The Economist quotes Rafik Hariri Center Nonresident Fellow Ramzy Mardini on Iranian involvement in the ongoing conflict in Iraq:
Iran’s official line is that it has no forces in Iraq. Yet on July 5th Iran’s state media published pictures of the funeral of an Iranian pilot killed in Samarra, barely two hours’ drive north of Baghdad. Though Iran does not seek to publicise the extent of its involvement, it nonetheless relishes the chance to secure a place as the region’s superpower, a quest made all the easier by America’s reluctance to get embroiled.
At the same time, Iran’s rulers are conscious of the risk of blowback if they get too deeply sucked into Iraq. They must be queasy about Mr Maliki’s failure to mount an effective military counter-attack against the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now renamed the plain State of the Islam, and by his refusal so far to widen his Shia-dominated government to include more Sunnis or Kurds in senior posts. Yet there is no sign in Tehran of a desire to ditch Mr Maliki. “Iran’s involvement is likely to contribute to the further regionalisation of the conflict,” says Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think-tank. “In the United States there is too much wishful thinking that Iran has decided to ditch Maliki.”