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Leaked intelligence trove reveals Iran's grip on Iraq

November 18, 2019

Iranian intelligence cables have revealed the country's tangled involvement in Iraqi affairs. The revelation comes as Iraq enters its sixth week of civil unrest over Iranian influence.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Haider al-Abadi in 2014
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Leaked documents, published on Monday, revealed how Iran has asserted its influence over Iraqi affairs in recent years.

The information was contained in a trove of secret Iranian intelligence cables obtained by online news publication The Intercept and shared with US daily The New York Times.

Key findings of the reports

  • Iran recruited ex-CIA informants after the US pulled out its troops from Iraq in 2011, leaving the assets "jobless and destitute" and ready to share their knowledge.
  • In a meeting between military officers, Baghdad reportedly signaled to Tehran: "All of the Iraqi Army's intelligence — consider it yours."
  • Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was willing to have ties with Iranian intelligence and detailed a January 2015 meeting with an operative. Abadi denied this taking place in a statement released after the leak was revealed.
  • The cables, written mainly in 2014-2015, at the height of the war against the Islamic State, show heavy interference by Iran, with Iraq yielding on the issue.

Undisclosed source

The New York Times and The Intercept said they had verified about 700 pages of reports received from an anonymous source. The source had said they wanted to "let the world know what Iran is doing in my country Iraq."

Vanessa Gezari, National Security Editor at The Intercept, said: "We received these documents, we didn't know who they were from, we still don't know who they're from."

Unrest in both countries

The leaked papers come after growing anti-Iran sentiment expressed by protesters in Iraq, where more than 300 people have died since the unrest began at the beginning of October.

The demonstrations in Iraq have exposed long-held resentment at what citizens feel is neighboring Iran's interference in the running of their country. As a result, Iraqis have targeted Shiite political parties and militias with close relations to Tehran.

The leak also comes at a time of deadly protests in Iran itself after the government's decision to raise gasoline prices by 50%.

jsi/aw (AP, AFP)

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