Breaking news: Aqila al-Hashimi Attacked, in Critical Condition
Guerrillas fired rocket-propelled grenades Saturday morning at the automobilie of Aqila al-Hashimi, a prominent female member of the US-appointed Interim Governing Council. When the grenades missed, they sprayed the car with machine gun fire, critically wounding her and several of her body guards. She was whisked away by US forces to an unknown location for treatment.
The BBC is reporting that the US military has made an arrest in the attack.
Al-Hashimi was, according to al-Hayat, in line to become Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations. She has a Ph.D. in French literature and a bachelor’s in international law.
Al-Hashimi, a Shiite, had been a functionary in Saddam Hussein’s Foreign Ministry. How it is that she emerged from that background onto the IGC is a great mystery, and it may hold a clue as to why she was attacked first. If Saddam or Saddam loyalists are behind it, they would have felt especially betrayed by her, and may also suspect that she had served as a double agent for the Americans in the Baath period, for which her present position is a reward.
The attack is part of a series of damaging assaults on key allies of the United States, including bombings of the Jordanian embassy, the UN compound, and the Shrine of Imam Ali (in the latter of which Shiite leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim was assassinated).
Members of the Interim Governing Council had pleaded with US civil adminsitrator Paul Bremer for more security and personal protection after the assassination of al-Hakim on August 29, but had been rebuffed. Muhammad Bahr al-`Ulum, a Shiite cleric and member of the IGC, suspended his membership in protest at the US failure to stop the assassination of al-Hakim. The attack on al-Hashimi may make it increasingly difficult for the US to find open allies among notable Iraqis.
She often used her background in an attempt to legitimate the IGC. At a news conference at the UN last July, there was the following exchange:
“Correspondent: . . . you are basically a puppet [of] . . . the US government. And this is for Mrs Al-Hashimi – how do you respond to the words indistinct from Saddam Husayn’s government. What is your reaction to that and how representative do you think you are?
Al-Hashimi They are free to say what they want to say. It is a democratic country. Under Saddam, I was in foreign affairs. I am still serving the country.”
James Rupert, reporting for Newsday, had noted just a few days ago, “Last month, hooded gunmen issued a videotape to the al-Arabiya television channel calling the council members ‘spies and traitors. We will kill them before we kill the Americans,’ said one of the men, claiming to speak for Islamic militants among the anti-U.S. resistance fighters here.”
As you know, I believe that these attacks are mainly the work of Sunni Arab nationalists who are attempting to expel the US from the country and to deny the US powerful allies.
Tarek al-Issawi in Baghdad argues that the Interim Governing Council still largely lacks legitimacy inside Iraq, where it is seen as an American puppet regime, despite its successes in gaining some international recognition. He sees this assassination attempt as a further assault on the body’s legitimacy.
Body and Soul, a Weblog, claims that Chalabi’s own security forces had been protecting the IGC members. Chalabi has been pressing for the creation of a new security police that would be under his control, presumably so that he can use it to take over Iraq and thwart any foolish moves toward actual democracy. He used the attack on Dr. al-Hashimi to argue again for this plan.