Are the Iranians hoping to control/influence post-occupation Iraq?

According to this editorial from the St. Petersburg Times, 7/3/05 –'s+waiting+game – the Iranian leaders, so far from supporting the insurgency in Iraq, are in fact hoping the political reconstruction process goes forward peacefully. They see that as an opportunity to expand their sphere of influence westward – not by force of arms, but through political allies:

Issues for debate:

  1. How would an Iran-allied Iraq affect the balance of power in the ME?

  2. How will/should this affect U.S. policy WRT the occupation and the withdrawal timetable?

  3. How will/should this affect U.S. policy towards Iran?

Probably not a bad place to repost this - the sections on Iran are quite relevant to the OP:

More comments later, perhaps.

  • Tamerlane

Well, it’s natural that the Shi’ite Iranian leadership doesn’t favor the largely Sunni Iraqi insurgency nor the (mostly fundamentalist Wahhabist Sunni) foreign jihadis that are assisting it.

Yes, the Iranian government would doubtless be very pleased to have a stable, secure, Shi’ite Iraq (or part thereof) closely tied to Iran. If the US/coalition forces can pull those chestnuts out of the fire for Iran by squelching the non-Shi’ite Iraqi insurgency, Iran will be happy about it (although I don’t think we should hold our breath waiting for a formal thank-you note).

  1. How would it affect the balance of power in the ME? More Shi’a oil power, a Shi’a “strategic belt” across more of the ME (which the surrounding Sunni governments are already apparently feeling a bit wary about), and possibly continued consolidation of theocratic conservatism in Iran’s government, which is worried about disaffection in much of its more modern-minded younger population.

  2. How will/should this affect U.S. policy WRT the occupation and the withdrawal timetable? Policy? We have a policy? Glad to hear it. What is it? Seriously, I really don’t see what we can do about the “Iran factor”. If we mean it when we say that we want a stable and secure Iraq to make its own independent decisions, then if they want to cozy up to Iran, I don’t see how we can stop them. If we’re not serious about wanting Iraq to govern itself, then I suppose there are all sorts of tricks we could try, but I hope that’s not the case.

  3. How will/should this affect U.S. policy towards Iran? Again, what can we do about it? We’ve already made it quite plain to the conservative Iranian forces that we don’t like them (and vice versa), and we’re basically not on speaking terms with them. What can we threaten to do if they seek a closer alliance with Iraq? Dislike them harder? Not speak to them louder?

#2, not at all.

#3, perhaps a slight moderation, but not much.

#1 is, I think, a leading question. “Iran-influenced” is not “Iran-allied.”

It’s erroneous to assume that the US wants to create a “freindly” regime in Iraq, and the success of failure of the war there will be the extent to which the government there kisses American ass. That isn’t the case at all. A puppet regime would represent failure, not success, and an independant Iraqi government would be foolish not to have a more moderate stance toward Iran. The goal is an Iraq in which 1) a baseline of human rights, political powersharing and limited government is ensured by a written constitution, 2) the government can be removed by the people in elections.

The axiom behind current US policy is that ordinary citizens are primarily concerned with their own life, liberty and happiness. If that is the case, Iraqis likely won’t desire to be in open conlfict with either the US or Iran, and would not elect or retain leaders who brought about such conflict.

I place infinite faith in the capacity of politicians to watch out for their self-interest, irrespective of who got them there, who helped them earlier, etc. Provided you’re still talking about politicians (i.e. not a coup or something) this crap works itself out.

[QUOTE=furtIt’s erroneous to assume that the US wants to create a “freindly” regime in Iraq, and the success of failure of the war there will be the extent to which the government there kisses American ass. That isn’t the case at all.[/QUOTE]

:dubious: This is a whoosh, right?

While I’m sure the Iranians don’t want the chaos caused by the insurgency to persist indefinately, they must’ve been thankful that it wasn’t immediately put to rest by the Americans. After all, if everything had gone according the the initial plans of the US and we’d defeated Saddam in a week or two of fighting, the greatful Iraqis had quickly established a free, secular democracy and lived happily ever after, it would put the Iranians near the top of a short list of countries to be next in line to receive military pressure to shape up, give up WMD programs, stop oppressing it’s populace and give up their terrorist connections.

As it is, no one now thinks the US has the resources or will to take on another invasion/nation building adventure in the near future. Even a limited military exercise (bombing nuclear research sites for example) is risky as the Iranians could easily start providing covert support for the insurgents and make our already vulnerable situation in Iraq much worse.

In the end I agree the Iranians want the Sunni insurgency to loose, but I don’t think they mind them bloodying the nose of the US on thier way down.

