(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)
Iran saw Iraq as a threat, having been attacked previously (7.4.4). It had reason to doubt that the UN would help to maintain security in the region and it therefore had a policy of Self-Protection.
It is a predominantly Shi’ite country, so it had some basis for sympathy with Iraq’s majority Shi’ite population – wanting Saddam to be overthrown – but its population is mostly Persian, in contrast to Iraq which is mostly Arab; Iranians do not feel a strong affinity with Iraqis.
America’s coercive foreign policy towards Iran had included the CIA coup against Mossadeq in 1953 (7.3.4), propping up the Shah (18.104.22.168), support for Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 (7.4.4), and the “axis of evil” speech (7.4.2). Iran therefore saw America as its enemy, so it was likely to support resistance to American initiatives in the region.
Iran’s authoritarian government (22.214.171.124) would see a nearby democracy in Iraq as a threat to its own authoritarian regime.
© PatternsofPower.org, 2014
 Shireen Hunter wrote an article entitled Sectarian and Ethnic Tensions in the Middle East Do not Serve the Region’s or the West’s Interests, which discounted the probability of the formation of a “Shi’a Crescent” and pointed out that “the recent history of the Shi’as has shown that ethnic and other loyalties are stronger than religious affinity”. This article was available in April 2014 at http://acmcu.georgetown.edu/sectarian-and-ethnic-tension.