Iran’s influence in Iraq is declining. Here’s why.

Recent data from surveys conducted by my research group, Alustakilla (IIACSS), shows new trends in public opinion about Iran among Iraqi Shiites. These surveys are based on nationwide representative samples of 2,500 to 3,500 face-to-face interviews conducted two to three times annually during the past decade.

The findings from recent surveys reveal genuinely striking changes. The percentage of Iraqi Shiites who have favorable attitudes toward Iran decreased from 88 percent in 2015 to 47 percent in the fall of 2018. During the same period, those who have unfavorable attitudes toward Iran increased from 6 percent to 51 percent. This means that the majority of Iraqi Shiites currently have negative attitudes toward Iran.

At the same time, the percentage of Shiites who believe that Iran is a reliable partner in Iraq has decreased sharply, from 76 percent to 43 percent, over the same period. Those who believe that Iran is not a reliable partner increased from 24 percent to 55 percent. There is a significant increase in the percentage of Iraqi Shiites who believe that Iran is a real threat to Iraqi sovereignty. This number has jumped from 25 percent in 2016 to 58 percent in 2018.