The United States is calling the attempted assassination of the Iraqi prime minister an attack on the “sovereignty and stability of the Iraqi state” and points to the nature of the attack to groups linked to Iran.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survived Sunday’s attack – by armed drone, as described by Iraqi security officials – with only minor injuries, and he called for a quick calm.
“Cwardly rocket and drone strikes neither build homes nor build a future,” al-Kadhimi said in a televised address shortly after the attack, which was quickly condemned by US President Joe Biden.
On Monday, the US State Department and the Pentagon echoed the president’s condemnation, warning that the Iraqi prime minister was likely not the only targeted target.
“We believe this was an attack not only on them but also on the sovereignty and stability of the Iraqi state,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“Prime Minister Kadhimi not only represents the head of government, but he represents the state of Iraq, and he is the commander in chief of Iraqi security forces,” Price said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi security sources told Reuters news agency that the attack was carried out at least by Iran-backed militias.
Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said preliminary investigations suggest that both the drones and the explosives used in the attack were made in Iran.
A paramilitary group contacted by Reuters declined to address the allegations. Other groups could not be reached for comment.
Separately on Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman told a news conference in Tehran, “Everyone should help to find the perpetrators and conspirators of this (attack).”
“The road to stability in Iraq depends on such cooperation and the rule of law,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh. “We must accommodate good circumstances so that the appropriate Iraqi legal organizations can conduct their necessary investigations.”
US officials on Monday declined to comment directly on responsibility for the attack, but acknowledged that the use of drones could point to groups with ties to Iran.
“There are several groups active inside Iraq that are supported by Iran that are capable of this type of attack,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday in response to a VOA question.
Kirby also said that the US had offered to help with the Iraq investigation if needed, but Iraqi officials have not yet made any requests for help.
“Again, we condemn the attack, and we will continue to ensure that our troops are protected and that our facilities are adequately defended,” Kirby said.
US officials have repeatedly expressed concern about Iran’s drone program and its willingness to share that technology with proxy groups across the region.
Late last month, the US sanctioned Iran officials and a series of Iran-based companies, citing their role in helping Iran distribute drone technology to several proxy groups, including the Kataib Hezbollah militia in Iraq had gone.
US military officials and intelligence officials have also warned about the use of “Iranian designed and built” drones, some of which were being used in kamikaze attacks on various targets in the Middle East.
“It’s coming from the Iranians,” Mara Karlin, the deputy secretary of defense for policy, told a virtual forum last month when asked about the threat. “This is Iranian use and proliferation of weapons in the region.”