Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who once sought refuge in Iran as an exile, has officially maintained his neutrality while his eastern neighbor have thrown its full support behind the Syrian regime. Out of political necessity, he has also recently made significant efforts to build alliances with moderate Iraqi Sunni groups, offering a hint of cross-sectarian cooperation in a region increasingly defined by religious schism.

“Our Iranian brothers do not like it,” said a close adviser to Maliki, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject…

The Shiite-led Iraqi government has avoided taking sides, at least overtly. Although many leaders worry that a new regime in Syria would be hostile to Iraq, they are more concerned about minimizing domestic unrest. And although the government has looked the other way while Iran has shuttled arms to Damascus through Iraqi airspace, it also has responded to diplomatic pressure from the United States by inspecting some flights and refraining from giving more direct support.