The US was certainly not wrong in liberating Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). The mistake the US made was in staying there on the ground for years on. It is notable that public advocates of allied liberation of Iraq (whether neoconservatives or others) never supported a prolonged US troop presence on the ground in Iraq for years on. The Taliban had hosted Al Qaida which planned and perpetrated the September 11, 2001 mass attacks against US urban targets. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had committed genocide against Iraqi Kurds, including with chemical weapons in Halabja and elsewhere during the al-Anfal campaign in 1986-89. Saddam Hussein was a uniquely dangerous figure and it was the right strategic decision to liberate Iraq and unseat him.
The US should not have dissolved the Iraqi military and should have left Iraq in the hands of the Iraqi military and Iraqi opposition forces trained by the US in Hungary. Afghanistan should have been partitioned between its neighboring countries with Turkmenistan annexing the Turkmen section of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan annexing the Uzbek section of Afghanistan, Tajikistan annexing the Persian-language and Pamir sections of Afghanistan and Pakistan annexing the Pashtun and Nuristani parts of Afghanistan. Language-based partition should have been performed immediately after liberation and would importantly still have been a viable policy at the time of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. This would have crucially prevented the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
These lessons are especially essential to learn considering that the US and the Israel-Muslim alliance of majority Muslim-countries in the Arab world and the former Soviet Union now face the reality of the Khomeinist regime rejecting the restoration of the JCPOA and what President Biden described as “other options” are now importantly on the table. This is true irrespective of whether at the end of the day it is the US or Israel that performs the strategic aerial degradation of the Iranian nuclear weapons program although it is certainly preferable for regional stability that this is performed by the US rather than by Israel so as not risk a devastating war between Israel and Lebanon and an Iranian invasion of GCC countries as US agency in the region constitute an important deterrence against Iranian proliferation of the conflict throughout the region.
The challenge now is turning the tables on the Iranian regime and to deploy Iran’s regional strategy of divide and rule and ethnic militarization inside the borders of Iran itself. Iran is a serious strategic threat to the US, to Europe, to Israel and to Iran’s neighbors, in particular the GCC countries and in general the Arab world which Iran is trying to take over. The partition of Iran by transforming Iran into a union of linguistically based member states who would be free to stay in or leave the new confederation should be set as a strategic goal of military operations against Iran as intended to turn the regional peoples of Iran against the regime and strategically end the Iranian threat to the region and the outside world.
While the US would be particularly unwise to outsource the military strategic air-based degradation of the Iranian nuclear weapons program considering regional stability and the risk of Iran spreading the conflict to the wider region (including potentially to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan) the US should as much as possible outsource the efforts inside Iran to Israel’s multiethnic Mossad intelligence agency and to the intelligence agencies of member nations of the Israeli-Muslim alliance in the wider region, with useful transnational ethnic ties to the various peoples of Iran.
The alternative is to continue as until now with a reactive rather than a proactive regional policy towards the multifaceted Iranian threat to the region and the world. The reactive policy towards Iran has been a resounding failure in strategic terms despite many tactical achievements in terms of Israel for decades sabotaging and delaying the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The US and the Israeli-Muslim alliance need to take the initiative and focus on Iran’s Achilles heel which is its internal ethnic, linguistic and religious divisions. While a no-fly zone over Iran could in principle be established by Gulf nations and Israel in cooperation, it is crucial for regional stability that the US not outsource this essential strategic effort to its allies in the region. A US no-fly zone over Iran and tactical air support to new and existing rebel groups and regional uprisings will be a game-changer by bringing the conflict with Iran into Iran itself rather than Iran continuing to destabilize the surrounding region. This will be a strategic game-changer which will put Iran on the defensive and eventually help dismantle the Khomeinist empire in the Middle East and with that the threat it poses to the region and the world.