Iraq’s Stability Struggles Amid US, Iran Tensions

Iraqi officials continue to try not to become a proxy host

US and Saudi moves against Iran are being felt across the Middle East, but perhaps nowhere more than Iraq. Sandwiched between Iran and the Saudi kingdom, Iraqis are finding themselves in the middle of a lot of rhetoric and policy moves.

A Shi’ite government with close ties to both the US and Iran, Iraq has tried to position itself as neutrally as possible, and to avoid becoming a proxy. Yet US moves constantly accuse Iraqi government militia forces of being “Iranian-backed,” and Israel has even taken to attacking Iraq as a way of attacking Iran.

All of this is a nightmare for Prime Minister Abdel-Mahdi in trying to maintain stability, with hopes of limiting the militias’ powers pretty much impossible so long as they are being directly targeted by Israel and rhetorically targeted by the US.

In continuing to host US forces, Iraq all but guarantees that a US-Iran War would be fought in part on Iraqi soil. That is a driving factor in a lot of Iraqi MPs pushing for US expulsion. At the same time, the US would almost certainly view that as “choosing Iran” and move economically against Iraq, which they can ill-afford after decades of war.

As with a lot of situations, Iraq has no good play here, having set themselves up, necessarily, to be friendly to both Iran and the US, and finding themselves in an environment where both would much prefer they choose a side.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.