Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections)

views updated May 18 2018

Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections)


In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, United States leaders turned their attention to an old enemy, Iraq, and specifically its dictatorial leader, Saddam Hussein.

Although Iraq was not as powerful a military threat as during the Persian Gulf War of 19901991, U.S. officials asserted that Iraq's proven development and use of weapons of mass destruction made Iraq a potential source of those weapons for terrorists who could then use them against U.S. or other Western targets. Hussein ordered the use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, and additionally used chemical weapons against civilians in rebellious area of Iraq.

After Iraqi forces were expelled by U.S.-led Western coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War, and as a part of the agreements that prevented the occupation of Iraq and allowed Hussein to remain in power, Hussein agreed to destroy all weapons of mass destruction and forsake

the future development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. During the next decade, however, 17 specific United Nations Security Council resolutions, weapons inspection programs, and economic sanctions against Iraq failed to secure Hussein's full compliance and assure disarmament of such weapons.

U.S. officials offered prior UN weapons-inspector declarations of Iraqi compliance as proof that Hussein was able to deceive inspectors. Discovery of Iraqi nuclear weapons development facilities in the early 1990s invalidated declarations by IAEA chief Hans Blix that Iraq had no viable nuclear weapons program. After dismantling the Iraqi nuclear program, weapons inspectors had also failed to uncover Iraqi biological and chemical weapons facilities until information supplied to Western intelligence sources by the defection of a son-in-law of Hussein (later executed by Hussein when he returned to Iraq) provided evidence of biological and chemical weapons programs.

Although many weapons were subsequently discovered and destroyed by inspection teams, Iraqi defiance of UN resolutions continued throughout the 1990s. The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was created by the UN Security Council (resolution 1284) in December, 1999. UNMOVIC was chartered to replace the former UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and continue the mandate to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and monitor compliance with other UN stipulations (e.g., that Iraq not possess missiles with a range of more than 150 km). Blix was named the commission's executive chairman. UNMOVIC staff included weapons specialists, scientific analysts, engineers and operational planners. In 1998 Iraq expelled the weapons inspectors and no meaningful inspections took place between 1998 and 2002.

Some Pentagon and administration officials urged immediate and direct action be taken by the United States to disarm Iraq. There were also more controversial calls for a "regime change" in Baghdad as the only means to assure Iraqi disarmament. United States President George W. Bush decided instead to seek international cooperation to disarm Iraq. In September 2002, Bush addressed the United Nations and called for a strong resolution that, backed by the threat of the use of military force, would assure that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction. In October 2002, the U. S. Congress voted Bush the authority to use military force to enforce UN resolutions.

In November 2002, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1441 that reiterated Iraq's obligations to disarm in accordance with prior treaty and resolution obligations and further recognized the threat that "Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security." Resolution 1441 went on to restate Security Council intentions to "restore international peace and security in the area."

Resoultion 1441 specifically stated that Iraq "has not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosureof all aspects of its program to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than one hundred and fifty kilometers, and of all holdings of such weapons, their components and production facilities and locations, as well as all other nuclear programs, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to nuclear-weapons-usable material."

Resolution 1441 additionally stated that Iraq had "repeatedly obstructed immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), [and had] failed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with UNSCOM and IAEA weapons inspectors." The resolution deplores "the absence, since December 1998, in Iraq of international monitoring, inspection, and verification, as required by relevant resolutions, of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, in spite of the Council's repeated demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), established in resolution 1284 (1999) as the successor organization to UNSCOM, and the IAEA."

Important to U.S. concerns regarding potential links between Iraq and terrorist organizations, resolution 1441 recognized that Iraq had "failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism, pursuant to resolution 688 (1991) to end repression of its civilian population and to provide access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in Iraq." Important to questions of legitimacy regarding potential military action against Iraq, resolution 1441 recalled "that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire [of the Persian Gulf War] would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein."

