Iraq and the Middle East 15 years after the US invasion

The American invasion of Iraq can be demonstrated as a textbook example of how to kill a state and destroy a population, if not a nation.

I was in the first year of my doctoral studies in Washington D.C. when the U.S.-led coalition initiated its campaign to invade Iraq. Almost everyone in Washington was confident about a swift victory in Iraq. There was also a more skeptical crowd who were more critical about the invasion of Iraq. There were huge marches of peace activists all over the U,S,, but their voice was not taken seriously by the Washington establishment. Fifteen years after the American led coalition’s invasion of Iraq, neither Iraq nor the entire Middle East and North Africa region is a better and more peaceful or stable place. The U.S. lost its credibility in the entire region and lost its potential to play a more constructive role in designing a more stable and more liberal order, at least for the region.

Democracy promotion, “humanitarian intervention,” the notion of the stable Middle East and the international solidarity in the fight against terrorism were the immediate casualties of the American invasion of Iraq. Iraq was invaded with the fake and fabricated evidence and the major U.S. leaders lied to the entire world to justify their illegal campaign. The George W. Bush administration covered their negligence that led to the 9/11 attacks by invading Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, which fell in the category of “just war” for many analysts. The Bush junior administration and the neocons in Washington probably planned to finance their “global fight against terrorism” with the oil and natural gas revenues that they would get from occupied Iraq but the cost of the Iraqi invasion surmounted their calculations. Many in the U,S,, including President Donald Trump, are vociferously critical of the Bush administration’s trillion dollar miscalculation.

The U.S. miscalculations led Washington to act more aggressively in the region which further frustrated the U.S.’s traditional allies in the region such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even Israel. Iran was the biggest winner as a consequence of the U.S.’s miscalculations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every additional step of Washington to fix their mistakes in Iraq led to further problems and deepened the crisis in the region. The countries in the region and the other major powers were frustrated by the American hubris and Washington’s overuse of military power to shape the entire region. Today the U.S. is not a powerful and trustworthy actor in comparison to 15 years ago since Washington decided to spin out its diplomatic credit in Iraq. A policy of shaping a region solely by the military backfired.

The neocon policy of democracy promotion and the democratic change option was completely abandoned. The U.S. lost its international credibility but it was strong enough to bear the consequence of this mistake, however, international norms and the region’s political order collapsed after this move. Iran was the biggest winner in the American decision to invade Iraq. Iran immediately spread its influence to Iraq, which it was fighting 1.5 decades ago, and dominated the country with its sectarian policies. The U.S.’s miscalculations in Iraq boosted Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the entire region, bringing Iran face-to-face with the other actors in the region. The U.S. and Iran’s regional ambitions fed each other and led to further polarization in the region.

The American invasion of Iraq can be demonstrated as a textbook example of how to kill a state and destroy a population, if not a nation. The Iraqi society was designed to be weak from the beginning due to the logic of its formation after the colonial era. The week and fragmented societies either call for a week and unstable state or authoritarian state. Iraq experienced both options sequentially which further weakened both the Iraqi state and fragmented the Iraqi society. The Iraqi constitution was drafted after American and “allied forces'” invasion of Iraq was accepted in 2005 but it failed to address the major problems of the country. Week, fragmented and conflictual Iraq did not serve the interests of the U.S. and coalition forces.

Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition’s Provisional Authority’s decision of dismantling the Iraqi army and the de-Baathification of the Iraqi state was a grave mistake that led to the immediate quagmire in the country. The collapse of the Iraqi state led to the decimation of Iraq and led to the spread of extremist ideologies and violent groups in the country. Iraq’s cities were destroyed and the countries’ cultural heritage was looted by the greedy domestic and foreign opportunists. Multicultural and multiethnic cities in Iraq and the fabric of the society also collapsed which may prevent the future reintegration of the country.

Turkey’s security was affected very negatively by the American invasion of Iraq. The Turkish economy and Turkey’s national security has been affected very negatively by the collapse of the Iraqi state. After the imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, the organization was in a deep crisis and in decline. The emergence of a power vacuum in Iraq led to the reinvigoration of the PKK. The U.S. CENTCOM’s feelings toward Turkey due to the Turkish Parliament’s disallowance of American troops to use Turkish soil for an invasion of Iraq created new opportunities for the organizations that are hostile to Turkey.

The PKK was not the only terrorist organization that benefitted from the collapse of the state in Iraq. Analysts in Washington calculate the cost of the Iraqi invasion for the U.S. taxpayers and discredit the Bush government’s miscalculations, but this decision had an unprecedented cost for the people of the region and for the states in the region. Washington still continues to make mistakes in the region by trying to contain terrorism by use of other terrorists and encouraging sales of more arms to ambitious leaders in the Gulf. Fifteen years after the American invasion of Iraq the region is more fragmented and polarized than ever now that the “Daesh threat” almost disappeared there is no overarching framework for the actors in the region to coordinate their long-term efforts. So far the only option that is left out in Iraq or in rest of the Middle Eastern peace efforts is to bring the local actors around a table to initiate a genuine dialogue. All the shortcut top down efforts to bring peace and security from the Western capitals will fail one way or another.

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