Middle East/North Africa

US officials say Iran government likely did not order drone attack on Iraqi PM: report

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
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Iran likely did not greenlight the attack on Iraq’s prime minister, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived an alleged assassination attempt earlier this month. The prime minister said that he survived explosions from a drone attack, though several of his security guards were injured in the event. 

“The rockets of treason will not shake one bit of the steadfastness and determination of the heroic security forces,” al-Kadhimi tweeted after the attack. “I am fine and among my people. Thank God.”

Gen. Frank McKenzie at U.S. Central Command earlier this week claimed the attack was carried out by Iranian-backed militias.

Iran, for its part, has denied responsibility. 

A senior U.S. official at the Department of Defense as well as former officials told NBC News the attack was likely not sanctioned by Iran, adding that the Iranian government doesn’t have much control over militias in the area.

“It’s fair to say that Iran does not have as much control over these groups since [Iranian Gen. Qassem] Soleimani was killed,” a Defense official said, according to NBC.

Iraqi officials told Reuters on Nov. 8 that the attack was carried out by Iran-backed Shiite militias, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, who were upset after losing power in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last month. The groups have claimed that the election was fraudulent, though there has been no evidence provided to back this claim. 

NBC reported that the drones used in the strike resemble those that have been used by Iranian-backed militias since July 2020, according to former officials and regional experts.

President Biden condemned the attack on the prime minister shortly after it occurred on Nov. 7 and ordered an investigation into the attack.

“I have instructed my national security team to offer all appropriate assistance to Iraq’s security forces as they investigate this attack and identify those responsible,” Biden said. “The United States stands firmly with the government and people of Iraq as they strive to uphold Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.”

Tensions have increased between Iran and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East in recent years, especially after the assassination of Soleimani in January 2020.

The Hill has reached out to the defense department for comment.

Tags assassination attempt Department of Defense drone strike Gen. Frank McKenzie Iran Iraq Joe Biden Mustafa Al-Kadhim U.S. Central Command

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