October 21st, 2011
11:15 PM ET

Zakaria: Iran wins with Iraq withdrawal

I spoke with John King from Tehran about America's withdrawal from Iraq. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

John King: A simple question up front. U.S. troops leaving Iraq by the end of the year, Iran has to view this as a victory.

Fareed Zakaria: Oh, I'm sure it views it as a victory. Iran views what had happened in Iraq entirely from a kind of geopolitical prism. That is the U.S. and Iran are competing for influence in Iraq. They have viewed it that way from the start of the fall of the regime and they have their agents in there and Iran has long ties to many of threat groups that are now dominant in Iraq.

Prime Minister Maliki and his party were in exile in Iran for 10 years. Many of the Kurdish leaders, including the current president of Iraq, was in Iran. Many of them speak fluent Persian. They have long and ongoing ties. Muqtada al-Sadr, when he finds that things get difficult for him in Iraq he head backs to Iran. So all of these political officials have been nourished sustained by Iran. And as American troops draw down, Iran's influence can only increase.

John King: And this sounds incredibly crass, but is this a fair bottom line? That after almost nine years, billions of dollars in U.S. money and nearly 4,500 lives lost of brave U.S. service men and women, that Iran wins?

Fareed Zakaria: One of the things I have always - looked on the idea of dealing with Saddam Hussein favorably is that whatever benefits we have gotten out of the operation in Iraq, the costs have been staggering, as you described.

And those costs really seem to far outweigh benefits right now.

John King: At the White House today the deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, said they're not that worried about Iran's influence. He says Iran is further isolated, has been weakened in recent years.

Fareed Zakaria: Denis McDonough pointed out that Iran's been having a bad few months and I think that's entirely true.

The Iranians have had trouble internally, they have had trouble abroad. The whole image of Iran in the wake of the Arab spring has been tarnished. And now these new allegations about the Saudi assassination plot. Iran's not in great shape. But on this specific issue I'm not sure I would agree. I think that Iran has maintained contacts with Iraq very successfully and very aggressively. Look, this is why the Americans couldn't get a deal done.

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Topics: Iran • Iraq

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Mahsheed

    I totally agree with F. Zakaria. Iran should not win in Iraq. It will bring yet another tragedy.

    October 22, 2011 at 1:16 am | Reply
    • tiki

      wouldn't Iran win in Iraq if the US stayed? I personally think this is the best way... departing is the only way to prove there is no interest in occupation and at the end of the day we'll leave the future of Iraq for the Iraqis to decide, even if that decision brings them closer to Iran, because this is what THEY want. This is the best way to prove all of the propaganda about the US coming out of Iran wrong.

      October 22, 2011 at 3:57 am | Reply
      • Roy

        Do The Same Thing To Pakistan, They Only Want What We Can Give Them.

        October 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
      • Daniel

        Wrong, tiki. The U.S. occupation of Iraq will in fact continue only by proxy, that is, by the U.S. trained and paid Iraqi army plus a government waiting to carry out orders from Washington D.C. Iraq has now become a U.S. sattellite state like Poland was to Russia after WW2.

        October 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Iraq and Afghanistan are multi-ethnic. The best way to solve all these problems is to have these ethnies have their autonomy. In Iraq, the Shia, Sunni Muslims and the Kurds are on their own. In Afghanistan the Pashtuns have their piece of land and the rest of the population should figure it out themselves.

        October 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  2. Onesmallvoice

    What needs to be done in Iraq now is to set up a plebiscite to see if the Iraqi people want to keep Iraq united of split it into three different states like ceding the north to the Kurds, the south to the Shiites and the west to the Sunnis. I guess that the right-wing thugs in Washington, however, won't go along with this idea.

