An officer’s report: Here’s what I saw of Iran’s burgeoning soft power in Iraq / Thomas Ricks

When Matt Valkovic finished his tour of duty in Iraq, he got out of the Army, hung up his captain's bars, and became a "temporary ski bum." I asked him for his thoughts from the slopes of Colorado about the land between the rivers-or, as he put it, his reflections from the lift line on the Sunni/Shia fault line. Here they are. And remember that the guy in the chairlift next to you might just have finished a tour of duty.

I've been home from Iraq for about five months after having spent a year with my battalion in the northwest Baghdad district of Kadhimiya. I'm also out of the Army (well, IRR to be exact) with plans to work and attend graduate school in DC. I'm lucky enough to be spending some down time in Colorado, living the ski-bum life, before jumping into a new job and a new life. Sometimes, though, riding up the ski lift, I think about where I was and what I was doing a year ago and then wonder what's going on today in my old corner of Baghdad.

A little O/I backgrounder first: while Sadr City is probably the more well known Shia neighborhood in Baghdad, the Kadhimiya district and more precisely, the central Kadhimiya neighborhood, is a tourist trap, a holy Shia landmark and an economic dynamo. It's home to the Musa Al Kadhim shrine, the burial site of the 7th and 9th Shia Imams. Next to Karbala and Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran, Kadhimiya is one of the most important holy sites in Shia Islam. Explaining Kadhimiya to friends and relatives, I of... >>>

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