Iraq war: Predictions made, and results
A look back at some of the predicted US outcomes for the Iraq war, and what happened.
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Did Iraq become a democracy and did it transform the region?
The projections: Many in the Bush Administration, including the president, argued that the US would successfully bring democracy to Iraq and in the process, set off a cascade of democracy in the middle east. In a November 2003 speech marking the anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US government fund focused on international democracy promotion, President Bush said: This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.Skip to next paragraph
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
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Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
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What happened? Iraq today has certainly far more public consultation in its politics than it did under Saddam Hussein, and on the simple question of "is Iraq more democratic?" the answer is clearly "yes." Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election was largely fair, though voting broke down on sectarian lines (Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds). There are worrying signs that Iraq's majority Shiite Arabs, about 60 percent of the country, are forming the nucleus for a new authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the country remains a far more violent place than it was before the 2003 invasion, though much safer than at the height of the sectarian civil war that claimed about 100,000 lives. The second projection of transforming the region did not come to pass, though boosters of the Iraq war insist that the Arab uprisings of 2011 were inspired by Iraq. Most Arabs were opposed to the US invasion, and watched the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq in its aftermath with horror.
Was Iraq a war for oil?
Prediction: It was common for anti-war critics on the far left in the US and Europe before and during the war, and among all sorts of folks in the Middle East, to say that the Iraq war was about stealing Iraq's oil. Former UK MP George Galloway led a protest shouting "no war for oil" in London in late 2002, and it was a common refrain from around the world.
What happened? The Iraq war was completely about oil. And it wasn't about oil at all. It was completely about oil in the sense that Iraq's vast reserves are what make Iraq important, both as a supplier to global oil markets and as a potential regional military and economic powerhouse. Had Saddam Hussein been a nasty dictator in some resource-starved land, the odds of the US taking much interest in invasion would have been close to zero. To top it off, southern Iraq lies in reach of the Straits of Hormuz, a major artery for international energy and thus Hussein could pose a threat to the health and economy of the US (as well as much of the rest of the world). But it wasn't about oil, at all, in the sense that US was somehow going to get its hands on the stuff like an extractive 19th century colonial empire. While the war was incredibly profitable for military suppliers like Halliburton and private armies like the since renamed Blackwater, US oil majors haven't punched above their weight in post-Saddam Iraq. Exxon has a major contract in the south, and US oil services companies are making a lot of money there. But so are Chinese and Russian oil companies. As one wag on twitter put it "this was the least successful war for oil in history."