During the US invasion of Iraq, Iran backed armed factions there to keep the threat of a US attack on itself at bay. Behravesh, who follows Iran’s foreign policy closely, told Al-Monitor, “If the escalated tone in statements is coupled with realistic military threats, Iran will use the Iraqi armed factions to pressure the United States. This might result in a military clash between the United States and Iran on Iraqi territories.”
Any military clash between the United States and these factions would undermine Abadi’s attempts to contain the Shiite factions in Iraq and increase Iranian influence, going against the goals of Trump’s administration to limit Iran’s activities in the region. Unlike his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, Abadi does not have ties to Iran.
Tensions between Abadi and several leaders of the Popular Mobilization Units, who are close to Iran, have surfaced in the past. They accused him of marginalizing the group. If Iran feels an imminent threat, it will not only exert military and security pressure on Iraq, but will also use its political influence to push for the election of a friendlier prime minister to reduce US influence there.
A clash between the United States and Iran-backed Iraqi military factions will weaken these factions in their fight against IS, making an IS comeback possible. As Trump indicated by calling on US military leaders to create a plan to defeat IS within 30 days, the US administration is unlikely to jeopardize this goal.