The war in Iraq 20 years ago ended in an unexpected way, and its shadow still haunts Washington to this day.
Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau once said “war is a series of disasters leading to victory”. However, with the Iraq war, it started with a victory and ended with a series of disasters.
The war began with an airstrike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on March 20, 2003. After that, the US-led coalition forces advanced from the gathering point on the Kuwaiti border into Iraqi territory, starting the ground offensive operation.
While the massive ground offensive headed towards southern Iraq, large-scale airstrikes crippled the command and control system of the Iraqi army, sending the country’s armed forces into chaos and near as irresistible.
Less than a month later, on April 9, 2003, the coalition entered the capital Baghdad, the regime of President Saddam Hussein collapsed. US President George W. Bush on May 1, 2003 declared “combat mission accomplished”, moving to the phase of “democracy building” in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003 and executed three years later.
When he first arrived in Baghdad in 2003, US General David Petraeus asked: “Tell me how this will end?”. Eleven years later, Petraeus had his answer, when the United States completely withdrew its forces from Iraq, leaving behind a country filled with chaos, violence and political division.
Before the war broke out, many experts in the UK and the US, including current CIA director William Burns, warned of the risks of military intervention in Iraq. However, American leaders, including President George Bush, ignored these warnings.
British expert Toby Dodge, then recently returned from Iraq, was even invited to Downing Street to warn Prime Minister Tony Blair that war in Iraq would be catastrophic. Dodge said Blair told him “I know you think I shouldn’t do it, but I have to. I know it’s going to be terrible. Tell me how bad it is.”
Dodge said that the US and UK did not know how the war would be waged, but “they planned to occupy and run this country. That was arrogance at the highest level”.
“For the past 20 years, we’ve been looking at and trying to figure out what went wrong,” Dodge said. “But the big mistake is to run the campaign in a country you know nothing about. That will inevitably lead to failure.”
Observers say the United States and its allies failed to anticipate the end of Saddam Hussein’s 24-year rule without a consistent plan for a replacement, sparking a power struggle between Shiite Muslims. and Sunnis across the Middle East. The Iraq War fueled a Sunni insurgency in Iraq and sparked the emergence of Islamic State (IS) militants across Syria and Iraq in 2011.
The war also strengthened Iran and its proxies across the Middle East. It made the West hesitate to intervene militarily in Syria, enabling Russia to send troops to the country to help President Bashar al-Assad fight rebel groups and Islamist rebels.
The Cost of War Project of Brown University, USA estimates the amount of money Washington spent on wars after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at $8 trillion, including the total cost of the war in Iraq. is more than 3 trillion USD. About 400,000 Iraqis were killed in the war.
The aftermath of the war continued to haunt the United States for the next two decades. Campaign withdraw troops from Afghanistan The chaos of the US in 2021 is said to be rooted in the bitterness of defeat in Iraq, according to Patrick Wintour, analyst at Guardian.
When Washington condemned Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine, upholding territorial integrity, national sovereignty and the United Nations charter, China, Russia and many other countries have accused the US of “double standards”. Dr Patricia Lewis of the Chatham House research organization says the US war in Iraq has become the pretext for this argument.
The Iraq war broke out three years after Vladimir Putin began his first Russian presidency. America’s unilateralism in Iraq has led Putin to believe in what he sees as the “irreparable American arrogance”, even though Russia had previously been an ally in President Bush’s war on terror.
Alastair Campbell, the press secretary of British Prime Minister Blair, in his private diary recorded the exchange between Putin and Prime Minister Blair at a press conference in May 2003. “Putin said that the entire Western response to the 9/11 attacks was a show of American strength,” Campbell said.
When Blair was about to explain, Mr. Putin interrupted: “Don’t answer. There is no answer. It’s true. There are people who behave badly in the US government, Tony, and you know it.”
According to Dr. Lewis, President Putin believes that everything the US did after the Iraq war, such as supporting the overthrow of leader Gaddafi in Libya, supporting rebel groups in Syria or the Maidan protest movement in Ukraine in 2014 was all signs that Washington does not distinguish between “rules-based order” and hegemony.
Saudi Arabiaa longtime US ally in the region, also felt betrayed by the Iraq war, as they warned Mr. Bush about the dangers of a policy of “democracy-building” in the country.
Saud al Faisal, the former foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, once complained that the US “has given Iraq to Iran easily”. Saddam Hussein was considered an “enemy” of Iran, and after his ouster, militia groups backed by Tehran quickly rose up, taking advantage of the power vacuum in Baghdad.
Iran gains influence in Iraq through groups such as Jaish al-Mahdi, a militia linked to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps later established the Quds Force on Iraqi territory and developed its network there.
The Pentagon attributes about 600 of the 4,000 US service deaths in Iraq to attacks by groups backed by Iran. The agency estimates that within two years of the 2005 election, pro-Iranian militias controlled two-thirds of the seats in the Iraqi parliament.
America chose Nour al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister in 2006 in the belief that he would not act sectarian or lean too heavily on Iran. Before Saddam was toppled, Maliki lived in exile in Iran, but left to protest Tehran’s pressure on him to swear allegiance to supreme leader Ayatollah Khomenei. When he became prime minister of Iraq, he chose Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first foreign trip in an effort to strengthen Badgdad’s position in the Arab world.
With the encouragement of the US, Maliki really wants to have a positive relationship with Saudi Arabia and pursue a policy of escaping Iranian influence. In 2008, Maliki launched a campaign to crack down on Shiite militias in Barsa and Baghdad, a move seen as a setback for Iran.
But as relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated and Maliki failed to win the 2010 elections, he became increasingly dependent on Tehran to stay in power.
President Bush also offered conflicting explanations of his motives in Iraq, reflecting the divisions of the US administration, according to analyst Patrick Wintour.
Bush initially believed that Saddam Hussein was arming those who carried out the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But in August 2002, he approved a classified document proposed by national security adviser Condoleeza Rice, showing that the United States can help build a new Iraqi state based on democracy and become a good model for area.
In his second inaugural address in January 2005, Mr. Bush made democracy an important part of the war on terror. “The survival of freedom in our country increasingly depends on the success of freedom in other lands. The best hope for world peace is to expand freedom globally,” he said. .
Rice emphasized this point again in a speech in Cairo in June 2005. “We support everyone’s democratic aspirations,” she said.
But the war in Iraq has become an obstacle to efforts to expand democracy. CIA Director Burns admitted “the failure in Iraq has damaged the image and reputation of the United States. If this is the way the United States promotes democracy, very few Arabs want to participate in that effort.”
Thanh Tam (According to Guardian)