In a powerful critique, the author argues that the war in Iraq has been a strategic blunder for the United States, leaving the country vulnerable to Iran's expanding influence. With its large population, vast natural resources, and proximity to key regions, Iran holds a significant position in the Middle East. Moreover, Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a major threat to global security. Surprisingly, the United States inadvertently handed Iraq to Iran on a silver platter by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who served as a barrier against Iranian expansionism.
The author highlights the fact that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein's rule, was a brutal dictatorship but fiercely anti-Iranian. However, following the US invasion and the establishment of a democratic government, Iraq's political landscape drastically changed. The closest allies of Iran, including the infamous General Soleimani, gained power in the new Iraq. The author references the memorial site commemorating the US drone strike that killed Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, demonstrating the shift in power dynamics.
The text emphasizes Iran's growing threat, particularly as it approaches nuclear capabilities, combined with its expanding influence in Iraq. Iraq, being the fourth largest oil exporter and the second largest within OPEC, holds immense strategic value. However, the situation may be on the verge of change, favoring the United States. The author introduces a prominent Iraqi political figure, who seems more like a Disney villain than a leader, and raises questions about his role and potential impact on the Iranian influence in Iraq.
Before delving into the potential changes, the text provides historical context. It explains the ongoing Sunni-Shiite Cold War within the Islamic world and the power struggle between the two branches of Islam that originated in 632 AD. It also notes that Iraq, despite having a Shiite majority, was ruled by a Sunni elite under Saddam Hussein's regime. The author highlights the contentious history between Iran and Iraq, marked by territorial disputes and the devastating Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.
The article introduces Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shiite leader who played a significant role in post-invasion Iraq. Al-Sadr's father, a respected religious authority, was assassinated by Saddam's regime in 1999. Following his father's footsteps, al-Sadr became a symbol of resistance against the US occupation. He formed the Mahdi Army, a militia that operated between 2003 and 2008, gaining substantial influence in central and southern Iraq, including Baghdad. Eventually, al-Sadr transitioned into politics, rallying support from different Shiite parties and forming the United Iraqi Alliance, which won the 2005 elections.
The article traces the political developments in Iraq and highlights al-Sadr's pragmatic approach. While maintaining an anti-foreign interference stance, including opposition to both the United States and Iran, al-Sadr strategically secured positions of power within the Iraqi government. Despite the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, Iraq faced a new threat with the rise of the Islamic State in 2014. Al-Sadr and other Shiite forces played a significant role in combating the extremist group, ultimately achieving victory. However, the Shiite paramilitary groups, backed by Iran, remained intact, further solidifying Iran's influence.
The author explains how al-Sadr managed to increase his political influence while others faced public disillusionment. He created clientelistic networks and offered jobs in public enterprises to his supporters, solidifying his base and establishing himself as the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament. The article concludes by acknowledging the positive developments in Iraq, such as the reopening of Baghdad's Green Zone to the public after 16 years, indicating relative stability.
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