An Iranian-backed proxy group in Iraq released a video on Sunday showing its fighters in possession QW-1M man-portable air-defense missiles, marking the introduction of one of the more sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons seen in more than a decade of conflict in Iraq.
The video, released by the Shiite terrorist group Kata’ib Hezbollah, shows fighters parading with the missile. In one scene, the camera zooms in on the launch tube to reveal its QW-1M markings.
China’s Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation manufactures the QW-1M, and the missile launcher first appeared in 2002 at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition. But responsibility for its introduction into Iraq likely lies with Iran.
The U.S. State Department designated Kata’ib Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 2009, describing it as a “a radical Shia Islamist group with an anti-Western establishment and jihadist ideology that has conducted attacks against Iraqi, U.S. and coalition targets in Iraq.”
Iran uses a local variant of the Chinese QW-1 Vanguard under the designation Misagh-1, and there are clues that Tehran may also be in possession of the latter QW-1M series missiles.
The QW-1M has been seen in the wild outside of state control only once before — in 2013. As The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers first reported, U.S. agents seized QW-1M missiles from a dhow off the coast of Yemen in January 2013. American officials believe Iran sent the missiles and intended to supply Houthi rebels in Yemen.