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Iraq’s Kadhimi Survives Assassination Attempt

The attack comes as Iran-backed groups protest losses in recent parliamentary elections.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the German Chancellery in Berlin on Oct. 20, 2020. STEFANIE LOOS/POOL/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Iraq’s prime minister survives an apparent drone assassination attempt, the U.S. border opens to vaccinated travelers, and the world this week.

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Iraq’s Prime Minister Survives Drone Attack

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Iraq’s prime minister survives an apparent drone assassination attempt, the U.S. border opens to vaccinated travelers, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Iraq’s Prime Minister Survives Drone Attack

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has attempted to defuse tensions, calling for “a constructive dialogue for Iraq and its future” following an apparent assassination attempt in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The attack has been roundly condemned by regional leaders and the wider international community. U.S. President Joe Biden called the attempt on Kadhimi a “terrorist attack” and has offered “all appropriate assistance” to Iraq’s security forces to help investigate.

The failed plot involved the use of three explosive-laden drones, Iraqi authorities said, adding that two were shot down before they could reach their target. Appearing on video soon after the attack, Kadhimi appeared only lightly injured, wearing a bandage on his wrist.

Although the Iraqi government has formed a committee to investigate the attack, no suspects have been named.

The weapons of choice and the context in which they were launched indicate the involvement of Iran-backed local militias. The political wings of the militias suffered heavy losses in October’s parliamentary elections, and hundreds of supporters have protested outside Baghdad’s fortified green zone in recent days, claiming fraud tipped the results.

The protests turned deadly on Friday, when hundreds attempted to breach the green zone’s fortifications. At least one protester was killed, with a further 120 people injured.

Abu Ali al-Askari, the name used by the leader of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, denied his group’s involvement, suggesting the operation was a false flag to garner sympathy for Kadhimi. “If there is anyone who wants to harm this Facebook creature there are many ways that are less costly and more guaranteed to achieve this,” Askari said.

Iran, like everyone else, has condemned the attack, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh pointing the finger vaguely toward Washington: “Such incidents are in line with the interests of parties that have violated the stability, security, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years, and through creation of terrorist and seditionist groups, seek to achieve their sinister objectives in the region.”

Republicans in U.S. Congress have called for a forceful response from Biden, tying the attack to the U.S. approach to international nuclear negotiations with Iran, set to resume on Nov. 29. Sen. Bill Hagerty, a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said a response to “Irans aggression” should involve ending “the farce of the nuclear talks and go back to a maximum pressure approach without delay.”

While the attack is a low point, some analysts have suggested Sunday’s attack was likely meant as intimidation rather than assassination.

Patrick Osgood, a senior analyst with consultancy firm Control Risks, said on Twitter there was “a significant prospect that the attack, by being near-universally recognized as having gone too far, marks the high point of brinkmanship from which post-elections compromise will begin.”

Lahib Higel, a senior Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the attack indicates attempts by pro-Iran groups to influence a new government, which may have “reached the ceiling of escalation.”


The World This Week 

Monday, Nov. 8: The Chinese Communist Partys central committee holds its annual plenary session until Thursday, Nov. 11.

Tuesday, Nov. 9: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman concludes her trip to Uruguay and heads to Peru for a two-day visit.

Wednesday, Nov. 10: The Organization of American States (OAS) holds its General Assembly.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosts Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosts U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Paris.

Thursday, Nov. 11: Singles Day occurs in China, which is considered the largest online shopping day in the world.

Veterans Day occurs in the United States, and Armistice Day occurs in the United Kingdom.

Friday, Nov. 12:
British Brexit Minister David Frost meets with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Macron hosts an international summit on Libya, co-chaired by Germany, Italy, and the United Nations, ahead of December elections in the country. 

Sunday, Nov. 14: Bulgaria holds its presidential election. 

Argentina holds midterm elections in its upper and lower houses.


What We’re Following Today

U.S.-Egypt ties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosts his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, for two days of talks under the umbrella of the U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue. The two last met in September, a week after the Biden administration withheld nearly half of the $300 million apportioned to Egypt in military aid over human rights concerns.

Prague moves on. The Czech parliament convenes today hoping to end the period of uncertainty that followed elections in October, when Czech President Milos Zeman fell ill the day after the vote concluded. Zeman emerged on Friday, telling Czech media he would name Petr Fiala, head of the Together coalition, prime minister. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose ANO party was defeated in a shock result, is expected to resign and enter the opposition.

Ortega’s election. Ballots are still being counted in Nicaragua’s presidential election, but the outcome is all but certain as one of Latin America’s longest serving leaders Daniel Ortega is expected to comfortably win a fourth consecutive term after a campaign period that saw several opposition candidates jailed. U.S. officials said they, along with the European Union and Canada, are preparing to impose further sanctions following the vote.

U.S. travel ban lifts. The U.S. border opens to vaccinated international travelers from more than 30 countries today, ending a period of prohibition stretching back to March 2020. Unvaccinated travelers on “essential” business will still be allowed to enter the United States until January 2022, when all incoming travelers must be vaccinated.


Keep an Eye On

COP26 continues. The U.N. climate conference, known as COP26, continues this week with today’s focus on adaptation and economic loss and damage, with discussions at the ministerial level set to take place on the contentious issue of climate financing. The conference continues with sessions on gender, transport, and the role of cities later in the week.

Ethiopia’s civil war. Tens of thousands of people joined a rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, over the weekend in support of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces move south toward the capital. Attendees could be seen with placards denouncing the United States, which has urged negotiations with the TPLF, as the government on Saturday decried “orchestrated media propaganda against Ethiopia.”

Non-essential U.S. Embassy staff, previously authorized to leave voluntarily, have now been ordered to leave the country.


Odds and Ends

A flurry of early-season snow arrived in Beijing on Sunday, perhaps too early for Winter Olympic organizers as they come under increasing pressure to account for the city’s dry winter climate ahead of the Games, which open in February. Drawing on nearby reservoirs, Beijing is expected to use up to 49 million gallons of water to produce artificial snow to facilitate the competition.

Beijing follows in the snowprints of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, where an estimated 90 to 98 percent of the snow was artificial.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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