TWQ: Iran’s Declining Influence in Iraq
January 1, 2012
With the 2003 collapse of the Ba‘athist regime and the ascendency of Iraq’s Shi‘a majority in the country’s economic and political life, Iran and Iraq now seem at their most amicable since the 1955 Baghdad Pact when they signed treaties for greater cooperation and aligned against separatist movements as well as the Soviet threat. With the rapid expansion of economic ties and movement of goods, products, and people, relations between the two countries have improved considerably across the border where many bloody battles were fought in the 1980s.
Contrary to the prevailing view in Washington, Iran’s influence over Iraq has less to do with the formation of a Shi‘a alliance and support for militia activities than with intricacies regarding the management of internal divisions, competitions, and factionalism within Iraq’s Shi‘a political parties and the country’s multi-ethnic population. Iran has so far failed to orchestrate these intricacies in its favor.
Any assessment of Iran’s influence in Iraq must, first and foremost, focus on Tehran’s changing factional politics and their impact on Iran’s regional policy. How have Iranian politics post-2009 contributed to the decline of Iran in Iraq? How much of this decline is tied to emerging Iraqi politics? And what comes next as U.S. troops leave Iraq and create a new security dilemma in the region?