First Person

The Persian Puzzle—Iran, Iraq, and the United States


Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani
Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani meets with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Tehran on Sept. 18, 2016. Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

What a trove of leaked Iranian cables tells us about Iran’s influence in Iraq.

The U.S. airstrike that killed the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani last week has brought tensions between the two countries to a boiling point, with Iran vowing to avenge the killing. Suleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the country’s top intelligence commander. The United States says he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members during the Iraq War.

But Suleimani also had critics in the region, including thousands of Iraqi demonstrators who had taken to the streets in recent months to protest Iran’s growing influence in Iraq’s political affairs. A recent report published jointly by the New York Times and the Intercept relied on hundreds of leaked intelligence cables to outline just how deep that influence runs.

On First Person this week, we hear from the New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi. She was a member of the investigative team that brought the leaked cables to light. Fassihi is also the author of the book Waiting for An Ordinary Day, a memoir of her four years covering the Iraq War and witnessing the unraveling of social life for Iraqi citizens.

About First Person:  Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.  See All Episodes


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