Iraqi judiciary’s credibility shaken by arrest warrant for Trump
Baghdad – An Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for outgoing US President Donald Trump on Thursday as part of its proclaimed effort to “complete investigations” into the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020.
The issuance of the formal and unenforceable warrant sparked a wave of mockery in Iraqi political circles, which saw it as a fresh insult to the Iraqi judiciary and evidence of its willingness to receive political orders, not only from within Iraq but also from Iran.
According to many, the issuance of this warrant at a time when Iran and its sympathisers in Iraq are intensifying their efforts to ratchet up rhetoric over the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis, shows the Iraqi judiciary to have involved itself in pro-Iranian propaganda campaigns and street processions extending from Tehran to Sana’a, Baghdad and Beirut.
In those capitals, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the killing of Soleimani and the PMF leader, huge demonstrations were held, during which pictures of the two killed men were raised and the usual slogans against the United States and Israel were shouted.
Analysts said the propaganda campaigns were primarily aimed at followers more than opponents, with the aim of appeasing symathisers and making up for the inability to carry out threats made by Iran and its militias to inflict revenge on the United States and Trump personally.
Since 2003, the Iraqi judiciary, with its lack of competencies, has found it very difficult to perform its duties impartially and fairly as a result of the nature of the existing political system and the figures that lead it.
Trump issued orders to kill Soleimani as the Quds Force chief was about to leave Baghdad airport accompanied by the Iraqi militia commander in January 2020. The operation was carried out with use of a drone that fired two missiles at the cars carrying the two men, who were considered among the most dangerous top Iranian agents in the region.
The Iraqi judiciary came under great pressure in the months that followed the operation to issue arrest warrants against local and foreign figures. But it did not fulfill such demands which emanated from Iran in the first place.
The Shia militias affiliated with Iran tried to find a way to convict Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was head of the intelligence service when the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis was carried out.
With the first anniversary of the deaths of Soleimani and Muhandis, the Shia militias searched for any semblance of victory, especially after talking a lot about earth-shattering revenge operations, but nothing happened.
On Thursday, Iraq’s judicial authority announced that the Investigation Court in the Rusafa district of Baghdad issued an arrest warrant for Trump, ”after recording the statements of the personal claimants on the morning of January 7, 2021, and completion of the preliminary investigation procedures, the competent judge in the Rusafa investigation court who is in charge of the investigation about the assassination of the deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation Forces Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and his companions.”
The arrest warrant was based on the provisions of Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which stipulates that a premeditated murderer is punishable by death.
The court said that the investigation procedures will continue “to identify other participants in the execution of this crime, whether Iraqis or foreigners,” clearly indicating that local figures could be indicted in the same case.
Iran’s followers in Iraq praised the judicial decision as “a victory for the will of the masses.”
The head of the Islamic Supreme Council, Hamam Hamoudi, “blessed” the Iraqi judiciary for its “fair and courageous decision to issue an arrest warrant for the accused Donald Trump, against the background of his terrorist crime” and assassination of what he described as “the martyred leaders of victory, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani and their companions.” He lauded the “efforts of the President and leaders of Al-Fateh Alliance in this regard, and the follow-up and determination they have shown, for the issuance of a judicial decision incriminating those accused of the crime.”
The last phrase was an explicit admission of political and militia pressures on the judiciary to issue the arrest warrant for Trump.
The Iraqi judiciary realises that no one will take its orders to arrest Trump seriously, but the Shia militias are likely to use this decision to justify any aggressive acts against everything American in Iraq.
Observers say that the Iraqi judiciary tried to avoid the farce of the arrest warrant by stalling for months, but it could not continue to resist Iranian pressure, which reportedly reached the point of death threats.
Nevertheless, the Iraqi judiciary is still resisting Iranian pressure to issue controversial arrest warrants against officers in the intelligence services accused of colluding with the United States in facilitating the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis.