A funny thing happened on the floor of the Senate last [month. Sen. Graham] asked a serious question: "If the war in Iraq is lost, then who won?"
At a regional level the big winner is obvious: Iran.
In fact, Iran wins so big in this war that I've already said that Dick Cheney's DNA should be checked out by a reputable lab, because he has to be a Persian mole.
My theory is that they took a fiery young Revolutionary Guard from the slums of Tehran, dipped him in a vat of lye to get that pale, pasty Anglo skin, zapped his scalp for that authentic bald CEO look, squirted a quart of cholesterol into his arteries so he'd develop classic American cardiac disease, and parachuted him into the outskirts of some Wyoming town.
And that's how our VP was born again, a half-frozen zombie with sagebrush twigs in his jumpsuit, stumbling into the first all-night coffee shop in Casper talking American with a Persian accent: "Hello my friends! Er, I mean, hello my fellow Americans! Coffee? I will have coffee at once, indeed, and is not free enterprise a glorious thing? Say, O brethren of the frosty tundra, what do you say we finish our donuts and march on Baghdad now, this very moment, to remove the Baathist abomination Saddam?"
It took a couple years for Cheney-ajad to get his American accent right and chew his way into Bush Jr.'s head, but he made it like one of Khan's earwigs, got us to do the Ayatollahs' dirty work for them by taking out Iraq, their only rival for regional power. Iraq is destroyed, and Tehran hasn't lost a single soldier in the process.
Our invasion put their natural allies, the Shia, in power; gave their natural enemies, the Iraqi Sunni, a blood-draining feud that will never end; and provided them with a risk-free laboratory to spy on American forces in action. If they feel like trying out a new weapon or tactic to deal with U.S. armor, all they have to do is feed the supplies or diagrams to one of their puppet Shia groups, or even one of the Sunni suicide-commando clans.
All these claims that Iran is helping the insurgents really make my head spin. Of course they're helping. They'd be insane if they weren't. If somebody invades the country next door, any state worth mentioning has to act. If Mexico got invaded by China, you better believe the U.S. would react. We'd lynch any president who didn't.
What really amazes me is how patient Iran has been about it, how quiet and careful. They've covered their tracks carefully and kept their intervention to R&D level: just enough to keep Iraq burning, and patiently test out news IEDs.
But that's the Persian way: behind all the yelling, they're sly, clever people. If Iranian intelligence really wanted to flood Iraq with weaponry that would turn our APCs into well-insulated BBQs, they could have done it long ago.
The situation in Iraq right now is optimum for Iran. Iraq is like a nuclear reactor that they can control by inserting and removing control rods. If Shia/Sunni violence looks like cooling off, Tehran's agents, who've penetrated both sides of the fight, play the hothead in their assigned Sunni or Shia gangs and lobby for a spectacular attack on enemy civvies or shrines - whatever gets the locals' blood up. Then, if things get too hot, which would mean the U.S. getting fed up and leaving, they drop a control rod into the reactor core by telling Sadr to call off his militia or letting the Maliki regime stage some ceremony for the TV crews, the kind that keeps the Bushies back in Ohio convinced it's all going to come out fine.
They need to keep us there, because - makes me sick to say it but it's true - our troops are now the biggest, strongest control rod the Persians are using to set the temperature of this war. They want us there as long as possible, stoking the feuds and making sure nobody wins. That's what we just did under Petraeus: switched sides, Shia to Sunni, because the Shia were getting too strong. Yeah, God forbid we should be unfair to the Sunnis, God forbid we should do anything to let somebody win. Let's just make Tehran happy by keeping the feud going another few centuries.
One thing Iran is pretty clearly not scared of is every American amateur's dream: a punitive U.S. invasion of Iran. In fact, like North Korea, their partner in the Axis of Evil, Iran is all but begging us to invade. Guys in junior high used to hold their chins out, tap them with a finger and say, "Come on, fucker, come on, hit me!" That's Iran now, chin out and begging for a right hook.
Because with all the anti-armor know-how they've gained by now, they have traps waiting for us that would make Lara Croft's cave expeditions look like a backyard tea party. Even Cheney's team knows that, which is why they're talking about air raids on Iran these days, not invasion.
Some paranoids want to list Israel among the winners, but I don't see it. Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz thought invading Iraq would help Israel, or rather Likud, but like everything else these geniuses predicted, it didn't happen. Iraq was never a threat to Israel. Iran is. And Iran is much stronger now. Last summer's war with Hezbollah was one the Israelis didn't really want to fight, but Cheney insisted. That was the deal, I guess: the U.S. takes out Saddam, then you take out Hezbollah. Instead, the IDF looked scared and weak in South Lebanon, so now Hezbollah and Iran are the poster-boys of every red-blooded Muslim kid on the planet.
Turkey, America's one real ally in the Middle East, is a huge loser in this war. We slapped them in the face, gave the Kurds a base to destabilize southeastern Turkey, and helped elect the first Islamist president in what used to be a proudly secular country.
Happy now, Cheney, you Khomeini-loving, anti-American mole?
When you zoom farther out to look at the global picture, the question "Who won Iraq?" doesn't have such an obvious answer. It's much easier to see who lost: Us, and anybody who backed us. We looked invincible after taking out the Taliban. Not no more. If you use armored columns as stationary cops in enemy neighborhoods, you give the locals plenty of time to figure out their weak spots. That's what we did: gave the Arabs a trillion-dollar, multi-year seminar in how to defeat U.S. forces. Another lesson in the Brecher Doctrine: Nuke 'em, bribe 'em or leave 'em alone.
To find a winner in this war means looking outside the box, like they say - or rather outside the theater of war. Because the winners are the countries smart enough to stay out of it.
So the likely winner of a war like this is an up-n-coming world economic power that has been investing in its own economy while we blow a trillion - yep, a trillion - dollars on nothing. Not hard to figure out who the likely suspects are here.
The answer to "Who won Iraq?" is Iran in the short run, and in the long run, China and India.
What's worst is that the war's made us dumber. When Sen. Graham asked his question, "Who won Iraq?" he thought he was being clever. He thought we're too dumb and soft to face that question and its answers. Because there are answers, pretty grim ones. I just hope people are tough enough to start thinking about them.
-Excerpt of Gary Brecher's Who Won Iraq in The Exile