BAGHDAD - Iraq freed a jailed Hezbollah commander wanted by the United States on Friday, his lawyer said, returning him home to Lebanon in a move that underscores Washington's waning influence in Baghdad since last December's troop pullout.
The United States believes Ali Mussa Daqduq is a top threat to Americans in the Middle East, and had asked Baghdad to extradite him even before two Iraqi courts found him not guilty of masterminding a complex raid that left five American soldiers dead in 2007. But Iraq's Shiite-led government, which is close to Hezbollah's top patron, Iran, refused to hand him over.
The move complicates the Obama administration's efforts to prosecute Daqduq, as Shiite Hezbollah dominates the Lebanese government and the United States has no extradition treaty with the country. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States was upset with the decision and had made its feelings known to the Iraqi government.
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.