IN retrospect, Mearsheimer and Walt’s examination of the necessity of the 2003 invasion of Iraq proved reasonably accurate. There was no justification to invade Iraq and in doing so, the US plunged a historically turbulent region into greater chaos. Beyond the national power vacuum created, the war shifted the regional balance of power and skewed it heavily towards Iran. As Mearsheimer and Walt discussed, Saddam Hussein (with the backing of the US, Saudi Arabia, and several other countries) provided a useful check on Iran and Khomeini’s influence in the region.
The Iran-Iraq war slowed Khomeini’s ability to support Shia’s expanse as it demanded large local efforts and resources. Saddam, the maniacal tyrant, proved quite useful in preventing the 1979 Iranian revolution from spreading too much further than its borders.
Previously, Lebanon and its Hizb’allah insurgency stood as Iran’s greatest external success. The Iran-Iraq war was a major regional conflict with over xxx deaths and xxx millions invested into the war as such, Iranian ideological resistance to Sunni-dominated Iraq necessitated major national resources.
Removing Saddam freed Iran to divert and dedicate these resources to other numerous endeavors. Since the Iran-Iraq war, Iran has sponsored several more countries with money, military training, military equipment, and other resources with varying results. However, given the smallest seat at the table of international relations, Iran’s ultimate goal was developing power expansive enough to shape Middle Eastern politics. In that, Iran is succeeding. Removing Saddam removed Iran’s counterweight, tipping the scale-out of America’s favor.
The Arab Spring provided such an opportunity to expand Iranian influence and sew seeds of instability and regime change, seen most notably in Yemen and Syria.
Since the civil uprising and the “Arab Sg,” the Syrian conflict has evolved into a full-fledged civil war. While Iran has no ostensible reason to support the Assad regime, Syria has long backed the Khomeini regime when most Middle East powerbrokers would not. Syria further garnered favor with Iran with its staunch opposition to the existence of Israel. With Iran able to freely traverse through Iraq, Iran directs material support to Lebanon sympathizers through the Golan Heights. Supporting Syria also deepens relations with Russia, a historic Iranian ally.
The Yemeni civil war is also a direct result of the Arab Spring. The populace demanded the scale-option of President Saleh and power was eventually ceded to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Most of the international community hoped this move would bring stability to one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Hadi was never able to consolidate enough power to satisfy the public. In 2014, the Houthis, historic dissidents, began a military can that eventually resulted in capturing the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. Bolstered by Iran, the Houthi rebellion is a thorn in Saudi’s side. By creating discord in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran is doing more than creating an annoyance, they’re forcing Saudi Arabia
In years past, the collapse of one regime might not lend itself to the tumult and transformation the Middle East is currently undergoing. Undoubtedly there are larger factors at play outside of removing Saddam, however, his removal set the conditions for this confluence of factors.
The amalgamation of these micro-conflicts plays a role on the global stage. In totality, these conflicts are increasing Iran’s ability to exert its agenda in the Middle East – home to important energy reserves. We’ll never know the true reason the US invaded Iraq the first time, nor the second time, but it was undoubtedly incredibly short-sighted. It was an ignorant and brazen effort that showed a complete lack of understanding of Middle East power dynamics. Saddam served as an effective deterrent
In choosing to invade Iraq, the US worked against its greater longstanding interest in the region Arab Spring Article.