Resolution 1441 declared Iraq to be in material breach (a violation of an important or substantial issue, not just a violation of a technicality or legal process issue) of prior resolutions and set out specific demands for Iraq including resumption of inspections in Iraq by UNMOVIC and the IAEA based upon a full and truthful declaration of prohibited weapons (e.g., chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, nuclear programs, ballistic missiles, and prohibited weapons delivery systems).

Resolution 1441 specifically warned Iraq that future false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq would constitute "a further material breach of Iraq's obligations" and reiterated the Security Council's warnings that "Iraq will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations."

In December, 2002, Iraq produced a 12,000-page document on its weapons programs. U.S. and U.K. officials declared the declaration false, and subsequently, UN weapons inspection teams argued that the document contained little in the way of new information and that it failed to signal Iraq's willingness to cooperate with the international community. Weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC and IAEA returned to Iraq in December 2002.

In late January, Blix, now the chief UNMOVIC weapons inspector, delivered what many observers concluded was a negative report on Iraq's cooperation with the latest in a twelve-year string of UN resolutions to disarm. Blix's report to the Security Council stated, "Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptancenot even todayof the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace." Blix went on to specifically cite Iraqi failures to eliminate prohibited chemical and biological arms programs.

Mohamed El Baradei, the IAEA chief inspector for atomic weapons, reported that Iraq had apparently been unable to successfully reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. Although there was disputed evidence that Iraq continued to try to obtain elements of nuclear weapons, it became apparent to inspectors that the destruction or dismantling of Iraq's nuclear program in the early 1990s had prevented Iraq from successfully developing nuclear weapons. Prior to the first Gulf War and the subsequent dismantling of equipment by UN forces, Western intelligence analysts estimated that without intervention, Iraq had been within two years of developing operational nuclear weapons. Based upon El Baradei's report, attention quickly focused on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons program.

Iraq rejected all of the inspectors' negative comments and the Iraqi ambassador, Mohammed A. Aldouri, insisted that Iraq had "fully complied with all its obligations" with regard to UN resolution 1441, which required disclosure of weapons and disarmament by Iraq.

Repeating a stand carefully articulated prior to the passage of UN 1441, President Bush reiterated U.S. resolve to disarm Iraq by force if necessaryeven without support by other United Nations Security Council members with veto power (France, Russia, China). The other country with veto power, the United Kingdom, sided with the United States. At peril to their political futures, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary Jack Straw (their own Labour party remained deeply divided over the use of force to disarm Iraq) carefully articulated both the strategic need to prevent Iraq from becoming a conduit through which terrorists could obtain weapons of mass destruction, and also of the humanitarian need to liberate the Iraqi people from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. Veto-bearing Security Council members (i.e., France, Russia and China)joined by members Germany and Syriacontended that the inspections process was yielding results and that additional time should be allowed for Iraq's disarmament.

In statements and reports, Blix's inspection team reported that despite Iraq's denials, there were indications that Iraq had created weapons of mass destruction, including VX agent, a weapon that Blix described as "one of the most toxic [nerve agents] ever developed." Blix's report also contained evidence that Iraq had provided contradictory information about its VX stocks in a 12,000-page declaration regarding Iraq's weapons programs that Iraq supplied to the Security Council in December 2002. The United States and United Kingdom contended that Iraq's false declaration to the Security Council was clear and convincing evidence of Iraq's continued unwillingness to comply with United Nations resolutions and to peacefully disarm.

UN inspection reports provided evidence to the Security Council that Iraq had failed to account for 6,500 chemical bombs, thousand of tons of known chemical agents, empty chemical warheads (including an empty Sakr-18 chemical warhead) discovered subsequent to Iraq's declaration, and stocks of thiodiglycol (a precursor of mustard gas).

Iraq admitted to producingin violation of international law8,500 liters of anthrax bacteria capable of use in biological warfare. Iraq claimed that production stopped before the first Persian Gulf War and that it destroyed the anthrax. UN inspection reports stated, "Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction." In addition, UN inspectors concluded that there were strong indications that Iraq had manufactured far greater stores of anthrax.

