Those who think a U.S.-Iraqi strategic relationship would be fantastic for all concerned, a little warning from history may be in order. Here’s what Ellen Laipson writes in her excellent White Paper about the “special relationship” between Washington and the Shah of Iran:
Over time, U.S. policy led to less freedom of maneuver for Washington, and a subtle shift of power in the relationship toward the Shah. The United States, for example, reduced its intelligence coverage of internal developments in Iran to avoid friction with the royal palace, and the Shah was confident in his ability to shape American views of events in the region. When he fell, according to Gary Sick, the United States had the worst of all worlds: diminished understanding of developments in Iran and deep resentment, ironically, among Iranians who believed we controlled the Shah to the detriment of Iranian independence.
One should, however, not infer that the United States was responsible for the Iranian revolution or could have prevented it. There were other societal and political forces that might have led to a transformation of Iran’s politics, even if the Twin Pillars policy had not existed. But one cannot escape the judgment that the way we created and were constrained by a special relationship with the leader of a regional power contributed to historical events there. The opposition in Iran was able to associate the Shah with the West, the United States in particular, and the message resonated strongly with large segments of Iran’s population. It is not an overstatement to say that the Iranian revolution has had more of an adverse impact on U.S. interests and on regional peace and stability than any other event in the past quarter century. It is a warning about exceptional relationships and their unintended consequences.