Learning the Right Lessons from the Iraq War

One of the few points of general agreement between the American right and left today is that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal strategic blunder. Yet, Abe Greenwald observes, much of the discussion of the war today is surrounded by “hysteria” that “has made it difficult to look back on the invasion of Iraq with the kind of seriousness that such investigations require.” He finds in Melvyn Leffler’s Confronting Saddam Hussein a much-needed sober evaluation:

Leffler frames the decision to invade Iraq as the last stage in a long-developing showdown between Saddam Hussein and the United States. And in his opening chapter on the life of Hussein, the accurate recounting of the facts is more than sufficient to create a lurid portrait of a life-long monster. There’s much here that the “Sure, Saddam was bad, but” crowd would do well to learn. . . .

Leffler’s characterization of George W. Bush’s path from first son to president is pedestrian by contrast, since the facts of Bush’s somewhat wayward youth and his religious redemption are already sufficiently known. But Leffler’s take is valuable in demonstrating that, upon taking office, neither Bush nor most of his foreign-policy team had any interest in toppling Saddam Hussein or establishing democracy in Iraq. Contrary to popular imagination, this was no neoconservative cabal.

What changed everything, of course, were the attacks of 9/11. But even after that, Bush was slow in coming around to focusing on Iraq. . . . And, for their part, what interested [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and [Deputy Secretary of Defense] Paul Wolfowitz about Iraq was not its dearth of democracy or the prospects for regime change, but rather its capacity to hit the U.S. even harder than al-Qaeda had. This wasn’t the position of the Defense Department alone.

At the same time, Hussein was making jihadist speeches and supporting Hamas. He had kicked weapons inspectors out of Iraq, and the international sanctions regime against him was falling apart. And he had duped inspectors in the past.

Read more at Commentary

More about: George W. Bush, Iraq war, Saddam Hussein, U.S. Foreign policy


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad