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US-Iran tensions shift Iraq from brink of reform to brink of war

After its assassination of a major player in Iraq, the United States must now engage with the anti-government, pro-reform nationalist protesters in Iraq in order to push against Iranian influence in the country.
A member of Iraqi security forces walks near burning tyres at the reception room of the U.S. Embassy, during a protest to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), in Baghdad, Iraq January 1, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC207E9KASMJ

Rising US-Iranian tensions over the past week have seemingly brought the two sides closer to outright confrontation than at any time in the past four decades. Tehran’s vow to take revenge for the US drone strike Jan. 3 that killed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or Hashid Shaabi, last week in Baghdad has been met with equally bellicose statements by US President Donald Trump, who sent 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East after the assassination and promised that any Iranian action would be met with a massive US military response.

Meanwhile, rockets have been aimed in the vicinity of the Green Zone housing the US Embassy in Baghdad, and the Iraqi Council of Representatives — under pressure from Iranian-linked militia groups within the PMU — passed the first reading of legislation demanding the complete withdrawal of American forces from Baghdad.

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