The Formation of Hashd Al-Sha’abi

ISICRC Staff Exclusive

Originally published on June 30, 2018


Hashd Al-Sha’abi, which is 123,000 strong is among the most cohesive of partisan forces in the world and is guided by a central management and commanded by Iran’s Basij forces. However, in various ways, it is more powerful and more dangerous than the Basij. Given the criticality of conditions, they have begun producing a variety of both light and heavy artillery and enjoy the vast military and financial support of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iraqi Marja.

The group was formed after the fall of Mosul (June 5 – 13, 2014). Agheel Hosseini, the head of Iraq’s branch of the Basij, described it as an extension to Iran’s Basij forces. Previously he had stated that the Iraqi Basij was formed, based on the experience of the Iranian Basij. And Nouri Al-Maleki, who at the time of the fall of Mosul, was Iraq’s Prime Minister, specified that the structure of the Iraqi Basij was based on the Iranian Basij.

In September 2015, Haidar al-Abadi, Iraq’s new Prime Minister announced that Hashd Al-Sha’abi is a part of the governmental forces. Currently, they operate under the aegis of the Ministry of the Interior.  

Regarding Hashd Al-Sha’abi, Shaikh Akram Al-Kaabi, Secretary General of Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, says: “Hashd Al-Sha’abi is made up of the Iraqi masses and with the generosity of Commander Qassem Soleimani of the Quds Force; it is a group that has been formed in Iraq from within the populist core.

An intelligence source in Iraq claimed: “Iraq’s Hashd Al-Sha’abi Commander, have discussed the threats and dangers of the division of Ninevah, among Arabs and Kurds, turning it into a separable region, from the central government in Baghdad, with Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of Iran’s Quds Forces in Iran. In a meeting among the Commanders of Hashd Al-Sha’abi and Soleimani, it was established that any attempt to separate Ninevah would be encountered and opposed.

Soleiman has asked the Hashd Al-Shaabi Command, that in the face of any reaction to measures which may be taken in the aftermath of the liberation of Mosul, auxiliary forces are to be sent to Ninevah.

Abu Mehdi Al-Mohandess, the Deputy Director of the Board of the Hashd Al-Sha’abi Paramilitary revealed that Qassem Soleimani leads the Hashd Al-Sha’abi in the Western axis of the city of Mosul. He stated that the presence of Soleimani is at the request of the government of Iraq.

Notwithstanding, Haidar al-Abadi’s vows regarding the fact that the role of the paramilitary is only a support capacity, yet the Hashd Al-Sha’abi forces’ advance continues independently in Mosul’s Western sector.

Describing Hashd Al-Sha’abi, Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba members had said that Iran has dispatched a large number of its fighters to participate in the conflict in Mosul.

Qais al-Khazali, founder and leader of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq paramilitary group announced that he will be transferred in order to participate in to the Mosul war.

In general, these forces have been classified into 42 main groups and 35 smaller clusters, with separate commanders, under one shared command team and all active, all the time. The groups are as follows:

  1. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq
  2. Saraya al-Khorasani
  3. Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada
  4. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba
  5. Kata’ib Hezbollah
  6. Saraya al-Salam
  7. Filq al-owd al-Sadeq
  8. Manzemat badr al-Jinah al-Askari
  9. Amar ibn Yasser Brigade
  10. Asadollah al-Qaleb Brigade
  11. Alyoum al-Mo’oud Brigade
  12. Saraya al-Zahra
  13. Zolfaqar Brigade
  14. Kafeel Zeinab Brigade
  15. Saraya Ansar al-Aquida
  16. Al-Montazer Brigade
  17. Badr Al-Majami’e al-Khaasseh
  18. Abofazl al-Abbass Brigade
  19. Al-Jihad o’al-Bana’ Movement
  20. Saraya al-Defa’e al-Sha’abi
  21. Kata’ib Dar’e al-Shi’it
  22. Hezbollah Al-Saa’eroon
  23. Kata’ib Al-Tayar al-Resaali
  24. Saraya Ashura
  25. Kata’ib Maalek al-Ashtar
  26. Kata’ib Ansar al-Hajjeh
  27. Kata’ib Al-Defa’e al-Moqaddass
  28. Al-Qare’eh Brigade
  29. Kata’ib Al-Qazab
  30. Al-Shabaab al-Resaali
  31. Kata’ib Al-Ma’am al-Qaa’eb
  32. Al-Abd’aal Movement
  33. Kata’ib Al-Imam Ali
  34. Jaish Al-Mokhtar
  35. Al-Hamd Brigade
  36. Al-Imam al-Qaa’em Brigade
  37. Al-Aadyat Brigade
  38. Ansaar’Allah al-Avafya Movement
  39. Jaish Al-Keraar
  40. Al-Abbass Faction
  41. Hezbollah al-Saa’eroon
The Hashd Al-Sha’abi Council

