Iraq released an imprisoned Hezbollah commander on Friday that is wanted by the United States, The Associated Press, is reporting. According to his lawyer, Ali Mussa Daqduq is returning home to Lebanon:
The release of Daqduq illustrates how weak American influence and pressure is in the Middle East and according to the AP, Daqduq’s attorney, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, revealed that after his client was found not guilty by two Iraqi courts for masterminding a 2007 raid that killed five American soldiers, he was not immediately released but given house arrest.
Daqduq’s lawyer, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, said authorities had decided to free his client after U.S. elections, suggesting they had sought to avoid embarrassing President Barack Obama during his re-election campaign.
“He was supposed to be released once the court found him not guilty but because of the U.S. presidential elections, he was kept under house arrest,” al-Mitairi said.
As a top threat to Americans in the Middle East, Daqduq has managed to evade extradition from Baghdad to the United States despite calls from the U.S. for Iraq to do so before Iraqi courts found him not guilty. However, Iraq’s government is Shiite led and has close ties to Hezbollah’s main feeder, Iran and Iraq refused to turn him over.
Furthermore, now that Daqduq is in Lebanon, the Obama administration will have a difficult time extraditing him there because the U.S. does not have a extradition treaty with the Lebanese Government. The AP reports:
“Daqduq should be held accountable for his crimes,” Nuland told reporters, adding that the U.S. would pursue him with all legal means possible, and had been in contact with Lebanon on the issue.
Washington believes Daqduq worked with Iranian agents to train Shiite militias to target the U.S. military during the years of sectarian violence that gripped Iraq over the last decade, and that he was behind the raid on a U.S. military base in the holy city of Karbala where the five soldiers were killed — four of them shot after being kidnapped.
U.S. forces held Daqduq for four years, handing him over to Iraqi authorities when American troops left Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has seen its influence in the country grow.
Two Iraqi courts, including the country’s central criminal court, subsequently found him not guilty of the Karbala attack. However, until now he had been held under house arrest in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.
Republican lawmakers are furious with the turn of events involving Daqduq.
Senator Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, “The release of Daqduq is outrageous. President Obama’s obsession with closing our facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO) has resulted in not one single new detainee being sent there since he took office. Had Daqduq been sent there, he would not be free to return to the fight.”
Inhofe continued, “His release is also another consequence of the Obama administration’s failure to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. Many of us in Congress warned that this day would come, and this release highlights the need to send terrorists like Daqduq to GITMO so that they do not have the opportunity to shed more American blood.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a written statement saying that “because President Obama made an irresponsible campaign pledge to close the military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and continues to refuse to bring any new terrorist detainees to the facility, the Administration transferred Daqduq into Iraqi custody—with full knowledge that he was eventually going to be released. I warned of this at the time of the transfer.”
Sen. Sessions added, “The obvious course would have been to transfer Daqduq to Guantánamo Bay for detention and trial for his actions, which violated the rules of war.”