Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2015

Kataib al-Imam Ali: Portrait of an Iraqi Shiite Militant Group Fighting ISIS

Matthew Levitt, Phillip Smyth

January 2015

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy


Over fifty Shiite militia organizations in Syria and Iraq currently claim to be training and fighting against the "Islamic State"/ISIS. Many are armed branches of established political parties or follow individual clerics. Some are fronts for established groups, while other newer groups are developing their own profile and presence. In addition, new militias have been established along the lines of al-Hashd al-Shabi (The Popular Mobilization) and are growing in size and influence. Although many of these groups are indeed countering the ISIS advance, a number are linked to extremist anti-American leaders and factions, particularly Kataib al-Imam Ali (the Imam Ali Brigades). Such militias present further threats to regional security and U.S. interests in the Middle East.