A tenuous lull in militant activity associated with US-Iran tensions remains in effect in the aftermath of the latest bout of unconfirmed IED attacks against CF-contracted logistics convoys between 4-5 January. Instead, following on from the 3 January demonstrations in Baghdad, much of the focus remains on symbolic political-level actions directed against outgoing US President Donald Trump and other individuals accused of involvement in the assassination of former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and former Popular Mobilization Committee deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
During a press conference on 5 January, Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced that Iran has called on Interpol to arrest Trump and 47 other US officials for their role in the assassination. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is very seriously following up on pursuing and punishing those who ordered and executed this crime,” Esmaili told reporters. “Fortunately, Trump’s presidency has ended. But even if his term hadn’t ended, it would be unacceptable to say someone shouldn’t be accountable to law due to his administrative position,” he said. This action follows similar calls in June, with the Interpol predictably rejecting the request.
The GoI generally assumed a cautious stance in terms of judicial responses to the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis. An official investigation involving representatives from diverse organizations was launched shortly after the airstrike. However, no official accusations were released long afterwards despite occasional discussion of leaked details.
In a significant shift on 7 January, the Rusafa Investigative Court issued an arrest warrant for Trump. “The judge responsible for investigating the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and his colleagues issued an arrest warrant for outgoing US President Donald Trump as per article 406 of Iraqi penal code,” said a statement. Article 406 pertains to premeditated murder. The court said “the warrant was made after the judge recorded the statements of the personal claimants from the family of Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis”. It added the preliminary inquiry had been completed but “investigations are continuing in order to unmask the other culprits in this crime, be they Iraqis or foreigners”.
This symbolic measure was conducted as the US government ratified the election results, confirming Trump will vacate the presidency on 20 January. Previously on 5 January, the US government renewed a sanctions waiver for Iranian energy imports. As such, the GoI faced little risk conducting this symbolic action during the twilight of the Trump administration. Furthermore, any controversy was confined to the Trump administration, with no other individuals or entities, national or international, listed in the warrant. On one hand, the arrest warrant could be viewed as placating Iranian intent to prosecute those responsible. To that end, this move represented a pragmatic measure that will possibly reduce tensions between the GoI and Iranian government to some degree.
That said, the move also corresponded with the priority Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has placed on upholding Iraqi sovereignty against all external threats. To recall, this formed a dominant theme for Iraqi Army Day commemorations on 6 January. The 7 January arrest warrant highlighted investigative focuses on Muhandis, an Iraqi citizen, not Soleimani. It is also worth noting that another report on 7 January involved a statement from Counter-Terrorism Service Spokesperson Sabah al-Nu’man. The official stressed that investigations into recent indirect fire attacks in Baghdad were ongoing along with associated security precautions. While not necessarily a balancing act, the release of both statements on the same day illustrated the universal nature of GoI intent to disrupt the longstanding proxy war in Iraq.
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