Correcting America's Grand Strategic Failures in Iraq

By Anthony H. Cordesman, for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

[Please note that this report was issued on 1st April 2021, several days before the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Iraq.]

Correcting America's Grand Strategic Failures in Iraq

Press reports indicate that the U.S. is soon to have yet another meeting with Iraq on establishing some kind of future strategic relationship.

Unless this meeting makes a dramatic break with the past, it will be a dismal failure and do more to empower Iraq's divisions and Iranian influence than to serve U.S. and Iraqi interests or to help bring any kind of security and stability to the MENA region.

There are twelve reasons why the U.S. may fail, and all of them are issues that the U.S. has so far failed to address at the grand strategic level.

Please click here to the full report.

One Response to Correcting America's Grand Strategic Failures in Iraq

  1. Sabah Al-Mukhtar 21st April 2021 at 12:03 #

    Dear Mr Cordesman
    Having read your assessment I would like to share with you the perception of an Iraqi (a patriot) for whatever it is worth. Apologies for the delay.
    There is a presumption that the USA in fact cares. I do not think it does. When it does, it naturally considers USA interests. This US interest in the region and Iraq has dramatically changed since the 1990s. Currently, the interest is to deal with what the US perceives as danger NOT the IRAQIS. Obviously, this is nothing to do with the interest of Iraq, since it (Iraq) is a tool, manifestation or consequence.
    If the above assumption may be right, there is no need for a strategy. Tactics are، all that is needed, which lend themselves to changes and are being deployed.
    Compare to the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s it was followed by creating a “survivable” state that is friendly to Britain. They produced a sort of “balanced” constitution, set up what they thought the best “government” made up of generally honourable and decent Iraqis. Established a “national” army with a “national identity”. Imported king Faisal (son of a king) signed a reasonable “Defence Treaty” with King George. Signed off the oil of Iraq. The test of this policy was seen in 1923- 1958 and beyond.
    US occupation came with “Shock and Awe” which ordinary human beings are not too keen on. Imported a bunch of thieves and traitor to rule under Bremer who did not know enough of anything. They encouraged “many militias” which they had no idea who they were. The US violated every conceivable rule of law of war and international treaties. Being clever, amalgamated the militias into an army whose many allegiances are not known to anybody especially the Americans, who incidentally could not distinguish between who is with them, or against them, with the Iranian, the mafias (archaeology and others) or even with tiny Kuwait. Clearly, they did not know the difference between the openings they have. Mishmash constitution, run by mafioso's, fictional election (not as good as an American one) handed it over to Iran and now regretting it, signed the SOFA agreement (as an occupation agreement). Even the dream of Mr Trump of getting the oil is achieved. The largest embassy in history has been shut down because of the army created by America continue attacking it. Apology, there is now a temporary cease-fire between the USA and Qais Al Khazali after killing Soleimani.
    Giving the USA the benefit of the doubt, it was probably ignorance. The then “Strategy” was based on myths created by the famous and infamous US research institutions and think tanks. Some of these myths are listed below:
    1. Iraqis are (not Arabs), but Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds (good mix of ethnicity and sect)
    2. Shia majority ruled by a Sunni minority (note most Kurds are Sunnis)
    3. Iraqis will welcome the Americans (Iraqis are not Martians) hence do not like invaders or occupiers
    4. Resistance equals terrorism when against invaders or abusers
    5. Al Qaeda, ISIS and whatever names used are just political fanatics of some sort that can be converted and join in to get virgins in heaven.
    6. The determined refusal to distinguish between “motive” and “action”. Baathists, Islamist, patriots, those who lost livelihood by the occupation, those whose loved ones were killed by American soldiers, Iranian militias, sectarian killers and other grievances are all lumped together. Bearded men are especially obvious even if Christians.
    7. The USA knows well that Iraq is absolutely the main breaker of the “sanctions” on Iran and does nothing about that.
    8. The US decided then to “use” Iran to control Iraq on the premise that (use now dump later). A boy soldier from Wisconsin cannot distinguish between me and Saddam but an Iranian can.
    It may be informative to look at the current and recent “Strategy”
    1. The phobia of Al-Qaida, ISIS in Iraq and their counterparts in the neighbouring countries and further afield remains almost the ONLY concern the USA has. ( I believe you yourself share this view). It should not be difficult to presume that (Black Lives Matter) is motivated by other reasons.
    2. The utter destructions of Iraq’s cities Mousel, Fallujah, and other Anbar cities by the Americans and the Iranians and the militias could not be conducive for (not supporting any use of force by anybody). The US obviously has a very clear and, a determined view they are ALL terrorists, Qaeda, et-al.
    3. The continued American support for the abhorrent corrupt system in Iraq AND Kurdistan (parliament, executive and Judiciary) is not a good strategy. Iraqis will have to continue to pay the price because of America’s “Strategy”.
    We understand that US public opinion, economy and military do not assist the US Government to do much to remedy this situation in Iraq in terms of “getting involved”.
    I am confident that Iraqis DO NOT want America to redress the situation. This is contrary to all the rubbish some of the rubbish Iraqi “politicians” say.
    The Iraqis expect that America, having destroyed the country once would stop SUPPORTING the current militias indirectly and the government directly, which is considered the second destruction. The US needs to begin to apply pressure to reform for the US and Iraqi’s sake. The USA knows the situation extremely well and also knows the practical and workable ideas to reform.
    With respect, your academic and technical analysis is still more of the same with changes of emphasis, details, and priorities.
    What is missing is the wish to support Iraq to recover. This I do not think is the subject matter. The new strategy is aimed at sustaining (maybe improving) the status quo.
    But why should the USA after what it intentionally, willfully and purposely did from 1991 onwards to Iraq!
    Sabah Al-Mukhtar