Peter Van Buren
The last quarter century of Iraq Wars (from Desert Storm 1991 to the present) thrust the region into chaos while progressively erasing American dominance. Iran is picking up the pieces. As long as the U.S. insists on not opening diplomatic relations with Tehran, it will have no way short of war to exert any influence, a very weak position. Other nation-states in the Middle East will move to diversify their international relationships (think Russia and China) knowing this. Regional politics, not American interests, will drive events.
After five administrations and 26 years the price the United States paid for what will have to pass as a victory conclusion is high. Some 4,500 American dead, millions killed on the Iraqi side, and $7.9 trillion taxpayer dollars spent.
The U.S. sacrificed long-term allies the Kurds and their dreams of a homeland to avoid a rift with Baghdad; the dead-end of the Kurdish independence referendum vote this autumn just created a handy date for historians to cite, because the Kurds were really done the day their usefulness in fighting Islamic State wrapped up. Where once pundits wondered how the U.S. would chose a side when the Turks and Kurds went to war both armed with American weapons, it appears the U.S. could care less about what either does over the disputed borderlands they both crave.
The big winner of America’s Iraq War is Iran. In 2017, Iran has no enemies on either major border (Afghanistan, to the east, thanks again to the United States, is unlikely to reconstitute as a national-level threat in anyone’s lifetime) and Iraq is now somewhere between a vassal state and a neutered puppet of Tehran.
About their rivals in Saudi Arabia, again there is only good news for Iran. With the Sunnis in Iraq hanging on with the vitality of an abused shelter dog (and Iranian-supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently to remain in power), Saudi influence is on the wane. In the broader regional picture, unlike the Saudi monarchs, Iran’s leaders do not rule in fear of an Islamic revolution. They already had one. With its victory in Iraq, stake in Syria, and friends in Lebanon, Iran has pieced together a land corridor to the Mediterranean at very low cost. If it was a stock, you’d want to buy Iran in 2018.
This post originally appeared as part of a longer piece on Peter’s We Mean Well blog.
2 thoughts on “Part I: The Price We Paid in Iraq”
Yes, the sheer blinding brilliance of US foreign policy on display again. While the War Pigs (hat tip to Ozzie Osbourne, of whom I’m generally definitely not a fan!) have wallowed in their profitable contracts to perpetuate this massive boondoggle, what exactly have John and Jane Q. Public gained?? Remember the benefits “we” were going to enjoy from access to all that Iraqi crude oil? Don’t look now, folks, but crude is back to c. $62 the barrel, pain soon to show up at the gas pump and in your heating bills.
It’s possible the Kurds are the victims of even more betrayals and cruelty than the Palestinians these past few decades. “Use ’em, then discard ’em” has been the attitude of the imperial powers. If you can gain access to the documentary film “Good Kurds, Bad Kurds” I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you absorb it. The very title tells it well!
Very good piece! I especially liked the prominent place the author gives to the betrayal of the Kurds.