A video on social media, that purports to be published by Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba movement, includes scenes threatening Israel. The video was posted this week.
The video appears to have been released as reports emerged that Palestinian Islamic Jihad was also holding meetings in Baghdad.
Nujaba is a group backed by Iran. Along with other pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias it is part of Iran’s network of forces in the region. Iraqi-based militias have threatened Israel in the past. An Iraqi leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group visited Lebanon in 2017 and threatened Israel.
Al-Nujaba Movement in #Iraq releases a video today of planning for a drone strike on #Israel. Comes as Israeli media said #Iran just delivered new drones to Iraq amid reports PIJ secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah may be in Baghdad ahead of Quds Day. A lot of moving pieces. pic.twitter.com/GguDnurE6P— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) April 13, 2023
Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against a Nuclear Iran tweeted on Thursday that “Al-Nujaba Movement in #Iraq releases a video today of planning for a drone strike on Israel. This news came as Israeli media reported that Iran had delivered new drones to Iraq and amid reports that PIJ secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah may be in Baghdad ahead of Quds Day. A lot of moving pieces.”
Middle East Media Research Institute's report
In addition, the Middle East Media Research Institute wrote a report on the video. Their report notes “on April 13, 2023, the Iran-backed Iraqi Al-Nujaba Movement militia posted a video to its Telegram channel threatening to strike Israel with Ababil drones, which are Iranian.”
The report goes on to note that the video, which has Hebrew subtitles, “features a narrator saying ‘Our souls are deeply connected to Jerusalem’, and it depicts officers in the Al-Nujaba Movement’s war room coordinating a drone strike attack. It then plays an audio recording of a drone strike, with a Hebrew caption reading: ‘This is the sound of the curse in [Israel’s] eighth decade.’”
The video was also posted on Twitter by several users. The video links the threats to Israel with the tensions over Al-Aqsa. It shows real footage from clashes in Jerusalem and then shows the militia members in a dramatization. They have a map of Israel and photos of Haifa’s ports. The video then insinuates that they will use drones to threaten Israel. According to the video’s dramatization, drones are then used to attack Israel.
Drone threats against Israel
Pro-Iran groups have increased drone threats against Israel over the last several years. In 2018, Iran flew a drone into Israeli airspace from T-4 base in Syria.
Iran flew another drone into Israeli airspace from Iraq in May 2021.
Iran has also threatened Israel directly with drones from Iran. In one incident US-led Coalition aircraft downed Iranian drones.
In another incident, an Israeli F-35s downed the drones.
Hezbollah has more than 1,000 drones and last year it threatened gas rigs off the coast of Israel. Iran has also flown drones from Chabahar to target ships in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has exported drones to militias in Iraq and Syria. Iranian-backed groups carried out several drone attacks on US forces in Syria and have threatened US forces and Kurdish dissidents in northern Iraq.
The drone video may be linked to other Iranian attempts to knit together anti-Israel groups in the region. The visit by the Iranian proxy group Palestinian Islamic Jihad to Baghdad is also part of this trend.
In addition, Iran threatened Israel with a drone in early April after weeks of tensions.
Iran uses smaller groups like Nujaba to threaten Israel and destabilize Iraq and Syria. Iran uses these militias to carve out a corridor of influence from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, basically a kind of highway of Iranian influence that is dominated by militias and increasingly can project its power using drones and rockets.
The Nujaba video is not unique, it is part of a number of similar types of videos that have been put out in recent years by pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, by Iran’s own media, by Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others, often depicting threats to Israel. For instance we reported in early January 2023 that Iran also put out a video depicting a drone threat to Eilat. Iran likely coordinates these videos with these groups, many of which are proxies for Iran’s own larger efforts to threaten Israel or send threatening messages and boast about threats to Israel in the region.
The fact that Iran now wants to key in Iraqi militias again to its Israel threats is important. It is part of the Iranian shift from Yemen back to Iraq and Syria. Iran has reconciled with Saudi Arabia, a reconciliation Iraq helped broker. Now Iran wants to exploit Iraq again in its mission to threaten the US, Israel and others in the region.