While U.S.–Iran tensions simmer, Iraq — long a flashpoint between the two countries — is nearing a major political transformation. Iraq last held elections in 2010 and the winner — secular nationalist Ayad Allawi, who carried 91 out of 329 parliamentary seats — didn’t take power. This was largely due to American and Iranian backing of the sectarian Dawa Party’s Nouri al-Maliki.
The backdrop: Under Maliki’s leadership, Iraq’s military collapsed against the Islamic State. Millions of Iraqis were displaced. The U.S., which had begun to withdraw in 2010, had to return thousands of troops to stem the chaos, and Iran still managed to take a dominant position in Iraqi politics. In 2014 a different Dawa party leader, current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, was pushed into power.