Iran Slams Assassination Attempt Against Iraqi PM, Says US May Have Been Responsible
14:56 GMT 07.11.2021 (Updated: 16:43 GMT 08.01.2023)
© Photo : Iraqi Prime Minister's OfficePhoto showing damage to the Iraqi prime minister's residence in the wake of Sunday morning's drone attack.
© Photo : Iraqi Prime Minister's Office
A booby-trapped drone targeted Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s residence in Baghdad early on Sunday morning, with the leader emerging unscathed and calling on the public to remain calm. Iraq’s interior ministry classified the incident as a “terrorist attack” and revealed that three drones were involved in the attack.
The late-night attack on Prime Minister al-Kadhimi’s residence was in the US’s interest, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Said Khatibzadeh has said.
“Such incidents are in the interest of those who have violated the stability, security, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years,” the spokesman said, speaking to reporters on Sunday, and referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 without directly mentioning the US itself.
“They have sought to achieve their sinister regional goals by creating terrorist groups that seek to stir sedition,” Khatibzadeh alleged.
Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other regional forces have regularly accused the United States of creating, nurturing and funding an array of radical Islamist militants, including Daesh (ISIS)* – the terrorist group which wreaked havoc across large swathes of western and northern Iraq and eastern Syria between 2014 and 2017. Washington has dismissed the allegations.
Khatibzadeh called on Iraqis to be “vigilant” against “conspiracies that have targeted Iraq’s security and progress,” and expressed relief that al-Kadhimi was safe.
7 November 2021, 07:23 GMT
Earlier Sunday, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, suggested that the drone attack was an attempt to incite a rebellion, and alleged that the attempt could be “traced back to foreign think tanks, which have brought nothing but insecurity, discord and instability to the oppressed Iraqi people through the creation and support of terrorist groups and occupation of this country for years.” The official did not elaborate on what country or countries these “foreign think tanks” belonged to.
In the aftermath of the attack against him, al-Kadhimi tweeted that he was “doing fine” and called for “calm and restraint” from Iraqis. Later in the day, Al-Kadhimi’s media office released photos of the prime minister chairing a meeting discussing the attack with security officials. His Twitter account went on to post a stream of messages about the PM’s phone calls from regional leaders and senior Iraqi officials denouncing the attack and expressing solidarity with the Iraqi government and people.
Iraq’s interior ministry has indicated that three drones were involved in the assassination attempt, and reported that the gunfire heard in the Green Zone in the early hours of Sunday morning was related to efforts to shoot the unmanned aerial vehicles down. Several people in the prime minister’s residence were said to have received non-life-threatening injuries in the attack, and are being treated, according to the ministry.
Iraqi President Bahram Salih called the attack on al-Kadhimi a “dangerous transgression and heinous crime against Iraq,” and emphasised that the government would “not accept dragging Iraq into chaos and a coup against the constitutional order.”
Influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also condemned the attack, categorising it as a “blatant targeting of Iraq, its nation, security and stability” aimed at plunging the country into chaos. Nechirvan Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region, slammed the attack as a “dangerous development which threatens security and stability in the country” and expressed relief that the prime minister wasn’t hurt.
US officials said that Washington was in close contact with the Iraqi security forces, and has offered assistance in investigating the attack. The United Nations’ mission in Iraq condemned the attack, saying that “terrorism, violence, and unlawful acts must not be allowed to undermine Iraq’s stability and derail its democratic process.”
7 November 2021, 08:55 GMT
Attack in Wake of Controversial Elections
Iraq held parliamentary elections last month, with negotiations on the formation of a new government continuing after powerful Shia parties refused to recognise the legitimacy of the results, citing alleged widespread irregularities. Baghdad saw violent clashes between police and supporters of Shia parties on Friday after protesters attempted to break into the heavily fortified Green Zone, which in addition to al-Kadhimi’s residence and government offices also contains the US Embassy.
Police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the crowds, with dozens of security forces personnel reported wounded and one protester killed. Al-Kadhimi promised an investigation. However, some Shia militia leaders blamed the prime minister for the violence, with Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Khazali Network – a major political party and powerful militant group – reportedly warned that the prime minister would “pay the price” for the violence.
Before last month’s elections, al-Khazali warned that outside powers may attempt to rig the vote to spark a normalization of ties between Iraq and Israel. He went on to accuse outsiders of seeking to disband Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militias (of which the Khazali Network is a part) –formed in 2014 to beat back Daesh. The US classifies the group as ‘terrorists’, but it has lawmakers in parliament and a 10,000 militiamen-strong armed force allied to Iraq’s security forces.
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The Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s powerful Communist Party boycotted the October vote, citing corruption and potential for fraud. The patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church called on the country’s Christians to also boycott the vote, saying he did not expect them to be “transparent and fair.”
The post-election unrest and the attack on al-Kadhimi comes amid America's promises to pull all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 2021 after an agreement on the matter was reached in July. Washington was estimated to have about 2,500 troops in the country at the time, with an unspecified number of trainers and other personnel expected to remain following withdrawal. Some Shia militias have vowed that they won’t rest until all Us troops are gone.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.