How will the Iraq war end?
On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, progress is slow but violence is down. A three-part series on the war's effects starts today with a look at what the endgame might look like.
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Iran is one nation that seems poised to gain from Iraq's current situation. As Iraq's largest neighbor and a Shiite Muslim state, it has close ties with the current Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. Hussein and his Sunni-led regime, with whom Iran fought one of the bitterest regional wars of the late 20th century, is gone.Skip to next paragraph
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That does not mean Iran now wants Iraq to remain weak and unstable. To the contrary, Tehran has good reason to work for a stable and democratic Iraq, Iranian analysts say.
"In the next five years, Iraq should be united, with a Shiite government, without American troops, but with good relations with Iran and more secure," says Amir Mohebian, political editor of the conservative Resalat newspaper in Tehran.
At the moment, the US presence in Iraq is in Iran's interest, he says, to prevent radical Wahhabi Sunnis from helping Sunni insurgents form a Sunni state. But that does not mean Tehran needs to make things easy for US forces, he adds. Many US officials have accused Iran of passing lethal weaponry to an array of anti-US resistance groups.
Iran's strategic view is one of Tehran ascending, while the US remains bogged down in Iraq and hamstrung regionally by its pro-Israel policies.
"Now the US in Iraq is better for Iran, but [America] should not be secure, not be victorious," says Mr. Mohebian.
Turkey worries about Iraq disunity
Meanwhile, to Iraq's north, Turkey also sees a united Iraq as being in its own national interest.
If Iraq splits too much along sectarian lines, Turkey's own restive Kurdish minority might be tempted to join with northern Iraq's Kurds in a greater Kurdistan. That would be Ankara's worst-case scenario.
On the other hand, "the best scenario from the perspective of Turkey would be a territorially integral Iraq, one that is the same in terms of its current borders," says Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to the US who is president of the Eurasian Strategic Studies Center, a think tank based in Ankara that is considered close to the military.
Iraq is likely to adopt a federal system, with considerable power and authority delegated outside Baghdad. Turkey is fine with that, as long as Iraq's Kurds do not aid or shelter PKK Kurdish rebels.
There is already quite a bit of economic interaction between Turkey and northern Iraq, point out Turkish analysts.
"A stable Iraq would open opportunities for Turkey," says Lale Sariibrahimoglu, defense affairs columnist for Today's Zaman, a Turkish English-language daily. "Turkey would benefit as a transit route for Iraq's oil and natural gas resources."
Some analysts worry that a weak Iraq will become a regional battleground, with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states rushing to bolster Sunni militias in a proxy war with Shiite Iran.
That's just one of the ways that Iraq's current problems might affect the larger region.