How Secret US Iran Deal Installed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi

Former Iraqi intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi was installed as the prime minister of Iraq as a result of a secret US Iran deal. The deal was that Iranians would back Kadhimi and in return US would unfreeze Iran’s assets targeted by US sanctions. Kadhimi has a history of working as an agent of the US intelligence services who provided false reports about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The US’s withdrawal of Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia last week was also part of the secret US Iran deal.

How Secret US Iran Deal Installed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi
How Secret US Iran Deal Installed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi

Installing Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Iraqi Prime Minister

As per the deal, the US will not change its policy of exerting “maximum pressure” on Iran but agreed to de-escalate militarily in the Gulf. Americans also agreed to look the other way if any European country would release Iranian money frozen by US sanctions. The details of the deal were revealed by senior Iraqi political sources to Middle East Eye.

Kadhimi’s nomination as the Iraqi Prime Minister was seen as a “declaration of war on the Iraqi people” by Iranians backed Hezbollah. The top commander of the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia accused Kadhimi of involvement in US drone strikes which killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Even other Shia militia and political leaders strongly opposed Kadhimi’s nomination. So it came as a surprise when last week Kadhimi’s new government was installed with majority support in Iraq’s parliament.

Iraqi sources say that a behind-the-scenes deal between Washington and Tehran explains the sudden U-turn, with Iran agreeing to lean on the Shia factions it influences in return for some relief from economically crippling US sanctions with the unfreezing of some assets in Europe.

The Iraqi sources did not reveal which Iranian assets would be unfrozen and where. But it is believed to be linked to the decision last month by a court in Luxembourg to block a US request to transfer $1.6bn in Iranian assets to victims of the 9/11 attacks in a case dating back to 2012.

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The Iranian assets are held by a Luxembourg-based clearing house, Clearstream, owned by Deutsche Boerse. The court decision was hailed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who said the country had won a legal victory over the assets that had long been frozen in Luxembourg at Washington’s request.

Tensions in the Middle East have soard since a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani (pictured), was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport on Friday, shocking the Islamic Republic
Tensions in the Middle East have soard since a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani (pictured), was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport on Friday, shocking the Islamic Republic

“The Americans managed to get their man, and the Iranians to get their money,” said one source with knowledge of the secret deal. “The economic hardship that Iranians have faced, and all the difficulties they faced after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, has hit them hard. There were negotiations. The deal ended with the Iranians accepting this guy [Kadhimi] and they told their allies to vote for him.”

Secret US Iran Deal

In March, a senior source in Tehran told Midle East Eye that the US had agreed to grant waivers allowing some countries to release Iranian assets without facing punitive measures to help Iran to buy medical supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“The efforts of some countries have led to the release of some of the Iranian central bank’s money,” he said. “Those countries will receive a sanctions waiver [for releasing Iran’s frozen assets], this has been granted and we are following this issue.” He added: “The unfreezing of Iranian central bank money will decrease pressure regarding the lack of foreign exchange for importing medication and life necessities.”

The Iraqi sources said that earlier, Nouri al-Maliki was installed for a second term as prime minister by both Washington and Tehran. The earlier agreement acted as a precedent for the current secret US Iran deal.

The sources said that the US’s withdrawal of Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia last week and a lowering of military tensions in the Gulf was part of the deal with Tehran.

“As a consequence of this, to reduce the tension in the Gulf, there was a pullout of the Patriots. More importantly, the US agreed to give a green light to allow for Europe to release some of the frozen assets for the Iranians. The US will not object to the release of some of the frozen assets. They will look the other way,” the source said.

Kadhimi – an Agent of US Intelligence

Kadhimi has a history of working as an agent of the US intelligence services. Kadhimi in collaboration with Ahmed Chalabi provided US President George W. Bush with false reports about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

former journalist and editor with Al Monitor news website, whose real name is Mustafa Abd al-Latif, Kadhimi became head of Iraqi intelligence services when Haider al-Abadi was the prime minister.

Kadhimi (C), with Iraqi officials during a visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2018 (SPA)
Mustafa al-Kadhimi (C), with Iraqi officials during a visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2018 (SPA)

In 2018, a secret meeting was organised in Washington between Mike Pompeo, who was then CIA chief, Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan, Saudi intelligence chief and Kadhimi, the Iraqi intelligence chief. The objective of the meeting of the 3 intel chiefs was to discuss devise a strategy for the installation of Abadi as the prime minister and counter Iranian backed candidates. However, that plan collapsed.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month announced details of a proposed strategic dialogue with the Iraqi government that is set to take place in June. Pompeo said that “all strategic issues” would be on the agenda at the talks.

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