On September 7, the citizens of Basra, Iraq, poured into the streets chanting “Iran, out!” while targeting the Iranian consulate with several rockets. These protests have, in fact, been stirring for several months, with this most recent eruption of violence in Basra serving as a microcosm of the issues Iraq, if not the rest of the Middle East, faces as the result of Iranian militarism.
The Iranian rial has seen its value plummet against the dollar this past week amid rumors that the U.S. will impose a new round of economic sanctions in the coming days. Iranians have scrambled to exchange in their rials for dollars in recent months, not knowing what the future may hold for their economy. These transactions, along with the speculation of sanctions, have caused the currency to see a sharp decline in value year to date.
With ISIS largely defeated, Iraq has retreated to the periphery of American attention; America and its allies abroad have left Iraq on its own after over a decade of intense involvement.This lack of engagement leaves a power vacuum open for exploitation by Iran, and yes, even a resurgent ISIS. A policy of complete disengagement is not only to the detriment of American interests, but those of its regional allies. The United States must decide whether it will stand idly by as the modest but appreciable gains made by trillions of dollars and the lives of thousands of US service members are swept away by Islamic extremism, or selectively engage in the region to counterbalance growing Iranian influence.