Yet as antipathy toward Iran continues to build across Iraq, the Islamic Republic isn’t going to cede its stranglehold over the country easily.
Forging new links in Shia Crescent
The “Shia Crescent” concept is vital to understanding the political sentiments engulfing Iraq. In late 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan coined the idea of the Shia Crescent, a regional vector of militant Shia influence radiating outward from three key Shia-dominated government centers: Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad. As Iranian power grew in the region over the last decade, the Shia Crescent manifested itself and is now a reality on the ground. It remains relevant to both contemporary US foreign-policy making and broader Middle Eastern power dynamics.
Outside of Baghdad, the activities of Shia-backed organizations and state-sanctioned militia groups remain contested. Nevertheless, after the defeat of the Iraqi branch of Islamic State (ISIS) and the subsequent withdrawal of the bulk of US military forces, Iran has become increasingly audacious in its efforts to embed political and strategic influence in Iraq. Using a mixture of subterfuge and well-financed political support, Iran has cultivated considerable political influence along the initial arc of the Shia Crescent.