McCain Apparently Unaware That Iraq War Has Already Increased Iranian Influence

In a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan today, John McCain reiterated his support for the surge, offered this reason for staying in Iraq:

“If we pull out of Iraq … then obviously the Iranian influence is dramatically increased, al Qaeda has greater influence and endangers the region dramatically, and the United States’s image and security challenges are dramatically increased.”

Of course, Iran’s current high level of influence in Iraq is almost entirely a result of the Iraq war itself. Iran has been the single biggest beneficiary of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Former diplomat Peter Galbraith wrote last September that Iraq was a “mission accomplished — for Iran”:

Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran’s strategic victory is the most far-reaching. In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shiite-ruled lands. For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran’s allies.) The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini’s army could not.


Journalist Robert Dreyfuss wrote on March 10 that “the United States has spent most of the past five years in a de facto alliance with Iran in support of the Shiite-led (and US-installed) regime in Baghdad.”

Taking advantage of the political vacuum created by the US destruction of Saddam Hussein’s government, Tehran has established a vast presence, both overt and covert, in Iraq, with enormous influence among nearly all of its western neighbor’s Shiite and Kurdish parties. “The American military occupation of Iraq has facilitated an Iranian political occupation of Iraq,” says Chas Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. […] Washington’s decision to topple Saddam’s government has put in place a ruling elite that is far closer to Iran than it is to the United States.

Far from weakening Iran’s hard-line government, as the Iraq war’s advocates insisted it would, the American invasion strengthened those forces, partly resulting in the 2005 election of the strident Iranian nationalist-Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (One can’t overlook the stark disparities in the style of McCain’s and Ahmadinejad’s recent visits to Iraq. McCain arrived in secret, and wore a kevlar vest. Ahmadinejad announced his visit two weeks in advance, traveled by motorcade, and wore a double-breasted blazer.) For someone who likes to tout his own foreign policy expertise, McCain seems unaware that Iran continues to be the chief beneficiary of a war that he continues to support.