Blix also reported that Iraq had manufactured a missile, the Samoud 2, that violated United Nations range restrictions limiting missiles to a range of 90 miles (150 kilometers). Inspectors also provided evidence to the Security Council that Iraq rebuilt a missile plant that had previously been destroyed by earlier inspection teams and that it continued to illegally import chemicals used in formulating missile fuels and prohibited weapons. Blix ordered Iraq to begin destruction of the prohibited missiles by March 1, 2003, and to cease production of the missiles. Blix also insisted that Iraq begin to allow U-2 reconnaissance aircraft overflights demanded by inspectors.

U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell presented additional evidence to the Security Council of Baghdad's alleged non-compliance with UN disarmament resolutions. Powell, accompanied to the Security Council meeting by CIA Director George Tenet, also articulated United States assertions of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Powell asserted Western intelligence sources had evidence that Osama bin Laden met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials and that al-Qaeda operatives enjoyed safe haven in Iraq.

Powell also contended that Iraq possessed mobile laboratories to make biological weapons. Powell played intercepts of Iraqi officers apparently ordering concealment of prohibited weapons and displayed satellite pictures of alleged chemical weapons facilities. Powell questioned Iraq's development of unmanned drone airplanes capable of delivering chemical or biological weapons, and claimed that up to 500 tons of chemical weapons agents remained unaccounted for by Iraq.

Powell stressed that the United States and it's coalition partners had "limited patience" for continued Iraqi noncompliance with United Nations resolutions. President Bush and other United States officials insisted that Iraq was in "material breech" of UN resolutions and that military action could be undertaken to disarm Iraq under the terms of existing resolutions.

Other Security Council members disagreed with U.S. and U.K. contentions and, led by France, appealed for more time to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Politicsincluding political struggles with the European Union and NATOintermingled with diplomacy as nations sought to position themselves with regard to a need for military action to enforce UN resolutions. France seized on the politically motivated pacifist stance of German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroder to form a unified anti-war alliance fronted by France, Germany, and Russia. Schroder, in deep political trouble regarding domestic economic problems that plagued his 2002 election campaign, ultimately secured a narrow election victory by promising socialist, Green, and anti-American elements of the German electorate that he would never allow German forces to support military action against Iraq. In addition to their anti-war stance, France, Germany, and Russia all maintained important economic interests in Iraq.

Support for France's anti-war position reached its highest point on February 14, 2003, when French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin delivered an impassioned speech that appealed to the noblest aspirations of the United Nations. In a breech of protocol, sympathetic members applauded both de Villepin's and the Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov's appeals for additional time to allow Iraq to disarm under a stricter inspections program.

The next day, February 15, 2003, saw the largest civil demonstrations for peace in the history of the world. Millions of demonstrators at sites around the globe protested potential U.S.-led military action against Iraq.

Events moved to a diplomatic breaking point in early March. France, Germany, Russia, and China staunchly opposed military enforcement of UN resolution 1441 and threatened veto of any resolution that mighteven indirectlyauthorize the United States and United Kingdom to lead forces to disarm Iraq. The United States, United Kingdom, and Spain put forth a resolution that simply declared Iraq in material breech of 17 prior UN resolutions. President Bush openly declared that he would force countries to "show their cards" with regard to Iraq. In a press conference on March 6, President Bush asserted that Saddam Hussein posed a direct and immediate danger to the security of the United States and, with regard to the United Nations and pending debate and resolutions, asserted that "diplomacy has failed" and that "we really don't need anybody's permission" to defend the United States.

At a meeting of the Security Council the next morning, weapons inspectors Blix and El Baradei reported cooperation had improved, but that Iraqi cooperation was less than complete. Blix issued a report to the Council specifying a number of questions that remained unsolved since the passage of resolution 1441 (and previous resolutions). The UN weapons inspector's report specifically stated that Iraq had not accounted for up to 10,000 liters of anthrax, Scud missile warheads (missiles Iraq fired at Israel and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War and that could be armed chemical or biological agents), and drone aircraft that could fly past UN-allowed limits and that also could be fitted with spray units that could deliver chemical or biological weapons.

