America on the Back-Foot in a War in the Middle East
It only appears like yesterday, when the American President George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. This led to the hanging of Saddam Hussein. This has been the turning point in Middle East history. George Bush opened Pandora's box. As per legend a fairy remained behind in the box and was allowed to come out later. In the present scenario, even that small spark of the fairy representing hope is not there.
War clouds have gathered over the Middle East and the next conflagration if at all takes place might well be very bad for the American state and more so for the allies in the region.
The chain of events started when Saddam Hussein was removed. It must be acknowledged and Donald Trump himself during his election campaign has said that Saddam knew how to deal with ISIS and Al Qaeda. He was against extremism and hanged scores of terrorists in Baghdad. We must also understand that there is an inherent conflict between two major sects of Islam which are the Shia and the Sunni.
Saddam Hussein was a Sunni while the majority of the Iraqi population is Shia. Iran is also a Shia state. When Saddam was overthrown power passed into ends of the Shia majority in Iraq. This was the opening that Iran was looking forward to. It got an entry into Iraq and that is the reason that almost 5000 Iranian troops are present in Iraq under the command of general Suleymani- the man assassinated in a US drone attack close to Baghdad airport.
The United States continued its presence in Iraq and it can only be said that it remains an uninvited guest of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi parliament has now passed a resolution asking for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. One wonders if this was the aim of President Bush. The result is, that sooner than later that America will have to withdraw from Iraq.
Iran has now launched a missile attack against US bases in Iraq. It is claimed there are no casualties but that is circumventing the point that Iran has shown its belligerence and lack of respect for America. The world expected America to react but President Donald Trump in his recent press conference surrounded by four-star generals just said that Iran has toned down its reaction. What this means is only known to the President. To the world, it means that Iran has been let off the hook because the Americans have no option at all.
The fact is America degraded it's options when it removed Saddam Hussein. Saddam was an enemy of Iran and he had led Iraq in a war with Iran which lasted many years. With his removal, a strong opponent of Iran has ceased to exist.
Lighting the Tinder Box
The assassination of general Sulaimani has made America extremely vulnerable. Iran is a very belligerent nation and it has a clearly formulated policy. It wants to be the regional leader in the area. It would like to take the leadership away from Saudi Arabia which is a Sunni nation and the custodian of the holiest shrines of Islam. It has got an opening, a big one in Iraq. Iran also is close to Turkey as well as Russia and China. who follow the dictum; enemies-enemy, is my friend.
Iran militarily is not a match to the United States but it has a potent missile arsenal of medium and short-range missiles that can strike targets in the vicinity. The Iranian have threatened that in case the Americans launch an attack on them they will hit the American allies with missiles and guided rockets and bring about great destruction. They have pinpointed the American allies as Saudi Arabia and the UAE with Dubai and Israel.
In such a scenario the Americans despite all their military power have one hand tied behind their back. They may very well launch an attack on Iran and degrade the military capability of the country but the repercussions of the Irani missile attack on places like Dubai which is the El Dorado of the east and the oil centers of Saudi Arabia as well as the Israeli port of Haifa will be nothing but a disaster. If such an attack does take place these countries will be put behind by almost 2 decades. Obviously none of the rulers of this country can bargain for such a line of action.
Iran knows the weakness of the United States and therefore is continuing on its path. It is active in Syria and Yemen as well and there does not seem to be any fear of America at all. America has already become a persona non-grata in Iraq.
if America were to withdraw from Iraq the field would be open to Iran to dominate the entire region. In a way, it is already holding states like the UAE to ransom because there does not seem to be any defence against Irani missiles which can reach their targets in a few minutes.
Donald Trump has not created this situation. This was created by the earlier presidents from the time of Ronald Regan. For some reason, the Americans attacked Saddam Hussein and Libya and removed Muammar Gaddafimore but against Iran, they have dithered. One can recollect that in 1979 the Irani revolutionary guards had taken over 100 American diplomatic personnel as prisoners after storming the embassy in Tehran. All America did at that time was to pay a large sum of money as ransom and get the men held in custody of Iran released.
The president of the United States is sitting on the horns of a dilemma. He is perhaps dogged by Hamlet's famous soliloquy in Shakespeare's play, " to be or not to be." Its a real catch- 22 states situation and for this, we cannot hold President Trump responsible. It is the culmination of wrong decisions by at least four presidents before him. The President now holds the baby with no water. At some stage, the Americans will have to bite the bullet. If they do not do it they will have to cede the leadership of the Middle East to Iran.
This may well commence if America is forced to withdraw from Iraq. It will open the floodgates to Iran and domination in the region and it could well mean that Iran will hold the Middle East to ransom. The lopsided policies followed by the previous presidents of being selective in who can have nuclear weapons and who cannot have nuclear weapons and indecision in major matters right from the time of President Johnson who allowed China and later Pakistan to become nuclear has led to the present situation.
History records that there is a gradual erosion of empires. I do not know whether the American empire has started to crumble. All said and done Donald Trump is just not the great man to stop the downslide. One will have to see how the events pan out in the days to come