Are we witnessing a historic shift in the balance of power in the Persian Gulf, with Iran assuming dominance over Iraq? A recent fact-finding trip to Baghdad and Najaf suggests that such fears are exaggerated.
In 2003, the United States overturned the secular but predominantly Sunni Arab regime of Saddam Hussein and then presided over the installation of a more representative Shiite government in Baghdad. This was a huge gift to Iran—itself a Shiite state—and represented a historic shift. Although Iraq is a majority Shiite state, never in more than a thousand years had a predominantly Shiite government ruled there.
The U.S. invasion removed an implacably hostile enemy of Iran that had invaded it in 1980, fought a brutal eight-year war against it in the southern marshes, and created a Sunni Arab coalition with the intent of overturning the Iranian revolution. In an apparent fit of absentmindedness, the G.W. Bush administration succeeded in removing both of Iran’s key rivals—the Taliban was similarly routed in Afghanistan—effectively elevating Iran to the position of a regional superpower. [continued…]