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Spotlight: Outcome in Iraq would have been different had Hillary Clinton, others voted against war: UK expert
by Larry Neild
LONDON, April 26 (Xinhua) -- A leading British academic has said that the outcome may have been different if Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton and other U.S. politicians had voted against an invasion of Iraq.
“Things would have turned out differently in the Middle East if the decision to go into Iraq had not been made," Paul Rogers, professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in Northern England, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Rogers, who is also a global security consultant to the Oxford Research Group, was referring to the U.S. presidential hopeful's remarks last Thursday saying that voting for U.S. troops to go into Iraq was the biggest mistake she has made.
All started with former U.S. President George W. Bush’s "Axis of Evil" speech in 2002, which pointed a finger of blame at former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the 9/11 attacks, Rogers said.
The overthrow of Saddam may have seemed a good idea at the time, but it also unleashed a new reign of terror, he added.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group, now one of the biggest threats to world peace, may never had emerged at all, Rogers said.
"Once there was the occupation of Iraq, it made it easier for Islamic extremists. To them it was proof that Islam itself was under attack," he said. “If we had not had that, we would not have had the development of IS, which arose because of the occupation of the country."
There had been, he said, a lot of support for action in Afghanistan, but when this was extended to Iraq things were different, even though Italy backed the campaign along with Britain’s Tony Blair.
Although the losses among the U.S. military in Iraq were less than those in Vietnam, it did not sit comfortably with a lot of Americans, said Rogers. “It became a running sore in the States."
In the campaign that led to the election of President Barack Obama, Clinton was his main rival for the Democratic candidacy. Obama and his team, said Rogers, recognized the mood of the people.
However, despite Clinton’s original support for the Iraq invasion, Rogers does not think the issue will harm her chances of winning the Democratic nomination and possibly the presidency.
Things have moved on and Clinton, as a seasoned politician, is aware of what the future may have in store, he said.
Another British expert echoed Rogers' words. Dr. Michael Hopkins, a senior lecturer in American Foreign Policy at the University of Liverpool, believes that Clinton’s past vote for the Iraq invasion will not return to haunt her during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Clinton was seen as one of the hawks at the time, said Hopkins. She was one of the 29 Democrat senators voting with the Republicans to sanction the invasion. While only one Republican senator voted no, a total of 21 Democrats voiced their opposition. The vote gave President Bush the authorization he needed to use military force against Iraq.
Five years later Clinton stuck to her guns, refusing to admit that her October 2002 Iraq War Resolution vote was a mistake, or to apologize for it, as anti-war Democrats had demanded.
Nine years on, Clinton told Good Morning America of the ABC News in an interview that her support for the invasion was her “greatest regret," admitting that it was a mistake.
Her change of stance, said Hopkins, shows how opinions change.
“She is a politician and it's highly unlikely she will lose the nomination," he said, adding that he doubted her support for the 2003 invasion did not cost her the presidency in 2008.
"I am not sure it was a decisive factor at all. Obama was idealistic and presented new hope to Democratic Americans. He presented a more exciting prospect to the American people, and he opposed the Iraq war,” he said.
In 2016, the Iraq war has disappeared into the background, he said, replaced by a lot of dissatisfied blue collar-type workers. Support for Republican front-runner Donald Trump is almost a vote of anger, possibly attracting some traditional Democrats, he added.
On Clinton's regret, Hopkins said "She would not be much of a politician if she didn't allow herself to change her views. She read the signs and she’s a highly organized politician."
Meanwhile professor Rogers this week gave his update on the current situation in Iraq and Syria.
His latest Monthly Global Security Briefing, published in the Oxford Research Group website, says IS is in retreat, but the campaign against them is far from over.
"While IS is under substantial pressure in Syria and Iraq, primarily because of an intense if largely unreported air war, it has retained considerable resilience and competence. What is more significant, though, is that the conflict is extending outwards, not just with developments in North Africa but, even more significantly, towards Western Europe."