I for one am eagerly awaiting the always meaningful and educational voice of Tamerlane.

In the meantime, I cannot understand the defensive nature of this hread. The only way to create a truly free democracy in Iraq is to keep the religious leaders out of political power. Just like NSDAP and its siblings were outlawed in Germany, Al’Dawa and their more radical counterparts should not be allowed to take a place at the table in Iraq.

The quote in the OP is nothing new and, given time, it seems to me that we’re running the risk of establishing an Iranian-style government in Iraq that might also influence or expand into Saudi-Arabia or other countries. The notion that the people of Iraq would not elect or retain leaders that don’t embrace a freedom-oriented democracy is IMO short-sighted.

People in that part of the world have a different view on democracy and political leadership. The concept of indvidual rights or individual freedom doesn’t stand strong, historically and culturally, particularly when such freedoms come at the expense of family, tribe or alliances.

Trying to establish a democracy while a foreign power bans the party that 60% of the population wants in power isn’t really going to be a great intro to the virtues of voting for the Iraqis. True we already banned the Baathists as a political party, but they didn’t have the natural support of such a large chunk of the populace, and it is a lot easier to justify banning the polical party of Saadam then it would be to ban the parties of popular clerics.

Also, if we take away the possibility of gaining power in the ballot box, men like Muqtada al-Sadr are far more likely to try to gain it by force of arms. That’s one of the strengths of democracy, it makes people play within the system and if we start banning folks from running, we take away that strength.

  1. How would an Iran-allied Iraq affect the balance of power in the ME?

It would worry the monarchies, possibly to such an extent that they would start poking their fingers around in Iraq.

  1. How will/should this affect U.S. policy WRT the occupation and the withdrawal timetable?

I doubt we’ll leave Iraq with an Iran-allied government. That won’t happen until five seconds after we’re outta there.

  1. How will/should this affect U.S. policy towards Iran?

Can’t make it worse. Won’t make it better.

Turkey might be a reasonable comparison to what should come out of Iraq. All they need is a secular national hero to lay the groundwork.


The way I see it, 60% of the population doesn’t support that political party (in a broad sense). It wasn’t a party (it was an umbrella), nor was it an election based on issues (it was Shiite vs. Sunni vs. Kurd).

But your point is still valid. And it begs to repeat a question I’ve asked in a couple of other threads (without getting any responses), when a democracy bans a person or a party from running for election, is it still a democracy?

The thing is, this Administration has made two big mistakes in their struggle to democratize Iraq. They should have walked in there with a ready-made, but neutral, Constitution, telling the Iraqis that they could change it when they became a democracy. Instead they created a legal void. And they should have reached out to the middle class, the beurocrats and the intellectuals, those who actually ran the country for the Baathists. Instead they’ve allowed these religious groups to maneuver their way into influential positions. Of course they got elected when no other viable middle-of-the-road alternative where on the front page. My point: These groups could very well be allowed to exists, but they didn’t have to be the talk of the day, every day, all of the time.

What I read is a lot of “it just came out that way and there’s nothing we can do about it”. I’m not so sure anybody rolled the dice. Consider some of our most well-known leaders today: Bush, Blair, Putin, Berlusconi. All of them successful leaders, but none of them great strategists. The Iranian Leadership are great strategists, just like the Israelis. They control a non-unified country multiple times the size of Iraq, enemies everywhere around them. They know how to play the game and they don’t rule with an election four years down the road at the top of their mind.

The Arab world plus Persia is deeply diveded, so much that an Arab from one part of the region will refuse to share a meal with many other Arabs. Nothing will fit Iran more perfectly than to build an alliance of Islamic states, expanding their influence to become a true power in that region. God knows there are opportunities, given the unpopularity of the current secular regimes.

Not at all. If you have a credible cite that indicates that the US policy goal is to create a puppet regime, I’d like to see it.

We don’t want a hostile regime, of course, but there are several miles of room between “does whatever the US wants” and “Iran-allied.” I don’t believe the US wants either extreme.

:rolleyes: Cite? You think the Bush team would put something like that in a public statement or executive order? Of course a free and independent Iraq – free to choose any course of action, including an openly anti-U.S. policy, expulsion of all U.S. troops, repudiation of all reconstruction contracts imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, and an outright military alliance with Iran – would be perfectly compatible in principle with the Administration’s stated goals for nation-building there. Nevertheless, any outcome that produced a government less entirely friendly to the U.S. than were the post-WWII governments of Japan and Germany would be regarded as a major failure of the whole project, by the Administration, by the neocons, by the American business community (who might stand to lose a good part of their investments and opportunities in Iraq), and, by and large, by the American people. You think I’m wrong about any one of those?