Iran has become more open about its cooperation with the Iraqi government. On his latest visit to Baghdad, Eshaq Jahangiri, the Iranian First Vice President, stated that “Iraq’s security equals Iran’s security”. He assured all concerned that Iran would continue backing the Iraq government in its fight against Islamist groups and militias.
In recent months Iran has not only provided economic assistance, it has also supplied military equipment. Although Iranian officials have never confirmed the exact quantity of arms that have crossed the border, Mehdi Tayeb, head of the Ammar base, suggested a figure close to $16 billion since June last year. Quds Force fighters have also been sent to Iraq to train local soldiers, and in late November last year, Qassem Suleimani, the Quds Force Commander, led Iraqi Kurdish fighters, Shia militias and Iraqi Security Forces fighting in the Diyala region. Earlier that same month, Iranian fighter jets had carried out air strikes targeting the same area.
This increased support from the Iranian government stems in part from its fear of Islamist groups crossing over into its own territory. For Tehran, it is better to assist in fighting the militias now, than to wait for a potential spillover. Perhaps more importantly, Iran’s involvement in Iraq has the potential of strengthening the former's credibility within the international community. There is also hope that the military equipment and economic assistance provided will guarantee future bilateral cooperation between Iran and Iraq.
Some Iraqi officials have expressed concerns that Iran might overstay their welcome when ISIS is no longer a threat. The Iraq government is weak, and Tehran might take advantage of the situation. However, there are dangers far greater and more disturbing than Iran infringing on Iraq’s sovereignty. Instead of worrying about the potential actions of Iran, those concerned should be figuring out how to rebuild the country and work to ensure a peaceful environment.