The recent visit by Iranian president Ahmadinejad to Iraq indicates that the real benefactors of the occupation by US forces is Iran. I wrote about this more than two years ago. Now we are getting a taste of just how our foreign policy blunders have gone.

The Bush administration had been promoting a Turkey-Israel axis, then a Sunni Arab “axis of fear” (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates) and then a Saudi-Israeli axis, always trying to isolate Iran. None of these concoctions seems to have worked.

Hanif Ghaffari, writing in the Farsi-language, conservative Iranian daily Resalat, has pointed out how the recent, very successful Ahmadinejad trip to Iraq had to be considered in the context of “Iran after the Iraq war” and “Iraq after occupation by America”. The message could not be more graphic. When Bush went to Iraq he saw an ultra-fortified military base, and that was it. Ahmadinejad went everywhere in broad daylight, welcomed like a brother. This is how Tehran sees itself – as the ultimate victor of the US war on Iraq. And no “surge” or spin – not to mention Israeli paranoia – can or will make it go away.

Iraq now wants to boost oil production by 500,000 barrels per day and is courting Big Oil to do this. However, the lack of consensus in the Iraqi Parliament for a hydrocarbon law has made companies like Shell and BP squeamish. So Iraq is desperate to broker a deal to rescue its economy.

Iraq once had one of the region’s strongest agricultural and industrial economies. But United Nations sanctions and years of war with the United States and Iran have destroyed much of Iraq’s economic base, leaving the nation heavily dependent on oil revenue. And Iraq’s oil industry, hobbled by armed conflict, mismanagement and neglect, produces far less oil than Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The deal is more likely to be with Iran first, locking the US out of influencing any arrangements made with oil companies.