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Nation-Building in Iraq: Iran 1, the United States 0

In different ways, both the United States and Iran have engaged in nation-building in Iraq. The United States did so very explicitly, announcing to the world its intention to rebuild post-Saddam Iraq as a democratic country with a US trained professional army. Iran’s approach was low profile and focused not on transforming Iraq into a new country but on building strong relations with important domestic actors. The US failed in Iraq, Iran succeeded in establishing itself as the most influential player. No matter how one judges the outcome, it entails an important lesson for the United States about its approach to nation-building.

Nation-Building in Iraq Iran 1 the United States 0
Nation-Building in Iraq: Iran 1, the United States 0
 

In 2003, the United States launched an ambitious nation-building project in Iraq and has little to show for it. Iraq is not united and non-sectarian, nor is it a beacon of democracy in the region, the goals of U.S. nation-building. Washington’s influence is limited and depends entirely on Iraq’s need for support against ISIS. Iran on the other hand, which never talked of nation-building, has penetrated Iraqi politics and society, establishing the conditions for its own long-lasting influence. 

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