Post attempt on Iraq PM’s life, what next for Iraq?

Early Sunday morning, a booby-trapped drone exploded very near the Baghdad residence of Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi. A car outside the residence was badly damaged and doors and windows blown out, as seen on footage posted by Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim on Twitter.
File Photo
File Photo

Baghdad

Al-Kadhimi himself appeared to have been only slightly hurt. Shortly afterwards, he appeared on television with what seemed to be a bandaged wrist, calling for calm. A few hours later, the country’s president, Barham Salih, suggested on social media that the assassination attempt could lead to a coup and political chaos in Iraq.
But most Iraq analysts and observers don’t believe it will come to that. “It is very serious and it crosses a line,” Fanar Haddad, a former adviser to the Iraqi prime minister said. “This is likely the first time we’ve seen an assassination attempt like this. Having said that, I don’t expect the spiral of violence to escalate.” The prime minister’s reaction has been measured and even those suspected of being part of the drone attack “seem to grasp that this might be an unacceptable kind of transgression,” Haddad said. 
So far, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.The drone attack was actually an attempt to force through a deal on government formation, explained Sajad Jiyad, an analyst based in Iraq and fellow with the Century Foundation think tank.
Jiyad said there was worse unrest after the 2018 election, when, among other incidents, a Baghdad warehouse full of ballot boxes was set alight. The circumstances leading to Sunday’s drone attack on the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, also home to foreign embassies, date back to mid-October. 
Iraqis voted in a federal election on October 10 and the outcome saw Fatah, a political alliance associated with paramilitary groups known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), lose a lot of support.
The PMF include militias first formed in 2014 by locals who volunteered to fight the extremist group known as the “Islamic State.” They were seen as heroes by many Iraqis. Since then, they have become a semi-official fighting force and now receive salaries from the state. But they have also become less popular, due to sometimes lawless behavior and also because many PMF fighters now pledge loyalty to religious and military leadership in neighboring Iran, which has provided them with financial, logistical and even spiritual support.
Their growing unpopularity was reflected in October’s election. Instead politicians belonging to a group that supports a local Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, won most seats in parliament.As a result, the PMF called upon members to protest the election results, staging a sit-in outside the Green Zone. In an Oct 22 statement on a messaging channel, the PMF said the election had been rigged and demanded recounts and other changes. Their calls came despite the fact that the Iraqi election was generally seen as a success. In their message, the PMF said if the country’s electoral authorities did not amend the results within 72 hours, “our protests and sit-ins will take another approach.” 
Iraq’s election commission, responsible for monitoring the vote, said it had rejected over 1,400 complaints about electoral fraud but would order manual recounts in some locations. Results have yet to be officially ratified, but Nov 5 was the last day for consideration of appeals, the commission announced. 
On Nov 6, the PMF’s “new approach” saw sit-in protesters storm the Green Zone. They were pushed back by the military, an effort resulting in two protester deaths. The riot was followed by the drone attack on the PM’s residence later that night.
“They [the PMF] believe their survival is on the line,” said Iraqi analyst Jiyad, explaining why the group was going to such lengths. “The public’s mood has changed, they’ve lost seats and over the past 18 months, some of their commanders have been arrested. Al-Sadr has signalled he may go after them too. All this points to a group under a lot of pressure.”

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