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A protester in Baghdad rejects U.S. and Iranian influence. Photo: Ameer Al Mohammedaw/picture alliance via Getty Images

Hundreds of secret Iranian intelligence cables obtained by the Intercept and shared with the New York Times "show how Iran, at nearly every turn, has outmaneuvered the United States in the contest for influence" in Iraq, per the Times.

Why it matters: Widespread protests in Iraq against corruption and poor government services have in some cases been spurred on by another grievance: Iranian influence over Iraqi politics. These documents, which date to 2014-2015, offer glimpses of how that influence was built and exercised — often at the expense of, and due to failures by, the U.S.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq’s embattled prime minister, is described as having a "special relationship" with Iran as of 2014, when he was oil minister.

  • The exact nature of that relationship is unclear. Mahdi was considered a compromise pick between the U.S. and Iran when he took office a year ago.

Haider al-Abadi, Mahdi’s predecessor, initially concerned the Iranians because of his links to the U.S. and the U.K.

  • Those concerns appeared to abate during an emergency meeting at the Iranian embassy. Officers discussed the deep links between several Iraqi Cabinet members and Tehran.

The big picture: Iran gained influence in the chaos that followed the U.S. invasion, and in particular after the 2011 troop withdrawal when "the CIA had tossed many of its longtime secret agents out on the street."

  • One former CIA spy, known to the agency as Donnie Brasco, switched sides in 2014 and offered Iran everything from the locations of safe houses to the names and appearances of Iraqis spying for the U.S.
  • In another case, Iran offered a U.S. State Department employee money and gold to spy for Tehran. It’s unclear what became of that effort.
  • Meanwhile, an Iraqi intelligence officer offered an Iranian counterpart access to "secret targeting software" along with information about a "system for eavesdropping on mobile phones" — both provided to Iraq by the U.S.

The bottom line: "Today, Iran is struggling to maintain its hegemony in Iraq, just as the Americans did after the 2003 invasion. Iraqi officials, meanwhile, are increasingly worried that a provocation in Iraq on either side could set off a war between the two powerful countries vying for dominance in their homeland," per the Times.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Health

Massage, facial, pedicure... intravenous drip?

A salon on the Upper East Side of New York that offers IV drip therapies. Photo: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

IV drips — the kind you might get if you're rushed to the hospital — are trending as a spa treatment, thanks in part to endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Madonna.

Why it matters: Like other "wellness" trends with a whiff of medical imprimatur, IV nutrient drips can be harmless or mildly restorative — or go awry, particularly in the wrong hands.

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Philanthropy in the age of crypto

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The best charities are increasingly effective. That's the clear message sent by Open Philanthropy, the think tank that doubles as the grant-making vehicle for Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna.

Why it matters: With tech and crypto wealth becoming a fast-growing part of the philanthropic pie, there's more of an emphasis than ever on effectiveness — what the newly-divorced Melinda French Gates, in her recent Giving Pledge update, characterizes as giving as "impactfully as possible."

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