A central claim in a new story published by the New Yorker is that the real victor in the 2003 war between the US and Saddam governments was the Islamic Republic of Iran. Profiling Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, a division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the article describes how Iran both engineered the new Iraqi government and the US forces withdrawal.
As the American occupation faltered, Suleimani began an aggressive campaign of sabotage. Many Americans and Iraqis I interviewed thought that the change of strategy was the result of opportunism: the Iranians became aggressive when the fear of an American invasion began to recede…
In 2004, the Quds Force began flooding Iraq with lethal roadside bombs that the Americans referred to as E.F.P.s, for “explosively formed projectiles.” The E.F.P.s, which fire a molten copper slug able to penetrate armor, began to wreak havoc on American troops, accounting for nearly twenty per cent of combat deaths. E.F.P.s could be made only by skilled technicians, and they were often triggered by sophisticated motion sensors. “There was zero question where they were coming from,” General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, told me. “We knew where all the factories were in Iran. The E.F.P.s killed hundreds of Americans.”
The Iranian offensive proved successful in both stressing US forces and building a stronger domestic opposition to US occupation.
Suleimani was even instrumental in helping Al Qaeda entering the war providing them protection at least initially. He also began sending his own forces into the country as advisors and ordering attacks. At one point American commanders even considered crossing into Iranian territory in response.
Eventually the deal for the new government was brokered by Suleimani.
In the months before, according to several Iraqi and Western officials, Suleimani invited senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders to meet with him in Tehran and Qom, and extracted from them a promise to support Maliki, his preferred candidate. The deal had a complex array of enticements. Maliki and Assad disliked each other; Suleimani brought them together by forging an agreement to build a lucrative oil pipeline from Iraq to the Syrian border. In order to bring the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in line, Suleimani agreed to place his men in the Iraqi service ministries.
Most remarkable, according to the Iraqi and Western officials, were the two conditions that Suleimani imposed on the Iraqis. The first was that Jalal Talabani, a longtime friend of the Iranian regime, become President. The second was that Maliki and his coalition partners insist that all American troops leave the country. “Suleimani said: no Americans,” the former Iraqi leader told me. “A ten-year relationship, down the drain.”
That spelled the end of US influence and the beginning of Iranian dominance of Iraq.
So the end result of Bush’s ill-advised and poorly managed invasion of Iraq was to empower Iran to become even more of a regional power. Slow clap for US foreign policy.