Iraqis react while holding a placard bearing portraits of slain Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (bottom) and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, during a ceremony at Muhandis' gravesite in the Wadi al-Salam ("Valley of Peace") cemetery in the holy city of Najaf, on January 3, 2021, marking the first anniversary of their killing in a U.S. airstrike. Credit: ALI NAJAFI
An Iraqi judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of President Donald Trump over the deaths of leading Iranian and Iraqi military officials in an airstrike last year at Baghdad International Airport.
Such a crime could be considered eligible for capital punishment under Iraq's criminal code, though such extradition and sentence are extremely unlikely.
Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council announced Thursday that a judge with the Rusafa Investigation Court, the judicial body entrusted with the year-long probe, "decided to issue an arrest warrant against the outgoing President of the United States Donald Trump in accordance with the provisions of Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code" over the killing of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and the designated target of the U.S. strike, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, along with others at the scene.
Article 406 falls under the "Murder" section of Iraq's Penal Code, dealing specifically with most grave cases of homicide, ones that are "punishable by death."
The code dates back to 1969 but has been amended since the 2003 U.S. invasion that overthrew then-President Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006 for crimes against humanity, a charge established outside of Iraq's criminal code by a special tribunal under the new U.S.-installed government.
For Trump, evidence for his role in Muhandis' death was based on statements gathered by Muhandis' family and companies, according to the statement, which said that "investigation procedures will continue to discover the other participants in the implementation of this crime, whether they are Iraqis or foreigners."
Muhandis oversaw the Popular Mobilization Forces, a collective of largely Shiite Muslim militias that rose up in response to the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The collective was officially integrated into the Iraqi armed forces in 2018, though many organizations have close ties to neighboring Iran.
Tehran has also sought to hold Trump and his officials personally accountable for the slaying, which U.S. officials justified by alleging Soleimani was planning attacks against U.S. troops and interests. His death sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East.
Iranian judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili announced Tuesday that the Islamic Republic had issued an Interpol "red notice" for Trump and 47 of his top officials. A red notice is defined as "a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action."
Interpol previously rejected an Iranian request last June regarding Trump's involvement in Soleimani's killing, citing its constitution that states that it "is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character."
Iraq has been a central battleground for soaring U.S.-Iran tensions since Trump's 2018 exit from a multilateral nuclear deal reached three years earlier by his predecessor, and the subsequent imposition of harsh sanctions despite Iran's compliance with an agreement also supported by China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.
Iran has since announced its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the accord's limits, a move officials maintain would be immediately reversed upon U.S. reentry as promised by President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump has long refused to accept his electoral defeat in November, and only committed to a transition on Thursday, a day after his supporters laid violent siege to the Capitol, leaving up to four dead amid clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
As chaos overtook the U.S. capital, the head of the State Department's own Iran communications official spoke out in protest on social media, calling for Trump to step down to make room for Biden.
"President Trump fomented an insurrectionist mob that attacked the Capitol today. He continues to take every opportunity to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power. These actions threaten our democracy and our Republic," Iran action groups special adviser Gabriel Noronha tweeted. "Trump is entirely unfit to remain in office, and needs to go."
Newsweek has since confirmed he was fired shortly thereafter.
(c) 2021 Newsweek