Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq described Stratfor’s changing views on why we invaded Iraq. How astonishing that five years later we are still attempting to understand this, a powerful indictment of the foggy thinking of US elites at that time. Has the quality of their thinking about Iraq improved since then?
Stratfor has again tweaked their analysis, as seen in this excerpt from “Stratfor’s War: Five Years Later” (18 March 2008):
The motivation for the war, as we wrote, had to do with forcing Saudi Arabia to become more cooperative in the fight against al Qaeda by demonstrating that the United States actually was prepared to go to extreme measures. The United States invaded to change the psychology of the region, which had a low regard for American power. It also invaded to occupy the most strategic country in the Middle East, one that bordered seven other key countries.
… The United States is now providing an alternative scenario designed to be utterly frightening to the Iranians. They are arming and training the Iranians’ mortal enemies: the Sunnis who led the war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. That rearming is getting very serious indeed. Sunni units outside the aegis of the Iraqi military are now some of the most heavily armed Iraqis in Anbar, thanks to the Sunni relationship with U.S. forces there. It should be remembered that the Sunnis ruled Iraq because the Iraqi Shia were fragmented, fighting among themselves and therefore weak. That underlying reality remains true. A cohesive Sunni community armed and backed by the Americans will be a formidable force.
… The irony is that the war is now focused on empowering the very people the war was fought against: the Iraqi Sunnis. In a sense, it is at least a partial return to the status quo ante bellum.
The last two paragraphs display a stunning inability to see how things have changed. Unless something changes the situation — on the scale of the US invasion and occupation — neither the Kurds nor the Shia Arabs will again be dominated by the Sunni Arabs — nor will the the Sunni Arabs in “Iraq” have the ability to threaten Iran. Iraq has fragmented. Our training and arming the Sunni Arab militia was the last step in that process.
Stratfor shows that US elites have not yet come to terms with the “new Iraq” we have created. This failure to recognize changes might lead to our making new mistakes, on top of those made in the past five years.
The peoples of Iraq can re-gain control of their destiny and, if they choose, re-create Iraq. America might be disruptive element in Iraq and a barrier to this. But America has become so interwoven in Iraq’s affairs that getting us out might be beyond their abilities. The blood spilled during the past five years also acts as a barrier. The rebirth of Iraq is possible, but probably not the best way to bet.
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For information about the Iraq War
- The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace (13 March 2007) — Iraq is fragmenting.
- Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq (21 September 2007) — Iraq has fragmented, and why that is a good thing.
- Archive of links to articles about the Iraq War
- Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq