After the 2003 invasion President George Bush argued that Iraq was part of his freedom agenda. He believed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the first step in transforming the entire Middle East where autocratic governments and terrorism were rampant. In a speech at the Army War College in May 2004 for example, the president said that a stable and democratic Iraq would discredit militants’ ideology and help reform the region. Bush believed that only by going to the heart of the Muslim world could that change be effected. The CIA however had completely different ideas.
In October 2004 the CIA wrote a memo, “Near Term Regional Implications of Successful Iraqi Elections.” The report was assessing the up coming elections that would be held in Iraq in 2005, but also addressed what kind of affect they would have on the Middle East. The Agency thought that a democratic Iraq would likely cause opposition from the Sunni regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States. They would probably crackdown on their own Shiite populations, and solidify their hold on power. This was a direct challenge to the president’s beliefs.
In the years since the 2003 invasion it would seem that the CIA was right about the effect the Iraq invasion would have on the Middle East and North Africa. Besides the brief and largely unfulfilled hope of the Arab Spring not much has changed in the region. Some leaders have gone such as Mubarak in Egypt and Khadaffi in Libya, while others remain like Assad and the political systems are largely the same. As the Agency predicted the Saudis and Gulf States were against the new Iraq and refused to send ambassadors for years after the overthrow of Saddam, while supporting the insurgency. The Shiites outside of Iraq are still largely a marginalized minority. Finally, given all of the violence that Iraq has gone through and continues to experience plus its political dysfunction tends to undermines the positive fact that it is one of the few democracies in the region.
Bush, President George, “Bush’s Remarks on Iraq at the Army War College,” Washington Post, 5/24/04
Gordon, Michael and Trainor, General Bernard, The Endgame, The Inside Story Of The Struggle For Iraq, From George W. Bush To Barack Obama, New York, Pantheon, 2012