Assassination Attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi

Weeks after a general election in Iraq that resulted in disputes and tensions from Iran-backed militia groups, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an assassination attempt. At least six bodyguards were injured when the three drones, armed with explosives, attacked the Prime Minister’s residence in Baghdad. Sources have noted that Iran was aware of the attack but did not order it. While Iran has denied comment, the attack signifies the growing tensions between Iraqi and Iranian supporters, as well as the growing use of violence as a form of protest against the elections. 

After the attack, al-Kadhimi tweeted for “calm and restraint” and said that those who attempted to take his life would be exposed, according to a report in Al Jazeera. Furthermore, Iraq’s President Barham Salih said that the “evildoers” responsible for the attack were targeting the security of the country. Iraq has faced much unrest since the elections in October, including deadly protests just days before the assassination attempt. Many of these protests and tensions come from Iran-backed militias: heavily armed groups that lost parliamentary power in the elections and are critical of the vote, alleging that there were voting irregularities. According to Reuters, Iraqi officials saw the attack as a message that these militias are not afraid to resort to violent measures if they are excluded from the formation of government.

Unfortunately, violence surrounding elections is not unique to Iraq. Countries around the world struggle with the transfer of power, especially when two groups become antagonistic towards each other based on their differing priorities. In Iraq, tensions among the Shi’ite sect of Islam, disagreements between Iranians and Iraqis, and divisions over the involvement of western countries in Middle Eastern affairs have exploited these dangers of fragmentation. The Iranian-backed militias, the group thought to have sent the assassination attempt, are heavily armed with weapons and radicalized with ideology that differs from that of the Iraqi Prime Minister. This makes the political leader and his beliefs vulnerable targets. The high tensions that arose from the elections have caused unnecessary violence and could lead to even more terror in Iraq. The Iraqi government should be aware of the accessibility to weaponry that has caused this violence and prioritize protecting civilians from future attacks. 

After the general elections on October 10, the Iran-backed political parties publicly disputed the results. Claims of voter fraud came from the parties that lost parliamentary seats, and most of those parties also have armed wings. The Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party won many seats in the elections, stated that the results would contribute to stability and autonomy in Iraq. However, the loss of power for the parties supported by Iran has increased tensions in Iraq. These tensions have grown into violent action, as seen with the drone assassination attempt. The Iran-backed militia parties claim to be using violence to demand power in the political process, now that they have lost parliamentary seats. Their violence has threatened the very stability that those elections attempted to secure. Iraqi leaders must come to an agreement on the way the new government will work together and enforce stability and peace amidst the threat of violence.