Reset Ahead for Iran and U.S. in Iraq after ISIS Fall

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Until 2003, Iraq and Saddam Hussein posed perhaps the most direct military threat to Iran in the region. Haunted by the memory of bitter trench and chemical warfare during the eight year Iran-Iraq war in the ‘80s, both countries eyed each other warily for decades. The 2003 U.S. invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein and allowed Iraq’s Shiite majority to play a more dominant role in the Iraqi polity, changed all of that.

Since then, Iran has played an ever more powerful and intrusive role in Iraqi domestic policy, foreign policy, and even military strategy. In the battle against ISIS, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders and trainers have played a pivotal role, standing up powerful Shiite militias called Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), which are now salaried, and sanctioned irregular forces of the Iraqi state. Meanwhile, Iranian actors have penetrated nearly every level of Iraqi government.

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