“It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq’s national elections.” So writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board today. I’m no cynic, but my mood about Iraq could variously be described as depressed, despairing, despondent, dejected, pessimistic, melancholic, and gloomy.
Cosmetic inking for a cosmetic election; this Iraqi girl inked her finger, indicating she voted, even though she is too young to vote.
That’s because the Iraqi regime (along with those of Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority) is a kept institution that cannot survive without constant American support. As long as Washington pumps money and sacrifices lives to maintain the Baghdad government, the latter can hobble along. Remove those props and Iranian-backed Islamists soon take over.
Tehran has aspired to seize effective control of Iraq since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. With many levers at hand, from mosques to schools to militias to politicians, the Iranian despots are well placed to inherit the country.
The end of U.S. backing looms. Indeed, Barack Obama responded to the well-run elections by declaring a hope that U.S. troops can leave Iraq months earlier than planned. As the American era closes, the Iranian one opens. In a year or two, the current elections will be looked back on as a cosmetic episode that somehow deceived otherwise savvy observers.