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Demonstrators burn American and British flags during a protest against the assassination of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on January 3, 2020 [WANA via Reuters]

Iran and the US’s fight for control in Iraq heats up

Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq

Iran has stepped up its fight for influence in Iraq in recent years, which has been one of the main factors stimulating the recent protests and unrest across the country, with people calling for an end to corruption and foreign Iranian influence and meddling in Iraqi politics.

The protesters at several occasions expressed their anger and rejection to Iran’s stance regarding the Iraqi protests. They burned the photo of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Forces. They also burned the Iranian consulates in Najaf and Basra as well as offices of political parties allied with Iran in central and southern Iraq.

Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iranian influence has expanded in the country through intervention in the formation of political parties, and supporting militia groups. Iran has long been accused of running a network of proxies across the Middle East, using Shiite militias and political parties to undermine rival governments.

The battle against the Islamic State in Iraq has helped the Iranian proxies gain even more influence in Iraqi politics, as Shiite militias gained almost a third of the seats in Iraq’s parliament in 2018 elections. Regardless, the Iraqi government continues to strengthen its ties with Iran, like last week, Iraqi President said that the development of bilateral relations in all fields should include the common benefits of the Iraqi and Iranian nations.

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