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Strategic confusion

Misunderstanding Iran's role works to increase its influence in Iraq

In their testimony before Congress this week, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and General David Petraeus portrayed recent clashes between competing Iraqi factions as a fight between the Iraqi government and Iranian-supported groups looking to undermine that government. This simplistic "good guys versus bad guys" depiction masks a much more complicated reality in which U.S. policy in Iraq unwittingly strengthens Iran’s overall hand there and around the region.

Speaking before Congress, General Petraeus said, "Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support to the special groups," referring to Shiite splinter groups allegedly receiving support from Iran. According to the general, the recent clashes between Shiite groups stretching from Basra in the south all the way to Baghdad "highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming, and directing the so-called special groups."

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