The drone attack early Sunday that targeted Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was launched by at least one Iran-backed militia, according to a report Monday.
Citing Iraqi security officials and sources close to the militias, the Reuters news agency reported that the drones and weapons used to target al-Kadhimi were produced in Iran.
Al-Kadhimi suffered a light cut and appeared in a televised speech soon after the attack on his residence, wearing a white shirt and what appeared to be a bandage around his left wrist. Seven of his security guards were wounded in the attack by at least two armed drones.
Amid the allegations of Iranian involvement in the apparent assassination attempt, a top Iranian general visited Baghdad and said Tehran and its allies had nothing to do with the drone attack, two Iraqi politicians said Monday.
The two Shiite Muslim politicians requested anonymity because Esmail Ghaani’s visit was not announced publicly. They quoted the Iranian general as saying that Tehran was not opposed to any politician named by the Shiite blocs in the newly elected parliament to become the next prime minister.
Ghaani is the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, which is mainly responsible for military and clandestine operations outside the country.
Iran enjoys wide influence in Iraq through powerful militias it has been backing for years. Iran and Iraq both have majority Shiite populations.
The two Iraqi politicians quoted Ghaani as saying: “Iran has nothing to do with this attack.”
One of the two officials said Ghaani met with al-Kadhimi on Sunday afternoon in Baghdad.
Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, which is run by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, said Ghaani also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and other political figures in the country.
It quoted Ghaani as saying during his visit that “Iraq is in urgent need for calm.” It added that Ghaani also said that any act that threatens Iraq’s security should be avoided.
The drone attack was a dramatic escalation in the already tense situation following the October 10 election and the surprising results in which Iran-backed militias lost about two-thirds of their seats.
Despite a low turnout, the results confirmed a rising wave of discontent against the militias that had been praised years before as heroes for fighting Islamic State militants.
But the militias have lost popularity since 2018, when they made big election gains. Many Iraqis hold them responsible for suppressing the 2019 youth-led anti-government protests, and for undermining state authority.
Some analysts have said that Sunday’s attack aimed to cut off the path that could lead to a second al-Kadhimi term by those who lost in the recent elections.
On Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh condemned the assassination attempt on al-Kadhimi and indirectly blamed the US.
Al-Kadhimi, 54, was Iraq’s former intelligence chief before becoming prime minister in May last year. He is considered by the militias to be close to the US, and has tried to balance between Iraq’s alliances with both the US and Iran.