On Sunday I was reading an article on Iraq in the New York Times, it mentioned that after $1 trillion dollars spent and 4500 dead US soldiers, Iraq which was suppose to be a beacon of modern democratic American style governance had slipped squarely into Iran’s orbit out of reach of any US governmental influence. A very sad situation for US Foreign policy and illustrates again poor analysis of the history and development of this region of the world over centuries. Henri Kissinger wrote an excellent book on China and how on the whole Vietnam policy in the 1960’s the US advisors around the President had it all wrong all along, which explains that disaster. Unable to learn from France’s mistakes and their own war 1946-1954.
The article brought back for me a flood of memories going back to the first Gulf War in 1990-91 and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Of conversation I had in Cairo with colleagues and their perception of what would happen. Again the USA had given the wrong signal to their ally President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, he thought it was ok to invade with impunity only to find out too late that the US Ambassador had not been clear at all. Suddenly an ally like Saddam against Iran becomes an enemy because Kuwait is more important because of Saudi Arabia. I remember our American colleagues at the US Embassy in Cairo telling us they were sure that once the Iraqis were defeated they would rise against Saddam and overthrow him and Kuwait in turn could be modernized and Kuwaitis would become happy consumers, eat Mcdonald’s burgers and shop in malls. How simplistic and wrong all along, the uprising in Iraq was crushed in the South of the Country with its Shia majority. Kuwait remains to this day a backwater.
There was no sympathy in the region for Saddam who was a thug but also importantly a factor of stability in the region and a barrier to the ambitions of Iran which meant a great deal then to the USA who was unable to repair for multiple reasons the broken relationship with Iran since 1979. Saudi Arabia which is governed by what were a bunch of desert robbers, the Al-Saud Clan turned Royal Family, does not inspire in the region any love but with their money can finance and help many, who look to them for help. The Al-Saud have also proclaimed themselves the Guardian of the Holy Sites in Mecca and uphold the Sunni majority interpretation of Islam. Think of it as Christians divided between Lutheran VS Catholics. Iran an ancient country holds the Shia interpretation of Islam. The Iranian are also non-Arabs so ethnically, they are not part of the Arab World. Their ancient civilization is part of the Indo-Aryan world.
Iran is feared by many like the Saudis because in past centuries it dominated completely the whole region, from an artistic and cultural point of view and a military one also. Just one example of their domination is the introduction of Persian numerals replacing Arab numerals which we use to this day.
It seems the US Government, the CIA, the State Department and the White House forgot that they were dealing with a complex world, were historical realities are very different from ours. The name of Paul Bremer comes back to mind, his total lack of understanding of the situation despite being the most senior American on the ground with vast powers, his arrogance and his fatal mistake of implementing a policy to destroy the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein with the backing of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, both equally incompetent and negligent of their duty to protect US interests created what we know today as the Islamic State. In 48 hours, Bremer created a formidable enemy in Iraq by depriving many in the middle-class of a lively hood and pushing them to the margin.
In dealing with my American counterpart, what I remember most is how they were often unable to see the other point of view, so sure they were of their truth as leader of the Free World, their authority unquestioned. The fatal flaw, which returns not only on this question of the Middle-East but on so many other questions. Today we see the same phenomenon with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Accord, NAFTA, the world is moving ahead and the USA is left behind more and more irrelevant.
It should be remembered that other countries have also made similar mistakes, naive and poor political analysis, optimistic over simplification, broken promises and bad faith. Britain and France with their secret 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement which spawn a century of resentment in the Middle-East.
The resulting order inherited by the Middle East of the day sees a variety of states whose borders were generally drawn with little regard for ethnic, tribal, religious or linguistic considerations.
Spain, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, made equally disastrous decisions in their Imperial expansion, it seems that everyone thinks the natives will be happy to be governed by us. The British thought they were on a Christian Missionary agenda to civilize the little people, the French spoke of a Civilizing mission to the world. All faded one by one like flowers in a garden while other nations took up the mantle of domination.
Iran, I believe in the end will prevail, because it has the will, but also the historical connection with that part of the world, an a deep understanding of the people. This is what is lacking on the American part.
I feel sorry for all those poor soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, for what? Canada did not participate in Vietnam nor in Iraq, we were in Afghanistan for 12 years and one has to wonder what we were doing there in the first place.