The New York Times has an article attempting to clarify complex political tensions cross-linked with religious identity (or not), In an Iraqi City, the Real Ballot Contest Is for Shiite Leadership. The author, Anthony Shadid, states:
The contest bears down on one of the unanswered questions in Iraq’s tortured narrative of invasion, occupation, war and recovery. The country today stands as the only Arab state in which Shiite Muslims rule. Nasiriya is a stage, rendered small, where several Shiite currents, from street movements to venerable parties, are now vying for ascendancy.
That’s not really true. The Alawites of Syria dominate that Sunni-majority nation arguably with as tight a fist as the Sunni Arabs dominated Baath-era Iraq, or the Sunni royal family of Bahrain dominates that island nation. The Alawites are Shia, or at least identify as such. They’ve long had a tacit alliance with Iran, and the Iranian regime’s lack of support for the Sunni Islamists of Hama, who were massacred by Hafez Assad’s army in 1982, reputedly had a lot to do with Sunni rejection of Iran as a leader for worldwide Islamic revivalism. Throughout the 1980s Baathist Syria was aligned against Baathist Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, in keeping with Syria’s traditional pro-Iranian tilt (Syria also is a secondary patron of Hezbollah).
In any case, this is all relatively academic, except for the fact that Syria borders on Iraq, has millions of Iraqi refugees, and likely served as a base for Iraqi insurgents. How does the fact that Syria is dominated by a heterdox Shia sect which rules a Sunni majority influence its relationship to Iraq? That’s for you to explore. I just think it is worth pointing out this error, because if The New York Times can get basic facts retrievable from Wikipedia wrong how much should you trust it when it comes to the political dynamics of an obscure Iraqi city?*
* Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future is worth reading, as he outlines the network of Shia religious movements which span Iran to Lebanon, and now have come into stark relief with the emergence of a “Shia arc” of Iran, Iraq, Syria (Shia dominated) and Lebanon (Hezbollah becoming operational king-makers).