No Comment — May 23, 2007, 8:11 am

Secret U.S. Plan to Assassinate Iraqi Leader Revealed

It’s tough being a political leader in Iraq these days. President Jalal Talabani is at the prestigious Mayo Clinic seeking treatment for an array of obesity-related ailments. Vice President Abdul Aziz Hakim was just diagnosed with cancer in Houston, and has opted to undergo a brutal round of chemotherapy in Tehran. Prime Minister al-Maliki is faced with almost daily threats from Americans who intimate that his days are numbered, and that he will soon be assassinated or otherwise swept from the political scene in Baghdad.

In the meantime, the American nemisis Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful force behind the scenes in the al-Maliki government, seems to be busily preparing for a more robust role in government as soon as al-Maliki falls. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported on al-Sadr’s recent political maneuvers:

The 33-year-old populist is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr’s political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq’s majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr’s movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr’s image and position him in the middle of Iraq’s ideological spectrum.

Notwithstanding al-Sadr’s efforts to appear more moderate, if he or his proxies secure high office in the new government, this will certainly provoke the ire of the Bush administration.

Today London’s Independent reports in a piece filed by Patrick Cockburn what has long been rumored: in August 2004, American forces in Iraq planned to assassinate al-Sadr, whom they increasingly viewed as a disruptive, unpredictable and hostile force.

The US Army tried to kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr, the widely revered Shia cleric, after luring him to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf, which it then attacked, according to a senior Iraqi government official. The revelation of this extraordinary plot, which would probably have provoked an uprising by outraged Shia if it had succeeded, has left a legacy of bitter distrust in the mind of Mr Sadr for which the US and its allies in Iraq may still be paying. “I believe that particular incident made Muqtada lose any confidence or trust in the [US-led] coalition and made him really wild,” the Iraqi National Security Adviser Dr Mowaffaq Rubai’e told The Independent in an interview. It is not known who gave the orders for the attempt on Mr Sadr but it is one of a series of ill-considered and politically explosive US actions in Iraq since the invasion. In January this year a US helicopter assault team tried to kidnap two senior Iranian security officials on an official visit to the Iraqi President. Earlier examples of highly provocative actions carried out by the US with little thought for the consequences include the dissolution of the Iraqi army and the Baath party.

The reverential tones of Cockburn’s reporting seem rather out of place. Al-Sadr was wanted for a homicide at the time, and his Mahdi Army was actively engaged in firefights with Army and Marine units in Najaf. Nevertheless, he had by the summer of 2004 established himself firmly in the leadership of his father’s Sadrist movement–an extremely powerful political force among Iraq’s Shiia majority.

Observers have long suggested that the Bush Administration has embraced targeted killings–political assassinations–as a tactic to be used in connection with the war on terror. The legality of such a move is extremely questionable. In concept, it could occur only with specific authorization of President Bush, and even then would appear to be at odds both with established principals of international law and traditional American military doctrine. President Abraham Lincoln gave an order in 1863 outlawing assassinations as a military tactic. However, Executive Order 12333, issued December 4, 1981, by Ronald Reagan established a process through which they might be authorized but generally were prohibited. The Independent’s report suggests the existence of a further secret executive order by George W. Bush which authorizes targeted killings in the war on terror, something which has long been suspected by national security law experts.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

No Comment November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm

The Torture Doctors

An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath

No Comment August 12, 2013, 7:55 am

Obama’s Snowden Dilemma

How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“In Thunupa’s footsteps grew a miraculous plant that could withstand drought, cold, and even salt, and still produce a nutritious grain.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
Article
A Study in Sherlock·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is central to the pleasure of the Sherlock Holmes stories that they invite play, and that they were never meant to be taken seriously.”
Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele
Post
My Top 5 Metal Albums and Their Poetic Counterparts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“1. Death, The Sound of Perseverance (Nuclear Blast, 1998)”
Photograph (detail) by Peter Beste
Article
Found Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I have spent my entire adult existence in a recession. Like most people I talk to, I assume the forces that control the market are at best random and at worst rigged. The auction shows only confirm that suspicion.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Post
The School of Permanent Revolución·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The University of Venezuela has provided a consistent counterweight to governmental authority, but it has also reliably produced the elite of whatever group replaced the status quo.”
Photograph © Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez

Percentage of non-Christian Americans who say they believe in the resurrection of Christ:

52

A newly translated Coptic text alleged Judas’ kiss to have been necessitated by Jesus’ ability to shape-shift.

Russia reportedly dropped a series of math texts from a list of recommended curricular books because its illustrations featured too many non-Russian characters. “Gnomes, Snow White,” said a Russian education expert, “these are representatives of a foreign-language culture.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST