Protesters burn property in front of the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
In looking at what happened during the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, the U.S. did pretty much everything right, responding quickly and coming to the defense of its personnel.
But the question was how did all those militiamen get into the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area around the embassy, to begin with? That area is supposed to be protected and prevent such things from happening. Iraqi security is also supposed to help defend the embassy, as local security does for all our embassies, but especially in Baghdad, a more dangerous area.
Michael Doran is an American expert on the international politics of the Middle East. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute. He was a vital source, tweeting out information yesterday during the attack on the embassy.
But today he’s pointing to a big problem, not just for the future safety of the embassy but for our position in Iraq against Iran.
In a very edifying series of tweets, Doran talks about a report by Alhurra identifying the new head of security for the Green Zone.
How did that security move work out? Well, here’s what happened yesterday when the militia members showed up at the door to the zone.
To get a sense of how effective he is, watch this clip, which captures the moment yesterday when Iraqi officers opened the gates of the Green Zone for the Iranian-backed militias who then attacked our embassy. pic.twitter.com/m4JBuFOKdW
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 1, 2020
They basically offered no real defense and threw the doors open.
According to Doran, “Al-Aboudi is a trusted subordinate of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani is using the Iraqi militias, which he effectively controls, to turn Iraq into a satellite of Iran. More broadly, he seeks to undermine the American security system in the Arab world. His hands are drenched in American blood up to his elbows.”
So how did this guy who is connected to Iranian terrorists get this job?
Doran notes the report of Alhurra which claimed Soleimani had arranged Abboudi’s appointment precisely because Soleimani planned to attack the embassy, according to leaks from a senior Iraqi security official. He said that while he can’t vouch for Alhurra’s report, given they were accurate about predicting the embassy attack, people really should be paying attention to what’s being said.
Doran describes that Aboudi was born in Iraq but was captured during the Iran-Iraq war and turned, joining the IRGC. His name even appears in the salary database of the Qods force, according to Doran. He’s been a senior official in the Badr Brigades, the military wing of the Iraqi opposition based in Iran, as well as the Director of Operations for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Iran-backed militias.
He also appears to have a pretty big job as adviser to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi for PMF Affairs.
Soleimani pressured Abdul-Mahdi to appoint Aboudi on December 22, after which “Aboudi made immediate personnel changes in the Zone, appointing officers who’d worked with him in the past, and issuing entry permits to Iranian-backed militia members.”
This is not only a crucial problem for the Green Zone and our embassy and all the other embassies there, but as Doran observes, this isn’t the only position this is occurring with Iran “planting loyalists” in such key positions in the government. Doran called it a “slow-motion coup.”
So if this is all true, that’s a huge problem for the future of all the embassies in the Green Zone and they could potentially re-rack and try it again. The U.S. needs to immediately determine what’s going on with the security in the zone as well as where the Prime Minister stands in the face of all this.