Early Sunday, the Iraqi millitary informed that the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt.
After results of the October 10 parliamentary vote showed that a bloc led by influential Muslim Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats,
maintaining its position as the largest group in Iraq’s 329-strong parliament, the West Asian country has been seeing protests against the elections.
The demonstrations turned violent on Friday in Baghdad, the county’s capital, with demonstrators denouncing “fraud” clashing with security forces outside the capital’s high-security Green Zone.
However, the tensions escalated on early Sunday when the Iraqi millitary informed that the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt on Sunday after an explosive-laden drone targeted his residence.
Iraqi PM Survives
Moments after the attack, Al-Kadhimi went on to Twitter and called for “calm and restraint from everyone.”
“Thank God, I am fine and among my people,” he tweeted on his official account.
“I was and still am a redemption project for Iraq and the people of Iraq. The missiles of treachery will not discourage the believers and will shake a hair of the stability and determination of our heroic security forces to preserve people’s security, achieve justice and set the law in place,” he tweeted.
كنت ومازلت مشروع فداء للعراق وشعب العراق، صواريخ الغدر لن تثبط عزيمة المؤمنين، ولن تهتز شعرة في ثبات وإصرار قواتنا الأمنية البطلة على حفظ أمن الناس وإحقاق الحق ووضع القانون في نصابه.
أنا بخير والحمد لله، وسط شعبي، وأدعو إلى التهدئة وضبط النفس من الجميع، من أجل العراق.
— Mustafa Al-Kadhimi مصطفى الكاظمي (@MAKadhimi) November 7, 2021
The Iraqi military said afterward that Al-Kadhimi was unharmed and in good health, and that security forces were “taking the necessary measures in connection with this failed attempt.”
A source close to the Iraqi leader told CNN Sunday that Al-Kadhimi was returning from overseeing security forces engaged in a stand-off with protesters at the southern gate of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of Baghdad where the the Prime Minister’s residence and other government and diplomatic buildings are located, around the time of the drone attack.
Kadhimi’s appointment to premiership
Al-Kadhimi was a vocal opponent of the regime of Saddam Hussein. He escaped Iraq in 1985 for Iran then Germany, before settling in the United Kingdom, and lived in exile for several years, eventually becoming a citizen of the UK. He is not affiliated with any of the Iraqi political parties.
After the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, al-Kadhimi returned to Iraq and cofounded the Iraqi Media Network.
Iraq’s PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi with US President Joe Biden.
Following months of protests that broke out across Iraq in October 2019 and the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet, Mustafa Al Kadhimi became a leading contender for the premiership.
On 9 April 2020, he was named by President Barham Salih as prime minister-designate, the third person tapped to lead the country in just 10 weeks as it struggled to replace a government that fell in 2019.
After nearly six months of political negotiations, Iraq’s parliament confirmed al-Kadhimi as Prime Minister of Iraq on 6 May 2020.
Before entering office, al-Kadhimi promised early elections and vowed Iraq would not be used as a battleground by other countries.
Iran’s Opposition to Kadhimi
Kataib Hezbollah, the militia largely responsible for attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and having close ties with Iran, openly accused the new prime minister of participating in the U.S. plot to kill the Iranian leaders during the negotiations to select an interim prime minister. The militia opposed Kadhimi and threatened violence if he became prime minister. The Iraqi Parliament ignored it.
Kataib Hezbollah acts as an arm of the Quds Force commanded by General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in the U.S. drone strike.
However, as Iraq progressed towards the general elections in October 2021, as promised by Kadhimi, things seemed to have came under control.
Iraq’s general elections
Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on 10 October 2021. The High Electoral Commission announced partial preliminary results on 11 October. The Sadrist political bloc, received the most seats after the initial count, with 73. On 15 October, the commission noted it had received 356 complaints about the preliminary election count by the 14 October deadline.
Late on 16 October, the commission announced its updated preliminary results after completion of manual recounts. The updated results triggered another opportunity to file election complaints with a deadline of 19 October. The commission had received over 1,000 complaints by 18 October, but a spokesperson stated it was unlikely the appeals will change the outcome.
The Conquest (Fatah) Alliance – the political arm of the multiparty Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-Iranian former paramilitary force, won about 15 seats, according to preliminary results. In the last parliament, it held 48, making it the second-largest bloc. Th election, which was staged months ahead of schedule, came amid widespread frustration with Iraq’s political elite. Turnout stood at 41 percent, the lowest level since the fall of Saddam Hussein following the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Iraqi supporters of Fatah attend an election rally in Baghdad on 5 October 2021.
Clashes in Baghdad
Parties representing Iran-backed militias called for protests after losing Parliament seats during elections, angering militia leaders and sparking several protests and sit-ins over the past weeks.
Iraqis who were supporters of the Iran-backed PMF and Fatah Alliance called the results “a fraud”, as most Iran-backed parties, including Fatah Alliance, lost many seats.
On Friday, a clash broke out in the country’s capital. It was the first big clash in Iraq since the election. Protesters threw stones and tried storming into the Green Zone, an area in Baghdad which holds all government buildings and embassies. Protesters threw projectiles and blocked all access to the Green Zone, until police pushed them out. Police fired at the protesters and also used tear gas. Security forces were accused of burning tents set up by protesters.
The clashes left 125 people injured and 2 people dead. 21 protesters were hurt from smoke inhalation, and 9 cops were hurt from getting stones thrown at them.
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite armed groups run from security forces after clashes during a protest against the election results in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 5, 2021.
The alleged assassination attempt on PM Kadhimi took place just two days after the clash in Baghdad.
Who’s behind the assassination attempt?
Mr. Kadhimi, who addressed the nation on television shortly after the attack, said he wasn’t hurt. The attack followed threats against Mr. Kadhimi from an Iran-backed militia leader, though the armed groups denied responsibility and no one immediately claimed credit.
Iran-backed paramilitary groups have turned to drones in a series of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria in recent months, prompting the U.S. military to shore up protective measures on its bases.
Sunday’s attack marked a departure from previous drone strikes by targeting the highest levels of the Iraqi government, which has struggled to rein in the militias.
Kadhimi’s beef with militias
Mr. Kadhimi has vowed to constrain the paramilitaries but his attempts have fallen short as the armed groups have embedded themselves deeper within the Iraqi state. The militias are part of a broader movement that organized to fight Islamic State when it overran much of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Iraq’s largest militia groups played down Sunday’s attack and rejected blame for the incident. “No one in Iraq has even the intention to lose a drone on a former prime minister,” the Kataib Hezbollah militia said in a statement.
However, considering the recent developments in the West Asian country, it’s very likely that one of the Iran-backed militias could have been behind the assassination attempt on Kadhimi.
The State Department condemned the attack on Kadhimi’s residence, saying the U.S. stands with the government and people of Iraq.
Meanwhile, after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, neither Asian countries nor others across the world, want to see further instability in the region which may lead to a full-fledged war. The assassination attempt on the Iraqi PM could however worsen the situation, if the Iran-backed militias refuse to accept the final outcome of the general elections and continue to register their protest by violent means.
As an independent media platform, we do not take advertisements from governments and corporate houses. It is you, our readers, who have supported us on our journey to do honest and unbiased journalism. Please contribute, so that we can continue to do the same in future.