Alwaght- Ex-Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi has stepped up his diplomatic moves in recent days for another chance of gaining a role to play in the Iraqi political developments with the help of regional countries. In this connection, he made a surprise visit to Tehran on Tuesday. Al-Kadhimi’s office in a statement pointed to his Iran visit and said that during Tehran trip, he discussed “important regional issues.” According to the statement, al-Kadhimi met Iran’s President Sayyed Ibrahim Raeisi, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian, and a number of other officials. The meetings discussed regional and international developments and issues related to the interests of Iraq and the region.
Vindication from complicity in assassination of anti-terror commanders
With al-Kadhimi currently holding no post, his visit to Tehran can be looked at from various aspects. The visit comes as he has been accused in recent months by Iraqi political factions— particularly the Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) — of assisting the US assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, two top regional anti-terror commanders. The SCF has recently tried to issue an arrest warrant against him and try him on the charge of involvement in the assassination case. At the beginning of January, Shiite lawmakers in Iraqi parliament said that al-Kadhimi had taken refuge in the American embassy out of fear of trial and even raised the possibility of him fleeing the country to the UAE.
The accusations against al-Kadhimi are due to the fact that he was the head of Iraqi intelligence at the time of the assassination in January 2020, and from the very beginning, some leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) accused him of providing intelligence to the Americans on the movement of the two commanders. But al-Kadhimi has always denied these accusations and claimed that he had no knowledge of the assassination plan. One of the issues that backed the accusation basis of his involvement in the assassination case was that during his premiership over the past three years, he ignored the assassination case despite the pressure of the members of parliament, something standing as a source of popular and political discontentment.
Given this issue, since Iran is a party to this case and demands trial of the perpetrators in this horrible crime and also since Tehran enjoys influence among the Iraqi Shiites, it seems that one of Al-Kadhimi’s intentions is to seek Iranian assistance to clear himself of the charges.
Al-Kadhimi is well aware how popular resistance commanders are among Iraqis, and until the doubts about his possible role in the assassination case are eliminated, it will be difficult for him to live in Iraq. So, he needs Iran’s help to clear these accusations. The SCF insists on concluding the assassination case, and, al-Kadhimi, as the third-rate defendant, should answer questions in this regard in court, and if the charges are proven, he will be convicted and undergo punishment. Therefore, he is trying to acquit himself before he goes to court, because proving his collusion in the assassination case will eliminate him from politics and he will always be remembered as a criminal and a traitor to the country. The fact that he was in the American embassy and even fled to the UAE shows that he is worried about revelation of the truth.
In addition to assassination complicity charges, Iraqi officials are trying to interrogate al-Kadhimi for allegedly being involved in a $2.5 billion corruption case that has been dubbed the “heist of the century” in Iraq. Being top defendant, al-Kadhimi is trying to survive this case, too.
Iranian place among Iraqi Shiites
Al-Kadhimi knows very well that Iran has a wide influence base among Iraqi Shiites. Since 2003, the year Saddam dictatorship fell, the Islamic Republic has always sought unity in the Shiite community of Iraq, and whenever the Iraqi Shiite leaders had differences, Tehran tried to unite them so as not to allow foreign enemies to exploit these differences. When after the 2021 parliamentary elections, the Iraqi factions clashed over a prime minister and the formation of the new cabinet, the Islamic Republic pushed for marriage of their positions to end the political deadlock.
A member of the Sadrist Movement said in May last year that the Iranian ambassador had very good relations with various Iraqi parties and had a history of working in the diplomatic mission of Iran in Baghdad, and his relations with the Sadrist Movement were “good and constructive.” Ayed Al-Hilali, a member of SCF, said that Iran was trying to bring the approaches of different political parties closer to each other because it has very good relations with all parties, including Kurds and Sunnis.
Also, when Sadrist supporters stormed the parliament and stayed in the streets under destabilizing agenda in August last year, Iran’s Quds Force Commander General Esmail Qaani visited Iraq to mediate a solution and nip in the bud this American sedition. The US, which sees resistance groups’ power gain a threat to its interests in Iraq, uses every trick to create a gap within these groups, but the Islamic Republic has always thwarted Washington’s conspiracies to disrupt the order and security of Iraq.
Aware of this fact, al-Kadhimi intends to restore his former place in Iraq’s politics with the help of Iran. Since the country is set to hold parliamentary elections later this year, al-Kadhimi seems to be testing his chances for a comeback and does not want to live like an ex-politician in exile.
Looking at Iraq’s political and governance structures, it is certain that the SCF is currently the key power holder, and by holding the majority of the seats in the parliament, it is somehow a policy maker. In recent days, the SCF drafted an amendment of the election law, and if it is approved, the ground will be made for broader victory of Shiites in the parliament, and subsequently a more decisive role in the election of the next prime minister. Al-Kadhimi is also trying to get closer to the SCF with the help of Tehran and be able to play an important role in the power structures and may take a chance for a comeback.
Iran’s influential role in Iraq’s governance structures is not hidden to anybody, and American and Saudi officials have several times admitted this reality. Al-Kadhimi, too, had come to believe that his return path crosses from Iran and this drove his surprise visit to Tehran for arrangements to this end. Having in mind that he visited Iran before Iranian FM’s Baghdad visit, he possibly asked Amir-Abdullahian to discuss his political role for a chance of return.