When Iraq’s legislature passed a bill requesting the end of U.S. military forces in the country recently the problems of a divided sectarian state emerged; the Shi’a Sunni divide shapes Iraq’s political landscape. So a quick review of the way things are is in order.
The present Iraqi Prime Minister; dil Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntafiki, is Shi’a and formerly a leader of an Iran-based Shi’a organization. The last time there was a Sunni leader with a regime that lasted for a while was the era of the Dictator Saddam Hussein. Interestingly he was a member of the Baath Party invented in Syria. With the Sunni being a minority in Iraq it takes a dictator to rule. The Shi’a simply vote for Shi’a and work a de facto theocratic village form of government.
It is plain that the United States cannot withdraw its military forces because of the infrequent need to intervene for various reasons. When Saddam Hussein was in power and had his way during the food for oil U.N. sanctions era 50,000 Iraqis died annually because of privations forced on them by the Dictator. Non-intervention was o.k. with Democrats and the U.N. because of the corrupt kickbacks to select Euro politicians yet unacceptable to people of conscience. Ending the regime of the Dictator was necessary. Imposing democracy was nearly impossible because of the fundamental sectarian divide. A civil war in Iraq followed helped along by Iran for sectarian reasons. When the U.S. withdrew its forces under President Obama Isis grew.
The United States failed to support its Kurdish allies recently and that in turn weakens their position in Iraq for they too are Sunni. That state emboldens the Shi’a that rightly demands withdrawal of all U.S. military because they have Iran at their back. Kickbacks and reciprocity to Iraq leaders help them view the two states practically as one. Americans talk about war with Iran because of the nuclear weapons program in that country and site numerous post-1979 reasons for the war aided by historical amnesia pre-1979.
Before 1979 the United States supported the Shah of Iran whom they had given dictatorial power to through a 1953 coup against the Shi’a Prime Minister. When the U.S. chose to install and reinforce a de facto Dictator of Iran called the Shah for 25 years it lost a lot of friends in Iran. Because the United States has usually had daft political leadership concerning the history of the region (and of Russia) since then the situation has gotten worse. What would be helpful would be American political recognition of the true pre-1979 history of Iranian-American relations; so long as American leadership has bad faith attitudes toward real rather than amnesiac history of Iranian-American relations the process of repairing relations will not start. The Bush administration plans for post-war reconstruction of Iraq demonstrated the usual U.S. incompetence at understanding history of the region. Probably that hasn’t changed much.
Certainly the Obama administration was rash at giving Iran a treaty that effectively allowed them 20 years of undisturbed infrastructure building and research for nuclear weapons and then after 25 years the freedom to develop nuclear weapons. What was lacking from the Obama method was public explanation to the world that the U.S. recognized the pre-1979 history of Iranian-American political relations to clear the air of gross misunderstandings.
So what should the U.S. do now? Squaring away the Kurds with greater security and autonomous real estate in Syria and Iraq if not Turkey would be a good idea for it is very probable that the United States will look to them again as proxy warriors and peace police in the area. Yet President Trump retreated from the effort, perhaps for reasons unknown, and let the Kurds return to a state of greater political insecurity if not immediate jeopardy with Turkey swelling even to consider landing troops in Libya as if they were Mussolini’s fascist forces seeking to expand the lost empire in North Africa.