An inside look at the Rab' Allah movement in Iraq
In the following report our researcher in Iraq spoke to people across the country about the group Rab' Allah (spelled "Rabaallah" in the researcher's text below). We have included the interviews as they were spoken and then translated. In places were have left the spelling as we received it and tried our best to conform it to known uses.
Abdullah, 39, a Baghdad resident close to the Rab' Allah Militia movement
I don't remember the exact date they began, they just seemed to arrive. They were not as organized at the beginning as they are now. Before, they were a different group with random targets and goals. They belong to Abu Fadak al Mohammadawi – the ‘Uncle.’ (Abu Fadak replaced Abu Mahdi al Muhandis as chief of staff of the Popular Mobilization Units, after the latter’s assassination by the US in January, 2020).
Abu Fadak gathered and organized them under one name. He is directly supervising and guiding them, and they are taking orders and by him and directly from the intelligence section of PMU. There is a second person after Abu Fadak, he took Abu Fadaks previous position in the intelligence section of Hashd Al-Shaabi (PMU), and he is from the south of Iraq very close to Iran. The movement came out and became very active after pausing military attacks and switching to civil activities and demonstrations and protection against the Americans and anyone who hits their interests.
Rabaallah’s policy and agenda is to enter political movements via civil movements and activities. Even, when they attacked the Dijla channel, they claimed not to be from the PMU but simply to be supporters of it. Rabaallah consists largely of former members of the PMU and other militia groups who were fired due to poor discipline and unacceptable behavior. They were recruited to Rabaallah and given specific tasks.
There are many other groups like Rabaallah but military groups - movements such as Easbat Al-Thaereen , Ashaab Al-Kahf, Qwat thulfiqar, Saya al-montaqim, Thaer Al-Muhandis, Qasm Al-Jabareen and Tahaluf Thawratu Al-Aashreen, they are responsible for rocket attacks, bombings, IEDs, and intelligence activities.
There is a new name called Ten thousand unit (10,000 unit) Firqa Aashr talaf, it’s the main player and they are running everything now in Iraq. Rabaallah is a small part of this unit.
There are three players that supervising the movement, the IRGC - Iranian revolutionary guard, Hashd Al-Shaabi intelligence committee headed by Abu Iman al-Bahili, official of the Intelligence Authority in the PMU, and Ahmed Al-Kawtharani (Lebanese Hezbollah) chief of Iraq file.
Al-Ghree, 33, an independent journalist close to Iraqi Hezbollah.
All these different groups, names and factions they all came out after the attack on Sulaimani and Muhandis close to the airport. They started to come out in January, 2020. It all started at that time. Factions that came out include Ashab Al-kahf, Thaerat Al-dam, thaer Al-muhandis, there are about 15 groups with different names.
After all these factions, we have now seen a newer group coming out - again with a different name - Rabaallah. They seemed to come from nowhere. For example, I had an interview with one cyber security leader from the Badr Organization, his nick name was Abu Ali. He was very young and under his command were teenagers and children working with him. Teenagers that have many different social accounts with different names. A month before the Rabaallah name came out, Abu Ali asked me – “Who do you think I belong to? Hezbollah? Rabaallah? Badr?” I said “you remain Badr, you don't have anything to do with any other group.”
They are using all these names and they are continuing creating other names, groups and movements, so they can create fears and gain sympathy of people in order to dominate the society. For example, the group that attacked PDK, they were from the Nujaba faction, and they are still working inside that faction. (Hizballah Nujaba – an Iran supported PMU militia – ed).
Abu Talib Al-saidi ( Abu Kashafa) was responsible for recruiting and leading these young people for Hizbullah. He was responsible for recruiting and preparing youth and teenagers and putting them in these groups. He is one of the founders and a consultant adviser of Hizbullah. He is now doing Abu Fadak’s former job, after Abu Fadak became head of Hashd Al-Shaabi.
Ktaeb Hizbullah, under the name of ‘Scouts’ convinced many young people to join them, and they started recruiting and training young people to send them to Syria under the name of "Jihad". They were giving young people the task of killings and suicide, and teenagers (14-19 year old) were given command position in the Scouts. They even have younger ages with them.
