A few minutes exposure to U.S. cable news gives the viewer the impression that Iran is relentlessly carving out an empire in the Middle East. This is approximately as absurd as the proposition that Vladimir Putin is striving to recreate the empire of the tsars. Talking heads who never think to mention Israel’s wars of aggression since its inception (much less its nukes), or the pattern of NATO expansion (= U.S. imperial expansion) since the end of the Cold War, bristle with indignation at any reported shipment of Iranian arms to some Shiites (or anyone, really) somewhere, or any Russian effort to thwart the expansion of a hostile military alliance along their borders.
The fact is, Iraq has not invaded another country since the 1730s, when Nader Shah waged war on both the Ottoman and Mughal empires and established an ephemeral empire stretching from the Caucasus to the Indus Valley. In modern times Iran has been the victim of repeated attacks and encroachments on its sovereignty—by Britain, tsarist Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union just after the Second World War, and Iraq (with U.S. blessing and support) from September 1980 to August 1988. But it has not directly attacked any of its neighbors.