What was the Bush II Administration’s strategy for the Middle East? Why was Iraq central to it?
It is beginning to appear, at least to me, that their fascination with Winston Churchill may have lead Bush and Cheney to look for a ‘soft underbelly’ through which to attack their Arab world enemies. This, I infer, led them to Iraq and consequences familiar to anyone looking at Churchill’s Turkish gambit in WWI and Greece and Yugoslavia in WWII.
In a short follow-on story to the release of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s memoirs Phil Sands, a correspondent for The National, a paper in the United Arab Emirates, illuminates the Bush strategy.
Blair says Dick Cheney wanted to take on Syria after Iraq, followed by Iran, on the way to ridding the Middle East of dictators, terrorists, et al. Thus, Blair has confirmed the Syrian government was right to fear a US attack.
The consequences of those fears led to results far different from the Administration’s expressed hopes for the US conquest of Iraq. As Sands says:
Syria’s correct assumption that powerful US forces wanted to attack it had profound implications, domestically and in Iraq. Although no friend of Saddam Hussein, Damascus had every reason to want the American occupation to fail and, therefore, no incentive to stop Islamist militants crossing the border to fight US troops.
For years, US military officials complained that insurgents entering from Syria were among their most deadly opponents, playing a key role in undermining US attempts to build a Washington friendly Iraq.
Faced with this very real US threat, the Syrian authorities also moved to quash growing domestic dissent, arresting and jailing dozens of pro-democracy activists. That crackdown continues to this day.