After five years, who is winning in Iraq? |

After five years, who is winning in Iraq?

Kirk Caraway
Swift Communications

If you want to know who is winning the war in Iraq, look at how the main players visit the area.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi government hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, giving him the full red-carpet treatment. He met with a host of Iraqi leaders who heaped praise on the visiting dignitary, and he was able to travel with minimal security.

Compare that with last week’s visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. He had to sneak into the country unannounced. Like other top U.S. officials, he was ferried around by helicopter. Driving on the roads is too dangerous because of the bombs of Sunni insurgents and Shiite extremists. He had some private meetings with Iraqi leaders, and then jetted off to Saudi Arabia to beg them to lower oil prices.

Five years ago, Iraq was a convenient target for President George W. Bush and his band of neoconservatives dreaming of remaking the Middle East into an America-loving paradise. They had a bad guy in Saddam Hussein, weakened by a decade of sanctions, and the excuse that he might have weapons of mass destruction. Bush thought he could repeat what his father had done in Panama in 1989.

It stands as one of the most stunning acts of arrogance and naiveté in our history.

It’s hard to believe that they didn’t think that getting rid of Saddam would be a huge boost to the even bigger bad guy in the region, Iran. We took out their No. 1 enemy, who was keeping them from spreading their influence throughout the Persian Gulf.

Not only that, but with the Shiite majority in Iraq now free to take power, Iran gained almost a mini-state in Iraq. Many of the major Iraqi Shiite leaders spent years in exile in Iran and have close ties, as do the Kurds. Between the two groups, they make up 80 percent of the population, and their groups control nearly all of the oil.

So they’ll put up with America as long as we keep sending them money and troops to put down the Sunni minority.

Even if we win the war, Iran will be the country that benefits, while we get stuck with the check. We are like the guy who pays big bucks to take the girl to the dance, and is left holding the drinks while she dances away with someone else.

What makes it worse is that all of our Arab allies in the region are Sunnis who don’t take too kindly to us helping out their Shiite rivals. So we not only screwed ourselves, but our friends as well.

Don’t expect President Bush to admit to any of this. He has a legacy to protect. And whether it’s his continued ignorance of the politics of the region or an attempt to cover up his mistakes, he’s pulling out the al-Qaida fear card yet again.

“An emboldened al-Qaida with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations,” President Bush said during his speech to commemorate five years of this nightmare.

But how is it that a Sunni terrorist group like al-Qaida in Iraq, with a couple of thousand followers, is supposed to take over Shiite-dominated Iraq?

Even most Iraqi Sunnis have turned against al-Qaida, perhaps the one and only achievement of Bush’s troop surge. Ralph Nader has a better shot at becoming president of the United States than al-Qaida has taking over Iraq.

But someone is buying Bush’s bluff: John McCain. He seems to think that Iran is helping al-Qaida in Iraq to kill their Shiite friends. At last count, he’s claimed this four times in one week, retracted one of them, and come back to claim it’s true again.

For this country to deal with the war in Iraq, we need a president who at least understands who the players are. The current one has proven time and again that he either doesn’t have a clue, or doesn’t care. And the man he wants to replace him seems equally clueless.

McCain said he thinks it’s just fine for American troops to remain in Iraq for a hundred years. It may take him a century to figure out who the enemy is. Americans can’t wait that long.

• Kirk Caraway writes for Swift Communications, Inc. He can be reached through his blog at