With all the points raised for discussion following the assassinations of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, we have missed the most important one, which is the indications of the assassination on the nature of relations between the US and the region. There is an important lesson that people of the region, whether Arab, Turkish or Iranian, should learn from these recent developments.
From Saddam Hussein to Qasem Soleimani… Who will learn the lesson?
When the US launched its aggression against Iraq in 2003, Shia militias allied to Iran welcomed the aggression, considering it a legitimate way of eliminating Saddam Hussein. They did so because of their hostility with him for many years.
The Iranian position was not different to the position of these militias. Although Tehran did not explicitly support the aggression, it was practically happy with it because it would rid it of a sworn enemy, and it would also bring its allies, Shia militia and parties, closer to the rule of Iraq, allowing it great influence in this important Arab country.
Indeed, Iran benefited from the occupation of Iraq. It became the country with the most influence in the eastern gate of the Arab world, and its allies – or more precisely its followers – became those who govern Baghdad. This meant a lot of political, security and economic influence for Tehran in Iraq.
Iranian influence led to establishing a sectarian regime in Iraq – a matter that Washington did not oppose at the time – but rather, for being short-sighted and having an orientalist vision, considered an ideal solution for a multi-ethnic and sectarian country like Iraq. The result was that Shia militias had the upper hand in Baghdad, and above it, of course, was the Iranian influence.
In return, the majority of Sunni Arabs were against the US occupation of Iraq, given that it would give Iran and its Shia allies influence and power at their expense, which was indeed what happened after the occupation and the fall of Hussein’s regime.
The Sunni and Shia parties remained at opposite positions from the US presence in Iraq. When Iran and its allies gained power and influence, they believed that the time had come to end the US presence, a matter opposed at that time by the Sunni Arabs, who considered the US forces a guarantee to prevent an even bigger mobilisation of Shia parties, militias and Tehran.
But the equation changed when Daesh took control of the city of Mosul. At first, many Sunni Arabs saw it as salvation from the sectarian violence practiced by militias affiliated with the government and with Iran. Meanwhile, the Shia parties went back to seeing the US as their salvation from Daesh, so they worked under its command and the command of the coalition forces to eliminate Daesh and restore Mosul.
After the mission had ended, the two sides returned to their previous positions. Shias and Iran want Iraq purely for them, while Sunni Arabs see the US presence as a balance factor for the equation.
With the assassination of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, things became clearer. Parliament, with its Shia majority, voted for the exit of the US from Iraq, while the Kurds and Sunni Arabs were intentionally absent from the session, in what appeared to be an implicit refusal to vote.
The Shias and Iran stood with the US against Hussein, and it took them sixteen years to realise that the US did not overthrow Hussein for their sake. Now, the Arabs are applauding the assassination of Soleimani as if the US did this in retaliation for the victims that Soleimani had killed. It is not clear how many years it will take for them to realise that this assassination will not solve their problems with Iran, nor with their fellow Shias.
The most important lesson
This article is not long enough to give more examples regarding the nature of the relationship between the US and the people in the region. We can mention Syria, which Washington allowed significant influence in Lebanon through the Taif Agreement, and then later mobilised its allies in the region to kick it out of Beirut. There is also Afghanistan, where the US supported its Mujahideen against the Soviet occupation, and then later occupied their country.
The important part of all this history, is that the US intervention was never in the best interests of the people of the region. It was always a factor for igniting conflicts between the people of one country, or between one country and another. Therefore, it is absurd to expect that the assassination of Soleimani is in the best interests of the people of the region, regardless of our opinion of the negative and bloody role he played in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. It is also an illusion for some Arab parties, especially the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, to expect that the assassination represents a new US positioning in their favour.
The most important lesson, is that US in its relationship with the region cannot be considered a real ally, nor can it be relied upon. It also cannot represent a solution to any crisis in the region, because it remains first and foremost a colonial power looking for interests, not friendships. The US is not the one to be blamed, but rather those who consider it to be a friend, and those who believe it will support them in the face of people of their own countries and region.
There is one solution for this region, and that is to reach historic reconciliation. This can only be achieved through strategic and political dialogue away from US domination. US intervention is not only incapable of reaching a solution, but is rather an explosive factor that all the people of the region will pay a heavy price for!
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.