Iraq Struggles With Iran Ties in Wake of Soleimani’s Assassination

Officials try to balance militia interests with protesters

A month after the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, the Iraqi government is continuing to try to manage the state of their ties with the US and Iran, with a major interest in not having those two fight a war on Iraqi soil.

Establishing Iraqi independence is harder than it sounds. The US invasion and occupation in 2003 set up a Shi’ite ruling class that was both tied to the US and had major historic ties to Iran. Most government-building came down to candidates that were palatable to both powers, as opposed to who Iraqis actually wanted.

The rise in recent months of a major protest movement demanding more concrete independence is looming large, and the Shi’ite militias’ ties to the existing power structure are a big reason the militias have been so actively violent against them.

Some protesters see this as a sign Iran is driving the crackdown, but in reality the militias are as much driven by a desire to maintain an advantageous status quo as anything, which implies Iran (and the US) maintaining veto power to keep outsider factions out of Iraq’s government.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of