The Associated Press reported on Monday that Iraqis now consider Iran a more important ally against Sunni extremists from the Islamic State than the United States, and that as a result, "Tehran's influence in Iraq, already high since U.S. forces left at the end of 2011, has grown to an unprecedented level." The story quotes an Iraqi official who reports that Iran sold Iraq $10 billion worth of weapons over the last year. Says Iraqi lawmaker Mohammed al-Karbuly, "Iran now dominates Iraq."
This is an important moment to revisit some recent history.
Roughly 13 years ago, President George W. Bush declared Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to be members of an "axis of evil" (though Iran and Iraq were enemies at the time). Prominent Bush administration officials believed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would strengthen America's hand in relations with Iran. Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Israel prior to the Iraq War that the U.S. would deal with Iran after the conflict was over. And assumptions implicit in that fantasy plan would soon emerge as conventional wisdom in the mainstream media.
For example, on April 11, 2003, 60 Minutes aired the dispatch, "Iran: The Country Next Door," which began, "When Saddam developed a nuclear bomb, we responded with total war. How do we respond if Iran does the same? Morley Safer reports from Iran." The ensuing analysis leaned heavily on Geoffrey Kemp, then the director of regional strategic programs at the Nixon Center. He is paraphrased as arguing that "Iran will feel dangerously isolated after the U.S. war with Iraq is over," and stated the following in his own words: "We will be not only a major presence in Iraq. We will be in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman. We're all around them, and we're encircling them with the most extraordinary military power the world has ever seen assembled. They are very nervous about this."