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Iraqi puts out arrest warrant for Trump over killing of paramilitary chief

January 08, 2021 | 08:17

A Baghdad court has issued a warrant for the arrest of the US president, Donald Trump, as part of its investigation into the killing of a top Iraqi paramilitary commander.

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Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s largely pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, died in the same US drone strike that killed the storied Iranian general Qassem Suleimani at Baghdad airport on 3 January last year, the Guardian reported.

The strike on their motorcade was ordered by Trump, who later said it had taken out “two [men] for the price of one”.

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A member of Lebanon's Hezbollah stands in front of a picture depicting senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani (right) and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was killed in a U.S. attack, during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of their killing in the southern village of Khiam, Lebanon, January 3, 2021. Photo: Aziz Taher/Reuters

"An arrest warrant against the outgoing President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has been issued in accordance with the provisions of Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code," Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council confirmed in a statement on Thursday, adding that the investigations would continue "to identify others who participated in committing this crime, whether they are Iraqis or foreigners."

The UN special rapporteur for the extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, has described the twin killings as “arbitrary” and “illegal”.

Unlike adversary Iran, Iraq is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. While the U.S. military presence in the country has diminished significantly under President Trump's orders, to around 2,500 troops at present, billions of U.S. tax dollars have been spent, and American forces have been killed, shoring the Iraqi government up to defend itself from terrorist groups, and to help it resist the influence of its neighbor to the north, Iran.

It was the court for east Baghdad that actually issued the warrant for Mr. Trump's arrest under Article 406 of Iraq's penal code, which provides for the death penalty in all cases of premeditated murder, but the Supreme Judicial Council, which runs all of Iraq's courts much like the U.S. Department of Justice, confirmed the warrant.

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Iraq issues arrest warrant for Donald Trump over the killing of Qassim Soleimani Photo: ABC News

While the soon-to-be-former U.S. president may be unlikely to visit Iraq any time soon, the order for his arrest highlights the huge resentment against U.S. policy in Iraq and the deeply entrenched influence of Iran among Iraq's large Shiite Muslim population.

The U.S. military had braced for any possible retaliatory attacks by Iran or Iraq's pro-Iran militias, which have fired rockets at American bases many times since the strike last year, but there was no violence on the anniversary of the attack over the weekend.

Iraq's national government has at times struggled to maintain cordial relations with both its biggest global partner, Washington, and its neighbor Iran.

Even as the court issued the arrest warrant on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller met nearby in Baghdad with President Barham Salih to discuss "the importance of reducing tensions and avoiding escalation, supporting efforts to enhance security, stability, and peace in the region, and resolving the outstanding issues through dialogue".

In June, Iran already issued an arrest warrant for Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Suleimani and has asked Interpol for help.

Interpol later said it wouldn’t consider Iran’s request, meaning Trump faces no danger of arrest. However, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“Under Article 3 of INTERPOL’s constitution ‘it is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character’,” the Lyon-based international organization said in the emailed statement.

“Therefore, if or when any such requests were to be sent to the General Secretariat, in accordance with the provisions of our constitution and rules, INTERPOL would not consider requests of this nature.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, called the Iranian announcement a “propaganda stunt that no-one takes seriously,” describing it as “political” and having “nothing to do with national security.”

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