Legitimizing an Iran-Backed Terrorist

Sheikh Qais al-Khazali, the secretary general of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, speaks in 2016. (HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2007, a convoy of terrorists disguised as defense contractors made it through security at a U.S. base in Karbala, Iraq. Once inside they opened fire and killed one U.S. soldier before taking four others hostage and fleeing. During the pursuit the terrorists executed three hostages and left one to eventually die of his wounds.

In 2019 the U.S. State and Treasury Departments designated the attack’s mastermind, Qais al-Khazali, a terrorist. Yet al-Khazali, whose terror group has received strong backing from Iran, has become a prominent political leader in Iraq. Last week, he was a featured speaker at a multi-day conference in Baghdad with other diplomats and analysts—along with an assistant U.S. secretary of state. Does U.S. government participation in such an event legitimize terrorists like al-Khazali?

“It sends a troubling message from the United States to have senior U.S. officials participating in a conference, which also hosted Qais Khazali, who is personally sanctioned by the United States,” Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Dispatch, “Washington has to guard against the normalization of these figures.”

After being kicked out of Iraq insurgent leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia in 2004, al-Khazali helped found another militant Shiite political group that would later become known as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH). It also got backing from Iran and was the group that executed the Karbala raid in 2007. AAH is now part of the current Iraqi cabinet, despite earning foreign terrorist designation from the U.S. government a year after its founder did.

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