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Comparison of Iraq and Iran Military Strengths (2024)


Since Hamas launched the conflict in

Gaza on October 7, 2023, there has been a dangerous pattern of escalation across the Middle East. Iran and its allies, such as the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraqi paramilitaries linked to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, have engaged in retaliatory actions against

in opposition to Israel and the presence of the US military in the area. This situation poses a significant risk of further escalation, especially after Iran's unprecedented direct

attack on Israel on April 13, 2024, in response to Israel's bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1.

Iran's military capabilities

The expansion of Iran's military capabilities, characterized by its formidable missile arsenal, presents a unique challenge for Iraq. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that Iran possesses one of the most extensive collections of ballistic missiles and drones in West Asia, including cruise and anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, allowing Iran to target any location, including Iraq. Public displays of Iran's military power, often seen during military parades, underscore its commitment to maintaining and expanding its armaments. Additionally, Iran's aspirations for a successful drone export market are evident, with reports pointing to their use in conflicts such as Ukraine and Sudan, including their use by Russia. However, Israel retains a strategic advantage in nuclear capabilities, with an estimated 80 nuclear warheads, including gravity bombs and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, further complicating regional dynamics.

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Connection between Iraq and Iran

The dynamic between Iraq and Iran is shaped by a complex interplay of historical enmities and cultural ties. Despite a history marked by conflict and hostility, there is a deep-rooted bond that was fostered during the Iraqi exile in Iran from 1968 to 2003 under the Baathist regime, contributing to a sense of shared experience. The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime after the American invasion ushered in a new era of Iraqi governance with significant Iranian influence, further intertwining the fates of the two nations.

Iran's foreign policy towards Iraq is driven by its recognition of Iraq's potential, despite the turmoil that has plagued the country for decades. Today, Iraq boasts significant oil reserves, a rapidly growing population, and diplomatic ties with Arab countries, increasing its strategic importance. Moreover, there is a growing sense of Iraqi nationalism that emphasizes its identity, reflecting the desire for sovereignty and independence.

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However, from an Iranian perspective, Iraq's continued alliance with the US military and its willingness to cooperate with the US remain sources of concern. Despite Iraq's transformation from a once-belligerent neighbor to a potentially influential regional player, its ties to the US continue to unsettle Iranian policymakers, raising questions about Iraq's loyalty.

Iraq plays a key role as Iran's primary economic conduit, especially amid international sanctions, serving as a vital link for trade and commerce. However, Iraqi officials and politicians harbor ambitions to ease Tehran's grip by encouraging stronger ties with the West and discreetly challenging the influence of Iran-backed armed groups, reflecting a desire for greaterautonomy and sovereignty. If these efforts prove successful, it could afford Iraq greater autonomy, paving the way for improved stability, socio-economic development, and expanded opportunities for regional diplomacy and conflict resolution, potentially changing regional power dynamics.

In this turbulent regional environment, with Iran facing increasing isolation, it is likely to redouble its influence in Iraq, seeking to maintain its strategic foothold. Europeans now face a crucial decision: they can either inadvertently support Iran's agenda by adopting a punitive stance toward Iraq, inadvertently empowering Iran, or they can actively support Iraqi initiatives aimed at establishing autonomy, thus promoting stability and sovereignty in the region.


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