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Lessons from Seven Years in Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Every side is capable of lecturing us on the lessons that we could learn from the occupation of Iraq and Saddam Hussein being overthrown The America side indicates that in just 10 days it managed to topple the most powerful and well-armed regime in the Arab world, and that it has planted the seeds of democracy in Iraq’s arid soil. As for the Iraqis, they could say that 7 years have passed since the invasion and American blood is still being spilt on Iraqi soil, and that the world’s largest superpower has failed to control a relatively small country, to the extent that the US even failed to prevent Ahmed Chalabi from corrupting the most recent elections.

What happened in Iraq is important not just with regards to the history of the region, but also with regards to international relations at large, and it is one of the most significant events in the post-Cold War era. There are many lessons to be learnt from the war in Iraq, and they are as following;

The war in Iraq emphasized that force without intelligence or wisdom will spoil even the greatest victory, and that following the massive US invasion the Saddam Hussein regime collapsed and the Iraqis surrendered with little resistance. However despite the ease of their task, the Americans ultimately failed to secure victory.

The US administration revealed incredible ignorance resulting in them underestimating the small but vital details in Iraq and the region at large and which meant that the US force was blind and made confusing and conflicting decisions. This resulted in a series of terrible mistakes, the greatest of which was the decision to dissolve the Iraqi army and security apparatus, as well as categorizing between Iraqis as friends or enemies. This transformed a quick victory into a long defeat.

[Military] occupation weakened both Iraq and Afghanistan, in the interests of Iran, in a region in which there is a sensitive balance of power. The US occupation weakened moderate countries and strengthened the forces of chaos.

The occupation also resulted in an increasing consensus amongst the different countries in the region over the necessity of foiling the American project, because every side believed that this was something that targeted them, which resulted in US isolation in the region and also disrupted their influence.

The inability of the US forces also undermined America’s political prestige, and prestige is an essential factor needed by the US if it wants to succeed in the region and also protect its interests.

Iran is celebrating the strengthening of its military force, and it seems that it has forgotten the first lesson. Saddam Hussein, the most violent leader in the region, lost his grip on power because of his stubbornness and ignorance, and the Americans are capable of making the same mistakes once again as this would mean the destruction of Iran and its allies.

Most countries in the region have yet to learn the lesson that military power is not the best means to guarantee power, as was evident in Saddam Hussein – who had the most powerful arsenal in the region – being toppled from power. He was overthrown and nobody mourned his passing other than his two daughters.

Although the Iraqis did not design the political system that they are following today, they have managed to live together and coexist [within this system] and this gives them a sense of self-importance and permanence, unless they spoil everything by putting aside this [political] system.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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