Iraqi PM adviser threatened for comments on Qassem Suleimani

Hisham Dawood’s remarks to BBC spark anger and resentment among pro-Iranian groups in Iraq

Iraqi clerics look on as they stand near a banner depicting senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, during a gathering marking the one year anniversary of their killing in a U.S. attack, in Baghdad, Iraq January 3, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi's top adviser has been threatened over comments he made about Iranian general Qassem Suleimani this week.

Hisham Dawood’s remarks to the BBC sparked anger and resentment among pro-Iranian groups in Iraq towards the government.

Suleimani was assassinated by a US drone strike on January 3, 2020, near Baghdad's international airport. The strike also killed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis.

The move heightened tension between Washington and Tehran, which retaliated on Iraqi soil.
"Suleimani didn't think he was just a co-ordinator with Iraq. He actually believed himself responsible for Iraq," Mr Dawood said.

Suleimani headed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' foreign operations and oversaw Iran's proxy militias in the region.

Al Muhandis was commander of the militia group Kataib Hezbollah.

“That is why he entered and left [the country] when he wanted. The founding principles of the Iraqi state were not in his [Suleimani's] priorities,” Mr Dawood said.

Mr Dawood, a French-Iraqi anthropologist, was nominated for the position of Minister of Culture but did not receive approval from parliamentary blocs.

Esmail Qaani replaced Suleimani as the head of Iran's Quds Force.

“So with Qaani, we, the Iraqi government, made him apply for a visa,” Mr Dawood said.

His comments triggered anger from Iraqi officials close with Iran.

Ahmed Al Assadi, one of the leaders of the Hashed parliamentary bloc, said Suleimani "officially and legally" entered Iraq and was there to "help the government and the people".

He praised Suleimani and said he was on the front lines in Iraq's fight against ISIS.
"Where was this 'adviser' when Suleimani went from trench to trench to defend Iraq, until his blood was spilt at the international airport?" Mr Al Assadi said.

Other members of parliament demanded that Mr Al Kadhimi sack Mr Dawood.

Shoalan Abu Al Jon, from the pro-Iran Badr armed faction, said Mr Al Kadhimi "no longer deserves to remain" as prime minister.

Since the remarks were made Mr Dawood's post as adviser to the Prime Minister has been "frozen".

An Iraqi official close to the prime minister's office, told The National that Mr Dawood's statements were part of a BBC documentary about Suleimani.

"Dawood's comments on Suleimani entering and leaving Iraq whenever he wanted and without official permits are accurate, but they triggered a sense of unease within the government," the official said.

The official said Mr Al Kadhimi did not want "any more tensions in the country".

Mr Dawood issued a statement “to apologise to all those who misunderstood his words”.

"What was mentioned in the interview stems from my background as a researcher. My information was drawn from research I conducted over the years, which does not reflect the government," Mr Dawood said.