On Monday November 7, an American English teacher Stephen Troell was killed in Baghdad. Gunmen in a car with no license plates drove up next to him and shot him. The vehicle went through several checkpoints without any incident pointing to some group connected with the government being involved. There are reports that the attackers originally wanted to kidnap him, but something obviously went wrong.
Immediately afterward a number of pro-Iran media and ones from Tehran itself said that Troell worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). That was meant to justify his murder by claiming that he was an American government worker. Instead, Troell worked for an aid group Millennium Relief and Development Services.
Now that the new government has been formed in Baghdad it was inevitable that pro-Iran groups would return to attacking the U.S. This was quite an escalation however. Before groups like Ashab al-Kahf used IEDs against convoys delivering supplies to U.S. forces within Iraq and fired rockets at military bases and the Green Zone. An assassination of an American national is on a whole other level. These factions may be emboldened to do more because they are now part of the Coordination Framework which just named the new prime minister of Iraq. They are now in control of the state and feel like they can do what they like.
This puts Premier Mohammed al-Sudani between a rock and a hard place. Washington will lobby him to do something but he can’t go against members of his own list especially well armed ones like Asaib Ahl Al-Haq who are backed by Iran. There might be arrests to save face but it’s unlikely anything else will happen. In fact, if the PM acts independently on the matter like not informing groups of his plans the pro-Tehran parties might stage protests against him which happened to former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi.
Badawi, Tamer, “Iraq’s Resurgent Paramilitaries,” Sada, 4/22/21
Knights, Michael, Smith, Crispin, “Ashab al-Kahf’s Takeover of the Convoy Strategy,” Washington Institute for Near East Studies, 11/22/21
Al Mada, “The American killed in Karrada is a “red card” in the face of Al-Sudani: Beware of getting close to Washington,” 11/9/22
Mahmoud, Sinan, “Gunmen who killed US citizen in Baghdad sought to kidnap him, Iraq authorities say,” The National, 11/9/22
Malik, Hamdi, Knights, Michael, “Iran-backed militias demonize USAID after a U.S. citizen gunned down in Baghdad,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 11/8/22
Salem, Amr, “Militia claims responsibility for killing American citizen in Baghdad,” Iraqi News, 11/9/22
Smith, Crispin, Knights, Michael, Malik, Hamdi, “Attributing the Erbil Attack: The Role of Open Source Monitoring,” 2/24/21
Tollast, Robert, “Iran-backed militias display long-range drone power in regional escalation,” The National, 6/14/21