Prospects for Increased Iranian Influence in Iraq
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, the subject of today’s hearings is one of considerable importance to American interests in the Middle East. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the Islamic Republic has seen itself as locked in a struggle with the United States. At times, that competition was restrained—and even showed signs of possible detente. At other times, Iran has aggressively sought to hurt American interests by employing a wide range of stratagems and methods. Unfortunately, at present, and arguably for the past two years, Iran has turned decidedly in the direction of greater confrontation with the United States.
In light of the administration’s announcement that all American combat troops will be removed from Iraq by the end of 2011, it is particularly important for the United States government to consider how that decision will affect Iraq’s future security, and especially how it may affect Iran’s ability to influence or even dominate Iraq. There is no question that Iran has huge equities in Iraq, that it intends to maximize its influence there, and that Iran’s goals in Iraq are mostly inimical to our own. Because of Iraq’s intrinsic importance coupled with its significance to the vital Persian Gulf region, preventing Iran from achieving its maximal goals in Iraq will be crucial to America’s interests in the region. Moreover, given the remarkable transformations sweeping the Arab world, it would be a terrible tragedy if Iran were able to exploit the volatility of the Arab Awakening to strengthen its position and undermine the stability of the Middle East. Here as well, Iran’s ability to shape the outcome in Iraq will play a major role in determining how well Tehran is able to influence the wider political changes in the region. For all of these reasons, what happens in Iraq, and what happens regarding Iranian influence in Iraq, is one of the crucial questions facing the region today.
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