Iraqis carry a poster of a fighter who was killed, at a Baghdad protest organized by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades.
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Iranian support and military advisers helped Baghdad's Shiite-led government beat back Daesh (ISIS).Under Saddam, many of Iraq's Shiite political elite spent years in exile in Iran. Since Saddam's ouster, Iraqi markets have been stocked with Iranian goods and millions of Iranian pilgrims descend on Iraq each year to visit holy shrines in the cities of Samarra, Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala.When entire divisions of Iraq's military disintegrated following the fall of the city of Mosul to Daesh in the summer of 2014, Iranian influence soared. Weeks before the U.S. began a bombing campaign against Daesh, Iranian advisers and support for Iraqi Shiite militias, which became known as Al-Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization, helped halt Daesh's advance, which came dangerously close to Baghdad. Iran is not the only one trying to influence the May vote, said Joost Hiltermann, a longtime Iraq researcher with the International Crisis Group.The future of American forces in Iraq hinges in large part on who becomes Iraq's next prime minister and who gets to lead the country's most powerful ministries.
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