Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Washington Pushed Iraq Into Iran's Arms

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Demonstration in Times Square, New York, against the military conflict with Iran, January 8, 2020. The "No War with Iran" demonstration follows the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. SPENCER PLATT / AFP

Analysis. The sweetest revenge that Iran could imagine after the assassination of General Ghassem Soleimani would be to complete the purpose which it could not accomplish in its lifetime: to drive the American troops out of Iraq. Tehran has never been closer to this goal than after the Iraqi Parliament voted on Sunday (January 5) for a resolution asking the executive to organize the departure of foreign forces from the country. This text, admittedly symbolic and leaving open the field of possibilities on the modalities of a withdrawal – complete or partial, immediate or spread over time -, nevertheless acts the deep uneasiness that has interfered between Washington and Baghdad.

By violating Iraqi sovereignty to eliminate General Soleimani and his lieutenant in Iraq, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, Washington has revived the demons of an anti-Americanism that has never been so vindictive since the American occupation of 2003-2011. It has provided Iran and its Iraqi allies, Shiite religious parties and militias destabilized since October by popular protest, with an opportunity to silence their critics. And, in the power struggle between the two rival sponsors since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, Tehran may well have made a decisive point in Washington. The departure of American troops would make him the sole master of Iraq.

Wanderings since 2003

Just six months ago, no one imagined that the United States could be forced to leave Iraq and deliver it to Iran. Especially after having lost more than 4,000 soldiers there and having invested 1,000 billion dollars since 2003. Even less in view of the will displayed in Washington to counter Iran’s influence in the region. Many are now wondering if US President Donald Trump himself wants to keep troops there, when he makes no secret of his desire to disengage from the region. Did he even try to win the power struggle between the United States and the Islamic Republic in the country?

The impasse Washington seems to find itself in today is not the only fact of President Trump. It is the result of the vagaries of American policy since 2003 and of the strategy of influence patiently constructed, in parallel, by the Islamic Republic. President George W. Bush opened wide the doors of Iraq to the Shiite neighbor by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, dismantling his institutions and establishing a sectarian political system that benefited Shiite religious parties close to Iran. President Barack Obama has only accentuated the stranglehold of Tehran and his obligee, Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, by withdrawing the American contingent in late 2011.

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