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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Iran's Influence in Iraq

Council on Foreign Relations

January 30, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Four years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, it is clear Iran’s influence in southern Iraq is solid and growing. Iran’s relations with Iraq’s Kurdish communities in the north are also strong, despite worries in Tehran that their push for greater autonomy from Baghdad might animate Iran’s own Kurdish minorities. Iran is believed to have operatives all over Iraq collecting intelligence and assisting various Shiite militias. It also has amicable ties with Iraq’s Shiite leadership that have boosted trade and religious tourism for Iranian pilgrims. Plans are underway to build an Iranian bank (NYT) in downtown Baghdad.

But to suggest Iraq is a puppet state of Iran is misleading, experts say. Iraqi Shiites are driven as much by nationalism as by their sectarian identities, suggests Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, an expert on Iranian foreign policy, in this CFR.org Podcast. It is further misleading for U.S. officials to blame the “mess” in Iraq on Iran, Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman. “The Bush administration,” Pollack says, “seems to be regarding the Iranians as the source of many, if not all, of Iraq’s problems today. To me, it is dangerously reminiscent of how they talked about the Syrians in 2004 and 2005, when they ridiculously exaggerated Syria’s role in the Sunni insurgency.” The Los Angeles Times reports there is scant evidence linking Iranian agents to any specific attacks against American forces.


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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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