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Iranian Strategy in Iraq: Politics and 'Other Means'

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Occasional paper

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Iran has a robust program to exert influence in Iraq to limit American power projection capability in the Middle East, ensure the Iraqi government does not pose a threat to Iran, and build a reliable platform for projecting influence further abroad. Iran has two primary modes of influence. First, and most importantly, it projects political influence by leveraging close historical relationships with several Shia organizations in Iraq the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq ISCI, the Badr organization, and the Dawah political party. Second, Iran uses the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps IRGC and Qods Force QF to provide aid in the form of paramilitary training, weapons, and equipment to various Iraqi militant groups, including Moqtada al-Sadrs Jaysh al-Mahdi JAM and the Special Group Criminals SGCs. Iranian influence in Iraq is inevitable, and some of it is legal and constructive. Nonetheless, Iranian policy in Iraq is also duplicitous. Iran publicly calls for stability while subverting Iraqs government and illegally sponsoring anti-government militias. Iran has achieved three major accomplishments in Iraq. First, the unstable security situation and political opposition means the United States is not in a position to use Iraq as a platform for targeting Iran. Second, Irans political allies have secured high-ranking positions in the Iraqi government. Third, the Iraqi constitution calls for a highly federalized state. Iran values a decentralized Iraq because it will be less capable of projecting power, and because Iran is primarily concerned with Iraqs southern, oil rich, Shia dominated provinces. In addition to public sources, this report draws on a substantial body of information never before released to the public. These include internal Iraqi intelligence documents written before 2003, details from reports of Significant Activities by U.S. and Coalition Forces, as well as summaries of interrogations of detained militants.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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