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With all the attention focused on a nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, there has not been much discussion in the West of the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East.While Arab states, particularly in the Gulf, have expressed anxiety with Iran's growing power in the region, little has been said about the limits of Iranian ambition and the strong counterreactions it has provoked and will continue to provoke.Iran has a finger in several Arab pies. The primary medium through which Iran has extended its influence is Arab Shiite communities.The continuity of territory between Iran and the Levant (or Iran and Yemen), which can allow Iran to arm and assist Shiite communities there, is never uncontested. This has created a vulnerability in the Iranian position, pushing the Islamic Republic to frequently resort to Shiite communal solidarity, which itself has hardened sectarian fault lines and redoubled the obstacles Iran faces. However, in countries where political, sectarian and ethnic divisions make this impossible, Iran will exacerbate fragmentation.
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