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Iranian-backed group enters Iraq politics

Published By United Press International
BAGHDAD, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- An Iranian-backed Shiite group that attacked U.S. forces during the Iraq war has reinvented itself as a political organization, an official of the group said.

Sheik Mithaq al-Humairi, who heads Asaib Ahl al-Haq's Baghdad office, confirmed the group has been expanding its presence across Iraq, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

"Asaib Ahl al-Haq was founded as an Islamic resistance movement to fight the American occupation but now this stage is over," Humairi said. "Now we have entered a new phase, which is to make people aware of Asaib Ahl al-Haq."

A report by Washington's Institute for the Study of War said the group's relationship with Iran is so close that a political role would "enhance Iranian political and religious influence in Iraq and greatly augment Iran's regional proxy strategy."

The report's author, Sam Wyer, said it is hard to separate Asaib Ahl al-Haq's political aspirations from Iran's regional ambitions.

Since the end of the Iraq war, officers of the organization have returned from exile in Iran and opened political offices that provide social services to widows and orphans.

The group launched a network of religious schools, echoing the methods and structures of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that is a close ally.
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