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The Fallacy of Iranian Leverage

Why the Turmoil in Iraq Will Weaken the Islamic Republic

Members of Iran's Basij militia march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war, September 22, 2010. Morteza Nikoubazl / Courtesy Reuters

In the breathless coverage of the bloody advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) through Iraq, some news analysis has suggested that the ISIS victories could actually boost Iranian leverage in the region. According to this view, since the Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is increasingly relying on Iranian support to hold off ISIS expansion, Iran’s influence in the region could rise and its hand in the nuclear negotiations with the West could consequently strengthen.

The West’s nuclear talks with Iran are nearing a critical July 20 deadline for a final deal, so it isn’t surprising to hear speculation about how ISIS’ victories will affect the negotiations. Israeli leaders, for example, have expressed concerns that the United States may try to push through a less than optimal deal as it is tempted to work with Iran to confront a common adversary in Iraq.

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