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Syria Splits Shiite Clergy in Iraq, Iran

While Shiite authorities in Iran and Iraq have historically had a close relationship, Iran has been dismayed by Najafi clerics's refusal to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.
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Following the 2003 events, the Iranian regime adopted various methods in dealing with Iraqi society. The use of clerics who represent Iran’s will in Iraq is one of the methods that has been adopted thus far. This is due to the existence of a Shiite majority in Iraq, as well as the presence of the Najaf seminary there — the highest religious center for Shiites across the world. Thus, these clerics played a special role in the representation of Iran, both in Iraq and other countries with Shiite populations.

Iranian clerics are divided into two main groups in Iraq. The first is made up of the seminary’s underclassmen, who were used by Iran to form Shiite militias tasked with maintaining Iran's regional interests in Iraq. The second group is made up of the upperclassmen, who represent the official Iranian position in Iraq, in order to establish a unified Shiite stance amid the escalating sectarian conflict plaguing the region.

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