There is no need to wait for the result of the investigations committee to guess who was behind the attempted assassination of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi at dawn last Sunday. The Fatah Alliance militias, led by Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq and Kata'ib Hezbollah, are loyal to Iran and have viewed Al-Kadhimi as their main rival in Iraq. They have threatened him on several occasions and have never hidden the fact that they want to get rid of him, even as they tried to deny that they had orchestrated the attempt to kill him.
Despite relying on a fragile political consensus, with a lack of a parliamentary support base of his own, Al-Kadhimi remains a threat to the aims of the Popular Mobilisation factions, which want to establish a state that represents Iran in government, basically annexes Iraq and is managed by the legal rulings of the Shia scholars of the Wilayat Al-Faqih. The results of the early parliamentary election, supervised by Al-Kadhimi's government, gave the militias more reasons to get rid of him, either by preventing him from returning to lead the government, or even killing him.
However, the pressure exerted by Iran's allies, including the use of popular protests, did not intimidate the Electoral Commission to change the election results after a recount of thousands of ballot boxes. The last attempt in this context was last Friday, when it seemed that there was an effort to drag the government into a street confrontation that would reshuffle the political cards and give some justification for the factions to use force against the state.
It is not possible to look at the abuses carried out by the militias without viewing them as targeting the state systematically and deliberately. The recent abuses in the village of Nahr Al-Imam, for example, where they massacred local people, ostensibly in "revenge" for killings by Daesh in the neighbouring village of Al-Rashad. Activists were targeted by the militias who reject Iranian intervention in the central and southern cities, or prevented the security services from imposing order. Such abuses are also seen as a means of working to a foreign agenda, the main purpose of which is to keep Iraq weak, divided and run by an illusory government, whose mission is to provide cover for militias that have actual authority on the ground, and take their orders from across the border.
Al-Kadhimi is largely responsible for what happened this week, and for the security situation in general throughout the country. The weakness and hesitation that he has shown when confronting the militias during his 18 months in office only emboldened them to target the state and then target him personally as the top state official.
His handling of the assassination attempt suggests that he is still reluctant to take decisive measures to restore state authority and prestige. His approval of foreign mediation represented by his reception of the commander of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, means that the Iraqi prime minister has agreed to consider the militias as equals to the state, instead of dealing with them as outlaw groups that are not worthy of mediation.
Given the international support he received after the assassination attempt, including from the UN Security Council, there is an opportunity to end the armed chaos and restore the authority of the state. This is especially so in light of the popular discontent over the abuses by the militias, confirmed by the heavy election defeat of candidates linked to the armed groups. If Al-Kadhimi is firm and moves in this direction, there is a possibility that he will turn into an Iraqi national leader, and go down in history as the politician who restored Iraq's sovereignty and independence, eliminated the chaos and corruption of militias, and ended foreign interference in its affairs.
For this to happen, he must stop putting off the announcement of the election results, which will end the current parliament's mandate. He must then move to dissolve the Popular Mobilisation Committee, and invite militia members, with the exception of their leaders, to join the Iraqi security services and army as individuals. That would leave all weapons in the hands of the state. The militia leaders can choose between returning to where they came from and are loyal — Iran — or stay and be held accountable for their crimes and corruption over the past two decades in Iraq.
The result would be a new parliament, a new government, a new state and a new Iraq. Will Al-Kadhimi do it, or will he remain captive to his hesitation, and waste this golden opportunity for himself and his country? This is his last chance.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 9 November 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.