But while the Trump administration’s influence has ebbed in Baghdad, Iran is now also facing serious problems at home that could interfere with its Iraq policy. Beginning in November after a big spike in gas prices, large-scale protests have erupted in Tehran and other Iranian cities. Protesters quickly moved beyond demands for economic relief to call for the ouster of the Iranian government.
The demonstrations have been met with murderous fire by Iranian security forces. Accurate figures aren’t available, but a State Department official said in a briefing last week that 1,000 or more protestors have been killed, while at least 7,000 have been arrested.
Trump administration officials agree. “Iran has become increasingly dependent on Iraq and Lebanon as economic release valves,” one senior U.S. official said. But the administration seems to think that’s a good thing — a sign that sanctions are having an impact on Iran. The fact that U.S. sanctions policy has led Iran to intensify its efforts to maintain its influence in Baghdad doesn’t appear to have merited much discussion in Washington.