Iran changes tack in Iraqi politics after mastermind’s assassination

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BAGHDAD: Two diplomats are quietly leading Iran’s push to influence politics in Iraq, in a departure from the more blunt enforcement employed by Qassem Soleimani, a top commander slain in a U.S. air strike.

The consensual tactics in a country where Iran has wrestled with Washington for influence for nearly two decades was designed to break a political deadlock in Baghdad and hasten the departure of nearly 5,000 U.S. troops from Iraq, according to three senior Iranian officials involved in the process.

“Sometimes you need to step back, observe and plan based on realities on the ground,” said a senior Iranian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We want the Americans to leave the region. If there is chaos in Iraq … Americans will use it as an excuse to extend their stay.” A U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington did not interfere in Iraqi politics.

Washington and Tehran came close to war earlier this year after rocket attacks on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces and U.S. air strikes against militia groups, including the one that killed Soleimani in January in Baghdad. —Agencies

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