Members of Iraqi Shiite militia in Nikheb town near Ramadi city, southwest of Iraq, 20 May 2015. (EPA-EFE)

By Caleb Weiss & Joe Truzman

August 21, 2020

A likely Iranian-backed front group has claimed responsibility for an alleged attack against an American supply convoy in Iraq’s Anbar province near the Jordanian border on Aug. 16. The claim was published by People of the Cave, a group belonging to the so-called Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

The group said it targeted and destroyed “an American military convoy” and “completely” wiped it out “within the borders of the noble Anbar province,” but similar recent attacks have been disputed.

Footage of the attack released with the statement began with the voice of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah referencing former commander Imad Mughniyeh.

In darkness, the video showed what appeared to be the taillights of several vehicles stopped on a road. A few moments later, several explosions occurred beside the vehicles and the scene was repeated several times before the video ended.

The footage of the publication slightly deviated from previous videos. A watermark in the video showed the publication was produced by the War Media Department (دائرة الإعلام الحربي), which is the first time the watermark has appeared with this particular front group.

War Media (الإعلام الحربي) is the standard watermark for both Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi movement, as well as several Iraqi and Bahraini militias within Iran’s network.

It is likely that as the group has grown, it has attempted to evolve its media apparatus to mirror that of Hezbollah or other groups within the so-called “Islamic Resistance.”

It is clear that People of the Cave was also trying to market itself within the “Axis of Resistance,” or Iran’s network of various state and non-state actors across the Middle East opposed to US presence in the region.

Additionally, the footage released by People of the Cave failed to show the effect of the blast on the convoy, making it difficult to determine if the convoy was destroyed.

This followed a recent trend by Iraqi groups, where a claim was made and the published footage stopped short of providing absolute proof of the attack.

Last week, People of the Cave released a statement alleging to have detonated an IED on another supply convoy on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Grainy footage was then uploaded which the group claimed was the purported bombing. However, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United States all denied that any attack took place on the border.

People of the Cave is one of the various new purported Iranian proxies to have emerged in Iraq following the assassinations of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Hezbollah Brigades, earlier this year. It is unclear, however, how legitimate the group is based on the discrepancies and apparent inaccuracies in its claims.

The influx in supposed militias inside Iraq is likely a propaganda game being played by Iran and its allies to create political cover for anti-American activities in the country for more established groups. It also may serve to create a narrative of a far-reaching movement that is opposed to the presence of American troops.

Long War Journal

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.