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Iran Sees Opportunity in Iraq

Via Meadia has reported extensively the past few days about the deteriorating situation in Iran. The government has been racked by economic problems, escalating sanctions and its unpopularity with its own citizens. This is bad news for Iranians, but it may be worse news for Iraq, which is still adjusting to last month’s withdrawal of American troops.

Iran looks at Iraq and sees some opportunity for pushback. The New York Times reports that Iraqi President al-Maliki is welcoming a militant Shia group with ties to Iran into the country’s political system:

But now the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is welcoming the militant group into Iraq’s political system, a move that could tilt the nation’s center of gravity closer to Iran. The government’s support for the militia, which only just swore off violence, has opened new sectarian fault lines in Iraq’s political crisis while potentially empowering Iran at a moment of rising military and economic tensions between Tehran and Washington.

This may prove not to mean much, but it is likely that Iran sees in Iraq an opportunity to antagonize America and cling to its faltering position in the Middle East. Sanctions have crippled its economy even as the Assad dynasty, one of the few friendly regimes in the region, is busy dealing with what looks to be a long and bloody civil conflict. For a country surrounded by hostile powers, influence in Iraq is an attractive prospect: Iraq remains a weak, nearby, Shia-majority country with a dramatically reduced U.S. presence.

There is a short list of places where Iran can throw some weight around to send messages to Washington; Baghdad is high on that list.  No good news here.

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