Demonstrators in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square are shown on July 7 mourning the assassination the night before of analyst and mediator Hisham al-Hashemi, whose likeness appears on a placard saying: ‘The voice of right killed with the bullet of wrong.’ (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images)

A Political Assassination that Will Determine Iraq’s Future

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 16 

The Iraqi judiciary is currently concerned with investigating the assassination of noted researcher Hisham Al-Hashemi, who was brutally killed outside his home a few weeks ago. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi vowed that he would bring the perpetrators to justice. The murder of Hashemi is not an ordinary event. Indeed, some describe it is as the most dangerous political assassination in post-2003 Iraq. Dr. Harith Hassan, who has closely studied the history of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein and witnessed dangerous assassinations – including the killing of Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Khoei and Sheikh Sayyid Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, two events that carried grave social and political implications – suggests that Hashemi’s killing is even more monumental. In his view, the assassination will have a greater impact on the political process in Iraq and the fate of the Kadhimi government since the seriousness with which Iraq’s security services approach the investigation will reveal the future of the country: Is it moving toward the establishment of an orderly and lawful state or will it become one dominated by violence, fear and chaos? Hashemi’s many opponents include al-Qaida, Islamic State, Hizbullah and other armed militias associated with political Islam, both Sunni and Shi’ite. These are groups that benefit from a state of chaos in Iraq and want to continue existing as non-state actors challenging the central regime politically, economically and socially. It was Hashemi’s continuous criticism of these groups that made him the subject of their anger and eventually led to his killing. [The Iraqi] Kata’ib Hizbullah was the group with the most radical stance toward Hashemi alongside Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Harakat Hizbullah al-Nujaba, all of which are supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Kadhimi and his government cannot alone confront Iraq’s armed factions without Tehran’s agreement. Unless the Iranian mullahs exert pressure on these groups, lift their political sponsorship and stop their financing and training, these groups will endure. The chances of the mullahs doing so are currently unlikely since Iraq remains an arena for conflict and score-settling between the United States and Iran. – Hassan Al-Mustafa (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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