Shiite militiamen south of Baghdad, July 2014
Alaa Al-Marjani / Reuters

Last week, rockets landed in what was once known as the Green Zone—the heavily fortified neighborhood in western Baghdad where the American embassy is located. It was the second such attack since May, when another rocket exploded near the massive U.S. compound. Then as now, the Trump administration thinks the attacks were the work of Shiite militias in Iraq with close ties to Iran. Washington has long called on the Iraqi government to clamp down on these Iranian proxy forces and cut off relations with Tehran. The U.S. response to the latest attack will likely be to double down on those calls and dial up the pressure on Baghdad.

That approach is unwise. The current government in Baghdad is on good terms with Washington but cannot survive if it makes an enemy of Tehran. The last thing it wants is to get caught in the crossfire between

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  • ROBERT S. FORD is a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute and Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He worked at the American embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006 and 2008 to 2010. From 2011 to 2014, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Syria.
  • RANDA SLIM is Director of the Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute and a Nonresident Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Foreign Policy Institute.
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