By Caleb Weiss
June 21, 2018
Saraya al Mokhtar, a Bahraini Shia militia linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), released a message today sending its condolences to the Iraqi IRGC proxy, the Hezbollah Brigades. The latter’s forces were recently hit by airstrikes near the Syrian town of Albu Kamal.
“The Islamic Resistance in Bahrain, Saraya al Mokhtar, extends its congratulations to the brothers in arms in the pure constellation of martyrs,” Saraya al Mokhar’s statement read.
The Bahraini militia also accused both the United States and Israel being behind the airstrikes, decrying both Israeli PM Netanyahu and President Trump. It boasted that the “axis of resistance defeated the American project in the Middle East and its successor Zionist governments.” Both the US and Israel have been blamed for the airstrikes, but neither country has confirmed its involvement.
The “axis of resistance” refers to a network of state and non-state actors led by Iran that operates against the United States and its allies in the Middle East and beyond.
At least 50 Shia militiamen were killed on Sunday in airstrikes close to the Syrian town of Albu Kamal on the border with Iraq. The Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) confirmed that its 45th and 46th Brigades were hit in the airstrikes, however, these units correlate to those belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades. The Hezbollah Brigades later confirmed its forces were indeed hit in a statement released on its website.
Other Shia militia groups such as Harakat al Nujaba, Harakat al Abdal, and the Imam Ali Brigades, are also known to be operating with Syrian troops in the area. However, it is unknown if any of their forces were hit.
Additionally, Saraya al Mokhar also released its new logo with its statement. The new logo clearly more closely adheres to the IRGC-branding found with various Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East, including Lebanese Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, and the aforementioned Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq. While Saraya al Mokhtar’s logo change is more subtle than that of Saraya al Ashtar, another IRGC-backed Bahraini militia, the group’s intentions with the new logo are still clear.
This now makes two Bahraini Shia militia with more overt IRGC branding. It’s not a surprising development as Iran has redoubled sponsorship of militant groups in Bahrain in recent years. Bahraini security forces have intercepted large quantities of advanced Iranian weapons shipments and explosives, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs).
Since 2015, Manama has detained dozens of Bahraini nationals linked to the IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah. Bahrain has also accused Lebanese Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al Haq, and the Hezbollah Brigades of training Bahraini militants in Lebanon and Iraq. Last year, the US State Department also designated two members of Saraya al Ashtar as global terrorists. State noted that one of the individuals, Hasan Yusuf, is an Iran-based senior member of the group.
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