Will Tehran’s Iraq Policy Change Under Rouhani?

The hopes pinned on a tangible change in Iranian policy toward Iraq are unrealistic in the short term for the following reasons:

  1. The change in the Iranian policy concerning the nuclear issue and Tehran’s relationship with the West came as a result of pressure from the United States and the international community. Similar pressures are lacking when it comes to the Iraqi issue, since international concern is focused on the nuclear issue and regionally on Syria. Additionally, regional countries do not have the necessary abilities to pressure Iran on both issues.
  2. The escalation of the sectarian crisis and the possibility of the United States intervening in the crisis to help Iran's rivals helped influence Iran's change of policy toward appeasement of the West. Iran is concerned about maintaining its regional role. This means it is willing to accept concessions on other issues — such as nuclear weapons — in order to preserve its regional interests, but not vice versa.
  3. Iran considers Iraq a strategic player, and isolation from Iraq represents an existential threat to Iran. Withdrawal from Iraq would mean opening the door to its rivals in the country, and then to defeat in the regional conflict.
  4. In Iran, the Iraqi file is not in the hands of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the presidency. Rather, it is managed under the supervision of an influential group comprised of Revolutionary Guard Corps members and security leaders. This reduces the possibility that a new government can make change in this area.
  5. There is a not a prominent rational Iraqi discourse capable of reconciling Iraqi national interests and dealing positively with Iran. Rather, the Iraqi political scene is mostly split into pro-Iran and anti-Iran sides. This leads to a continuation of the current situation and prevents change in this area.

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