bystanders and the very few innocent casualties occurred because U.S. forces started using the public as human shields after realizing Hizbullah’s policy was to abort attacks to spare civilians. Since then, the Brigades have resorted to snipers and the use of RPG-7 and RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenades, as well as developing shaped charges that limit the impact of the explosion to the target. In case civilians are injured or killed as a result of the Brigades’ attacks, their families are immediately paid blood money as compensation.
Hizbullah denies links to Iran, alleging that Iran supports the Iraqi central government that emerged from a democratic political process. From an Islamist religious perspective, the democratic political process contradicts the Islamic political process. The movement also complains that the Arab media is biased towards the American occupation project. The U.S. asks the Arab media to depict Shiites and Kurds as consenting to the U.S. occupation while only Sunni Iraqis continue the struggle, “not because they oppose the occupation, but because they lost their authority in Iraq.”
The commander claims the United States offered to negotiate with the battalions, but the movement completely rejects any talks with the U.S. occupation forces. Furthermore, the Brigades oppose the rehabilitation and inclusion of former Ba’ath party members in the Iraqi political system. According to the commander, “The reinstatement of the Ba’athists is nothing but hurtful to the martyrs, those bereaved of their children, and the families of the martyrs, who were harmed by the oppression and hypocrisy of the former regime.” The commander alleges General Raymond T. Odierno, the current U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill are pressuring the Iraqi government to bring the Ba’athists back, a reference to unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Iraqi electoral commission to allow former members of the banned party to run for election (Middle East Online, February 22, Jordan Times, February 21).
The Hizbullah commander is optimistic about the future and the Brigades’ ability to eliminate the U.S. occupation of Iraq. "The occupation in Iraq gets weaker every day while the Brigades become stronger and closer to victory. The Brigades know the enemy better than ever now. We are more developed, more ready to excel and better able to cope with the realities of the occupation on the ground."
In the near future, the Brigades expect the Coalition to withdraw to their barracks in Iraq, at which time the Brigades are preparing a second phase of concentrated and efficient attacks against them. Pro-Shiites commented on the interview, praising the Brigades for showing the world that Shiites are the core of the Iraqi resistance and the guardians of Shi’ism.