War-weary Iraqis have feelings about Gaza but fear the conflict will spread

“For Iraqis and on the streets of Iraq, it appears that Iran is using Iraq to serve its own regional interests through the war in Gaza,” said Firas Elias, a political science professor at Mosul University who specializes in Iraqi and Iranian politics. “However, if the conflict expands, Iraqis fear their lives will be more affected.”

Iran-backed groups in Iraq say they are supporting Gazans by attacking the United States, Israel’s ally. But the United States has periodically returned fire, including in Baghdad, reminding Iraqis how quickly the conflict can return.

In Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, although most residents adhere to the same Shiite branch of Islam as most Iranians, many see the Iranian government as a malign influence.

“Frankly, Iran put the Palestinians in this situation; they encouraged Hamas on October 7,” said Abu Tibba, a 48-year-old day laborer and father of four who is also a volunteer organizer of the populist and nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. “Where does Hamas get its weapons to fight Israel? From Iran,” he said as he prepared to go to Friday prayers in late April.

“Iran not only got the Palestinians in trouble, but also saw their homes destroyed by Israel and their children killed by Israel,” he said. “For 40 years, Iran has said ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel,’ and what happened? Palestinian homes are destroyed. Palestinians are killed. The Palestinians have nowhere to go.”