In 2003, the world naively expected that, with the collapse of the government of Saddam Hussein and the eradication of nationalist rule that had held sway over Iraq since the 1960s, the United States would oversee an era of democratisation that would serve as a broader blueprint for “change” across the region. More than 14 years on, and by 2017, it has become clear to all except those in Washington who are still in denial, that the political process towards Iraqi democratisation has failed utterly, and it is now Iran that controls every aspect of power in Baghdad.
One of the main reasons why it failed was because it was never really about democracy to begin with. Aside from false claims of existential threats emanating from Saddam’s Iraq and bogus WMD claims, democracy was used as a sweetener for Western publics to get on board with their governments in the destruction of a sovereign country.
In the aftermath of 9/11, most people in the West – particularly Americans – were in a state of shock. They were ready to believe wildly fabricated lies that contained not a shred of truth in them, and this was spectacularly exposed by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair lying to the British public about Saddam’s alleged capability to launch a WMD strike within 45 minutes. The “Dodgy Dossier” and other lies were further exposed in the Chilcot Inquiry in July 2016 which found that the British public had been deceived, and that the war was entirely unnecessary and undermined the United Nations Security Council and international law.
“Democracy” in Iraq was therefore an added bonus to the supposed increase in security the West would enjoy as a direct result of regime change in Iraq. The British, with the blessings of the Americans, began to convene the “Iraqi opposition” in London, where they famously met in December 2002 to provide the appearance of legitimate Iraqi support for the war.
In a strange twist of fate, rather than target people like al-Muhandis – who is blacklisted by the US as a terrorist – the United States has been providing them with air support in their fight against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Al-Muhandis and other Shia Islamists with proven ties to Iranian terror networks have spent decades attacking Americans and cursing the United States as the “Great Satan”, yet they were more than happy to accept the Great Satan’s firepower when they needed it most.
US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk is a large part of the reason why the United States supports Iranian-linked terrorist groups who have pledged to attack America. McGurk, who is the effective US head of the anti-ISIS coalition, has seemingly warm ties to the Da’wa Party and other pro-Iran groups, and as a result has gone to great lengths to normalise them in Washington, with some Iraqis going so far as to brand him as the American spokesman for the Hashd – another term for the PMF.
Since 2015, McGurk has undermined necessary Sunni Arab involvement in the fight against ISIS and the struggle to stabilise Iraq, and has allowed their towns and cities that fell to ISIS to be recaptured – and not “liberated”, as the media falsely claims – by extremist Shia jihadists who differ from ISIS only in their creed. This has led to countless atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity and abuses being perpetrated by these pro-Iran jihadists against regular Sunnis, as catalogued by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and many others.
These actions, having destroyed the possibility of mainstream Sunni involvement in the politics of the “New Iraq”, has left Washington scrambling to find Sunnis who are willing to get involved in the political process in Baghdad’s Green Zone. After being pressed by Washington, Turkey and a number of Arab sponsors (including Jordan, the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) hosted closed meetings for Iraqi Sunni figures in March this year. However, this meeting failed to attract any new faces, and was attended by people who have lost the trust of the Sunnis, such as former deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlag; Iraqi Islamic Party chief Ayad al-Samarrai; businessman Khamis Khanjar; and others including the Nujaifi brothers, Osama and Atheel.
This was perhaps best illustrated by a Tweet by former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent, who blasted the upcoming Iraqi elections and said: “If you’re Iraqi, you know Iran’s proxies dominate parliament, the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], the intel services…Iran chooses your PM – Only the US is in denial.”
As an American who spent years in Iraq, serving as an adviser to General David Petraeus, and continues to actively engage with Iraqis both in Iraq and abroad, Pregent has seen what the Green Zone truly represents. Rather than being a centre for American influence and democracy, it is in-fact nothing more than the veneer of democracy controlled by Iranian mullahs and devoid of any credible Iraqi political voices, whether Sunni, Shia or otherwise.
Isn’t it therefore about time that Washington realises that its political process has failed, and that they have entirely ceded the field to the Iranians? In cooperation with its Arab allies, it is highly likely that the US will continue to be in denial, and will continue to try and attract Sunnis to sail on the already sunken ship of the post-2003 political process. Until this changes, Iraq will continue to be in chaos, as well as a source of chaos for the entire region.