IRAQ: Iran has considerable influence with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It also is believed to have ties to Shiite militias that waged attacks on U.S. troops before their withdrawal. The U.S. maintains a strong political presence in Iraq and ties with the government.
AFGHANISTAN: Iran has strong cultural and linguistic ties with western Afghanistan and has bolstered its influence there since the fall of the Taliban after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Iran had been an archenemy of the Taliban, but ties have improved in recent years. The U.S. has troops in the country and plans a military withdrawal by the end of next year, but seeks to remain closely engaged in Afghanistan's affairs.