Iran’s Near Abroad
This chapter examines Iran’s near abroad. We begin with a description of the current situation, then assess possible changes in the region that could significantly influence Iranian planning, decisionmaking, and resource allocation. For purposes of this analysis, Iran’s near abroad includes not only those nations on its immediate borders, but also countries as far west as Israel.
Iran is the major near-term beneficiary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. move to topple the Baathist regime in Iraq removed any near-term (and probably long-term) strategic threat that Iraq may have posed to Iran. Iran’s power and influence in the region have expanded significantly since the 2003 invasion; this is especially true of Iran’s power and influence over various Shia groups in Iraq.
Although Iran has clearly benefited from the U.S. invasion of Iraq, today’s situation is still threatening to Iran. The U.S. invasion unleashed long-simmering Sunni-Shia resentment that has emerged as an escalating sectarian civil war in Iraq. At this time, no one knows how long or how bitter the Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict will be, or whether it will expand to other nations in the region. Already, there is increasing evidence that Iran and its Shia allies in Iraq and Syria are on the other side of an emerging Saudi-led Sunni Arab alliance that includes Jordan, most of the Persian Gulf states, and Egypt. This may lead to a regional Cold War-type conflict in which both sides