J.J. Goldberg

Toppling Saddam, Unleashing Iran and Anticipating the Unanticipated

By J.J. Goldberg

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Every day, it seems, something else happens somewhere to prove again, if any more proof were needed, just who is the big winner from America’s six-year adventure in Iraq. We refer, of course, to the Islamic Republic of Iran. America’s successful toppling of Iran’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein, accidentally ushered in a golden age for Iranian influence and freedom of action, at home, in the region and around the world. There’s nothing like being a predator without natural enemies in the neighborhood. Who knew?

Well, someone managed to call it. Here’s a Forward editorial from October 2002. (It’s no longer on our Web site; this version appeared in the Jewish Journal.) Here’s Chemi Shalev’s report from Jerusalem from March 14, 2003, less than a week before the invasion. But we get ahead of ourselves.

Now, here’s the latest in the saga: This past Tuesday, August 25, we learned that the longtime head of the crucial Iraqi National Intelligence Service, one of the lynchpins in American hopes for stability, recently quit his job in frustration over U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s “attempts to undermine his service and allow Iranian spies to operate freely,” in the words of Washington Post foreign-affairs pundit David Ignatius. Iraqi intelligence personnel are reportedly beset by politically-motivated arrests by Maliki’s forces and rubouts by Iranian hit squads, which have killed 290 Iraqi officers since 2004. Much of the violence that has erupted in Iraq in recent weeks, commonly blamed on minority Sunnis, is in fact Iran’s handiwork, Ignatius reports. As for Maliki, he is so tied in with Iran “that the prime minister uses an Iranian jet with an Iranian crew for his official travel.”

Then, on Wednesday, top Iraqi Shi’ite political leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a foe of the secularist Maliki, died in an Iranian hospital at age 59, leaving his powerful Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council in the uncertain hands of his son and more susceptible than ever to Iranian influence and control. In effect, whichever of the two main rival Iraqi forces comes out on top, Iran is the winner. Ignatius writes:

Should the Americans try to restore order? The top Iraqi intelligence source answered sadly that it was probably wiser to “stay out of it and be safe.” When pressed about what his country would look like in five years, absent American help, he answered bluntly: “Iraq will be a colony of Iran.”

On the international front, meanwhile, Iran’s freedom of action is growing, not diminishing, despite the best efforts of Washington, Paris, Berlin and Jerusalem to hem it in. The 118-member Non-aligned Movement wrote to the International Atomic Energy Agency this week to endorse Iran’s call for an advance condemnation of any possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. And U.S. and European diplomats are becoming pessimistic, the Wall Street Journal reports, over the odds of President Obama’s planned drive to round up Security Council support for tightened sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

All of which goes to show you what a dangerous world we live in, and how the best of intentions can lead to unanticipated consequences.

Except that in this case, the consequences were entirely anticipated. I’m just saying.


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