OGDEN -- Omar Kader, board chairman of the Middle East Policy Council, was at Weber State University-Davis when he heard the news from Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama on Friday morning announced the end of America's war with Iraq and said U.S. troops stationed there would be home by year's end.
"It's a decision that's long overdue," said Kader, a Utah native and graduate of Brigham Young University.
"It will probably cost us a trillion dollars before it's over. By every measure, the Iraq war is the single most critical blunder and mistake that our national security has ever suffered."
Kader is owner of Paltech, a Washington-based government contracting firm specializing in training, instructional systems and program management.
Kader travels often to the Middle East, once with former President Bill Clinton, who was there for peace talks.
The Middle East Policy Council is a nonprofit group whose mission is to educate Americans about the region.
For about 17 years, Kader has visited Ogden twice a year to conduct foreign policy workshops for WSU students, as he did Friday. He also sits on the university's advisory board.
"The reason it was a blunder is, we handed over a strategically important country to Iran. We did Iran's dirty work in Iraq by knocking over Saddam Hussein. It was Iran, not America, that had the most to gain by his death," he said.
"I am glad Saddam is gone, but every now and then, you've got to think a few steps ahead to who will benefit the most. Our doing Iran's dirty work was not just shortsighted, it was irresponsible. We should never have been there in the first place."
The U.S. leaving a weakened Iraq presents an opportunity to Iran, Kader said.
Iran's biggest enemy in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. Iran can move its military power into Iraq for easier access to Saudi Arabia, as well as Syria and Turkey, Kader said.
"Iran is the major threat to the region, and Iraq will be their surrogate. Iraq gives Iran access to countries we didn't want them to have access to."
America's next focus should be how to minimize Iraq's vulnerability and to protect U.S. allies, Kader said.
"We have to get closer to our allies in the area. Working with Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia to minimize the damage can do a lot. We will probably keep the bases in Iraq, but not the combat troops. That's what we are waiting to find out."
Stretching more than eight years, the war cost the United States heavily: More than 4,400 members of the military have been killed, and more than 32,000 have been wounded.
The final exit date was sealed after months of intensive talks between Washington and Baghdad failed to reach agreement on conditions for leaving several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq as a training force.
The U.S. also had been interested in keeping a small force to help the Iraqis deal with possible Iranian meddling.
The task now is to speed the pullout of the remaining U.S. forces, nearly 40,000 in number.
The ending was set in motion before Obama took office. In 2008, President George W. Bush approved a deal calling for all U.S. forces to withdraw by Dec. 31, 2011.
Officials at Hill Air Force Base, as a matter of policy, would not comment on Obama's announcement, but Chief of Media Relations Rich Essary said the base currently has approximately 50 to 60 airmen deployed to Iraq.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this article.