Mustafa Al-Kadhimi: A Man of Balance and A Skilled Negotiating Expert in Iraq

Illustration by Jeanette Khouri
Illustration by Jeanette Khouri

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi: A Man of Balance and A Skilled Negotiating Expert in Iraq

On November 7, 2021, Iraq woke up to news that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, had survived an assassination attempt carried out by 3 explosive drones that targeted his residence in the heavily fortified Green Zone district of Baghdad.

As soon as the news was reported by the media around the world, the Arab and international news scene buzzed with condemnation and denunciation of the criminal attempt, which tried to target the head of power in Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi went on to Twitter moments after the attack and called for "calm and restraint from everyone. Thank God, I am fine and among my people," he tweeted on his official account.

Meanwhile, the armed militias in Mesopotamia have denied responsibility of the attempt to assassinate the man who is facing disarmament and the security imbalance, and has been striving to restore Iraq to its Arab and international standing again, since his government was granted confidence in May 2020.

While the Iraqi security services are conducting their investigations into the incident, no party has claimed the assassination attempt, which shook Iraq and plunged the country into a new crisis, titled as a new security threat, and a direct confrontation with domestic terrorism.

Born in Baghdad in 1967, Al-Kadhimi is a former head of the intelligence service, a former journalist and a skilled negotiator whose political future was unknown until after the early parliamentary elections that took place in October.

Al-Kadhimi, previously served as Director of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, originally appointed in June 2016. He took over the presidency of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) in June 2016, at the height of the battles against ISIS. Under his leadership, the agency expanded its remit, particularly in counter-terrorism, both internally and abroad, playing a vital role in Iraq's fight against ISIS. During his tenure, he established links with scores of countries and bureaux working within the US-led federation against ISIS.

At the beginning of his career, Al-Kadhimi studied law in Iraq. He also worked as a journalist and activist against the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from Europe, to which he fled and lived in for years to escape the brutality of the "Baath Party" only to return to Baghdad in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. He participated in the establishment of the Iraqi Media Network, coinciding with his role as executive director of the "Iraqi Memory Foundation", which documented the "crimes of the Baath regime".

From Baghdad and London, Al-Kadhimi ran the Humanitarian Dialogue Foundation, an independent organization that seeks to bridge the gaps between societies and cultures, and establish dialogue as an alternative to violence in resolving crises.

The Iraqi prime minister worked as a columnist and an editor of the Iraqi version of Al-Monitor and contributed to various outlets. His articles focused on consolidating the spirit of social peace in the country. He has also published a number of books and studies. Al-Kadhimi was also the senior editor of Iraq's Newsweek magazine for three years.

He has written many books, including "The Iraq Question, Islamic Concerns" and "Ali Ibn Abi Talib: The Imam and the Man." Most notably, his "Humanitarian Concerns" was selected in 2000 by the European Union as the best book written by a political refugee. Kadhimi became director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service in 2016, and was appointed Prime Minister of Iraq in May 2020.

In 2016, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi surprised Iraqis by appointing Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, a journalist and human rights activist, to head the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS). This was at the height of the war against the "Islamic State" organization, which occupied part of the country for a period of time before the Iraqi army, with the support of the international coalition, succeeded in defeating it.

Al-Kadhimi’s various relations with the political class inside and outside Iraq helped him to make his way to the premiership steadily, knowing that his name has been frequently repeated to hold this position since 2018 after the legislative elections that resulted in the resigned Adel Abdul-Mahdi as prime minister.

He benefited from his position at the head of the intelligence, to weave several links with dozens of countries and agencies working within the international coalition. During a rare visit with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in 2017 to Riyadh, Al-Kadhimi made headlines when he was seen in a long embrace with his friend Mohammed bin Salman.

It is said about Al-Kadhimi that he knows how to be a friend to everyone. He is considered a figure who is not hostile to anyone, has a pragmatic mentality, and has relations with all the main players in the Iraqi arena: a good relationship with the Americans, and a relationship that has recently returned to normal with the Iranians.

Additionally, Al-Kadhimi is seen as a skilled negotiator, whom Iraqis rely on today to harness his extensive network of relations in Washington, as in Tehran, to save Iraq from an economic and political disaster.

Al-Kadhimi faces the opposition of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which brings together an alliance of pro-Iranian factions involved in the government forces. Supporters of these anti-US militias demand a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and they continue to pressure Al-Kadhimi in this regard.

They also deliberately hold Al-Kadhimi's government responsible for the electoral fraud in the early parliamentary elections, in which the number of seats of the Fatah Alliance, which represents the popular crowd, decreased.

Having won the support of the Iraqi political class, which has monopolized power for 16 years, Al-Kadhimi was forced to re-establish the ties that were severed with angry Iraqis who demonstrated for months against "corrupt" politicians.

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