President Obama invoked the memory of Iraq in his latest speech on the Iranian nuclear deal.
“Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war,” Obama told a crowd at American University in Washington DC. “We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.”
As the president’s term winds down, the Iran deal will largely be what defines his foreign policy legacy just as Bush’s was defined by the 2003 Iraq invasion. Obama has taken flak from critics on his policies concerning Iraq and Syria, and while the Iran deal has also faced criticism from the right and Israel it has also found widespread support among former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and Israeli security chiefs.
And on Wednesday, Obama reiterated that the same critics of the Iran deal were in support of the Iraq invasion. “What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run up to the Iraq war,” he said. “More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq.”
Obama cited a number of straw man arguments against the Iran deal that he said were recycled from the pre-Iraq days. Those criticisms were:
- “Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically.”
The same argument was often peddled in the run up to the 2003 invasion. Many argued at the time that sanctions didn’t work, though there are also strong arguments that they did because Iraq didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. Iran has sat down at the table and European foreign ministers have called on the world to give diplomacy with them a chance.
- “We can take military strikes without significant consequences.”
As Donald Rumsfeld reminded us in 2002, “Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” More than 200,000 people died as a result of the Iraq invasion, with an estimated 160,000 out of those deaths civilian. That still hasn’t stopped some critics of the deal for calling for war against Iran, though many critics have said they don’t believe war is the only other option. In fact, there is an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. should commit more troops to the fight against ISIS there.
- “We shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line.”
America has the strongest conventional military force in the history of the world. But the perception of American foreign policy is not always welcomed by the global community. “It was also a global protest,” Patrick Barkham wrote in the Guardian recalling opposition to the Iraq invasion, “there were three million on the streets of Rome and anything between 10 and 30 million in cities around the world — and it completely failed.”
- “Tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission.”