Excellent analysis of the situation in Iraq by Professor Dlawer Ala’Aldeen
For decades, the Middle East Order was stagnant and stable, with ruthless dictators ruling populations with iron fists. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait gave the USA the opportunity to take leadership and change this Order. American presence and influence shaped subsequent events, culminating in the removal of Saddam regime and paving the way for the Arab Spring. However, the Iraq experience for the occupying forces proved costly, deadly and will remain forever bitter. Iraq and the rest of the Middle East proved too complex for simplistic military solutions.
Regional powers, particularly Iran, and international forces, particularly Islamic Salafist groups backed by their wealthy Arab funders, defeated the US and eventually expelled its troops from the region. Worse still, Barrack Obama’s foreign policies added insult to injury and helped the US lose impact and relevance. Iran, on the other hand, became the ultimate policy- and decision-maker for both Iraq and Syria, and are now shaping events to fit their national security agenda.
For Iran, the Sunni-ISIS expansion in Syria was tolerable, as it weakened the Syrian opposition and provided a least desired alternative to Bashar Al Assad’s regime. ISIS’s further crossing into Iraq and gaining territories last year remained tolerable for as long as Baghdad city and the central Government remained in the hand of pro-Iranian Shia factions. Such battles would not disrupt the Shia belt of Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Southern Beirut. However, for Iran, the latest ISIS success is one step too far and it may get Tehran to become more active soon. Iran is now said to be mobilising Al-Quds fighters in support of the demoralised Iraqi Army. The USA may provide limited support or even strike from the air. All these will further fuel the war, which may turn into a civil, as well as international, war. (…)
Taken together, the last few days’ events have, in effect, fragmented Iraq, once and probably for all. So far, bloodshed, political rivalry and power struggles have divided Iraq, but now the system of governance is divided into three de facto independent states, with no mutual trust, good will or good intentions between them. There will be no credible way out of this mess.