With war seemingly imminent, the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain amended a final resolution that set March 17, 2003, as a final deadline for the council to certify Iraqi compliance with prior resolutions. The resolution stated "that Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 (2002) unless, on or before 17 March 2003 the council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation in accordance with its disarmament obligations under resolution 1441 (2002) and previous relevant resolutions, and is yielding possession to UNMOVIC and the IAEA of all weapons, weapon delivery and support systems and structures, prohibited by resolution 687 (1991) and all subsequent relevant resolutions, and all information regarding prior destruction of such items."

Although a threat of force was not contained within the resolution, there was little doubt that should Iraq fail to meet the deadline, the United States and United Kingdom would lead a multinational coalition to militarily disarm Iraq. The United States also sought and promised to depose Saddam Hussein and allow the Iraqi people a chance for democratic government.

France vehemently opposed the new resolution setting specific deadlines and actively lobbied against it. The trans-Atlantic alliance between NATO allies was strained more severely than ever in its history. There were terse exchanges between diplomats and angry and severe rhetoric exchanged in the media of France and America. American press reports detailed how French intelligence officials had passed false documents to British intelligence regarding potential Iraqi purchases of uranium. French contracts with the Iraqi dictatorship called French motives into question, and U.S. press and Western intelligence reports claimed evidence of possible sales by France to Iraq of military hardware in violation of prior UN prohibitions.

France and Russia threatened to veto the deadline resolution, and intense diplomatic efforts to sway the votes of the non-permanent members to the Security Council followed. Although the United States and United Kingdom anticipated a French veto, Prime Minister Blair promised his own government that he would seek this final resolution. With France, Russia, China, Germany, and Syria on record in opposition to the resolution, and the U.S., U.K., Spain, and Bulgaria on record in favor of the resolution, the decision rested with the remaining six temporary member states (Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, and Pakistan). Nine votes and no veto were required to pass the resolution. Although a chance at outright passage remained slim, the U.S. and U.K. pressed for a vote before commencing military action against Iraq.

American and British diplomats claimed that the diplomatic efforts and intransigence of France ultimately "poisoned the diplomatic process." In spite of British attempts to make amendments to pending resolutions and set specific tasks for Iraq to perform to indicate willingness to comply with UN resolutions, France promised to veto the pending resolutionin some cases before Iraq could itself reject the U.K. proposals. On March 15, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and Spain's President Jose Maria Anzar convened an emergency summit in the Azores where they reaffirmed the trans-Atlantic alliance and stated that March 17 would be the final date for the UN to agree on a diplomatic solution to enforce resolution 1441.

With the UN Security Council deadlocked, the probable votes of the nonpermanent members hotly disputed, and the deadline at hand, the U.S., U.K. and Spain allowed their new proposal to die without a vote. Although he had once promised to call for a vote, President Bush stated that France "had shown their cards" and administration officials declared the "diplomatic window closed." Although France, Russia, and China declared that any U.S.-and U.K.-led coalition action against Iraq would be illegitimate and in violation of the UN charter, U.S. and U.K. officials rested on existing UN resolutions (one reason some experts claimed that another vote was not sought), Iraq's violation of the treaty that ended the Persian Gulf War, and assertions of the right of self defense to legitimize military action.

On the evening of March 17 (Washington time), President Bush, in a televised address that was carried around the world by major news organizations, issued Saddam Hussein and his sons (both high ranking Iraqi officials) a 48-hour deadline to leave Iraq or face war.

UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq and most countries withdrew diplomats and other personnel in anticipation of imminent war. France called for a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Security Council, and a meeting of heads of state. The U.S. and U.K. ignored further French efforts and insisted that Hussein could only avoid war by exile.

Hussein ignored the deadline and U.S.-and U.K.-led forces launched aerial attacks against Iraq on the evening of March 19, 2002 (March 20, 2002, in Europe and Iraq).



