Flashpoint / Global

Iraq

I. Why it Matters

Iraq has been an arena for U.S.-Iran competition – and at times even indirect cooperation – since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The country’s adjacency and Iran’s support of Iraqi paramilitary groups provides Tehran with particular advantages relative to other theatres, and Iraq emerged as a key flashpoint for U.S.-Iran tensions during the “maximum pressure” era. These manifested directly, as witnessed in the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani and retaliatory Iranian strikes on Iraq bases hosting U.S. forces, and indirectly through attacks by Iran-backed paramilitary groups on U.S. and allied interests. To maintain the tenuous stability Iraq has achieved in the post-ISIS era, its leaders try to strike a balance between their two most powerful allies.

II. Recent Developments

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