11/23/14 04:53 PM ET
WASHINGTON -- The Islamic Republic of Iran would like to make one thing clear: We've got this.
Up until June 10, Iranian officials had been content to shape events in Iraq quietly through their hold on local Shiite militias and the prime minister at the time, Nouri al-Maliki.
Then the Iraqi government lost Mosul, the nation's second-largest city, to the growing Sunni extremist force now known as the Islamic State, or ISIS. The U.S. eventually responded: It forced a new government to take power, sent in airpower and military advisers, and launched an international effort against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
But months before the U.S. showed that it was willing to invest heavily in the region again, Iran decided the rise of ISIS gave it the chance to stop being coy about its control of the Iraqi government.
The Iranian influence has only grown more visible now that the U.S. is embroiled in Iraq again. Control of the critical Interior Ministry was awarded last month to a representative of the Badr militia, one of the top Iranian proxies in Iraq.
The picture above shows Badr's leader, Hadi al-Amiri, chuckling with General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran's internationally oriented paramilitary Quds Force. The publication of the photograph is a signal from Iran of just how powerful it is in Iraq, a high-ranking U.S. official said. Iran is embracing the Iraqi government and the Shiite militias.
Read More (with images)