DeYoung, K., and Colum Lynch. "Britain Races To Rework Resolution: U.S. Insists on Limiting Concessions for Iraq." Washington Post. March 11, 2003.

Evans, D. and D. Charter. "Iraq Strikes Back with Suspected Banned Missiles." The Times. March 21, 2003.

Fisher, I. "Chief Weapons Inspectors See No Big Breakthrough after Talks in Baghdad." New York Times. February 10, 2003.

Gellman, B. "U.S. Reaps New Data on Weapons."Washington Post. March 20, 2003.

Sanger, D., and F. Barringer. "President Readies U.S. for Prospect of Imminent War."New York Times. March 7, 2003.

Tagliabue, J. "France and Russia Ready To Use Veto Against Iraq War." New York Times. March 6, 2003.


United Nations. Security Council Resolution 1441. November 7, 2002. <> (March 23, 2003).


Iraq, Intelligence and Security Agencies
Iraqi Freedom, Operation (2003 War Against Iraq)

Iraq War (Immediate Aftermath)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Iraq War (Immediate Aftermath)


On May 1, 2003, United States President George W. Bush announced an end to major military combat operations related to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Although evidence of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror was rapidly forthcomingincluding the discovery of numerous mass gravesites of those brutally executed for resisting Hussein's rulethe anticipated discovery of large caches of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proved elusive. By the end of May 2003, both British and American intelligence agencies began to downplay the possibility of finding large stores of such weapons. Although both U.S. and British officials continued to assert prior claims about the extent of Iraq's arsenal, questions remained as to whether the weapons had been removed, destroyed, or whether intelligence reports regarding the weapons had been mishandled, exaggerated, or falsified.

Although some seized on the growing controversy regarding the lack of WMD finds as a partisan political issue, all Western intelligence agencies, including those of war dissenter nations France and Germany, agreed before the war that Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Attention in America and Europe focused on to what degree claims regarding Iraqi WMD programs might have been exaggerated, or as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported, "sexed up" by both the Bush and Blair administrations to gain support for the war.

At the core of the controversy lay the handling of critical reports compiled by British intelligence regarding Hussein's possession and potential use of weapons of mass destruction. One report, publicly released by the British in 2002, asserted that Hussein's "military planning allows for some weapons of mass destruction to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them." This statement was used by Coalition governments to stress the urgency of war. Another report, also compiled by British intelligence and released just weeks before the start of military operations, allegedly had new intelligence information, but was subsequently exposed to contain material plagiarized from a previously published academic source.

A BBC report in late May 2003, alleged that a senior British official involved in the preparation of the Fall, 2002 report (containing claims regarding Iraq's ability to rapidly assemble and use biological and chemical weapons) claimed that the report was rewritten on the instructions of officials in the administration of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to make it "sexier" (i.e., to stress the urgency of war). The BBC described their source as one of a number of senior British officials in charge of drawing up the report.

Officials in the Blair government, including John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, countered that the report was entirely the work product of the intelligence community and that no pressure had been exerted to change its contents. Blair administration officials demanded a retraction and apology from the BBC. The BBC refused and stood by its story. Other British government officials initially characterized the BBC sources as "rogue elements within the intelligence services" who were against the government.

The British House of Commons foreign affairs committee began a series of hearings into the controversy and took statements from government officials and journalists regarding the BBC report. As of July 2003, the committee's initial conclusion was there was insufficient evidence of "improper influence," but that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that parts of the reports regarding Iraqi weapons readiness were given unwarranted emphasis. The committee specifically concluded that Alastair Campbell, the Blair administration's director of communicationsspecifically identified in BBC reports as one administration official who tried to influence report contentwas not responsible for attempting to influence the contents of the report.

Another inquiry was led by the British Intelligence and Security Committee. During their hearings, testimony was provided by David Kelly, a government weapons expert. Although the BBC initially protected the identity of its source, following Kelly's death the BBC acknowledged that Kelly was the "principal source" for its claim that the report had been "sexed-up."

