Political assassinations are part of the new face of violence in Iraq. A few dozen are attempted each month. In May 2011, militants decided to up their ante by going after two high profile targets. The first was the executive director of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ali al-Lami, and the second was Defense Minister candidate Khalid Mutab Obeidi.
On May 26, Ali al-Lami was assassinated in eastern Baghdad. He was driving home when a car cut in front of him blocking his way. Gunmen exited the vehicle and shot Lami in the head, killing him. Lami was a controversial figure due to his work with the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the deBaathification Commission in 2008. He’d built up a long list of enemies from the hundreds he’d banned from working in the government for their alleged ties to the former regime.
Three days later, Khalid Mutab Obeidi, a candidate for Defense Minister, was wounded in a bombing in Mosul. Obeidi was driving home with his nephew when his car was hit. Aswat al-Iraq reported that a sticky bomb was used, while CNN said that it was a roadside device. Obeidi was wounded and taken to a local hospital. Obeidi was first nominated for the Defense Minister post by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. Obeidi was the former commander of the Iraqi Air Force under Saddam Hussein. Allawi later dropped him because he refused to promise to give up his position if the National Movement wanted to withdraw from the government. Ironically Lami said that Obeidi was ineligible to serve in the government because of his Baathist past. By early April, Obeidi ended up withdrawing his own name because of the differences he had enamored. Mosul is per capita, the most violent city in Iraq. That’s because it is the last urban stronghold of Sunni insurgents. Several different militant groups work within the city, any number of which could have targeted Obeidi because of his cooperation with the government.
Assassinations in Iraq have been going on for years. In recent months, they have become a larger part of the security situation because of their increased intensity, and their singling out of members of the government and security forces. There have been some high profile targets before such as director generals in ministries and even governors, but Lami and Obeidi are on a different level because of their national standing. In fact, Lami is the most prominent official killed so far in this recent campaign. Oddly enough, no one has taken responsibility for any of the murders. The government at first blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq, and then Iranian-backed Special Groups. Other insurgent organizations like the Baathist Naqshibandi are likely involved as well. If any other parties are involved its unknown right now, at least publicly. The attacks upon Lami and Obeidi could have just been targets of opportunity, or Iraq’s militants have decided to move into a higher gear, going after national figures. The country’s security forces have been unable to stop this campaign, and some may even be complicit, which means they will not be ending soon.
Alsumaria, “Iraqiya candidate declines Iraq Defense Minister nomination,” 4/4/11
Aswat al-Iraq, “Defense Ministry nominee injured in blast,” 5/29/11
Brosek, Raman, “Update: Iraq still fights for key ministers,” AK News, 3/29/11
Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 11,” 3/27/11
- “The Political Struggle for Security Control in Iraq,” Global Security, 3/29/11
Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Explosion wounds Iraqi defense minister candidate,” CNN, 5/29/11