Rabaallah is Hizbullah, 10% Asaib and the remaining 10% Nujaba and other militia factions. They are certainly a Ktaeb Hizbullah initiative, and they are taking direct orders from them. Also, Asaib plays a significant role in cooperation with Ktaeb Hizballah.
Rabaallah don’t have their own clear goals and policy but they are just working based on orders. They protest against American forces in front of USA embassy, and they also protested against Saudi Arabia’s embassy for their investment in Iraq. They have threatened to shut down DW tv and Al-Hura (non Iran-aligned media) channels. They carried out a cyber-attack against DW and they continue doing so to all channel that are against their interests.
They took the idea from Iraqi demonstrators in the south of attacking political parties' bases, burning them and then withdrawing. They are now mainly active in Baghdad.
Mahammad, 39, activist in ‘Come Together’ movement.
Eventfully, they are all one big network - all of which traces back to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Militia leaders develop these initiative under Iranian commanders. The Iranian commander will motivate and encourage the leader of each movements. Iraqi proxy militias with Iranian leaders choose certain individuals from each group and tell them - go make your own movement and you will have our support.
We have penetrated their cells and we know how they are working. They are easy to break into because in each Iraqi family you have five militias, every single individual belongs to a different militia, and they don't like each other. The Iranian officers choose leaders for different assignments in different movement such as Rabaallah, Jadahaa and others. The rank and file don't see Iranian officers and even their commanders don’t have direct contact with the Iranians. They just see Asaib and other militia personnel.
Sabreen news is a social media platform funded and supported by Iran. It specializes in sharing and publishing news related to Iraqi militias, and Iran news, with an anti-western orientation.
Rabaallah was a name first coined by Iraqi demonstrators in Tahrir square, and it was a name of mockery directed at proxy militias and Iranian tools. Rabaallah – people of God. Iraqi demonstrators gave them this name because all militias ( Asaib, Hizbullah, Nujaba, Khurasani, and Saraya) are claiming that they act in the name of "Allah" – God.
Proxy militias are suffering due to the economic crisis. They had been getting money from Iran. But, Iran was not giving its own money. It was taking money from the Iraqi government and transferring it to the militias. Iran takes hard currency to its own country. It doesn’t leave it in Iraq. Also, the current situation is a result of the killing of Suleimani, who was more organized.
The killing of Sulaimani has led to the network becoming diffuse and harder to control. There is no figure with the charisma of Suleimani active on the ground now. As a result, it has led to a financial mess and shortages of money. So, militias such as Asaib and Nujaba have begun to reorganize. They have removed some members. And the expelled people went out to build a new movement, parties and groups under their commanders. These are for the most part ignorant and uneducated people. In the last four months, the Rabaallah and Jadaha movements are being supported by Iran. They are attacking social activities, journalists and activists through social media and on the ground by kidnapping, threatening, torturing and arresting them. Their media platform is Sabareen news.
Al-Majhoul, 23, social activist
During the period that Adel Abdul Mahdi was prime minister, a number of fake Twitter accounts appeared, with such names as: (Al-Mustashar(Consultant), Al-Saidat Awla(First lady), Sbyain Al-Safara(Embassy boys), Al-Khal)
These accounts contained extreme sectarian incitement against young activists, and promote hostility to the European countries and America. They were supporting Iran and targeting diplomats and ambassadors. The accounts came out and disappeared quickly.
Then, shortly afterwards, new names appeared on Telegram: (Aaesabat Al-Katusha) such as Sabreen news, Rabaallah, Fariq Fatyimoun, KAF unit, Jabhat Ahl Al-Jadaha, and Unit of the 10000.
The first incitement though was made by journalists working for Islamic Television and Radio Union (Al-Aahd, Al-Etijah, Afaq, Al-Masar).
The Telegram groups are divided into: 1- Fatmiyoun 2- Rabaallah 3- Sabreen News
Details and information on Sabreen news:
The name has been taken from an Iranian brigade that was found in 2000 under Qasim Sulaimani, and Sabreen news is considered the forerunner of all the other channels.
The headquarters of the channel is in Baghdad (-Aarasat al-hindi, next to Al-Etijah TV base - which belongs to Ktaeb Hizbullah.
The salaries and wages are ($500-$2000) per person per month.