After the BBC aired its story in late May 2003, other news organizations sought the source of the BBC information and Kelly's name became publicly identified as the potential source of the BBC story. In July 2003, Kelly initially confirmed meeting with a BBC reporter, but denied he was the main source for the BBC report. Intense scrutiny along with and criticism of Kelly and his potential role in the story circulated in both press and government circles. Kelly blamed U.K. Ministry of Defense officials and others in the Blair government for leaking his name to the press. Kelly claimed that he was put under "intolerable" pressure by the disclosure of his association with the potential intelligence scandal.

Kelly went missing on July 17, 2003, and the next day his body was discovered near his Oxfordshire home with a knife and a packet of painkillers close to his body. Police confirmed that subsequent forensic examination concluded that Kelly committed suicide and bled to death from cuts to his wrist. Prime Minister Blair confirmed that there would be a judicial inquiry dealing with the events surrounding Kelly's death.

In July, 2003, U.S. Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet accepted the blame for allowing subsequently discredited information from British Intelligencethat Hussein's government "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"to remain in the text of President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union speech. Tenet acknowledged that the CIA had doubted the validity of the reports and that the evidence did not rise to the "level of certainty" normally required for insertion into presidential speeches.

At the end of July 2003, several inquires were underway into the formulation and use by Coalition governments of intelligence related to Iraqi possession and development of weapons of mass destruction.

The hunt for Hussein's regime. Against steady sniper and terrorist attacks, Coalition forces continued the hunt for former officials of Saddam Hussein's regime.

In July 2003, U.S. Army soldiers and Task Force 20 personnel (a special unit tasked with capturing or killing former Iraqi leaders) surrounded and killed Qusay and Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's sons and top officials of the former Iraqi regime. Following their discovery in Mosul, the former Iraqi leaders refused to surrender and an intense firefight ended in their deaths. U.S. officials debated and then released photos of the bodies, in part, to alleviate Iraqi fears that the two might still be alive and attempt a return to power. U.S. officials also hoped that the confirmation of the deaths of Qusay and Uday would encourage Iraqis to come forward with intelligence related to capturing Saddam.

As of July 30, 2003, Coalition forces and Task Force 20 had killed or captured almost 40 former Iraqi leaders depicted in a famous deck of playing cards sometimes dubbed the "deck of death," circulated to Coalition forces to assist them in spotting wanted former Iraqi leaders.

At the end of July, 2003, U.S. Central Command confirmed the deaths of 90 American service personnel killed in Iraq since President Bush's May 1 declaration of an end to major combat operations. At least 49 of those soldiers were killed in combat.



Schmitt, E. and B. Weinraub. "Pentagon Asserts the Main Fighting Is Finished in Iraq." New York Times. April 15, 2003.

Sanger D., and J. Risen. "C.I.A. Chief Takes Blame in Assertion on Iraqi uranium." New York Times. July 12, 2003.


BBC News: "CIA Takes Blame for Iraq Claims." July 12, 2003. <> (July 30, 2003).

BBC News. Timeline: "US losses in Iraq." Updated July 30, 2003. <> (July 30, 2003).

United Kingdom Parliament. Oral evidence Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, July 15,2003. <>. July 30, 2003.


Iraq, Intelligence and Security Agencies
Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections.)
Iraqi Freedom, Operation (2003 War Against Iraq)

Iraq War

views updated May 23 2018


Occupation of Iraq Continues

The occupation of Iraq continues as of the time of this writing, and there is still no end in sight. There have been some positive and encouraging signs since June 2004, such as the formal handover of power from the U.S. to the Iraqi government and successful free elections being carried out. However, the successes of the past year have been marred by continued fighting, insurgent attacks, and other setbacks to the goal of a free, independent, stable, and self-supporting Iraq.

