In the initial years of 2000s, an event occurred on September 11, 2001 which influenced the whole world especially the Middle East. On that date, a group of terrorists kidnapped three airplanes and attacked World Trade Center and Pentagon. These attacks really shocked the United States as well as the rest of the world. The reason why these attacks shocked the Americans was that it was the second greatest attack that they have faced on their soils since the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese army in 1941. After these attacks,Washington declared a war against terrorism under the name of Bush Doctrine. In October 2001 and March 2003, the United States and her allies attacked Afghanistan and Iraq respectively under the name of fighting against terrorism. The effects of these invasions still continue today.
This paper discusses United States’ Iraq War and its influences on the Middle East policies of this state. A brief summary of the Iraqi War will be given in the first part of the paper. The influences of this war over the Middle East policy of the United States will be elaborated in the second part of the paper.
1. Brief Summary of the Iraqi War
The September 9/11 has simultaneously given a new legitimacy to the more aggressive and interventionist approach brought by the George W. Bush administration which came into power in January 2001, into the foreign policy in the post-Clinton era (Arı 57-59). The Bush Doctrine formed the main philosophy of new American foreign policy in the post 9/11 era. In his message on September 26, in the U.S. Congress, he stated that all states should choose their sides by emphasizing that “You are either with us or you are with the other side namely the terrorists”. Bush openly had the tendency to view all states that not acting with theWashington together and having opposite views in the point of threat evaluation as seeing them with the other side. In the new American policy, the rhetoric of “Soviet threat” was replaced by “the rhetoric of terror threat.” Therefore, one can say that the defeat of terrorism is one of the most important strategies of US inMiddle East along with the strategy to prevent nuclear proliferation.
After that event,Iraq was among the accused states identified by George W. Bush as the Axis of Evil and a supporter of terrorist activities (Bush 228-229). The American administration was trying to prove the existence of some connections among the organizers of 9/11 attacks and Saddam administration. In that context, terrorists as well as the states supporting them were being shown as targets. According to Bush, Iraq did not obey the UN resolutions. Also, Iraq was in the process of developing weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush Doctrine was expanded with the new additions within the time. Within the context of Preemptive War Strategy, the concepts of preventive war and preemptive strike were started to be used (Küntay, 63). This strategy proposes that American administration would follow a strategy toward protecting the Washington’s interests and security by using unilateral initiatives instead of multilateral cooperation. Washington can attack another country, which it considers is ready to materialize as a threat to its security. In other words, it is a strike when the counter-attack is clear.
The Operation of Iraqi Freedom organized by Washington and London started on March 20, 2003. This operation was completed very easily. The United States reached to Baghdad by encountering very little resistance. It is very interesting that Iraq did not include its air forces to the war. Iraqi security forces lacked of a serious defense strategy that could prevent the soldiers of the United States.
2. The Effects of Iraq’s Invasion on United States’ Middle East Policy
Bush’s Iraq mistake might be discussed for long years. Yet, the thing that makes this war unusual and unnecessary is that Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein have never posed a direct threat to United States’ security (Kurtbağ 334-335). When it is looked back, it is seen that this war is badly designed and managed. Both the top level commanders and the people in the executive levels made great mistakes in Iraq by taking the wrong and/or chosen intelligence as the basis. Moreover, the level of consciousness on sectarianism which has existed from the past and guided the country’s current domestic politics as well as determines future expectations about the political stability was at that time very low.
The reasons presented by the Bush administration were understood as unreal (Ben- Meir, 18-19). The weapons of mass destruction could not be found and also any kind of direct linkage between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda could not be put forward. The Iraqi War changed the political scene in the greater Middle East as well as the country’s domestic political structure forever. Shia’s coming into the power in Iraq has been an exclusive event in terms of Arab history in which Iraq is known as not only being an Arab country but also regarded as the cradle of Arab civilization.
When the Middle East is examined from this perspective, it is obvious that Iraq War and its consequences have altered the regional balance of power. Dual containment policy of Washington toward Tehran and Baghdad, a strategy designed to balance these two countries by making them rivals, was almost abandoned in one night and a Shi’a government emerged. Without a doubt, together with Iraq, Iran has been able to create an approximately 80 million Shi’a crescent with the inclusion of Shia’s that possess almost 50 % of the oil reserves in the Middle East. Iraq War has altered the context of historical rivalry and struggle between these two countries and thus, Iran became a party that benefited from the American invasion most.
One of the greatest damages of the Iraq War is the shattering of United States’ image within the global context. After the quick defeat of Iraq army, the dramatic condition has shown that White House has made great miscalculations with regard to sectarianism and Sunni-Shi’a struggle reaching to the great levels in Iraq (Yegin and Karal, 28). Together with the increasing of American and Iraqi deaths, not only the condition that the war takes, but also the subject of whether or not the America has a just authority in insisting to continue to a war in a country which does not directly threat Washington have resulted in asking of serious questions. Even if some Muslim radicals including Al-Qaeda have joined together to fight against the “Infidels” in a Holy War, in the final analysis, the United States was fighting against the local Sunnis fighting for their futures.
