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How US sanctions could be boosting Iran's presence in Iraq

Reimposed US sanctions have encouraged an active Iranian geo-economic agenda in neighboring Iraq, a profitable market where Tehran can ease the pressure coming from Washington.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq January 13, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily - RC1447E53E80
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Geopolitical power projection could be, at first sight, the logic underlying Iran's policy of expanding ties with and playing a role in Iraq. But in recent years, and with the growing necessity arising from the reimposition of US sanctions, Tehran has chosen to also focus on geo-economic interests in Iraq. It has tried, therefore, to augment its share of the Iraqi market and major economic projects, helping develop Iraq’s soft and hard infrastructure.

The vacuum created by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq provided significant room for Iran's strategic interactions with Iraq. And now the Trump administration's sanctions have paradoxically helped Iran concentrate on pursuing geo-economic interests in Iraq.

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