As of June 1, 2005, there had been 1,670 U.S. and 185 coalition soldiers killed in Iraq, with an unknown number of deaths among Iraqi soldiers, police, and civilians. Estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties run from a minimum of 10,000, according to the Brookings Institute, to more than 100,000, as reported by The Lancet, which factored in deaths from indirect causes such as lack of medical supplies, inadequate sanitation, and infrastructure failures. Of the Iraqi civilian casualties, it is estimated that 40 percent of them are children. Of the American military casualties, more than 85 percent have now occurred since President Bush announced the end of major ground operations on May 1, 2003.

June 28, 2004, saw the official end of the occupation, with the handover of governmental authority from the occupying forces to the new Iraqi interim government, headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The handover was conducted two days ahead of schedule, and in a secret location, in order to deter insurgent attacks.

The insurgency has been a major problem for coalition forces. The insurgents are fairly well-organized and boast numbers greater than original U.S. military estimates (somewhere in the range of 20,000 to 50,000). The number is unknown mainly because the overall composition of the insurgent force, and their origins, are not well-understood. It is known that the insurgents are composed of Ba'athists who are loyal to Saddam Hussein; Sunni Muslims who are angry at the Shi'ite-controlled government; religious radicals; members of Al-Qaeda; volunteers from other neighboring countries; and a sprinkling of mercenaries. The amount of support that the insurgency receives, if any, from neighboring countries has been a subject of much rhetoric and diplomatic tension, but hard data are either unknown or have not been disclosed to the media.

In the past year, the insurgents have been responsible for guerilla actions in the form of constant roadside and car bombings, assassinations of government officials, and sabotage of infrastructure. They also have been responsible for conventional military attacks and have managed to seize police stations and entire towns. When coalition forces counterattack, the insurgents are often able to melt into the population. Only determined questioning and exhaustive house-to-house searches yield success. All-out assaults by coalition forces have brought mixed results, as the number of civilian casualties is often high. Such was the case in 2004, with assaults on the cities of Najaf and Fallujah, which have been major bases of insurgent activity.

On August 7, coalition forces attacked Najaf and the insurgent forces led by rebel Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The insurgents suffered heavy casualties in the initial attack but held out for almost three weeks. During that time, an unknown number of civilians were also killed—several hundred, by some estimates, although the military disputed this figure. Al-Sadr's forces were driven back and eventually holed up in the Iman Ali mosque. On August 27, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani intervened and negotiated a solution. Najaf and the neighboring city of Kufa were declared demilitarized zones, off-limits to coalition forces and insurgents.

On September 7, the U.S. military announced the 1,000th casualty of the war.

Insurgent attacks on infrastructure on September 13 knocked out electrical power to most of Iraq, showing the vulnerability of Iraq's fragile infrastructure.

Two days later, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan declared the war in Iraq illegal and in violation of the U.N. Charter. The U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia issued strong rebuttals to Annan's declaration, but much of the world's opinion was aligned with the U.N.

On October 7, a sign of hope appeared. Muqtada al-Sadr's top aide announced that, as part of a peace gesture, militia members under their control would give up their weapons.

On October 25, the U.S. military suffered an embarrassment when it was discovered that 380 tons of highly explosive material were missing from a former Iraqi military base. Somehow, the explosive material had been snatched right from under the military's guard. This incident became a political issue in the U.S., seized upon by the Kerry campaign in its unsuccessful attempt to unseat President George W. Bush in the 2004 elections.

On November 7, a major campaign began in Fallujah, a city of 300,000 and the site of previous anti-insurgent action by coalition forces. This assault dwarfed previous efforts, involving up to 10,000 U.S. troops. By the end of the year, an estimated 80 percent of the civilian population had fled the city.

More hopeful news came in late November, as the interim government of Iraq announced that free, nationwide elections would be held on January 30, 2005.

On December 1, in response to continuing insurgent violence, the U.S. announced that it would increase troop levels to 150,000 by the middle of January 2005.

On January 12th, the Bush administration announced that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had ended, without any such weapons having been found.

