by Ayman Ahmed (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 1, Sha'ban, 1444)
Twenty years after the illegal US invasion of Iraq, its repercussions continue to expose and wreck the fundamentals of the western-imposed international relations system established after 1945. This will persist until the new multipolar order firmly sets in. The consequences of Iraq’s invasion need to be examined in the global context.
The invasion’s repercussions fit into the paradigm of historicity outlined in the Qur’an when commenting on the setback Muslims suffered at Uḥud compared to the defeat inflicted on the Makkan mushriks at Badr.
“If injury befalls you, [know that] similar injury has befallen [other] people as well; for it is by cycles that We apportion to people such days [of fortune and misfortune]: and [this] for Allah’s purpose of distinguishing those who have [in fact] committed themselves to Him, and to select from among you such as [with their lives] bear witness to the truth since Allah does not love offenders” [Aal-Imran: 140].
The existential perspective from the above ayat is evident in a far clear manner today in the aftermath of the war on Iraq than it previously was.
While the war on Iraq and its aftermath created significant problems for the Muslim world, they also set in motion the decline of the forces which attacked the country. This historical process can also be traced to the existential Qur’anic paradigm on human cycle of life in this world:
“Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you; and Allah knows and you do not know.” [Al-Baqarah: 216]
In the first year of Iraq’s invasion, NATO regimes appeared to be riding high from a hard power and geopolitical perspective. However, after that initial period, the tables began to turn quite dramatically.
The war exposed and demolished two fundamental pillars of the west-centric international order imposed since 1945. It normalized resistance to western hegemony in all dimensions and substantially degraded the sacredness of the state sovereignty concept.
After 2003, western political concepts, economic vehicles and military forces were stripped of their aura of untouchability. They could and were challenged quite successfully. This became a normalized feature of global politics from Venezuela to Yemen. Even on the internal front, this led to the emergence of socio-political forces in western countries radically opposed to imperialism which almost made it to the executive office.
While the western media and political elites were in overdrive attempting to delegitimize all forms of Iraqi resistance as ‘terrorism’, the endurance of resistance against western forces and their proxies shows that western propaganda failed to shape the actions of the Muslim world and beyond. Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation was quickly accepted as legitimate. This outlook set in motion other regional processes with far-reaching consequences.
As the US and its surrogates openly violated Iraqi sovereignty and blatantly disregarded their own crafted rules of international relations, others found a legal and political precedent to do the same.
The war in Ukraine is the clearest manifestation of how violation of Iraqi sovereignty boomeranged against the western geopolitical sphere. Its preliminary legal precedent was set in motion by the west in Iraq. It should be remembered that the centuries-old debate about international law is centered around the idea of whether it is law at all or is it a custom. The custom feature of international law makes it particularly vulnerable to bad precedents.
The invasion of Iraq provided a legal and political precedent for resistance forces in West Asia to operate outside the western international relations system. Islamic Iran was the first to capitalize on this phenomenon.
Tehran openly backed resistance to American occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and later in Yemen and Syria. The Islamic leadership in Tehran was no longer restricted by the state sovereignty concept in political and even legal terms.
Since the western powers themselves knocked down from the sacred pedestal the concept of state sovereignty in international relations, it opened a pandora’s box of challenges to western hegemony.
Iraq war normalized and established a political ecosystem for the establishment of political, social and economic mechanisms outside of the post-1945 international relations system. This did not always manifest in a positive way as the emergence of Daesh (aka ISIS) showed, but the region nevertheless acquired indigenous political mechanisms that were outside the control of western regimes.
A firm establishment of Marjaiyah as the most influential Iraqi socio-political institution to this day is one of the major signs of how western plans of political subordination of Iraq and the wider region failed at the strategic, ideological and political levels.
In a more tangible sense, Islamic Iran’s firm footing in Iraq is another important manifestation of how the invasion created an unprecedent geopolitical reality outside western control. The fruits of this new reality were reaped in Lebanon in 2006 during Hizbullah’s resistance to zionist aggression and in Syria from 2011 onward.
The west’s failure to topple the Syrian government, the Arab world’s only anti-zionist government, demolished the myth of western invincibility in West Asia. With all the financial, political, and military muscle, if the collective west led by the US couldn’t topple the government in Damascus, why would Moscow, Beijing, Caracas or Tehran take Washington’s threats seriously?
The war in Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the western-imposed international relations system has fallen apart. Even its original architects no longer have the power to maintain it at their doorsteps.
Many experts believe that the war in Ukraine will drag on for quite some time. It will produce other theaters of geopolitical friction.
The ongoing break up of the post-1945 international relations architecture and the emergence of a multipolar world order are setting in motion processes which are not dominated by one power center. In this new reality, the establishment of a regional West Asian political, military, and economic architecture outside of western domination is becoming a distinct possibility. However, it will be difficult to achieve this without substantial degradation of the Saudi regime and its disruptive influence in the region.
In West Asia, the Saudis are a geopolitical pillar and symbol of the old order, even though this order is no longer relevant. Therefore, the next “Ukraine” of the decaying west-centric world order is likely to emerge on the Arabian Peninsula and no one is hastening this as a realistic possibility than the megalomaniac crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman.
The invasion of Iraq by western regimes set in motion a domino effect. It continues to undermine the post-1945 order. It has also created political and legal precedents for the establishment of a new global order which is in the early stages of formation.