Hisham Dawood’s remarks to BBC spark anger and resentment among pro-Iranian groups in Iraq
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] Iraqi clerics look on as they stand near a banner depicting senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters
Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi’s top adviser has come under fire for comments 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 strike on January 3, 2020, near Baghdad’s international airport alongside 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,” Hisham Dawood said.
The Iraqi adviser made the comments on the anniversary US strike that killed Suleimani alongside Muhandis, who was the commander of Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
The two men worked closely together as Suleimani headed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps foreign operations. He oversaw Iran's proxy militias in the region.
“That is why he entered and left [the country] when he wanted,” Mr Dawood said. “The founding principles of the Iraqi state were not in his [Suleimani's] priorities.”
Mr Dawood, a French-Iraqi anthropologist, was nominated for the position of Minister of Culture but he did not get the approval of the 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 who are close with Iran.
Ahmedd Al Assadi, one of the leaders of the Hashed parliamentary block said that Suleimani "officially and legally" entered Iraq and was there to "help the government and the people".
He praised Suleimani and said that 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.
Since the remarks were made Mr Dawod’s post as adviser to the premier 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 documentary about Suleimani that the BBC was preparing to broadcast.
"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, who asked for anonymity, said.
The official said Mr Al Kadhimi does not want "any more tensions in the country".
Mr Dawood issued a statement “to apologise to all those who misunderstood his words”.
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