Terese Cristiansson: “The invasion of Iraq continues to shape the future”

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Operation Iraqi Freedom would lead to democracy and liberation. There was terrorism, corruption and proxy wars. What went wrong? The invasion of Iraq began just two years after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11. The war against terrorism had begun in Afghanistan, Iraq was on its way and more and more countries would be involved in the coming years. The world was still black and white. It was us and them. Against or for. If the US said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, many believed it. They were the world police and in many ways governed the world order. So although the UN did not support the invasion of Iraq and there was deep criticism, it took a long time for the outside world to understand that Saddam Hussein may have been a brutal tyrant but he did not have weapons of mass destruction at his disposal. Bloody sectarian violence During that time many mistakes were made. The management of the oil and the economy that made the corruption flow is of course, but the most decisive thing was how the US with the coalition treated the Sunni Muslims. Saddam Hussein’s old supporters – the Sunni Muslim elite – were frozen out of the corridors of power and Shia Muslim leaders were allowed to share in the power after many years of discrimination. After the Sunni Muslim leaders had licked their wounds, they rallied around Iraq. It led to bloody sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The streets were painted red, acts of terror followed each other and murdered people were dumped in the Tigris river. From the frustration and hatred, both al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State, IS, began to grow. When IS took control of Mosul in 2014 – the start of their caliphate which they maintained until 2019 – they had a lot of help from former Saddam supporters who later – in several cases – repented after seeing IS brutality. The situation in Iraq is still chaotic Today, the situation in Iraq is less bloody but still chaotic, much because of the chasm between Sunni and Shia Muslims and different clans. But when asked how the US invasion of Iraq mainly affects the Middle East today, most people answer: Iran’s position of power. The ostracism of the Sunni Muslims led to Iran gaining more and more power via the Iran-backed Shiami militias, paradoxically enough because Iran has been the arch-enemy of the United States for decades. Today, Iran has tentacles in, among other places, Iraq, Syria and Yemen – all countries with bloody civil wars. They have even recently resumed talks with Saudi Arabia, which has been America’s friend in the region for many years. The invasion of Iraq has shaped the past 20 years and continues to shape the future – but not in the way the US thought in 2003.