The article offers some interesting developments about Iran’s interest in taking a more important role in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The article can be accessed here.
This article shows the various initiatives from Iran in trying to capture the vacuum left with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The author argues that Iran has played the shared Iraqi-Iran identity as their main argument to help Iraq in various issues. For example, the latest Iranian offer to train Iraqi military forces was another attempt to take a leading role in the region after the U.S. decision of withdrawal. Iraqi officials rejected such offer on the grounds that the weapons that the Iraqi military possess are American and therefore they stated that they would prefer American trainers. Such attempts to lure Iraqis to accept Iranian assistance also came from the recent Iranian foreign minister visit in Baghdad who said that that the two countries are “two branches of the same tree.” Such arguments are promoted by the Iranian government in an attempt to increase its influence over Iraq by channeling ideas through transnational identity argument that Gregory Gause used in his book The Persian Gulf.
Iran has also used proxies inside Iraq to increase their influence over Iraqi policies and the attempt to push U.S. forces out of Iraq. For example, Moqtada al-Sadr, an extremist Shia cleric has been backed by the Iranian government to target U.S. troops and contractors in Iraq. Iran backed cleric has declared to kill any U.S. troops and contractors and his loyalists have stepped up their campaign by posting billboards around Baghdad that call on U.S. troops and contractors to leave Iraq. Moreover, according to the author, Iran is preparing Ayatollah Hashem Shahroudi to take the top cleric position in Iraq, which is similar position as the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini holds in Iran.
Such strategies used by the Iranians has been seen as a major threat to the balance of power in the region by the west, United States and Israel in particular, and the current Obama administration is working in sending some troops back to Iraq next year in order to maintain Iraqi independence from Iran. Such decision is a subject of Iraqi parliament approval and has not been taken into consideration yet despite U.S. attempts to move