With New Ice Cream Shop, Iran Wields Soft Serve Power in Iraq

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Could this ice cream have been made with breast milk?

Iranian ice cream parlor Ice Pack wants to challenge U.S. fast-food hegemony around the world. They’ve got some catching up to do.

When you think of soft power being used throughout the world, it’s generally American brands, American music, American food, American culture. But in January in Baghdad’s Green Zone, once the locus of U.S. power in post-war Iraq, an Iranian ice cream shop will open. As customers enjoy one of 34 flavors, they will be able to see U.S. convoys shuttling in and out of the nearby U.S. embassy.

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While it may seem small, the parlor represents a continuing shift in Iraq from U.S. to Iranian influence. As a report in The New York Times suggested on Sunday, thanks to political coalitions in both Iraq and the U.S., some officials now see an Iraq without any U.S. troops at the end of 2012. In any event, the U.S. footprint in Iraq will inevitably continue to wane (as seen recently with Iranian backing of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which helped him stay in office). An Iranian ice cream shop may only be the beginning.

(Read TIME’s mini-profile of Nouri al-Maliki, one of the People Who Mattered in 2010.)