May 31, 2023

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US Invasion of Iraq Helped Bolster Chinese, Iranian Influence in Middle East, Experts Say

On March 19, 2003, then-President George W. Bush in a televised address from the Oval Office said the US and coalition forces were in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq and “free its people,” marking the start of an invasion and occupation that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and combatants. The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government and the subsequent adoption of a new constitution did not, however, lead to immediate peace, as it upended the relations between the previously dominant Sunni Arab minority and the Shia majority as well as the Kurdish minority concentrated in the northern part of the country. This led to prolonged sectarian violence, involving both Shia and Sunny militias, most notably the Islamic State (IS, banned in Russia) among the latter. While the IS was ultimately defeated in Iraq, this led to the further strengthening of Shia armed groups, often said to be backed by Iran. The expert went on to suggest that the destruction of the Iraqi state and armed forces during the US invasion ushered in “chronic political instability,” and facilitated the rise of the IS, “while ironically greatly enhancing Iran’s influence at the expense of the United States.” Nevertheless, the US still holds significant influence within Iraq, including through 18 US military bases, although it now has to contend with Iran and its militias as well as China, which is a major importer of Iraqi oil, according to Cafruny. He also highlighted the latter’s role in orchestrating the Saudi-Iran rapprochement as evidence of the changing Middle Eastern politics. Meanwhile, Roderick Kiewiet, a professor of political science at the California Institute of Technology, thinks that eliminating Iraq as a major military power has served the long-run interest of the United States in the sense that Washington can concentrate on counteracting Tehran without empowering Baghdad. On the other hand, M. V. Ramana, the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and the director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, thinks that despite the invasion having a brutal effect on the Iraqi population and destabilizing the larger Middle East region, Washington is unlikely to avoid further use of armed force in the region. The US launched its invasion based on the alleged evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, presented by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN Security Council in 2003. However, a CIA report submitted to Congress a year later concluded that there were no WMDs in the country at the time of the invasion. Powell would later describe the speech as a “blot” on his record and great intelligence failure.Original News :

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