Some Postwar Observations
First, the war could not have been successfully prosecuted without the support of key Arab states who comprised the "coalition of the silent" in the Middle East . Their cooperation was essential.
Second, we must recognize that Turkey and Iran both have major interests in the shape of postwar Iraq and will be deeply involved both to protect and promote those interests. Certainly, the orientation and interests of the Kurdish and Shi'ite populations in Iraq are key considerations for the future stability of Iraq .
With regard to the war itself, combating the dual threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction were the true reasons for our action. Our focus must remain on these threats, not be dissipated away on other considerations. Terrorism will continue to be a problem, albeit at lower levels, in both Iraq itself and throughout the Middle East . The war did not "end" the problem. Terrorism remains a constant--and we will need to continue to be tough in our response to it.
It was increasingly clear that we were dealing with a regime of pure thugs rather than clever devils in Iraq . The "Godfather" focus of the leadership was quite insightful. We were not exaggerating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of such a regime. The proliferation of WMD throughout the region remains a huge worry.
However, the continuing lack of conclusive proof about the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction risks the accusation that the United States "cried wolf" in Iraq . This is dangerous, especially given the fact that a crisis with Iran is looming on the horizon. Iran has a crash program to develop its nuclear capabilities. I believe that the Iranians will be much smarter than Iraq was in how they pursue this program. So, the precedents and experiences of how we dealt with Iraq will have an impact on developments in Iran --and how we deal with Iran 's attempts to obtain nuclear weapons.
Geoffrey Kemp is director of Regional Strategic Programs at the Nixon Center.