It is no secret that Iran has had a troubled relationship with its neighbor to the west through the years – and no less so than now, when Iran is becoming more and more involved in the war on Islamic State in a weakening, ever more divided Iraq.
How so? Reuters ran a special report this week on the three Iranian-led Shi’ite armies active in Iraq – the most powerful in the country after the collapse of the national military – which answer directly to Tehran and are advised by the elite Quds Force. Reuters went on to cite a former senior Iraqi lawmaker saying this strategy was sharply at odds with Washington’s approach, “leaving Iraq to the Iraqis” – as with any attempts to resolve its sectarian conflict, which, according to the report, the Shi’ite militias have done their best to fuel.
Then there was a report in The Guardian taking us back to the US war in Iraq and to 80 of its American victims, whose families are now suing five European banks, including Barclays and HSBC, for damages “on grounds that they allegedly siphoned money to Iran that was then used to finance the attacks” – carried out, once again, by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. That war may have been in the past, but it eerily reminds us of the present.
And finally, there was the Financial Times, which suggested in a lengthy report written by four correspondents, who conducted over a dozen interviews with regional leaders, that Washington’s indecision on Iraq had opened the door for Iran to increase its influence and power there, “further enmeshed Iran in its neighbour’s vital affairs … and stifled attempts to wean the country from Tehran’s grasp.”
What’s for certain is that in Iraq, Iran clearly employs tactics that differ greatly from its diplomatic efforts to woo Western powers – although if The Wall Street Journal’s Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz are to be believed, both are, at the end of the day, ways to win more power.