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Iraq crisis of 2003

Note: Other wikipedians are in the process of migrating this content to the article Iraq disarmament crisis. See Talk:Iraq disarmament crisis.

As of February 2003 the United States appears to be moving towards a war on Iraq while charging that Iraq is in non-compliance with UN resolutions. The United Nations neither supports or opposes this action, nor has it made a final determination as to Iraq's compliance with said sanctions. This article provides a brief summary of the background of this situation, with pointers to articles where more detailed coverage is available.

Table of contents


The Middle East has been an unstable part of the world for many years. (See Israel, Palestinian territories, Islamism). In particular, Iraq, under the Ba'ath Party government of its leader Saddam Hussein, has been involved in a succession of regional conflicts.

Following the Gulf War:

Since the end of the Gulf War, the Iraqi government has continued work on the production of weapons of mass destruction, including long-range missiles and biological weapons. UN attempts to disarm Iraq by weapons inspections were unsuccessful.


The events of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack on New York by al-Qaida led to a U.S. determination to attack the issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. government announced a "war on terrorism", and launched the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to replace the Taliban government that was sheltering al-Qaida.

In 2002 the U.S. president George W. Bush named Iraq as part of an "Axis of Evil" with Iran and North Korea. A series of UN resolutions on Iraq culminated in UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which called upon Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. UN weapons inspectors[?] re-entered Iraq in late 2002.

The slow pace of the UN initiative led to the U.S. developing a plan to invade Iraq. As time passed without resolution of the weapons issue, the U.S. made increasing diplomatic moves to secure UN support for a new war on Iraq, while stating that it would ultimately act independently if necessarily. This was accompanied by the mobilization of U.S. forces.

Political responses

As an attack appeared imminent, there were political reactions around the world. American popular opinion of war on Iraq is mostly in favour of attacking Iraq, with a significant minority in opposition. In many other countries, majority opinion is opposed to the war, at least until all diplomatic measures have been exhausted. However, it is worth pointing out that the citizens of many countries around the world (including Great Britain) were also opposed to the Gulf War in 1991, until it was over.

Other opponents of the U.S. plans are puzzled that the U.S. is planning to attack Iraq, being unconvinced that Iraq's secular government has any links to al-Qaida, the terrorist group that attacked the U.S., and that the U.S. seems not to be taking any action against North Korea, which is taking active measures to create atomic weapons, and has announced that it is willing to declare war on the U.S.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, American policy began focusing on terrorism as the the country's primary enemy worldwide, in contrast to the previous fifty years of that country's history, fighting against international Communism. Many critics of the American War on Terror do not believe that American actions will help to end terror, and will actually increase the ranks and capabilities of terrorist groups. American presence in Middle-Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia are one of the major sources of discontent that leads Islamic fundamentalists to commit acts of violence; hence, additional American presence in Iraq will likely increase the ranks of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, especially with the collateral damage of civilian deaths inevitable in any invasion. However, supporters of the Bush Administration's policies point out that with direct American control over countries where terrorist groups could flourish, the American presence will make it easier to combat these groups. In addition, the American policy of combatting terrorism focuses exclusively on non-state groups with a history of violence, while supporting undemocratic and violent regimes in places like Turkmenistan, which generally harm only their own polity; critics of the Bush Administration believe that this form of state-sponsored violence is more dangerous to more people than traditional forms of terrorism.

Perhaps the most common criticism of the Bush Administration's proposed war is that the stated purposes are merely a cover for an attempt at grabbing control over the Iraqi nation and its natural resources, especially oil. Though few doubt that nuclear proliferation is a serious threat to the stability and well-being of the planet, some argue that a war on Iraq will not aid in eliminating this threat and that the only logical reason for a war is to secure control over the vast Iraqi oil fields. It is possible, as has happened in some similar invasions for ostensibly peacekeeping purposes, that the new regime will be little better than the old one in its attention to human rights and peace. The weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly has may end up in the hands of a more dangerous leader, or be sold off to terrorist groups or other rogue nations[?], like Syria or Libya; supporters of the war remain hopeful that the American military will capture any weapons of mass destruction, and hence prevent their proliferation to groups more dangerous than Hussein's Iraqi government. Some observors claim that American intervention in Iraq is driven by a desire to establish a new form of colonialism, with the war in Iraq a first step in establishing hegemony over Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern nations.

President Bush and his supporters have pointed to Germany and Japan as examples of countries which developed into stable and peaceful democracies during American occupation following World War 2. Bush's opponents do not agree that these are valid comparisons because both of these examples took many years of occupation, and large amounts of money invested into their economies; this has not happened in Bush's previous invasion, Afghanistan, which has not shown signs of developing a stable democracy, nor signs of economic progress.

The American government position on war on Iraq remains determined, and appears not to have been swayed by worldwide government positions on war on Iraq. There is significant United Nations opposition to the U.S. war plans. The U.S. is employing all diplomatic and public relations measures to try to bring world opinion behind it. See The UN Security Council and the Iraq war for more details.

Starting in January 2003, there have been a series of huge public protests against war on Iraq around the world.

Pro and con forces have listed many alleged impacts of invading Iraq. These have played a major role in the debate.

Possible Resolutions

There were many possible solutions proposed to end the Iraq crisis, including the following:

  • Saddam Hussein entering exile outside of Iraq - an option he has ruled out in an interview with Dan Rather.
  • The UN Security Council mandating specifically that UN forces disarm Iraq.
  • Worldwide public opinion shifting to support of war with Iraq, permitting UN mandated action and mediating diplomatic aspects of the crisis.
  • The US military "liberating" Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein - leading to the alleged effects of invading Iraq, likely a mix of pro and con predictions.

