The most recent blow to Iranian influence was the victory of Muqtada al-Sadr’s political coalition in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in May 2018. He reached out to poor Shiites, marginalized Sunnis and even secular parties who wanted a change in Baghdad. Although he cannot form a government on his own or become prime minister, he will play an important role in shaping a new political climate that is likely to be more resilient to Iranian influence.
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The pressing economic problems, paralyzing air pollution and transnational identity politics have made Khuzestan an important challenge for the Islamic Republic. Although the Arab separatist movements are still weak, the status quo, if left unchanged, will provide a breeding ground for further politicization of ethnic Arab identity in Iran. Internal Arab grievances will lead to more racialization, which could be exploited by Iran’s regional rivals, notably Saudi Arabia.
Like the Baathist ideology in its time, IS’s takfirist discourse, excommunicating Muslims on the basis of their supposed apostasy and promoted by Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Iraqi followers, is inseparable from the cycles of civil conflict that have plagued Iraq. It may re-erupt as IS has not been entirely defeated on the ground.
One of the first regionally significant missions was to help to establish Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1982 after Israeli invasion. The Quds Force provided essential assistance for the creation Hezbollah which developed into the most powerful organization in Lebanon and a powerful ally of Iran. In recent years, the Quds Force has operated in many other countries like Syria and worked with other sub-state actors such Houthis in Yemen and Hamas in Palestine.