Faleh Fayyaz: Hashd Al-Sha’abi Commander

Jamal Jafar Ebrahim aka Abu Mahdi Muhanddess: Deputy Commander born (either February or October) 1954

Hadi Ameri: Commander of the Badr Brigade, Hadi Farhan al-Ameri, aka Haaj al-Ameri born in 1954 in Diala Province, Iraq. His wife Hoddi Shirazi, the daughter of Ayatollah Abdolrahim Shirazi, who was among the scholars at the seminary in Qom and who was killed in 1360 (or 1981).

Hadi Ameri kissing Khamenei’s hand
Hadi Ameri with Qassem Soleimani
Sheikh Qaiss Khaz’ali (born 1974), Secretary General of Assa’eb Ahl al-Haqq next to Qassem Soleimani

Abu Jassem Nasseri: Chief of the al-Shaheed al-Sadr Forces

Akram Ka’abi: Commander of Haraka al-Najaba Islamic Resistence

A’alaa Al-Ka’abi’e: Commander of Abofazl al-Abbass Brigade

Ahmad Assadi: Official Spokesman for Hashd Al-Sha’abi

On average, Hashd Al-Sha’abi receives $83,000,000 annually gratis, worth of funding from Iran. The salary for a junior level individual in Hashd Al-Sha’abi is $800 per month; the commanders are paid up to $5000 per month as well. Other than its cash infusion, Iran also provides arms, ammunition, radar equipment, drones and missiles to Hashd Al-Sha’abi as well. Especially, the IRGC assists them with their weapons and missile industries in producing mid-range missiles. Qassem Soleimani, personally oversees this unit’s operations and Commander Masoud Emami, Commander Majid Jafari, General Abolfazl Koushanfar, General Sadq Hejazi, General Abolqassem Naquibian, Major Mohammad-Reza Ostovari are among the forces who directly supervise Hash Al-Sha’abi and have so far not been killed.

The Salary and benefits of the populist forces

Each volunteer, is paid 875,000 Iraqi Dinars (approx. $745.00). Based on a statement issued by the Iraqi cabinet in the beginning of the structuring of the populist forces, in 2014, the salary and benefits of volunteers was decided and accordingly 500,000 Dinars (approx. $425.00) per volunteer was allocated. Also, each volunteer receives a food allowance of 125,000 Dinars (approx. $105.00), as well as 250,000 Dinars (approx. $213.00) per month for tour of duty. To that end, each volunteer is paid a set wage based on the regulations of the Ministry of Defense and Homeland’s regulations and action, worthy of the receipt of payment. Each volunteer from the populist forces, would be treated similarly to members of the armed force and military personnel, should they be wounded or killed. Based on a resolution in the Iraqi cabinet, in 2014, the salary and benefits of each volunteer, is activated the moment they join the forces.

 Badr Brigade

This organization was established in 1981 by the Superior Islamic Assembly of Iraq which at the time was known as the Superior Islamic Revolutionary Assembly. The founding leader was Mohammad-Baqer Hakim. The current leader of the organization is Hadi al-Ameri. The number of the organization’s members is more than 10,000 and they are provided ample supplies of arms and weaponry. The majority of their commanders received training in Iran from the IRGC.

