Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Stoking War with Iran Courts Disaster

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Lobelog

If President Trump’s recent pronouncements on Iran are to be believed, it’s all but certain that he will not recertify the Iran nuclear deal the next time around. He is expected to accuse Iran of advancing its missile technology and supporting terrorism, which in his view would be a violation of the spirit of the Iran deal, formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.

It’s as if they have not learned any lessons from the Iraq invasion, nearly a decade and a half ago.

If the United States were to wage another misguided war against yet another Muslim country, plunging our country into another open-ended Middle East conflict in response to pressures from Saudi Arabia, Israel, and American weapons manufacturers, it would make Iraq look like child’s play. Such a misguided attack will unleash disastrous unintended consequences, including the possible toppling of tribal Sunni rule in the Gulf.

Lessons Unlearned from Iraq

At a National Security Council meeting the week after 9/11, a senior Bush administration official was clamoring for regime change in Iraq, erroneously claiming that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I turned to him and said, “If you want to go after that son of a bitch to settle old scores, be my guest. But don’t tell us he is connected to 9/11 or to terrorism because there is no evidence to support that. You will have to have a better reason.” In recalling this story in his book At the Center of the Storm, former CIA director George Tenet also concluded that the Bush White House, especially the vice president and his advisers, had already decided to invade Iraq despite the flimsy evidence they had tying Saddam to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. After returning from one of those critical White House meetings on Iraq in late February 2003, Tenet told me, “The train has left the station. They are going to war.”

The invasion of Iraq in March of that year proceeded without a serious examination of the sectarian dynamics in Iraq and the region. Nor were the war advocates in the White House interested in looking at the future of Iraq the “morning after” Saddam’s toppling, how such action would impact the region, the very real possibility that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda would fill the vacuum created in the wake of the war, and the conflicts that would arise between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran..

The White House ignored multiple intelligence warnings that a “perfect storm” would engulf Iraq and the region following the initial invasion. Trump administration advocates for regime change in Iran seem oblivious to the post-Saddam storm that continues to rage in the Gulf and Levant countries 14 years after invading Iraq.

Trump and his administration can learn from history’s lessons and avoid similar mistakes. First and foremost, Iran is not like Iraq. Iran, which emerged as a modern nation-state in the beginning of the 16th century, has a large population, a rich and proud culture, and a sophisticated and committed military. Iraq was cobbled together by the British after World War I as a country—consisting of a Shia majority, a Sunni Arab minority, and a Sunni Kurdish minority—to further British imperial interests in the region. The British founders of modern Iraq at the time embraced the Sunni potentates in the region and imported a Sunni Arab outsider to rule over the Shia majority in Iraq. The country was ruled in this manner nearly 80 years, from the early 1920s until Saddam’s removal in 2003.

The American invasion of Iraq was a cake walk. If Trump decides to invade Iran, the US military will not have such luxury. The Iraqi military was forced to fight for Saddam and his Ba’athist regime, not necessarily for Iraq. The Iranian military and people will fight for Iran, regardless of the nature of their regime.

Several Shia groups outside Iraq, including the Iraqi National Congress and its leader Ahmed Chalabi, were clamoring for regime change in Iraq. The Bush administration at the time embraced Chalabi and was duped by his claims about Saddam’s fabricated nuclear WMD program. Furthermore, several regional states were directly and indirectly involved in the effort to topple Saddam.

Iran is in a totally different situation. No serious outside groups or self-proclaimed exiled leaders are calling for regime change in Iran. Unlike former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s dramatic speech before the UN Security Council in February 2003 showing “evidence” of Iraq’s nuclear program, Iran is not being subjected to such “facts” at the UN today. Those who favor invading Iran, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, are driven by their opposition to the nuclear deal and by Iran’s regional resurgence.

The Bush administration tried to sell the United Nations on the bogus claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that it was a matter of time before a Hiroshima-type Iraqi “mushroom cloud” threatened the United States. By contrast, Iran has signed a nuclear deal to limit its nuclear program for nearly 15 years and has accepted an unprecedented intrusive inspections regime to make sure it lives up to the international agreement. By all metrics, Iran has complied with the conditions of the nuclear deal, Trump’s shrill protestations notwithstanding.

Saddam ruled by fiat through cooptation and the brutality of his massive security state apparatus. A decade and a half after the invasion and the demise of Saddam, Iraq remains a failed state mired in corruption, political uncertainty, and poor public services. Personal and public security is elusive, and Sunni terrorism is still prevalent across the country.

President Hassan Rouhani, by comparison, came to power as a second-term president through relatively fair and free national elections. Despite the regime’s theocratic moorings, Iran’s global trade and relations encompass many countries and regions. As a nation-state, Iran continues to pursue its interests and enhance its influence in the region, from Turkey to Afghanistan, which is not dissimilar to activities by other neighboring states. In fact, Iran’s Saudi and UAE neighbors are equally and perhaps even more aggressive in pursuing their perceived security interests against their Sunni Arab neighbors. The Trump administration should settle any disagreements it has with Iran through diplomacy, not war.

There are two other lessons that the Bush administration refused to learn during its determined push to invade Iraq. My analysts and I tried to highlight those lessons to President Bush and his vice president, but to no avail. First, Iraqis’ dislike for Saddam was not synonymous with liking a foreign invader. Iraqis told the US government repeatedly before and right after the invasion that they appreciated Washington’s help in removing Saddam, but that once the task was completed, US forces should leave Iraq.

Second, despite Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that US forces were “liberators,” he refused to believe that “liberation” would quickly morph into “occupation” or that a prolonged occupation, regardless of the original intent and mission, would soon antagonize the local population and turn them against the occupying forces. When I persisted in my briefings on the need to consider the critical “morning after” questions before going to war, Cheney accused the CIA of undermining the administration’s policy, which of course was ludicrous. It’s ironic that it took Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld almost six months before conceding that his twin policies of de-Ba’athification and dissolution of the Iraqi military produced two unwelcome consequences—an insurgency and a civil war.

Unintended Consequences

A war on Iran will most certainly disrupt the global oil markets and shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandab, and the Suez Canal. Aside from the inevitable destruction and human casualties, such an attack would result in Iran striking Saudi Arabia, inflicting serious damage to the Kingdom’s oil and water facilities.

More ominously for the Sunni regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, a war against Iran would inflame the Shia populations in these countries against their Sunni regimes. Shia uprisings across the region could easily destabilize these countries, further escalate the Saudi war in Yemen, stir up the Shia majority in Iraq, and open a new Shia insurgency against American forces in that country. A war on Iran will also upend the fight against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.

Not all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council will support a military aggression against Iran. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain would be the most enthusiastic cheerleaders while Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman would be more neutral. That will certainly be the death knell for the GCC. Nor will Qatar and Kuwait allow the US military to use their bases in those countries in the war effort. Turkey will most likely take a similar stand.

The Trump administration would do well to learn these lessons and consider the dire unintended consequences before withdrawing from the P5+1 nuclear deal and embarking on a war against Iran.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share