Tehran’s Involvement the Assassination Against Kadhimi and Its Escalating Threats in Iraq



The 2021 Iraqi parliamentary elections  turned out to be unfavourable to Iran as most of its allies suffered  major losses.  Iran’s arms  have  protested against the  results in recent weeks and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was targeted in a drone attack amid rising tensions in the country.  Iraqi security officials confirmed that the drones used in the attack were of Iranian origin. The domestic and regional developments ever since the elections  indicate that Iran is now concerned about upholding  its influence in Iraq, especially as the Iraqi people are against its  interventions in Iraq.

The  Sadrist bloc managed to win 73 seats and the Sunni  Taqaddum bloc secured 38 seats whereas the Shiite State of Law Coalition and Fatah  Alliance  only secured 34 and 17 seats respectively. In the aftermath of the election results, pro-Iran leaders in Iraq called the results “fabricated” and  warned that there would be violence if there was no recount of the votes.   Iran’s arms in the region  are facing several challenges and with the recent setback in Iraq,  Tehran is concerned about anti-Iranian sentiment shifting from the street to  the Iraqi political sphere.  Furthermore, pro-Iranian elements are disgruntled about Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to exclude the Fatah Alliance from partaking in the formation of the next  Iraqi government which will likely adopt an anti-Iranian stance.  To contain the blowback  from the drone attack, Iran’s Quds Force  Commander Esmail Qaani met  with Kadhimi and expressed his complete support for calm and restraint in the country. An official with knowledge of the meeting reportedly said that Qaani “did not try to shift the blame for the assassination attempt, which proved that the Shiite militias are responsible for orchestrating the attack.”  Qaani’s prompt visit  reflects the Iranian leadership’s  concerns about likely reprisals  undertaken by the next Iraqi government which could undermine further the role and influence of pro-Iranian arms in Iraq. The violence unleashed by Tehran’s arms in the country over the years has caused widespread disillusionment among the Iraqi people. Consequently,    the majority of Iraqis  protested against   Iran’s interventions in Iraqi affairs, as illustrated by  the “October Revolution”  in 2019 which included anti-Iranian slogans.

Considering the Sadrist bloc’s number of seats, it  along with Sunni and Kurdish blocs  can form  the next Iraqi government and set the country’s political course  for the coming years. Muqtada  al-Sadr favors a  foreign policy based on  promoting economic development  and increasing trade exchange.  He  has expressed interest in Iraq forging closer ties with Russia and China and  prioritizes strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia. However, in light of the present geopolitical landscape in the region,  Iran might react by activating its arms to cause havoc and destabilize the country at this sensitive time.

Expressing his anti-Iranian positions, Sadr said in a live speech on state television, “We welcome all embassies that do not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs,” hinting at Iran’s destabilizing interventions via its embassy and consulates in the country over the years and called for pro-Iranian arms to be reined in and for weapons to be limited to the state. Several Iraqi politicians and leaders have supported  his call to disarm  pro-Iranian arms and end their monopolization over weapons and the proliferation of arms in the Iraqi black market.  Sadr’s position and his call  directly threaten Iranian interests as Tehran has depended on its arms to pressure and intimidate its opponents in Iraq and unleash violence if needed to ensure its schemes are enacted.  

With a likely downturn in Tehran’s influence,  its arms  are likely to  hold protests and threaten the internal security of Iraq. To salvage its influence,  Iran  is likely to  exert further pressure on Iraq by slashing energy and electricity supplies to the country.  Iran is keen to ensure  that no intra-Shiite conflict breaks out, especially as there are rumours of rifts among its arms in Iraq.  The rift  between Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq led by Qais Khazali and Kata’ib Hezbollah was apparent  when the former  broke the ceasefire between  the latter and the United States on several occasions last year. Iranian arms  in the last couple of years have also been acting independently; carrying out attacks  against Iraqi and US forces and in light of the election results,  some arms  are clashing with others and acting more independently and aggressively, further highlighting the growing rifts between them.

Iranian arms, whether military or political,  will likely repeat  Tehran’s strategy of escalating  tensions to pressurize the new Iraqi government to undermine it and make it appear incompetent in the face of growing domestic crises. 

Editorial Team