January 27, three days before the first free Iraqi elections in decades, marked the deadliest single day of the war and occupation thus far for U.S. troops. Thirty-one marines were killed in a helicopter crash, and five more soldiers were killed in firefights.

On January 30th, the Iraqi election took place as planned, with an estimated 58 percent of the eligible population voting, including a good showing by expatriates voting in special districts set up in the United States and other countries. Results were not fully tabulated for weeks because of security concerns and poor infrastructure, however. Eventually, it was found that the Shi'ite coalition had gained a plurality , with the Kurdish coalition coming in second and the Sunni a distant third, due primarily to a nearly total boycott of the election by Sunnis. On February 22, Ibrahim al-Jaafari was selected as Prime Minister.

On February 28, the deadliest car bombing during the occupation occurred at a police station in Hilla, when a car exploded in the midst of crowds of people who had hoped to sign up with the Iraqi police forces. The attack killed 125 people.

On March 4, a distressing miscommunication resulted in an international incident between the U.S. and one of its chief allies and cast a shadow over what should have been a positive story. Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena had been captured by insurgents the month before, and an Italian delegation had just secured her freedom. Her car was driving toward a U.S. checkpoint when something went wrong. The U.S. claims that soldiers warned the vehicle to stop and that, when it didn't, fired in self-defense; the Italians claim that no warning was given before the U.S. soldiers opened fire. Italian agent Nicola Calipari, who had just won Sgrena's release, was killed as he shielded her with his body. Relations between the two allies soured as a result of the incident, and major new anti-war protests were triggered in Rome.

The hunt continues for the man whom U.S. forces identify as the leader of the insurgency, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Born in Jordan, Zarqawi is currently the most wanted person in Iraq, but his whereabouts are unknown. Rumors have been circulating that he might have been seriously wounded, incapacitated, or even killed by coalition forces, but no confirmation has come to light as of the time of this writing.

March 19 marked two years since the beginning of the invasion. So far, the war has cost over $200 billion, and more money is sure to follow. This vast amount of money equals over $3,500 per household in the U.S. Close to one million troops have been sent to Iraq at some point during the war, and 300,000 of those have served more than one tour of duty. Currently, the military is having difficulty attracting new soldiers, as recruiters have fallen below their quotas for the past several months. Halliburton, the top reconstruction contractor in Iraq, has come under criticism on a variety of issues, including for charging money to the U.S. government for services not delivered; for executives taking excessive kickbacks; and for grossly overcharging for services. Investigations into these issues continue as of the time of this writing.

Iraq War

views updated May 23 2018


War fought by a largely Anglo-American force in March and April 2003, leading to the overthrow of the Baʿthist regime of Saddam Hussein and the indefinite occupation of the country by the Americans and the British. The war was preceded by an extended diplomatic crisis over whether or not Iraq was complying with the disarmament regime imposed on it by the United Nations at the end of the Gulf War of 1991. Both the crisis and the war were driven by American claims that Iraq had, in violation of UN resolutions, maintained "stockpiles" of weapons of mass destruction, both chemical and nuclear, and that it was an immediate threat to its neighbors and the United States; that it engaged in proliferation of such weapons to terrorists and "rogue states"; and that it had "ties" to the al-Qaʿida organization of Osama bin Ladin that was responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001.

All of these claims proved to be untrue. They generated little credence or support among the world's governments, and the buildup to war during 2002 inspired the largest popular protest demonstrations in history. The claims were refuted by UN arms inspectors before the war, and no evidence could be found to sustain them after Iraq was occupied. The war did fit, however, with the strategic plans of the U.S. administration of George W. Bush, based upon effective American control of Middle East and Central Asian petroleum resources and the strategic needs of its ally, Israel (for which some of the most important American strategic planners have also worked), and had been planned even before Bush took office in 2001. The United States is currently engaged in building no fewer than fourteen permanent bases for its forces to occupy, when and if it is able to overcome the current armed resistance to its presence.

SEE ALSO Bin Ladin, Osama;Bush, George W.;Gulf War (1991);Hussein, Saddam;International Islamic Front.