Hezbollah’s executive council deputy head Sheikh Nabil Qaouk has called the routing of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk by Iranian-backed Iraqi troops a victory by the resistance over the United States and Israel.
“Our victory in Kirkuk is a victory over the US and Israel and an answer to Trump’s threats to Iran,” Qaouk said on Sunday, during a religious ceremony in the southern Lebanese town of Bazouriyeh.
Qaouk, Hezbollah’s top official in South Lebanon, said the region has entered a new phase that favors Hezbollah.
“The qualitative and strategic gains achieved by Iraq in Kirkuk is a new achievement for the resistance axis and a new defeat for Trump, America, Israel and others in the region,” he said, adding that America will not be able to change Hezbollah’s positions by their sanctions, “not today, tomorrow or in the future. Hezbollah will complete its path to victory.”
Iraqi forces backed by Iran’s Popular Mobilization Units and other Iranian-backed militias, easily routed the Peshmerga forces from the oil-rich province of Kirkuk last week. This comes after Kurds voted in favor of an independence referendum in late September. As the Iranian-backed forces took over Kirkuk and other Kurdish-held territory in the neighboring provinces of Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah, the US – a staunch ally of the Kurds – did not intervene politically or militarily, saying only it was “monitoring the situation.”
According to Ceng Sagnic, coordinator of the Kurdish Studies Program at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv, Iran has created a new route from Iran to northern Syria, increasing pressure on Israel, which is concerned about the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria.
“Iran is in need of secure access routes extending from the Iran-Iraq border to the Lebanon-Israel-Syria triangle in southwestern Syria, in order to increase pressure on Israel, while creating alternative routes to supply Hezbollah both in Syria and Lebanon,” Sagnic told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“Shi’ite militias were able to control most of the Iraq-Syria borderline adjacent to the US-influenced zone in Syria, creating a safe passage from Iran to northern Syria, while encircling the US and coalition bases in both countries,” Sagnic said. He added, “By doing so, Iranian-backed groups did not only circumvent the Sunni-majority areas of central Iraq to reach Syria, and thus, to the Mediterranean.”
According to Sagnic, these developments brought with them “an added value of harassing US allies in Syria with a dramatically expanded Iranian role in the country, by paving parallel paths to the south and north of the US-influenced zone in Syria, which will eventually force US allies like SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] to foster relations with Iran, if not fully abandon the Western camp.”
Sagnic told the Post that developments in Iraq reflect remarks made last May by Qais Al-Khazali, leader of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the strongest Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. In those comments, Al-Khazali said Iran’s goal in the region was to create a “Shi’ite full moon,” not a “Shi’ite crescent,” as many experts and officials have said.
After more than six years, as the war in Syria seems to be winding down in Assad’s favor, Israel fears Iran will help Hezbollah produce accurate precision-guided missiles, helping it and other Shi’ite militias strengthen their foothold in the Golan Heights.
Also on Sunday, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem stated, “The Zionist occupation was and will remain Lebanon’s enemy… All those who justify collaboration with this enemy can be described as Israeli collaborators themselves.”