Curbing Iranian influence in Iraq, Al-Kazemi's main objective

Iraqi Prime Minister expresses concern after several episodes of violence against activists opposed to Tehran's presence in Baghdad
The Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kazemi, in the southern city of Basra at the end of 22 August 2020, accompanied by the commanders of the security forces on a surprise visit

AFP/HUSSEIN FALEH  -   The Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kazemi, in the southern city of Basra at the end of 22 August 2020, accompanied by the commanders of the security forces on a surprise visit

Mustafa al-Kazemi, the Iraqi prime minister, had just paid a state visit to Washington when Reham Yaqoub, a young and famous doctor from Basra, was killed by a group of armed men. Yaqoub was known for her criticism of the behaviour of the pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Basra, and had publicly called for stronger ties with the West, the United States and the Gulf countries.

Al-Kazemi responded forcefully to the threat posed by Iraqi militias loyal to Iran.

The Iraqi delegation that travelled to Washington stated that the Iraqi prime minister had promised President Donald Trump that he would work to halt the "destructive Iranian influence".

Yaqoub's assassination has not been the only one in recent months at the hands of pro-Iranian militiamen who have created a climate of terror in Baghdad and Basra through the so-called "death squads", which act against activists who oppose Iranian control in political, security, economic and decision-making matters of the Iraqi government.

Manifestantes iraquíes se enfrentan a las fuerzas de seguridad durante las actuales protestas antigubernamentales en Basora, Irak, 21 de agosto de 2020
PHOTO/REUTERS - Iraqi demonstrators confront security forces during ongoing anti-government protests in Basra, Iraq, 21 August 2020

Hisham al-Hashemi, a prominent expert and researcher into Iraqi religious groups, was shot dead in front of his house in Baghdad by gunmen who were affiliated with the Kataieb Hezbollah militia, which is close to Iran. Together with the murder of the young Tahseen Oussama, these three deaths have rekindled the violence in Iraq and the protests against the government in Basra to put an end to this climate have not been long in coming.

The prime minister publicly held the pro-Iranian militias responsible and has formed a special committee to investigate these attacks.

As a sign of rapprochement to the Iraqi population, Al-Kazemi approached Reham Yaqoub's house to accompany and offer his condolences to the young woman's relatives.

According to Iraqi political sources, they told The Arab Weekly that "having seen all forms of arrogant behaviour practised against citizens by parties, militias and religious institutions, the prime minister has taken a step in the opposite direction, acting like a state official who is with the people in his official capacity and approaches problems from a position that connects with their concerns".

Los manifestantes rezan cerca del ataúd de Reham Yaqoub, una activista femenina que fue asesinada por pistoleros no identificados, durante el funeral en la ciudad santa de Najaf, Irak, el 20 de agosto de 2020
REUTERS/ALAA al-MARJANI - Demonstrators pray near the coffin of Reham Yaqoub, a female activist who was killed by unidentified gunmen, during the funeral in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, on 20 August 2020

Interior Minister Othaman al-Ghanimi announced the dispatch of a detachment of security forces to arrest the killers of activists in Basra city, while the city's police said they had conducted a major campaign for the arrest of suspects over the past 72 hours.