Iraq Is Lost

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By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – Let’s not kid ourselves, Iraq is lost. Yes, totally lost. The events of the last few days make this crystal clear. We know that US forces retaliated against attacks by Kataib Hezbollah on military installations in Iraq in which there are some American troops and contractors. These frequent attacks against Americans have been directed by pro-Iranian militias such as Kataib Hezbollah, trained and armed by Iran, that are now part of the Iraqi forces. Furthermore, pro-Iranian Shiite political parties are in the Iraqi parliament and support the coalition government.

Assault against the US Embassy in Baghdad

Right after the US forceful retaliation that killed several members of the pro-Iranian militias, an Iraqi umbrella organization of pro-Iranian forces, called the Popular Mobilization Forces, organized an attack against the US Embassy in Baghdad. This was done ostensibly to protest against the killing of members of the Iraqi forces by the wicked Americans. While the well-organized assault against the US compound was underway, Iraqi security forces, according to international law responsible for guaranteeing the safety of all diplomatic facilities, stood by and did nothing.

Along with this open display of anti-American sentiment, the same groups now strongly demand the expulsion of all foreign (read American) military forces from Iraq. To make this even worse, Ayatollah Sistani, the most revered senior religious authority for all Iraqi Shia, added his powerful voice to the chorus of anti-American condemnations.

Iraq is controlled by pro-Iranian forces

So, this is the picture. The net result of the US 2003 invasion of Iraq that ended up costing us a fortune, not to mention thousands of dead soldiers and tens of thousands injured, some of them horribly, is that now at the beginning of 2020 it is quite clear that Iran controls Iraq. May be not totally, but almost.

The US, the supposedly friendly military power that ostensibly freed the Shia majority from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni minority government, is viewed by most pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia as a hostile occupying force. And this is so because, after the US 2003 invasion, over time Iran managed to increase its influence within the Shia majority, so that today Tehran controls large Iraqi militias, and Iraqi Shia political forces heavily represented in Parliament.

This is not fixable

Let’s be real. In Iraq we have been defeated by a clever opponent. This is not fixable. We are outnumbered and outclassed. Short of a welcome but unlikely collapse of the wicked regime of the Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran, something that would cause the collapse of all Iranian efforts aimed at controlling the Region, there is no way that the US can win this fight.

In Iraq, we have almost no real allies. The only groups that are still sympathetic towards Washington are the Kurds in the north and some Sunni factions that clearly do not like the prospect of being dominated by Iran backed Shias. But they are not going coalesce to wage a bloody fight aimed at kicking Iran out of Iraq. Impossible.

Can anything be salvaged?

So, there you have it. While this may be a bit oversimplified, the net result of the brilliant Washington plan hatched by President George W. Bush in early 2003 to engineer “regime change” in Baghdad is to have turned Iraq –at the time clearly an enemy of Iran– into a subsidiary of Tehran.

I have no idea as to what, if anything at all, may be salvageable at this stage. I suspect almost nothing, since Iraq’s politics and most of its military forces are dominated by our Iranian enemies.

The killing by a US airstrike at the Baghdad Airport of General Qassem Soleimani, the almost legendary head of the elite Iranian Quds force, is symbolically important; but it does not change the overall balance of forces in Iraq.

Of course, Soleimani will be immediately replaced, and the Iran-led anti-American campaign, in Iraq and everywhere else in the Middle East, if anything, will be intensified as a way to avenge this loss.

Unless President Trump just decided to have another Middle East War, with massive deployments of US forces in Iraq with the purpose of engaging and destroying all pro-Iranian militias, the killing of a major Iranian military leader will not change the overall picture –a picture that does not favor the US.

And, in case of a US escalation, we can rest assured that Iranian forces and their proxies will do their best to hit US targets and US allies anywhere they can. This will not be just about Iraq.

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