The leader, Hadi al-Ameri separated from the Superior Islamic Assembly of Iraq. The number of the Badr Brigade soldiers has been estimated to be 10,000 people and following Sistani’s Fatwa, he recruited many young people under the flag of the organization. The Badr Brigade has been involved in all the battles, armed with the heaviest weaponry which has been put at their disposal. They are militarily extremely experienced as their commanders come from strong in all combat areas.

The Badr Brigade is among the most powerful groups of populist forces and has close and strong ties with the Iraqi army. This organization is the distributor of arms and weaponry among the other populist force organizations as well.

Kata’ib Hezbollah

After the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah, is the largest of Hashd Al-Sha’abi groups. The Hezbollah battalions have a consulting assembly entitled Al-Kata’ib in which the military commanders in charge make all the military plans; this assembly, also has other individuals, who are in charge of the political and media aspect of the organization.

This group does not have direct contact with Hezbollah in Lebanon and only share a common goal. All their commanders are Iraqi. Most of the members of this group are followers of Mohammad-Baqer Sadr and Khomeini. The establishment of the battalions go back to four months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq and most of the commanders were members of the anti-Saddam Hossein forces. Their first military operation was against the American forces on October 23rd, 2003 in Baghdad’s area of Baladiyat, behind Hotel Qanat where someone in a Humvee was exploded via a roadside bomb and was completely destroyed.  This group has come to be known as Abolfazl al-Abbass Brigade and in 2006 when they began to distribute films of their operations via the internet and television, specifically the Lebanese Al Manar and Al Jadid networks. In 2007 the group announced that from that date forward it will be known under its main name meaning Hezbollah Brigades and continues to operate in Iraq as such.

The commander of Hezbollah Iraq is Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi who dispatches order via an individual named Javad Fallahzadeh aka Abu-Kazem. Fallahzadeh is originally Iranian and until 1376 (1997) he was in charge of a branch of the IRGC.

The Hezbollah battalions have operated in areas such as Balad, Samara and Al-Dajil. Also in Jurf Al-Sakhar, north of Babel and in the suburbs of Baghdad they have also carried out operations. There is a person in charge in every area and Jabbar Abdolhossein is the head of provincial security, as well as supervisor of the provinces of Basra, Nasiriyah, Al-Amarah and Al-Kout.

The supervisor of the Hezbollah Brigade in Al-Rusafa Baghdad is Sheikh Moayed Al-Bahadeli who is assisted by Sa’ad Soareh, Amjad Al-Bahi, Sadr Al-A’arji and Laith Al-Nouri.

The supervisor of the Hezbollah Brigade in Al-Karakh Baghdad is Ahmad Al-Assadi who is assisted by Hajji Hameed Al-Saa’edi, Mohammad Abdolsaaleh, Sheikh Faazel Al-Fareesh and Sheikh Wassam Al-Baghdadi.

Iraqi Hezbollah has in its possession Katyusha, Zulfaqar, Kerar and Heidar missiles. They also have Iranian-made drones, Kalashnikovs, M16s, PKCs, RPG anti-tank missiles, HS .50s, Sayyad B29 (?), Mortar 60 and 180 mm and other anti-armor and anti-air weapons are also put at their disposal. They also have Ashtar rockets.

In the fight against Da’esh, Hezbollah Brigade played an influential role and these forces have shown a great deal of readiness and might. Hezbollah Brigade are also present in the areas of Amerli, Tuz Khurmatu and areas west of Baghdad and Tal Afar, etc.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq

A Mullah by the name of Jaber Rajabi is the representative of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iran. An Iraqi Mullah by the name of Seyyed Mohammad Tabatabai sends the financial assistance to Iraq via Jaber Rajabi.

Regarding Haj Qassem (Soleimani), Tabatabi says: Haj Qassem is not just a supervisor who oversees things from afar, and hangs back in combat; he’s a commander in the front lines, who is involved in the action. Haj Qassem was present two weeks prior to the liberation of Amerli, in Iraq and with Haj Mahdi, one of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, they discussed the strategy toward this city. Following his discussion with this Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq commander, he gave him a gift and said: “This gift is from me, my country, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the people of Syria and hereby thank you for your group’s sacrifice and heroic efforts on Syrian soil.”