2003 war and fall of Saddam

Ultimately, a combination of solutions were employed. Following a strongly-worded Security Council resolution, UN weapons inspectors were deployed to Iraq. After a few months of searching, the inspectors failed to make any significant finds, but reported to the council that they were not completely satisfied with Iraq's compliance. American Secretary of State Colin Powell then proceded to adress the council, and for the first time revealed some exerpts from American intelligence gatherings that seemed to indicate some suspicous activities on the part of the Iraqi government.

With the UN inspectors terms completed, there was a period of diplomatic stalemate, in which the United States, France, and others remained at odd over what the next step against the apparently not-complying regime should be.

Eventually, President Bush delivered and ulimatium to Saddam Hussien demanding that he and his sons leave Iraq, or face military action. When the dictator refused, a military coalition led by Britain and America invaded Iraq, and within weeks had deposed the current regime. Saddam managed to escape however, and his current whereabouts remain unknown.

A period of U.S. Occupation of Iraq[?] began following the fall of Sadddam.

Timeline of Recent events related to the Iraq crisis

January 18, 2003

  • Global protests against war on Iraq in cities around the world, including Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Cologne, Bonn, Goteborg, Istanbul, and Cairo. NION and ANSWER hold protests in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, California.
February 5 February 7 February 8
  • Sections of a 'dossier' issued by the UK government, which purported to present the latest British intelligence about Iraq, and which had been cited by Tony Blair and Colin Powell as evidence for the need for war, were criticized as plagiarisms. They had been copied without permission from a number of sources including Jane's Intelligence Review[?] and a 12-year-old doctoral thesis of a Californian student that had been published in the US journal Middle East Review of International Affairs[?]. Some sentences were copied word-for-word, and spelling mistakes had been reproduced from the original articles. Downing Street responded by saying that the government had never claimed exclusive authorship and that the information was accurate.
February 10
  • France and Belgium broke the NATO procedure of silent approval concerning the timing of protective measures for Turkey in case of a possible war with Iraq. Germany said it supports this veto. The procedure was put into operation on February 6 by secretary general George Robertson. In response Turkey called upon Article 4 of the NATO Treaty, which stipulates that member states must deliberate when asked to do so by another member state if it feels threatened.

February 12

February 14
  • A very large demonstration was held in Melbourne to protest against the Australian government's support for the USA's policy on Iraq. Organisers estimated that 200,000 people came out on to the streets, while some news sources put the number at "up to 150,000". [1] (http://au.news.yahoo.com/030214/2/qcxe)
  • UNMOVIC chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei presented a report to the United Nations Security Council. They stated that the Iraqis had been co-operating well with the inspectors and that no weapons of mass destruction had been found, but that the Saddam Hussein regime had still to account for many banned weapons believed to have been in his arsenal. Mr Blix also expressed doubts about some of the conclusions in Colin Powell's Security Council presentation of February 5, and specifically questioned the significance of some of the photographic evidence that Mr Powell had presented.
February 15
  • Global protests against war on Iraq: People around the world demonstrated against the planning of war against Iraq. In Rome one million people were on the streets, in London one million. In Berlin there were half a million in the largest demonstration for some decades. There were also protest marches all over France as well as in many other smaller European cities. Protests were also held in South Africa, Syria, India, Russia, Canada and in the USA, in around 600 cities in total.
February 18
  • *Hours before the first ships transporting heavy United States military equipment to Turkey were supposed to reach port, the Turkish government announces that it will withhold approval to dock unless the United States increases a reciprocal $6 billion foreign aid grant to $10 billion. The Bush administration indicated that no substantial changes will be made to the proposed aid package. [2] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27320-2003Feb18)
February 24
  • General Colin Powell states at a meeting in Beijing that "It is time to take action. The evidence is clear ... We are reaching that point where serious consequences must flow." His speech appears to imply that military action is likely to follow within three weeks, based on previous briefings from The Pentagon.
February 25
  • The United States, Britain and Spain present to the UN Security Council a much-anticipated second resolution stating that Iraq "has failed to take the final opportunity" to disarm, but does not include deadlines or an explicit threat of military force. Meanwhile, France, Germany, and Russia offer a counter-proposal calling for peaceful disarmament through further inspections.
  • Both major parties of Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Northern Iraq, vow to fight Turkish troops if they enter Kurdistan to capture Mosul or interfere in Kurdish self-rule. Between them the two parties can mobilize up to 80,000 guerillas - most likely no match for the modern Turkish army, but a severe blow to the unity of U.S. allies on the Northern front expected in the U.S. plan to invade Iraq.
February 26
  • Hans Blix stated that Iraq still has not made a "fundamental decision" to disarm, despite recent signs of increased cooperation. Specifically, Iraq has refused to destroy it's al-Samoud 2 long range missiles - a weapon system that was in violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions and the US treaty with Iraq. These missiles are deployed and mobile. Also, an R-400[?] aerial bomb was found that could possibly contain biological agents. Given this find, the UN Inspectors have requested access to the Al-Aziziyah[?] weapons range to verify that all 155 R-400 bombs can be accounted for and proven destroyed.
  • Gerorge Bush commits publicly to a post-invasion democracy in Iraq, says it will be "an example" to other nations in Arabia
  • Tony Blair passes a motion in the British House of Commons supporting a new resolution at the UN Security Council and presumably authorizing a war (although the motion carefully avoids saying so). 120 UK Labour Party MPs dissent and vote against it - double the number who opposed the previous such motion - but the UK Conservative Party backs the government's motion.
  • Saddam Hussein, in an interview with Dan Rather, rules out exile as an option.
February 27
  • UN Security Council meeting on Iraq ended without forming an agreement on timeline for further weapons inspections or future reports.

The items in this list are taken from Current events -- please feel free to keep it up to date.

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