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US may assassinate Iraqi officials, pin blame on resistance groups, Fatah warns

This handout picture shows damage to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s residence in Baghdad after a failed assassination attempt on November 7, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

An Iraqi political alliance has warned of US plots to assassinate political and military figures in the country and pin the blame on resistance groups, after reports that the drones that recently targeted the Iraqi premier’s house took off from the American embassy in Baghdad.

In an interview with al-Maloumah news agency, Muhammad al-Baldawi, a member of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, expressed surprise at the government’s reluctance to disclose details about the recent drone attack on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s residence.

He said the government is accusing the parties whose loyalty to the country has been proven in the fight against Daesh terrorists, while the real culprit is left to its own to make more mischief.

US forces are “the first and last culprit” in the incident since Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government offices, is protected by the US Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) systems and American aircraft carry out constant reconnaissance and patrol flights over the capital, Baldawi added.

“They know all Iraqi military and political officials; therefore, all of them are in danger,” said the politician, adding it is possible that the US military would target them and then accuse Iraqi groups, including the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, of being involved as they did in the botched attempt against Kadhimi’s life.

Kadhimi escaped unhurt from the unclaimed “assassination” attempt on November 7, in which at least two quadcopter drones armed with explosives targeted his home in the Green Zone.

The explosion blew doors off hinges and smashed concrete stairs on the outside of the building, wounding some of the premier’s security guards.

It came right after deadly clashes in the Iraqi capital between security forces and protesters contesting the results of the October 10 parliamentary elections, prompting Kadhimi to order a probe into the casualties.

Norm Roule, who served for 34 years in the US spy agency CIA and worked on programs related to the Middle East, said the drone attack raised questions as to why US or allied intelligence agencies did not catch wind of the incident in advance.

On Saturday, an Iraqi security source was quoted as saying that the drones that hit Kadhimi’s residence had flown from the US embassy and returned to the diplomatic mission without any reaction from the missile defense systems.

He said cameras installed near the embassy have caught the entire incident.

“Kadhimi was not at home during the drone strike in the late hours of the night, which indicates the attack was a ploy to bring the situation under control after the clash with protesters,” the unnamed security source said.

Meanwhile, Western media has been trying to link Iran and what it calls Iran-backed groups in Iraq to the attack. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, blamed the attack on “Iranian-backed militia” earlier this week.

Iran condemned the attack and has denied any role in it.

On Saturday, current and former US officials admitted that Iran was unlikely to sanction the attack on the Iraqi prime minister.

Douglas Silliman, who served as US ambassador to Iraq from 2016 to 2019, said the assassination of Iraq’s prime minister appeared not to be in Iran’s strategic interests, as it would risk unleashing a volatile chain of events on its border.

“I would be very surprised if Iran ordered a drone strike on Kadhimi. Iran does not want to see a completely destabilized Iraq,” Silliman, now the president of the Persian Gulf States Institute think tank in Washington, told NBC News.

The head of Iran’s Quds Force, Gen. Esmail Qa’ani, paid a surprise visit to Baghdad immediately after the attack, calling for calm and national unity. He also called on all Iraqi sides to respect the results of last month’s parliamentary elections.

Gen. Qa’ani further condemned the attack and stressed the importance of a thorough, comprehensive and technical investigation into the incident.

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