Political and media circles in Iraq and beyond have been disturbed by the vile attack that claimed the life of Hisham Al-Hashimi, a researcher into terrorist groups and armed “Islamic” movements. The concern arises not only because it was an attack on a fellow citizen and the assassination of freedom of opinion, but also because of the violent message that it conveyed. In my opinion, the accusatory finger points to one of the pro-Iran militias that Al-Hashimi has been criticising non-stop recently. His switch of focus came after devoting many years of his short life to confronting Daesh and exposing its dangerous goals.
Those following Al-Hashimi’s work in recent years — and I was one of them — saw the man as an Iraqi patriot, whether you agreed with him or not. He was part of an unorganised trend seeking to restore the state’s identity and spread Iraqi nationalism that has been marginalised since the explosion of doctrinal, sectarian, ethnic and other identities in the country. There is no doubt that he maintained good relations with some of the deep state institutions that would provide him with a lot of information and data on the topics he was working on. The last thing he wrote was about the Popular Mobilisation Forces and their components, entities, approaches, loyalties, administrative and organisation structures, numbers and budgets.
Despite the different contexts, one being in Lebanon and the other in Iraq, I cannot help but compare the assassination of Samir Kassir in June 2005 to that of Al-Hashimi. They were both writers, journalists and intellectuals who resisted foreign domination of their countries and paid for this with their lives. Both men defied such domination and fell prey to the brutal militias and merciless intelligence services in their respective countries. I would also include in this context the assassination of An-Nahar editor Gebran Tueni in December 2005, also in Lebanon.
These events and their repercussions lead me to believe that the assassination of Al-Hashimi is nothing but a letter written in blood and signed with bullets directed at Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, warning him of a fate similar to that of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It is true that the killings of Kassir and Tueni occurred after Hariri’s assassination — he was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in February 2005 — but Hariri received enough violent warnings before his murder.
Moreover, Iraq is not Lebanon, and Al-Kadhimi is not Hariri, but the logic of domination and the imperatives of its perpetuation lead to the same result, albeit with different tools and different forms. Al-Kadhimi has moved recently to regain the Iraqi state and stop corruption. He has stepped away from the burdens of ideology and its militias and is looking to restore Iraq’s identity and sovereignty, which many at home and abroad are not exactly thrilled about. He is being subjected to a demonisation campaign from within the Green Zone in Baghdad and extending to Tehran and beyond to the “axis” states. The campaign against Al-Hashimi that preceded his assassination fell into this context and used the same discourse and vocabulary.
Days before he was killed, Al-Hashimi announced the birth of a parliamentary bloc, which may be a base for Al-Kadhimi and his project, as he is a man without a bloc behind him. The bloc was duly formed with more than thirty members. It seems that there is a link between the performance of Al-Hashimi and his prime minister and a large number of similarities, which may be why both men “deserved” to be accused of treachery and of working for the US, leading to death threats.
Hisham Al-Hashimi was an easy target and exposed to treacherous bullets, while Mustafa Al-Kadhimi only has the same sort of protection that Rafic Hariri surrounded himself with. Where is Iraq heading and who is the next target?
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 8 July 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.