Iraqi outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has survived an assassination attempt, the Iraqi army said, after a bomb dropped on the prime minister’s residence in Baghdad early on Sunday.
Kadhimi, who was not injured, described the attack as “missile missiles” and called for self-control. The Iraqi army said it was taking “appropriate measures” but did not identify who was behind the attack.
The assassination attempt has exacerbated tensions as political parties try to form a new government following last month’s election. Iran-backed political groups, which Kadhimi considers pro-US, have refused to accept the results. The pro-Iranian Fatah coalition won just 16 seats, down from 40, a reflection of low turnout, poor electoral tactics and public anger over their violence.
Supporters of Fatah, which represents several Shia militias, tried to enter the Green Zone, Baghdad’s seat of government, on Friday. Local media reported that one person was killed Saturday in violent clashes with security forces.
Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iran-backed militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, said on Twitter on Sunday that the blast should be investigated by a committee, and if it turns out to be a genuinely targeted attack, “then we will condemn this act ”.
Khazali was filmed on Saturday threatening Kadhimi. “The blood of our martyrs will avenge you,” Khazali said as he spoke out against the killing of a protester by Iraqi forces on Saturday.
Abu Ali al-Askary, security officer of the Shia militia Kita’ib Hezbollah, indirectly accused Kadhimi of “playing a victim role”. Meanwhile, a pro-militia news channel, which operates on the social messaging network Telegram, mocked the assassination attempt, saying “the living martyr Kadhimi bom Kadhimi”.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Twitter that the attempt was “a new uprising” stemming from foreign think tanks. . . through the creation and support of terrorist groups and the occupation of this country for years ”. The Iranian outlet Nournews, affiliated with the same council, said in a report that the attack did not benefit Iranian-backed militia groups because it undermined allegations of vote-rigging.
Appointed as a transitional prime minister after mass protests overthrew the previous government in late 2019, former intelligence chief Kadhimi was seen as a compromise candidate acceptable to both the US and Iran.
The Islamic Republic has strong influence in neighboring Iraq through political allies and the Iraqi Shia militias that support it. But Kadhimi angered militias when he made clear his intention to hold them accountable for their violence.
Previous administrations have tried to control the powerful Iran-backed paramilitaries by making them part of the state security apparatus, in part as a reward for their role in the fight against jihadist insurgents Isis.
When the militias fielded candidates in the 2018 election, they did well – Fatah became the second largest bloc in parliament. But the brutal suppression of the 2019 protests hampered their public perception and poor tactics hampered their performance in the October poll. An analysis by Chatham House suggested that Fatah actually took slightly more votes than the victorious Sadrists, led by the populist Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr.
The Sadrist bloc took up 73 of the 329 parliamentary seats in October, less than the 165 seats needed for a majority of votes, but a score that makes it the largest bloc in a system designed to ensure that the country’s numerous groups have a say.
Maria Fantappie, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue’s MENA adviser, tweeted that “security incidents are likely to continue as long as there is no intra-Shiite settlement that offers these groups a share in government that matches their pre-election expectations”.
Many hardline Shia paramilitaries are convinced that Kadhimi played a role in the US assassination in Iraq of the Iranian foreign military chief Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis. The U.S. military uses drones in the attack near Baghdad International Airport.
Washington condemned the attack on Kadhimi early Sunday. The US State Department called it “an apparent act of terrorism. . . focused on the heart of the Iraqi state “, and said the US was providing assistance with the investigation.