US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday demanded justice over the killing of a prominent Iraqi jihadism expert, Hisham al-Hashemi and highlighted threats against him by Iran-linked groups.
Hisham al-Hashemi, an internationally known scholar whose vast contacts inside Iraq made him a mediator among rivals, was gunned down outside his Baghdad home late Monday by masked assailants on motorcycles.
Pompeo hints that Iran involved in killing of Hisham al-Hashemi
“In the days leading up to his death he was repeatedly threatened by Iran backed armed groups,” Pompeo told a news conference in Washington, without explicitly blaming Tehran.
“The United States joins partner nations in strongly condemning his assassination and call(ing) for the government of Iraq to bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible crime… swiftly,” he said.
Hashemi was an authoritative voice on Sunni extremist movements including the Islamic State group, which are violently opposed to Iran. But he infuriated Tehran-backed factions in Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network through his support of popular protests last year against a Baghdad government seen as too close to Iran.
All eyes are now on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, whom Hashemi frequently advised and who pledged to hold the scholar’s killers accountable.
On Wednesday evening, Kadhemi visited Hashemi’s family in Baghdad to offer his condolences, calling the slain expert a “martyr.”
He was photographed with Hashemi’s three young boys Issa, Moussa and Ahmed, which translate in Arabic to Jesus, Moses and another name for the Prophet Muhammad.
Some experts have voiced fear of renewed unrest in Iraq and believe the turning point may have come in January when a US strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.
President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to check Iran’s regional activities and choke its economy, and frequently seeks to throw a spotlight on purported nefarious activities backed by the clerical state.
Who was Hisham Al-Hashimi?
The 47-year-old Al-Hashimi was a well-respected Iraqi academic and political analyst. His expertise on Daesh earned him the position of adviser to the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. After the destruction of Daesh’s self-styled caliphate in 2018, he shifted his focus to the workings of the Hashd Al-Shaabi (or Popular Mobilization Forces) units that participated in the anti-Daesh campaign.
Unidentified gunmen kill the researcher in the affairs of armed groups, Hisham Al-Hashimi.
Goodbye Hisham al-Hashemi
Hisham Al Hashemi worked as a consultant to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights 2016-2018.
Goodbye, our friend pic.twitter.com/4kWljIUed6
— IRAQI OBSERVATORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS المرصد العراقي (@IOHRiraq) July 6, 2020
Al-Hashimi had expressed fears in recent weeks that Iranian-backed constituents of Hashd had him in their crosshairs. A medical source at the hospital where he was taken after Monday’s shooting said he had suffered “bullet wounds in several body parts.”
“The assassination is intended to signal militia displeasure with Al-Kadhimi and his inner circle,” said Michael Knights, a noted Iraq analyst and Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Iraq witnessed a spate of deadly attacks on intellectuals, academics and moderate politicians at the height of the insurgency. More than 500 people have been killed since protests erupted in Oct. 2019, demanding an end to corruption and Iran’s overarching influence. But analysts believe that with Al-Hashimi’s killing, a loud warning shot has been fired across Al-Kadhimi’s bow.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk