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Preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq

The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 UTC. On March 18, 2003, President George W. Bush of the United States of America had set a deadline for the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and his two sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein to leave the country, or face military action. By the time of the ultimatum, political and military preparations for the invasion were well advanced.

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Military preparations See military preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq for full article.

The U.S. plan to invade Iraq began in September 2000 with a report by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Several members of the PNAC became members of George W. Bush's administation. The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack was seen as the opportunity of ages to justify the invasion plan. By late 2002, there was a steady flow of U.S. forces into the Gulf region. By March 17, 2003, around 270,000 U.S. and British troops were in the region.

Political preparations

Political preparation for war began in earnest during the period of weapons inspections in Iraq over the winter of 2002-2003, carried out by a team led by Hans Blix with the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The U.S. and its principal allies, the United Kingdom and Spain, maintained a sceptical position on the results of the inspections procedure. By 2003, the U.S. was keen to invade Iraq and secure the goal some argued it had ultimately been pursuing all along - the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Under pressure from his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and his main ally, the U.K., President Bush decided to try and obtain UN backing for an invasion. The so-called "second resolution" (the first being 1441) was eventually drafted and presented to the UN Security Council. It was a tough resolution, calling for immediate compliance with the previous resolutions requiring disarmament, and setting a 10-day deadline for compliance. Critics saw it as an unrealistic ultimatum designed to provide the U.S. with a cause for war, and it met considerable opposition in the security council, with opponents including the permanent members France, China and Germany. After a period of intense diplomacy, President Bush met with his British and Spanish counterparts, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister José María Aznar in the Azores on March 15 and 16. Declaring that "diplomacy had failed", he announced the intention to drop the proposed resolution. Subsequently, both the U.S. and the U.K. accused France of effectively blocking the negotiations by threatening to veto the proposed resolution "whatever the circumstances", but France maintained that its position had been intentionally misconstrued. Lacking the "second resolution", the U.S. and the U.K. announced their intention to attack Iraq regardless if Saddam Hussein did not abdicate.

The U.S.' rationale for war depended on several contentions. Firstly, it contended that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, which it claimed he might be willing to supply to terrorists. It accused Iraq of supporting terrorism, notably through payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers. In this way, the U.S. contended, Iraq presented a threat that it would be justified in removing, placing this as a new interpretation of the doctrine of self-defence. It further argues that the U.S. is legally justified in taking military action by previous UN resolutions, most notably 1441 which states that "serious consequences" would result from a failure to disarm on Iraq's part. Some have also argued that the invasion can be considered a resumption of the 1991 Gulf War, which ended with a conditional ceasefire that (they contend) Iraq has subsequently breached.

This position has been criticised on several grounds, including skepticism regarding the administration's claims that:

  • Iraq presents a clear threat to the U.S.,
  • the extent of Iraq's partial disarmament was inadequate to remove that threat,
  • the weapons inspection process no longer had any chance of effecting the disarmament of Iraq,
  • there is reason to believe that Iraq is an important supporter of terrorism,
  • Iraq represents a more significant or urgent threat to the United States than the other nations with Weapons of Mass Destruction and dictators,
  • the existing UN resolutions provide a sufficient legal basis for an invasion. The U.K. and U.S. governments have presented detailed legal justifications, but these have been rejected by others, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

Continued at: 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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