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2003 occupation of Iraq

The 2003 occupation of Iraq, led by the United States (along with the United Kingdom and several more minor participants), followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government caused by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. United States military and civilian officials, as well as some British officials, began the process of securing Iraq's infrastructure and rebuilding its governmental structures.

Central authority for the occupation was given to the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. From April to May of 2003 the RHA was led by General Jay Garner. He was later replaced by U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer.

Table of contents

Law and order problems

In the initial period of the occupation, there were widespread law and order problems, including heavy looting (notably at the National Museum of Iraq, though the extent of the looting there is under debate; see that article for details). This followed the collapse of the Hussein government and the disappearance of much of the traditional security infrastructure, which the occupying forces had been relying on to carry out most of the necessary policework.

Establishment of a new Iraqi government

The establishment of a new civilian government of Iraq was greatly complicated by the religious divisions between the majority Shi'ite population and the formerly ruling Sunni class. Moreover, all the people in Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party were tainted by the association. Also, in northern Iraq, Kurds had already had effectively autonomous rule for 12 years under the protection of the no-fly zone.

Prior to the invasion, the U.S. promised a speedy transition to a democratic government, and the initial outline included the creation of an Iraqi constitution and the active role of Iraqis in the process of establishing a new government as well as in the interim authority. United States officials public pronouncements have emphasized that the US invasion was not about occupation, but about liberation. From before the invasion until mid-May 2003, U.S. officials emphasized that an Iraqi-led government would be established "as soon as possible". However, this commitment atrophied in the following months.

On May 16, 2003, U.S. officials abandoned the plan to cede authority to a democratically choosen interim civilian Iraqi government (similar to what had happened in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan) and presented a resolution to the U.N. to give the United States and Britain broad power and lift economic sanctions on Iraq, allowing the occupying countries authority to use oil resources to pay for rebuilding the country. The resolution would allow them to appoint an interim government by themselves.

On May 22, 2003, the UN Security Council voted 14-0 to give the United States and Britain the power to govern Iraq and use its oil resources to rebuild the country. Resolution 1483 removed nearly 13 years of economic sanctions originally imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The resolution allows U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a special representative to work with U.S. and British administrators on reconstruction, humanitarian aid, and the creation of a new government. The resolution created a new Development Fund for Iraq, which will collect funds from oil sales. The fund will be run by the United States and Britain to rebuild the country, and it will be overseen by a new advisory body composed of the United Nations and international financial institutions. It will begin its existence with a $1 billion deposit, funds transferred from the United Nation's oil-for-food account. The oil-for-food program will be phased out over a six month period. The resolution requires a one-year review, a step sought by both Germany and France. Syria, which was the sole Arab state represented on the council, was absent from the meeting.

For several months the United States maintained that it intended to convene a constitutional convention, composed of influential Iraqis. The deadline for this convention was pushed back further and further by the U.S. interim authority until it was suspended indefinitely.

Though the U.S. government continues to maintain that intends to eventually hold elections in Iraq, currently local and regional positions (e.g. mayors, governors) are being chosen from a select group of individuals (including ex-Ba'ath party officials) in an attempt to avoid the election of people opposed to the American and British presence, including religous clerics and other officials who are considered to be overly radical or dangerous.

Resistance to the Occupation

The occupation was resisted from forces inside Iraq. In the initial months of the occupation, dozens of Iraqis were shot in anti-American demonstrations, mostly in the nation's Shi'a muslim parts. Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim[?], who returned to Iraq after decades in exile shortly after the occupation began, said: "We are not afraid of the British or American troops. This country wants to keep its sovereignity and the forces of the coalition must leave it."

In the months following the start of the occupation American and British casualties one a day, in sniper attacks, suicide bombings at road checkpoints and ambushes. Many attacks against occupying troops were prompted by motivations of revenge (e.g. when six British soldiers were killed by angry Iraqis after they shot four demonstrators at a protest).

There was some speculation beginning in late June of 2003 that the resistance was the beginnings of a guerrilla war. U.S. officials denied this, perhaps to avoid comparisons with the Vietnam War; U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld blamed resistance on five groups: looters, criminals, supporters of the former Saddam Hussein regime, foreign terrorists and Iranian-backed Shi'a radicals.

Sabotage of oil pipelines is a significant form of resistance. The United States had intended to quickly rebuild Iraqi oil production back to pre-war levels, but destruction of pipelines crippled this initiative. The northern pipeline to Turkey was destroyed immediately following the U.S. announcement of the intent to ship oil out via that route, and on June 23 a major pipe junction leading to Syria and Lebanon was destroyed. Together these attacks crippled much of the ability to transport northern Iraqi oil. In the south an attack on June 22 destroyed the main oil pipeline leading from southern oil fields to the Baghdad oil refineries. In addition widespread looting, which contractors believe to be systematic and intended as sabotage, has crippled the attempt to bring production in the supergiant Rumaila oil field[?] back up to speed.

Some of the groups that have claimed responsibility for attacks on occupying forces and sabotage include:

  • The Iraqi National Front of Fedayeen
  • The Snake Party
  • The Return

See also 2003 occupation of Iraq timeline.

External links and references

  • The Promise of Democracy (http://billmon.org/archives/000193), Billmon.org, June 3, 2003: quotations on transitional government and occupation
  • U.S.-British Rule of Iraq Wins U.N. Vote (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28736-2003May22), Washington Post, May 22, 2003
  • Faux Pax Americana (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0306.carter), Paul Carter, Washington Monthly, June 2003: The lesson from Iraq is that using fewer troops can win a war, but can't keep the peace.
  • This Is What A Guerilla War Looks Like (http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3844), Maria Tomchick, ZNet, June 30, 2003

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