    October 22, 2011 at 3:44 am | Reply
  3. E. Pierce

    I think the media is purposely avoiding the real valuable point in the Iraq withdrawal. Fortunately we have some foreign specialist bloggers that have nailed the problem.
    In “The Obama Retreat From Iraq Is the Strategic Mistake of the Century” they explain and conclude that “We are thrown out of Iraq with nothing to show for it and our President calls it ‘renewed leadership’. Why is there nobody laughing? Because the smart people are crying.”
    It is better to read it all to comprehend what a great waste and mistake this surrender really means http://www.robbingamerica.com

    October 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Carlo

      And what do you propose? Occupy the world?

      If we had not gone into Iraq under Bush, the Iranians would not have 'won' Iraq.

      Plus, you fail to understand that the people of Iraq are no friends of Iran. They still remember the pain of the war they had with Iran. The are nationalistic and will not allow Iran to rule them just as they did not allow us to rule them.

      Just like the Greeks, the Romans, The Persians, The British, The French, The Spanish, The Nazis, and the rest, we are finding out that it is easy to create an empire, but it is not as easy to support it...

      October 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  4. Occupado

    Who cares? I'm glad we're outta there. And if the Islamo fascists in Iran and the Islamo fascists in Iraq decide to have a big Islamo war, GO FOR IT, AKMED!

    Better they waste their time wiping each other off the globe than trying to kill innocent Americans.

    October 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  5. Esther Haman

    Iraq will go Islamic no matter what we say or do. Its only a matter of time and no one can stop that. Try to open a Israeli embassy in Baghdad and see what happens then Mrs Clinton! You ain't right.

    Get real.

    October 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  6. Esther Haman

    These politicians must live in a fantasy world. We invade Iraq saying we are looking for WMD that never was their, killed tons of them, tortured their husband and sons in ABUGHRAIB and let members of the Black Water to use their kids for target practicing?! Now we have the audacity to say they are our allies. The Iraqis must be relieved now. As if the Iraqis just woke up and forgot about all that?!! When did we get to like the Muslims or the Iraqis?! When we first installed Saddam Hussein to rule them and to do to them as he pleased?! we did less to the Iranians see where that got us.!

    We let the Zionists to invade the Palestinian and the Muslim lands, save the Zionist behind in UN security council NO matter what atrocities they commit (killing a dozen unarmed peace activist on a flotilla on the international waters, or the "Goldstone" report by the UN etc.) and we give them A-bombs without any condition etc. BUT, we expect the Muslims to love us and to respect us or to cooperate with us!!

    Get real.

    October 22, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  7. Esther Haman

    Fareed Zakaria, do you know who had your last name and where it came from?! How did you turn out to be a "COCONUT" and hate your heritage?! Think about it.

    Get real.

    October 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  8. pouya

    I think it is amazing how obsessed we Americans are with Iran. We go to war with Saddam we blame Iran. We get stuck in the aftermath we blame Iran. We spend trillions unwisely we blame Iran. We finally get pushed out because they won't accept immunity demands, and Fareed blames Iran.

    Iran wins? That seems to be more important to policy makers than what is right for America. If Iran wins it is because we made them winners. The first step is to STOP our 35 year obsession with Iran. That is what Fareed has become, obsessed with how things affect Iran, rather than what is right or wrong.

    October 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  9. Raheem Belmonte

    Hey Fahreed dont sell out.I think what the real problem here is we more tolorence of both cultures the zionist and muslims.We need to remove all ignorance and arrogance from our selves.We need seek common grounds and peace with eachother.Or else we are all doomed.May GOD bless you all that read this.Salaam.

    October 24, 2011 at 3:36 am | Reply
  10. Jinraj Joshipura

    Not Iran but the international law wins. Invasion and occupation was illegal. Truth is distorted by all those who states that Iran wins. If that is not so then it implies that US invaded Iraq to make Iran loose? That was never the justification given. Before invasion, there was a Sunni led Saddam's government secular in nature opposed to Shia dominated Iran. US reversed that and established Shia led government in Iraq. If Iran wins then it will be due to the faulty goal and operation of US and not due to either desire or any actions by Iran.

    October 26, 2011 at 9:50 am | Reply

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