Their commander is Sheikh Qaiss Khaz’ali. The number of combatants are approximately 10,000 and are all members of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq who are capable of using various weapons and light and heavy military artillery, including mortar and rocket launchers and middle range gunnery is at their disposal.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq is a branch of the Al-Mahdi corps which was established in 2006 and began to operate independently of the Al-Mahdi corps, especially after Al-Mahdi’s dissolution in November of 2008.

The top commanders of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq are Qaiss Khaz’ali, Abdolhadi Al-Draji and Akram Al-Ka’abi. Khaz’ali was a student of Mohammad Sadr, Moqtada Al-Sadr’s father and prior to his release in 2010, he spent time in prison, in the U.S.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq is among the most famous paramilitary groups and is in fact considered the second most powerful of such groups, having had much field experience.

The Imam Ali brigade runs the southern Iraqi provinces of Shi’ite Babylon, Basra, Dhi qar, Karbala, Maysan, Al-Muthanna, Najaf, Al-Qadisiyah and Vaaset.

The Imam Kaazem brigade oversee the district west of Baghdad which includes, Kazemein, Al-Rashid, Al-Karkh and Al-Mansour.

The Imam Hadi brigade oversee the district east of Baghdad which includes Al-Sadr township, Baghdad Al-Jadida (New Baghdad), Al-Karrada, Al-Ressafa, Al-Azmia.

The Imam Askari brigade oversee the central district of Iraq which includes the Shi’ite South Diala, and Samarra, in the province of Sallahuddin and various Shi’ite areas of Ninevah and Kirkuk.

The Heidar Kerar brigade oversee the Syrian area which is generally south of Damascus and the west of Aleppo. The Hezbollah Movement Al-Nujaba split from the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in 2013 and Akram Al-Nabi took the reins. He is also the leader of the  of the Ammar Bin Yasser which is affiliated with the Al-Asa’ib in Syria. The Hezbollah Movement members who are in the thousands fought in the Al-Nabaie, Al-Zabetiya and Samarra with light and middle range artillery. They use the Ashtar missiles a great deal.

The Imam Ali Brigade

The Imam Ali Brigade is the military arm of the Al-Iraq Al-Islamiya Movement, which was launched in June 2014 and started operating in Amerli, Tuz Khurmatu and Diala. The goal of the establishment of said battalions is the defense of the Shi’ite Shrines and realm. Followers of other religions and ethnic groups and sects are also member of the Imam Ali brigade.

The Seyyad Al-Shohada Brigade

The leader of that group is Al-Haaj Abu-A’alaa. Haji Abu-Seif who was in charge of the military wing was killed in Samarra. Their numbers exceed three or four thousand.

They had a major part in the battles in Samarra, Amerli and Al-Zabetiya.

The Jihad of Construction Battalions

The Jihad of Construction was established in 2011. These battalions are an amalgamation of three Islamic groups: Iraqi Hezbollah, the Seyyed Al-Shohada brigade and the Nehzat Front. The Secretary General is Hassan Al-Saari and one of the leaders of the Superior Islamic Assembly lead by Ammar Hakim.

Some regard these battalions to be, in reality, a replacement for the Badr Brigade whose numbers are above three thousand and as far as combatants are concerned, are known to be the most religious. They participated in the battles of Al-Rouached, Al-Sadiya and Al-Javizrat (spelling?) and Seyyed Ghareeb and used light and middle range artillery and are under the heavy artillery protection of the Iraqi army.

Al-Tayar al-Resaali Battalions

The General commander, Sheikh Adnan Al-Shahmani is a member of parliament. Al-Shahmani began his political and military career in the Da’awa Party but Muqtada Al-Sadr’s obstruction in the 2007 election saw him leaving the battalion. The Al-Resaali battalions of Iraq participated in the ‘liberation’ of the Al-Ma’aamel area of Al-Karameh Fallujah and the Al-Zabetiyeh battle and fought with light and middle range weapons. This group enjoys the support of the heavy artillery of the Iraqi army as well.

