On Tuesday, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie announced that there would be no permanent U.S. military bases stationed in Iraq. “We need the United States in our war against terrorism, we need them to guard our border sometimes, we need them for economic support and we need them for diplomatic and political support,” he told al-Arabiyya television. “But I say one thing, permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreign forces is a red line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi.”
For al-Rubaie, this marked a stunning change of tune. Earlier this year, he arrived in Washington to lobby Democratic critics of the war against a U.S. troop withdrawal, holding closed-door meetings with Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Murtha, among others.
But with the surge now firmly in place and working, al-Rubaie has apparently taken U.S. support for granted. Most disturbingly, the Iraqi security establishment has set its sights on another partner for its future security needs. At a security conference in Bahrain earlier this week, al-Rubaie called for a regional security pact that would include Iran, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad naturally has welcomed.
To say the least, this a frightening prospect. Among other goals, the Iraq war sought to replace a most tyrannical regime with a democracy, with policymakers believing that a democratic government would be most inclined towards alignment with the United States. In the short-run, the chaos in Iraq created a military opening for Iran against U.S. forces, and the results have been deadly. But if the long-term outcome of the Iraq war is a Persian Gulf that is firmly united with Iran as its power center, a large chunk of the Middle East will be lost for many years to come.