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What Rouhani’s visit to Iraq tells us about Iran’s Syria policy

The Iranian president’s recent visit to Iraq and a possible first trip to Syria since his taking office in 2013 indicate a growing role for the Rouhani administration on regional files.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during a meeting with tribal leaders in Kerbala, Iraq, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen - RC18FCCF2B90

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent landmark trip to Iraq was closely monitored and discussed from various aspects by the media and analysts around the world. Some observers put their focus on the bilateral aspect, talking about the importance of the visit in terms of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, while others analyzed it within the context of Iran’s plans to overcome the US sanctions. There have been also debates on the meaning of Rouhani’s trip for internal political divisions in Iran and Iraq.

But a largely ignored — and yet very important — aspect of the Iranian president’s three-day visit to Iraq is the explicit and implicit implications of the trip for Iran’s policy in Syria.

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