Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham
The Conquering Lion of God Forces of Iraq and the Levant (Arabic: Quwwat Assad Allah al-Ghalib fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham), more commonly known by its original name Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham or simply LAAG,[c] is a Shia Muslim militant group operating throughout Syria and Iraq. It is named after the title of Imam Ali.
|Conquering Lion of God Forces of Iraq and the Levant|
|Participant in the Syrian Civil War and the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)|
Emblem of Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib
Muqtada al-Sadr Thought
|Group(s)||Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib (former Iraqi branch; current relation with LAAG unclear)[a]|
|Area of operations||Syria, Iraq|
|Part of|| Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas network|
Liwa'a Zulfiqar (since mid-2017)
Iraqi Shia private militias[b]
|Opponent(s)|| Free Syrian Army|
al-Nusra Front / HTS
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
|Battles and war(s)||
Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib was originally set up in late 2013 as part of the Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas network, ostensibly to work with other Shia militias to protect the Sayyidah Zaynab shrine, and was initially advised by Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq veterans. Although the group has Syrian members and has been considered to be one of the Syrian government's "domestic allies", LAAG primarily recruits Iraqi Shiites since its formation and has built an extensive recruitment network within Iraq.
Since mid-August 2013, LAAG began to actively fight for the Syrian government against various Syrian opposition groups. In this capacity, it originally operated almost exclusively in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, notably participating in the Rif Dimashq offensive (March–August 2013) and the Battle of Al-Malihah. This changed after June 2014, when ISIL conquered Mosul, as LAAG set up an Iraq branch, named "Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib" and led by Sayyid Abu Ghayth al- Hassani. Since then, however, strong differences have emerged between LAAG and Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib, with Sheikh Abdallah al-Shaibani claiming that the latter has illegitimately appropriated his group's name and branding, while Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib no longer claims to be part of LAAG. Despite that, LAAG still had an active Iraqi branch by early 2016. Another Iraqi militia partially influenced by LAAG is Jaysh al-Mu'ammal, whose founder Sa'ad Sawar had fought with LAAG in Syria before forming his own militant group in 2016.
In early 2015, LAAG, among other Shia militias, deployed forces to Latakia Governorate, when Sunni rebel forces threatened the local Alawite population. While LAAG returned to rural Rif Dimashq after this first northern foray, it became more active throughout Syria afterwards. In late 2015, LAAG sent fighters to Aleppo for the Aleppo offensive (October–December 2015), and in early 2016 it returned to the Syrian coastal highlands to participate in a local government offensive. At the same time, the group also began to provide advisors for the Desert Hawks Brigade, while adopting the latter's uniforms and insignia. Meanwhile, LAAG's Iraqi units had joined forces with Harakat al-Abdal, and developed close links with the Badr Organization and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. LAAG still operated in the Damascus area as of March 2017. Later that month, LAAG was one of the Shia militias mobilized by the IRGC against a major rebel offensive in northern Hama. At Qamhana, Abdallah al-Shaibani's men helped to stop Tahrir al-Sham's attack, and thereafter aided the government counter-offensive.
By mid-2017, LAAG had come to be closely allied with another Shia Islamist militia, Liwa'a Zulfiqar, and even began to operate under the latter's name and logo. Around this time, Abdallah al-Shaibani's men took part in the Syrian Desert campaign (May–July 2017), during which they clashed with United States-supported Free Syrian Army groups near the al Waleed border crossing (al-Tanf).
- The current status of Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib as part of LAAG is unclear; the two groups have apparently distanced themselves from each other, and Sheikh Abdallah al-Shaibani has criticized Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib for using LAAG's name and logos.
- Notable Iraqi allies of LAAG include the Badr Organization, Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Jaysh al-Mu'ammal, Liwa Dhulfiqar, and Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein.
- The militia's name has been alternatively transliterated as Liwa Asad Allah al-Ghalib fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, or simply Assad Allah al-Ghalib.
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (16 September 2015). "Liwa Sayf al-Haq Assad Allah al-Ghalib: A Republican Guard Militia in Sayyida Zainab". Syria Comment. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
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- Phillip Smyth (8 March 2016). "How Iran Is Building Its Syrian Hezbollah". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. "Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib". Jihad Intel. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Phillip Smyth (February 2015). "The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects: Appendix 3. The LAFA Network of Organizations" (PDF). The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- Phillip Smyth (2 October 2015). "Iran-backed Iraqi militias are pouring into Syria". Business Insider. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Phillip Smyth (February 2015). "The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects: Appendix 2. Understanding the Organizations Deployed to Syria" (PDF). The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- "Kata'ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib". Jihad Intel. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
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- "Jaysh al-Mu'ammal". Jihad Intel. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- Phillip Smyth (February 2015). "The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects: Appendix 7. Shiite Militia Geography" (PDF). The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- "Regime edges closer to taking key East Ghouta town". Syria Direct. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Tom Cooper (11 November 2016). "Understanding the Syrian Civil War: Overview of pro-Regime Militias in Syria". Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- Aaron Y. Zelin (30 October 2015). "The Archivist: 'Go Forth, Lightly and Heavily Armed': New Mobilization Calls By the Islamic State in Aleppo Province". Jihadology. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (3 September 2016). "Quwat Dir' Al-Amn Al-Askari: A Latakia Military Intelligence Militia". Syria Comment. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "Der Syrische Bürgerkrieg - Update 19 04 2017". Truppendienst.com (Austrian Armed Forces) (in German). 27 April 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
- Martin (2018), p. 92.
- AFPC (2017), p. 339.
- Phillip Smyth (31 May 2015). "Iraqi Shiite Fighters on the Rise in Syria". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Hanin Ghaddar; Phillip Smyth (29 June 2018). "Accepting Regime Forces in South Syria Will Only Further Iran's Goals". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Imam Hussein Brigade commander killed in Syria". Baghdad Post. 18 March 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- AFPC (2017). The World Almanac of Islamism 2017. Lanham, Maryland; London; New York City: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1442273443.
- Martin, Kevin W. (2018). "Syria and Iraq. ISIS and Other Actors in Historical Context". In Feisal al-Istrabadi; Sumit Ganguly (eds.). The Future of ISIS: Regional and International Implications. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. pp. 89–118. ISBN 978-0815732167.