Good article in the Village Voice on one of the historical ironies of the US role in Iraq, the boost that it has given to Shi’ite power in the region:
When Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld as his special envoy to meet Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1984, the Republican administration was anxious to stop any westward expansion of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his force of Shia madmen, who had taken power in Tehran.
Ironically, 20 years later, with the outcome of Sunday’s elections in Iraq, we are at the threshold of enthusiastically achieving just what Rumsfeld was sent out to prevent—Shia rule in a broad crescent across the Middle East and atop the region’s most prized oil reserves. Shia government will stretch from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and into Lebanon.
It’s worth recalling that this outcome was one reason why the US did not try to overthrow the Iraqi regime at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The ‘Shi’ite crescent’ was and is seen as a threat to Israel, particularly in the shape of the Lebanese Hezbollah.
This is one reason why Gulf War II always threatened to lead to a confrontation between Iran on one hand and Israel and/or the US on the other
There is is also a threat to Washington’s other major concern in the region, the gulf oil monarchies. Several of them have large Shi’ite minorites which are concentrated in eastern Arabia where the oil fields are.
The Shi’ites are not a monolithic bloc, but this development will worry Sunni regimes in the region, a factor which has led to claims that most support for the Sunni insurgency in Iraq is coming from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, rather than Ba’athists in Syria.
The world will certainly be watching to see how relations develop between Iran and a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq.