Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has recently adopted an unusually aggressive tone against Washington and with his Iraq visit, experts say the Shia leader wants to send a message to both his internal and external rivals that he can hold his ground.
Sistani has been one of the most influential religious leaders in Iraqi politics since the US invasion of Iraq. While his word is not law - it cannot be ignored.
As US president Donald Trump says he wants American troops in Iraq to watch over Iran, experts say the real aim could be to prepare for a war with Tehran.
If the US genuinely wanted to counter Iran, and strengthen Iraq, it would put its considerable resources towards helping Iraqis build an authentic national movement that represents all Iraqis.
Iraq's current system of democracy is hardwired for sectarianism, but its discontents suffer without prejudice.
Iraqi elections' big winner Moqtada al Sadr promised a non-corrupt political system, less sectarian division, and sovereignty under a coalition he wants to create. But the challenge of realising them is bigger than forming a government.
The de-Baathification and complete dismantling of the existing political, military, academic, and civil services institutions by the US and their local allies has condemned the country's political and economic growth for the foreseaable future.
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