Will Iran Take Over Iraq?
by N. M. GUARIGLIA
August 6, 2012
Although the war in Iraq officially concluded on December 15, 2011, in truth, the war ended some time before that. Despite all odds, the U.S. military subdued the years-long insurgency and defeated the Ba'athists, al-Qaeda, the militias, and the Iranian-backed terrorists trying to destroy a free country in its infancy. The most amazing fact of the last decade-that the U.S. actually prevailed in Iraq-is nearly never talked about.
The world menace Saddam Hussein is gone. In his place is an elected Arab parliament. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, for all his illiberal tendencies, will not soon launch ballistic missiles at Israel, or annex Kuwait, or mobilize against Saudi Arabia, or gas the Kurds, or invade his neighbors, or try to assassinate a former U.S. president, or commit genocide, or offer sanctuary to terrorists.
Iraq is an imperfect republic. This much is true. Yet it is more like contemporary South Korea than the allied autocracy in Seoul immediately following the Korean War. Despite the intelligence failures, the unnecessary occupation, the tactical, operational, and strategic missteps, the deadly mistakes, the unforeseen bloodshed and hardships, the case can still be made that Iraq was worth it. We now have a second ally in the Middle East. Moving forward in the Arab world required Saddam's downfall. This president, and future presidents, will never face a nuclear Saddam, or worse, a nuclear Uday, free of UN sanctions, sitting atop the world's second largest oil reserves.
Ah, the oil. Who shall keep it safe and flowing? Contrary to caricature, the abject theft of Iraq's oil, in cartoonish fashion, was never the motive for U.S. intervention. Nor was it the consequence. The contracts have largely gone to China and other Asian conglomerates. "No blood for oil" was an insidious and misguided war-cry from the beginning. Nevertheless, now that we have entirely withdrawn from Iraq, we must find a way to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory... lest everything be in vain.
Should the oil go unprotected, Iraq in 2013 could resemble Vietnam in 1975.
By 1973, the U.S. had finally pacified South Vietnam. It was nothing less than victory-or "peace with honor," as Richard Nixon called it. And then we bailed. Two years later, the North reinvaded, Saigon fell, panicked civilians sought escape on the roof of the U.S. embassy, and what followed-the boat people, Pol Pot's genocide, Soviet expansionism throughout the world-was not pretty. The Second Indochina War was fought for naught. This was a tragic mistake that should not be repeated.
The obvious threat to Iraq is the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iraqis and Iranians have already fought a war, one of the 20th century's bloodiest, between 1980 and 1988. Today's Iraqi military is geared toward internal security and counterinsurgency. It is something of a national police force. The Iraqis are not only militarily unprepared for Iranian invasion, they are politically ill-equipped for Iranian subversion (the more likely scenario).
Iraqi writer Nibras Kazimi-a must-read-insists Nouri al-Maliki is independent of Iran. This might be true. But an Iraqi leader need not be a puppet of Iran to submit to the mullahs' demands. Iraq's leaders know full well: if Tehran's assassination hit-teams can reach Washington D.C., they can reach Baghdad.
The prospects for internecine sectarian war in Iraq have not been sufficiently eradicated for two reasons: oil and Iran. Iran will try to intimidate Iraq's Shi'ites into subservience. They will either comply or die. Should they choose the former, Iraq's Sunnis may very well revert back to insurrection. In short order, southern Iraq could become the victim of a Hezbollah-like usurpation. The full U.S. withdrawal left Iraq to the whims of the Iranian theocracy, which risks jeopardizing all of the joint U.S.-Iraqi efforts to successfully conclude the Second Gulf War.
Ayatollah Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have seen a disheveled Saddam, Nebuchadnezzar incarnate, caught in a hole, tried and convicted; mocked and taunted by his hangman when facing the gallows. They've seen a befallen Gaddafi, King of Africa, lose his crown, dragged out of a drainage pipe, and confused-"What's wrong? What's happening?"-in his final moments; his subjects treating his body like an old Raggedy Ann doll. Iran's closest ally-Syria's despot, Bashar al-Assad-fears he is next, and is willing to commit any atrocity to keep the barbarians at the gate.
The tree of liberty is again being watered with the blood of tyrants. The mullahs know this, and fear this. Good. Since the 2009 popular uprisings in Iran, the regime in Tehran has been a wounded animal. They believe Iraq's black gold could sustain their dying dictatorship well into the future, and they may well be right.
The United States has gone 99 yards in Iraq. We're on the goal line. And it looks as though we're going to knee the ball four times and have a turnover on downs.
Contributing Editor N.M. Guariglia is an essayist who writes on Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitics.