Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Esmail Ghaani arrived in Baghdad this week for the first time since the killing of his predecessor, Qassem Soleimani, in a US air strike near the Iraqi capital in January.
Iraqi officials confirmed he had arrived on Monday to try and unify Iraq’s fractured political leaders as stiff opposition by one major bloc thwarts the chances the country’s latest prime minister-designate can form a government, reported The Associated Press.
Ghaani’s arrival at Baghdad airport came amid a days-long curfew to stem the spread of the coronavirus that has halted inbound and outbound flights.
The four officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Soleimani, along with Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed Jan. 3 in a Washington-directed airstrike outside Baghdad airport. The attack led to deteriorating US-Iraq relations and prompted Iraqi lawmakers to call for the withdrawal of U. troops in a non-binding resolution.
After arriving, Ghaani left the airport under tight security in a three-vehicle convoy.
Soleimani was known to make frequent trips to the Iraqi capital to forge unity during times of political paralysis. But many officials are doubtful Ghaani can establish consensus in Iraq’s deeply fractured political scene, given his poor command of Arabic and lack of personal relationships with key figures.
“This is his first test to see if he can succeed in uniting the Shiite position, as Soleimani was doing,” said a senior Shiite political official, speaking on condition of anonymity to comment freely about the visit, which has not been publicly announced.
Ghaani’s trip coincides with a burgeoning crisis in Iraq as Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi faces resistance from certain political blocs amid a deepening fragmentation across the political spectrum. Meanwhile, plummeting oil prices and the financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic have badly damaged the country’s economy.
Previous premier-designate Mohammed Allawi withdrew his candidacy citing political obstruction.
The Fatah bloc in parliament, which came in second after Sairoon in the May 2018 election, vehemently opposes Zurfi. Headed by Hadi al-Ameri, it is composed of parties with affiliated militias under the Popular Mobilization Forces, some of which are Iran-backed.
The Sairoon bloc, led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, initially supported Zurfi’s candidacy.
Ghaani has met with Shiite leaders including Ameri, State of Law head Nouri al-Maliki, head of al-Hikma Movement Ammar al-Hakim, as well as President Barham Salih, the officials said.
Source » aawsat