The 2003 Invasion of Iraq was led by U.S. with the stated goal to remove the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein allegedly possessed. Saddam Hussein was a controversial figure in Iraq and neighboring countries for actions such as the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds in northern Iraq. After 9/11, the United States was more risk-averse and decided to go ahead with plans. The United States’ responses to terrorism tend to be militaristic as a way to ward off future threats. By sending troops to the Middle East, they could effectively squash any potential terrorism. Foreign policymaker Paul Wolfowitz, among others, thought that regime change in Iraq would lead to other governments in the Middle East following suit. This way, the Middle East would be less hostile to the West and specifically U.S. ally Israel. Another potential reason for involvement would be the idea of a “supply-side war”, proposed by Ian S. Lustick, that proposes the availability of political capital, led the U.S. to invade. Also important is the availability of oil in the Middle East for trading purposes.


The effects of the war are import for both Iraq and other actors. A new government was created in Iraq and the formerly in-charge Ba’ath Party was disassembled. Iraq was given a federal government that specifically enshrined minority right protections and Kurdish autonomy. Regime change in Iraq led to insurgency in the ungoverned parts of Iraq, leading to other actors besides the government stepping in to provide services. al-Qaeda of Iraq emerged in Sunni-majority areas, which would later become the Islamic State. The Islamic State would be a key player in global and local terrorism. The largest group in Iraq, the Shi’ite Arabs, began to dominate Iraqi parliament with various political parties. Iran’s influence in Iraq could grow in Iraq through Shi’ite proxy groups and stronger diplomatic relations with the Shi’ite political parties. Iranian proxy groups have been growing stronger up to the present day. With Saddam Hussein no longer maintaining a strong Iraq, the United States would no longer have to pursue its 1990s policy of dual containment. Negative public perception of the United States in Iraq would also turn people towards Iranian influence. In the economic sphere, Saudi Arabia would become more important in OPEC and relations in the group would become bilateral. Saudi Arabia would also become more secure after Hussein lost power. Saudi Arabia and Iran now informally battle for dominance in the Middle East through proxy groups and political funding.


China’s influence in the Middle East has happened indirectly as a result of the Iraq Invasion. They are in a unique position, with their world status and having built relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran and the United States do not have many formal diplomatic relations, and Saudi Arabia has been seeking alternatives to the U.S. hegemonic structure that it has historically fell under. China partners with both countries in their BRICS group that includes various large and medium powers. The three countries seek to create a separate world order that de-emphasizes U.S. hegemony.


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