The US decision to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year raises many questions that have no answers; however the most important question that must be asked here is: why is the United States of America handing over Iraq [to Iran] after this priceless outlay in money and blood?
Iraq is not qualified, militarily, intelligence-wise, and even politically, to stand on its own feet in the manner that it should. Militarily, Iraq does not even possess a ready and equipped air force; nor does it possess an effective intelligence apparatus capable of monitoring and tracking [targets] in an operational and professional manner. As for politically, that is another disaster; for the Iraqi government is sectarian and has thrown itself into the arms of Iran. This government has been unable to achieve political reconciliation in Baghdad, and rather has pursued [fruitless] talks and revenge, whilst it is fully embroiled in sectarianism. Now let us look at the closest supporter of the Bashar al-Assad regime, whose security apparatus is killing its own people on a daily basis. Is this a government that can be trusted with stabilizing Iraq or indeed any other neighbouring country? I doubt it!
What is strange is that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told NBC that “no one should miscalculate America’s resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy” adding that America paid a heavy price to give the Iraqis this chance. She stressed that she hopes that nobody miscalculates America’s commitment to Iraq, particularly neighbouring Iran. In a different interview on CNN, Clinton stressed that “Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region.”
However the facts on the ground say that Tehran’s influence in Iran has increased under the eyes of the current US administration, whilst Iranian influence [in Iraq] also benefited from the mistakes made by the previous US administration. This is not all, for now we see Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – on the same day that Hillary Clinton made her statements – appear in an interview on CNN saying that he does not expect any change in his country’s relations with Iraq following the withdrawal of US forces. Indeed Ahmadinejad went on to confidently state – and this is the crux of the matter – that “the government of Iraq, the parliament, we have a very good relationship with all of them…and we have deepened our ties day by day.”
This “day by day” is true, and it has happened before the eyes of the Americans, therefore the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq is no surprise, nor is Tehran’s support for the Shiite militias there. It is enough to listen to the complaints of the honorable people of Iraq – Sunnis and Shiites and others – who do not accept their country becoming a proxy in Iranian hands or ruled by Qassem Suleimani and his Qods Force.
Therefore, there are more questions today, for are the Americans withdrawing from Iraq simply to reduce their financial outlay? I doubt it, for the Republicans are the harshest critics of this decision in America. The other question that must be asked is; is this withdrawal in preparation for the US forces undertaking another mission, such as military action against Iran, in which case Washington does not want to leave an exposed flank for Tehran to exploit, namely Iraq? We do not know! Or is this withdrawal nothing more than the result of a misguided political decision and electoral pressures, as this [US withdrawal from Iraq] was one of Obama’s campaign promises?
If any of these are the reasons [for the US withdrawal], then the results will be disastrous for Iraq and its people, and indeed the entire region as a whole!
The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat. The article was published in the London-based newspaper on Oct. 24, 2011.