Dec 01, 2021

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The Iraqi government announced on Sunday that an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had failed and he was unharmed. An armed drone attacked his house in Baghdad’s Green Zone, injuring seven of his security guards.

“I am fine and among my people. Thank God,” the prime minister tweeted shortly after the attack. He called for calm and restraint, “for the sake of Iraq”.

Al-Khadimi later appeared on Iraqi television.

“Cowardly rocket and drone attacks don’t build homelands and don’t build a future,” he said.

The Green Zone, also known as the International Zone of Baghdad, is a 10-square-kilometer area in central Baghdad that was the governmental center of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq after the American-led 2003 invasion and remains the center of the international presence in the city. It remains heavily fortified and houses foreign embassies and government offices.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (screenshot)

“We are relieved to learn the prime minister was unharmed. This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We are in close touch with the Iraqi security forces charged with upholding Iraq’s sovereignty and independence and have offered our assistance as they investigate this attack.”

No group has claimed credit for the attack, though many experts suspect Iranian-backed militias who oppose Al-Khadhimi because he is closely associated with the US. 

A spokesman for the, known as the Hashd al-Shaabi pro-Iranian militias released a statement saying the militias are “very skeptical of the assassination attempt, saying that this is just made up by the government in a bid to put blame on the protesters”.

On Friday, protests in Baghdad turned deadly as the crowds pelted security forces with stones, The security forces opened fire, killing at least two. Dozens of security forces were reportedly injured. The protesters claimed fraud in the October 10 parliamentary elections had reduced the number of seats assigned to the pro-Iranian  Conquest (Fatah) Alliance. Al-Khadimi ordered an investigation to determine what sparked the clashes and who violated orders not to open fire.

“The blood of martyrs is to hold you accountable,” said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, at the funeral of the protester. “The protesters only had one demand against fraud in elections. Responding like this (with live fire) means you are the first responsible for this fraud.”

 Rabbi Ken Spiro, a historian and Senior Lecturer and Researcher for Aish HaTorah Yeshiva,  noted that there are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq and In July 2021, al-Kadhimi and US President Joe Biden sealed an agreement to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021. 

“Withdrawing from Iraq now, especially in light of this assassination attempt, would be a disaster,” Rabbi Spiro said. “What many people misunderstand is that these countries are not unified nations with nationalism in the Western sense. These are artificially created countries. They can only stay together if they have an iron-fisted tyrant as a leader. Iraq stayed together under Saddam Hussein. But now, there is no Iraqi leader to stand against Iran which is trying to exert itself as the head of Shia Islam and that is the driving force of the opposition in Iraq.”

“Iraq and Syria are the main battlegrounds for this struggle between Shia and Sunni. Whatever country is unstable will get taken over. Turkey and Russia enter into the fray as former empires looking to reestablish themselves. Under President Obama, due to his isolationism, Russia got Mediterranean access by establishing a naval base in Latakia, Syria. This is huge for them.”

“Erdogan is looking to expand his influence as a leader in the Sunni world and establish his reputation as the defender of Sunni Islam.”

“When the US acts as a strong presence, they can be a stabilizing element but that possibility was destroyed by the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan. The Iranian-backed militias have openly launched drone attacks on US troops. This happened under Trump but he responded strongly, even taking out Soleimani. ”

“The real shame is that the Kurds will be left hanging,” Rabbi Spiro said. “They deserve a state, just like the Jews did for so long.”