Archive for December, 2011

By the end of this month, there will be no more American troops stationed in Iraq, and if the American logistical team is as good as we hear, there won’t be any US military hardware, not even uniforms and toothbrushes left there either.

March 19, 2012, would mark nine spent years in Iraq.  Precise numbers of casualties are disputed, but it would seem that over that period of time, we have suffered almost 4500 deaths and over 33,000 wounded.  The only dispute here is on the numbers of US wounded, with some sources claiming that over 100,000 would be closer to the truth.  In any event, the care and treatment of wounded, whatever the number truly is, will continue for decades and cost close to a trillion additional dollars.

In direct financial costs, the Brown University “Costs of War” project estimates that the Iraq war alone has already cost in excess of 1 trillion dollars.  That number does not count any future costs, whether medical or interest payments on the billions borrowed to pursue the war, or anything else.  It’s not too hard to remember Bush Administration officials telling us that the Iraq war “would pay for itself”!

Saddam Hussein, unless you were on his team, was a horrific leader.  He murdered countless numbers of his fellow Iraqis, using poison gas on his own people.  On the other hand, if you take a totally self-serving, cynical point of view, he represented a number of things that have been important to United States administrations in the past.  He maintained a stable government and country – by repression, of course.  He maintained the flow of Iraqi oil to the West. He and his large army represented the only truly effective deterrent to Iranian hegemonic goals in the Gulf region.  He was on “our side” in the Cold War.  Additionally, he attacked and made war against Iran between l980-88.  All of these things, at one time or another, have been important to, approved and encouraged by American administrations, particularly the war with Iran, which took place during Ronald Reagan’s administration.

One of the things our attack on Iraq accomplished was to end all of the above practices which were appreciated, even encouraged by a variety of US Administrations.  So, what good did it do for anyone?

The roughly 100,000 Iraqi dead didn’t appreciate our invasion.  The Sunnis, a minority in Iraq’s complex ethnic and secular structure, who had ruled mercilessly there, have not fared well in the aftermath of the invasion.  It’s really hard to figure just how the Kurds have made out.  If they can continue their semi-autonomy there, which they clearly plan to fight to do, they could conceivably be considered winners.

Regional Sunnis are not pleased with Shia ascendancy in Iraq since that basically empowers contiguous, Shia Iran.  After all, Sunni Iraq had been the major bulwark against Iran’s quest for Gulf hegemony at the expense of the Sunnis.  Thus, the Shia, who represent 60+% of the Iraqi population are clear winners.  Having been horribly repressed by a succession of Sunni governments, they are finally in charge.

The far most important winner in the region is Iran.  With their confessional confederates in charge in Iraq, they no longer are faced with an implacable Sunni neighbor.  With our final expulsion from Iraq, Iran is now virtually free to pursue its hegemonic goals in the Gulf.  There is literally no army in the region that is remotely capable of taking them on.  Their active duty military establishment is over half a million strong with an additional 600,000 in the active reserve.  Iran is a country of 78 million people living on 1.6 million square kilometers, the 18th largest country in the World.  They are intelligent, capable people who, in the millennium before Christ, ruled the entire region that we now call the Middle East.  It was, at the time, the largest empire ever constructed by man.  Iranians have not forgotten these facts and seek to be taken more seriously in their region today.

How is the future shaping up for Iraq today?  With Nuri al-Maliki heading a government made up largely of pro-Iranian, Shia Islamists, hope is fading for a calm transition to a secular Islamic government.  It now appears that the national and sectarian instabilities of the past, Sunni/Shia, Arab/Kurd and Arab/Iranian are likely to determine the future.

Any country that is inherently politically unstable and volatile, like Iraq with its history of sectarian conflict, is heading for trouble.  There is every possibility that a renewal of the sectarian fighting of 2006-2007 that killed thousands of Iraqis could be just around the corner.

And remember, this time, the Shia will be in power, not our old “friends” the Sunnis, with Iran not very far behind.

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