Home Uncategorized Drone attack by militants on Iraqi PM ‘marks escalation’ in power struggle

Drone attack by militants on Iraqi PM ‘marks escalation’ in power struggle

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Drone attack by militants on Iraqi PM ‘marks escalation’ in power struggle

Iraq

Drone attack by militants on Iraqi PM ‘marks escalation’ in power struggle

Officials see strike on premier’s home as assassination attempt by Iran-backed groups trying to overturn election result

The remains of vehicle parked in front of Mustafa al-Kadhimi's residence in Baghdad’s green zone after the drone attack.

The absence of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who exerted a powerful influence over Iran-linked militias until he was assassinated in a drone strike ordered by Donald Trump in January 2020, has however clouded even Iraqi officials’ understanding of whether acts by proxies in Iraq are ordered by figures in Iran.

“We assess that this would not have happened if Qassem Suleimani was still alive,” the official said. “There is no longer the same hold over the militia groups as there was under him. This means the link to the seat of power in Tehran is not as [strong] as it was.”

Iran-linked groups have, however, shown increasing vehemence after the election, which shredded their political muscle and bolstered the Iraqi cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr, who will play a prominent role in the months of horse-trading ahead to determine the makeup of a government and who gets to lead it.

Friday’s attempted incursion into the green zone led to the death of one protester and the wounding of several dozen members of the security force. In response, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of one of the militant groups, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, warned: “The blood of martyrs is to hold you accountable. The protesters only had one demand against fraud in elections. Responding [with live fire] means you are the first responsible for this fraud. […] Avenging the blood of the martyrs is our responsibility and we will do this by putting you on trial.”

The march on the fortified zone marked the second time this year that militia groups had attempted to make inroads into the seat of power. In June, leaders of the groups ordered their members to seize one of the main checkpoints leading across the Tigris. That move led to protracted negotiations with leaders of the groups and had weakened Kadhimi’s authority – so much so that he had seriously considered not standing for a second term.

However, a subsequent trip to Washington, where he successfully negotiated the withdrawal of remaining US forces from Iraq, was well received in Iran. “The Iranians want him to stand again,” a second Iraqi official said. “But that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have wanted this as well. It’s always complicated with them.”

One significant complication is the relatively weak hand of Suleimani’s replacement as leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Ismail Ghani, who has had a rough induction to the role pioneered by his predecessor.

“They don’t listen to him as much as they listened to Qassem,” the first official said. “In fact sometimes they don’t listen to him at all. Nowadays there are many different lines back to Iran. That authority we had gotten used to has broken down.”

While Kadhimi has not announced whether he will stand for a second term, he is widely expected to do so by allies and adversaries alike. International observers have broadly dismissed claims of irregularities in the election, which attracted a poor turnout but delivered an emphatic boost for Sadr, whose support will be key if Kadhimi is to be returned.

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  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Middle East and North Africa
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Published at Sun, 07 Nov 2021 19:14:16 +0000

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/07/drone-attack-on-iraqi-pms-home-marks-escalation-in-power-struggle

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