The argument of carrying out “a war against terrorism” put forward by the White House has been defined as a non-end mission in very insufficient way. President Bush has decided to implement an exit strategy after a loss over 1 trillion$, more than 4500 loss of life of Americans and approximately more than death of 600,000 Iraqis. During the time, given the indifference shown toward the international community, especially the Arab and Muslim world, the American image in the world has hit the bottom.
In November 2004, the American public faced with a CIA report which was conveyed by CNN. According to that report, in the year 2003 which the war started, Saddam Hussein had no illegal weapons and since that date any kind of weaponry program toward producing arms had been started. Furthermore, the pictures reflected from the Abu Gurayb prison in April 2004, announced the war crimes of Washington to the world (Brzezinski, 146-147). In these photographs, the American soldiers were torturing the Iraqi prisoners in a numinous way. Nation building efforts of Washingtonwere seemingly to fail. The violence became widespread and started to target the order that the Americans tried to establish. Together with the participation of anti-invasion and external elements,Iraqbegan to turn into an anti-American front. The role of America in Iraq was not accepted as “saver and liberator” within the context of her naive expectations.
The perception of United States within the Iraqi people was defined as “invaders” and not legitimate. The addressing of this country by the United States within the context of ethnic and religious structures by strengthening the discriminatory identity building made impossible to keep the country together. First of all, White House caused the emergence of a great gap by removing the Sunni administrative elite from their post without producing their alternatives. Especially, this was more clearly seen in the institutions that Iraq mostly needs which require sophisticated capabilities. Above all, there comes Iraqi army in which whether this institution is sufficient in protecting the order or not is point at issue.
Another significant point is that the Iraq Constitution is far away from a constitution that is formed as a result of consensus of all the parties in the country. The constitution which prepared according to the ethnic and religious structures damaged the Iraqi identity to a large extent. The federal structure based on allowing separate identities of Shia’s, Sunnis and Kurds resulted in de facto separation. In this system in which the incomes of the country are shared by ethnic groups, this situation has strengthened the tendency of the parties to go their own ways. Alongside, the exclusion of the Sunnis from the process as well as underestimation of their demands constituted a serious instability. Within that context, the emerging constitution is a constitution shaped by the Kurds and Sunnis in which the former is trying to reach from federation to independence and the latter has the tendency to rule the country according to religious references. Therefore, the Iraqi constitution which forms final legal basis of federation in this country has a triggering spirit that structurally brings the separation together as well as not meeting the different demands.
In the final days of December 2011, United States’ force withdrew from Iraq after the eight-year invasion. This invasion has remained huge losses for both Washington and Baghdad. The United States’ relations with her allies in the region namely Turkey has also deteriorated with the events namely March 1st, 2003 government motion’s refusal in Turkish Grand National Assembly and the Hood Case. Inside Iraq,Washington has made great mistakes namely the fastening of discriminatory identity building process.Iraq has de facto divided among Shia’s, Sunnis and Kurds. Each of them has separate regions.
The biggest winner of this war is the Islamic Republic of Iran. First of all, the greatest enemy of Tehran in the region was invaded by the United States, another greatest enemy of the Iranian administration. Ever since 2003, Tehran has been benefiting from this situation. Tehran has been making every effort since the invasion to prevent Baghdad administration to regain power in the region.
The Obama administration should focus on the continuation of betterment in domestic security, the adoption of oil law and the reaching of mutually accepted solution on the future of Kirkuk. But these tasks require hard-working. The negative effects of this invasion onUnited States’ Middle East policy will clearly be seen for years and it will be very hard to recover the damages of this invasion for decades.
Sina KISACIK & Tülin AVCI
– Alon Ben-Meir, “11 Eylül: Sonuçları ve Yeni Düzen”, in 11 Eylül Sonrası Ortadoğu, eds., Sedat Laçiner, Arzu Celalifer Ekinci (Ankara, USAK Yayınları, 2011), pp. 18-19.
– Burak Küntay, Major Shift: The Change In U.S. Foreign Policy During The 2003 Iraq War Era and Turkish-U.S. Relations, (İstanbul, Bahçeşehir University Press, 2011), p. 63.
– George W. Bush, Decision Points, (Great Britain, Virgin Books, 2010), pp. 228-229.
– Mehmet Yeğin, Dilek Karal “ABD’nin Irak İşgalinin Bilançosu”, Analist, 12 (2012), p. 28.
– Ömer Kurtbağ, Amerikan Yeni Sağı ve Dış Politikası: Hegemonya Ekseninde Bir Analiz, (Ankara, USAK Yayınları, 2010), pp. 334-335.
– Tayyar Arı, Liderler, Kanaat Önderleri ve Kamuoyunun Gözünden Yükselen Güç: Türkiye-ABD İlişkileri ve Ortadoğu (Bursa, MKM Yayıncılık, 2010), pp. 57-59.
– Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower, (New York, Basic Books, 2007) pp. 146-147.