MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : Iranian Proxies May Attack US in Response to Iraqi Political Crisis

By Zachary Coles +Nicholas Carl – Co-produced by the Institute for the Study of War and the Critical Threats Project
Iran may direct its proxies to attack American and partner targets in the Middle East in the coming weeks. Iranian proxy group Ashab al Kahf accused NATO, the UK, and the US of stoking political tensions in Iraq on August 1 and vowed to attack their embassies and military bases in Iraq, Syria, and possibly Jordan. Ashab al Kahf is likely a front group for Iranian proxy Asaib Ahl al Haq (AAH) and possibly other Iranian-backed militias. AAH has likely claimed attacks on US and Turkish military bases under the name Ashab al Kahf since 2019 to generate deniability for its actions. Iranian proxies in Iraq frequently claim attacks under such front groups to complicate attribution and obfuscate their responsibility.

Iran and its proxies are responding to a growing political crisis in Baghdad that they have also been fueling. Tensions have mounted between the Shia Coordination Framework—the umbrella coalition for Iranian-backed parties in the Iraqi parliament—and Iraqi nationalist Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr over the Iraqi government formation process. Sadr has mobilized his supporters to pressure the Coordination Framework to accept unspecified changes to the Iraqi constitution and political structure. He ordered his supporters to storm Baghdad’s fortified international and government district, the Green Zone, which they did on July 27 and 30, and occupy the parliament until the Coordination Framework meets his demands. A senior Sadrist official who is viewed in Iraq as speaking on behalf of Sadr instructed the supporters to leave the parliament and occupy the areas surrounding it on August 2. The supporters will hold a rally on August 5, during which Sadr may mobilize further protests against the Coordination Framework.