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Iran in Iraq: the limits of ‘smart power’ amidst public protest

Watkins, Jessica (2020) Iran in Iraq: the limits of ‘smart power’ amidst public protest. LSE Middle East Centre Paper Series (37). LSE Middle East Centre, London, UK.

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Post 2003, Iran has shown greater aptitude than Western states for penetrating Iraqi politics and society, producing ‘smart power’ by manipulating the combination of identity politics, patronage networks, and coercion which have become prevalent in both. But Iranian interference has been a major source of grievance for Iraqis since the outbreak of the October 2019 popular protests, undermining the Islamic Republic’s non-coercive influence. This paper situates Iran’s influence-gaining strategies in Iraq within its broader regional foreign policy objectives. Focusing on heritage, religious authority, charitable activities and media broadcasting, the paper draws on Arabic and Farsi language social and traditional media sources to argue that while the Islamic Republic has invested in potential sources of ‘soft power’ to broadly appeal to Iraqis, it has prioritised core support groups whose activities are increasingly unpalatable to the public. The paper reflects on how international actors should respond to current expressions of anti-Iran sentiment in Iraq.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Middle East Centre
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2020 10:21
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:50

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