Turkish state-run news agency ran an opinion piece Monday arguing Iran is the biggest single threat to Iraq’s stability.
The piece described the state-linked Popular Mobilization Forces – which Iran helped set up in fighting against the Islamic State group – as a means just to strengthen Iran's military presence as part of a regional strategy also pursued in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
The writer portrays Iran as directly interfering in internal Iraqi affairs for at least 20 years, not just through its relationship with militias but with missile attacks and influencing elections. Late in 2021, Iraq's Supreme Court rejected appeals by pro-Iran Shi'ite parties against results of a parliamentary poll in which they performed poorly.
Iraq has been a battlefield for influence between the United States and Iran since the 2003 US-led invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein and created a path to power for a Shi'ite majority whose parties had been suppressed and had been based in Damascus or Tehran.
Turkey has long extended its influence in Iraq, especially in the Kurdish-held north and among allied Turkmen groups.
The Turkish news agency article portrayed visits to Iraq by Esmail Ghaani, leader of Iran’s extraterritorial Quds Force, as an example of Iran obstructing stability. It also mentioned the 2020 attack by rioters on the Baghdad office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Kurdish party closest to Ankara.