Good relations with Syria are crucial for Iran's ability to reach the Mediterranean and their Shiite allies in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Iran's Shiite leadership has long supported the Assad regime whose core members belong to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiism. Iraq, whose population and leadership are also predominantly Shiite, has not officially taken a side in Syria's conflict but has been cozying up to Iran.
The Iranian flights raise big questions about the U.S.'s influence in Iraq after the nine-year war.
"This region is about to explode," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told reports in Baghdad today, according to the AP. "They're in a pickle here…The reason they're probably not pushing back on Iran is because they don't see how this ends. There's an amazing lack of American leadership, and it's beginning to show on all fronts."