Saraya al-Khorasani

Saraya al-Khorasani acts as the military branch of the Islamic Al-Tal’iyeh Party, as the defenders of the ‘sacred’ in Syria. Its leader is Seyyed Hamed Al-Jazayeri and the founder, Commander Hameed Taghavi was among the Quds Force leaders who was killed in Iraq. They have approximately 3000 fighters who participated in the ‘liberation’ of the Aziz-Balad district. They also participated in the battle of Amerli and are capable of using light and middle range weapons. They also enjoy the heavy artillery protection of the Iraqi army.

Saraya al-Khorasani is a brigade that follows the orders of Seyyed Khorassani who is directly related to Khamenei. One of the specificities of this group that sets it apart from others is the groups logo, which has been selected by the group itself and much resembles the logo of the Iranian IRGC. The main commander of this battalion in Iraq is Seyyed Ali Al-Yasseri.

In terms of logistics and military, Saraya al-Khorasani employs a mix of weapons available in Iraq and Iranian weapons. In various photos and images published of the young members of this group, weapons such as AK-47s, Dragunov sniper rifle, RPG107s, M162s and RPG7, can be clearly seen. As seen the published photos of Saraya al-Khorasani members, they also have access to advanced weaponry which are made in Iran, such as the Arash. Seyyed Hamed Al-Jazayeri is among the top commanders of this group but the actual leader is Seyyed Ali Al-Yasseri.

Seyyed Hamed Al-Jazayeri (left), Qassem Soleimani of the IRGC (right)
Seyyed Hamed Al-Jazayeri in the hospital, following his hand injury from explosives.
Saraya Ashura

These battalions are considered to be the military branch of the Superior Islamic Assembly and their numbers exceed 5000 combatants. They are extremely well-organized and have a great deal of military prowess from past experience in the Badr brigade. They have participated in the battles of Balad and Al-Zabetiya with light and mid-range weapons and like Saraya al-Khorasani, they too enjoy the heavy artillery protection of the Iraqi army.

Saraya Al-Atbaat

That Atbaat battalions and their employees are all affiliated with Shi’ite centers in Iraq. Saraya Al-Atbaat are made up of various well-known brigades such as Saraya Al-Atabeh Al-Abbassiyeh, lead by Sheikh Maysam. They are 5000 combatants strong and they participated in the Jurf Al-Sakhar and Seyyed Ghareeb. They are supplied with light and mid-range weapons.

The Aastaan’eh Hazrat’eh Ali brigades are led by Sheikh Karim. They have 1000 combatants which works alongside the 1000 strong Aastaan’eh Moqaddas’eh Imam Hossein. They participate in most of the populist forces battles.

Solh Brigade

This is a group that is affiliated to Muqtada Al-Sadr and led by the same and was created after the rule of Da’esh over the province of Ninevah and other regions in Iraq. These battalions are used for the defense of mosques, and Shi’ite and Sunni shrines in areas such as Samarra, Diala, Amerli, Jurf Al-Sakhar and Al-Ess’haaqi.

Jaish Al-Mokhtar

The founder of this group is Vaasseq Al-Bataat and he founded the group in 2010. The number of combatants have been estimated to be approximately 40,000. This group too has access to all kinds of weaponry and artillery.

Abofazl al-Abbass Brigade

The founder of this group is Qassem Al-Taa’ie and he founded the group in 2011. A’alaa Al-Ka’abi’e took the command reins. This group too has access to all kinds of weaponry and artillery. They are closely affiliated with Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Al-Sadr brigades and Iraqi Hezbollah.

Ali Akbar Brigade

The Commander of this brigade is Ali Hamdaani who established this group in 2012. Most of the members of this group have been trained by the Iraqi army. Their numbers are reported to be close to 20,000 combatants and Qassem Mosleh is among their top leaders. He is interested in close ties with Qassem Soleimani. The tribes of “Jobour”, “Shemr”, “Azzeh too work alongside Christian groups in this brigade. This group too is supplied with light and mid-range weapons. This is the group that has killed the most members of Da’esh.