If we start commenting about the relations between Iraq and America without specifying the time frame that we focus on, we will find ourselves bewildered amidst the complicated web that this history between the two countries is. Henceforth, our first task is to describe the status quo in which this essay is being written. Our status quo is set right after the cease-fire agreement signed in 1988 between the Iraq and Iran ending the eight years of war between the countries. This is important because by the end of this war, Iraq and America cherished stable relations amongst each other as America had supported Iraq in its war. How that dynamic changed and what circumstances effected the relationship between these two countries to such extent that America decided to invade Iraq and get rid of the dictator Saddam Hussein, is something that is going to be at the center of this debate. Another focal point of this essay is going to be immediate status quo after the invasion and the power vacuum that the invasion created, repercussions of which led to the rise of terrorist organizations that still haunt the country.
Iraq invasion of Kuwait
In the aftermath of the eight-year long war, Iraq found itself in a desperate situation. It had exhausted its economic capability as it had taken numerous loans that Iraq was due to pay. Kuwait who had supported Iraq to curb the Iranians had given them a loan of 14 billion USD. After the war had ended, Iraq argued that Kuwait should forgive the loan as it claimed to have protected Kuwait from the Iranian hegemony. Kuwait’s obvious refusal was the first step taken in the wrong directions between the two countries. Secondly, Iraq blamed Kuwait for using its oil rich reserves in the Rumaila field near the border however Kuwait as well as few foreign firms rejected these accusations and claimed this as a part of Iraq’s greater motive. In addition to this, Iraq perceived Kuwait as a historical claim and given the circumstances that Iraq found itself in, it did not hesitate to utilize every possible perspective and by blatant use of its military, Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2nd August, 1990 and fully occupied the nation in two days.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait might have made it possible for the country to survive the imminent socio-economic crisis that it was bound for, however the consequences of this violent overtaking resulted in Iraq forcing many countries to turn their backs and face global criticism which spilled the reputation that Iraq had in the international arena. United Nations explicitly expressed its dissent with the Iraqi invasion but the most important key players was America. America as the leader of the first world rejected the Iraqi claim as it promoted UN’s agenda that Iraq should remove its troops from Kuwait. This came to known as the Gulf War. In the immediate response to this takeover, Iraq faced a unanimous condemnation from the international community including America that issued Iraq an ultimatum to remove its troops or go to war. United Nations passed the resolution 660 condemning the forced occupation and called for the Iraqi troops to completely be removed from Kuwait. The America that Iraq had cherished stable if not friendly relations after the war with Iran was now leading a coalition of more than 35 countries to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
This drastically changed the power dynamics between the two nations that were enjoying stability in their relation. America, being the torch bearer of freedom and justice, did not have an option but to opt for a hardline stance in tackling this issue. The American-led coalition intervened in the early 1991 and by 15th March 1991, the Emir of Kuwait had been restored.
Iraqi Disarmament Crisis
In the aftermath of the invasion, Iraq was made subject to the weapons inspection program following the United Nation Resolution 687. The purpose of the United Nations Special Commission was to make sure of the destruction of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq as the country was expected to cooperate with these regulations. The Iraqi government made it impossible for this inspection to be taken and constantly proved to be a hurdle. America on the other hand was seen at the United Nations advocating for the disarmament and for Iraq to allow the inspections to be held freely.
The UN inspectors reported to have found secret arsenals of chemical weapons way more than Iraqi government had claimed they possessed. In addition to this, inspectors suspected that the Iraqi government was confidentially making more weapons of mass destruction. The disarmament of Iraq that further tensed the relations with America. Throughout the 1990s, the disarmament crisis posed a great threat to Iraqi regime which did not preferred to comply with the United Nations and had agendas of their own but were being forced to do so.
This also resulted in crises erupting within the Iraq; the southern Shia and northern Kurdish population encouraged by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait started rebelling and prompting brutal crackdowns. For seven years, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein implicitly tried to oppose the efforts of the United Nations however in 1998, Iraq bluntly ended cooperation with the United Nations Special Commission in overseeing the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The results of this, as one can assume, proved be catastrophic for the Iraq as they now had an enemy in the form of United Nations which was being led by America.
The Saddam Factor
Up till now, we have opted an external point of view to analyze the situation that we have made the center of this essay. However, it is pertinent that we also shed light on the domestic politics that Iraq was facing under the presidential dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and how his authoritative regime contributed towards an international hostility for Iraq. Saddam Hussein came from a Sunni minority and rose to power in 1979. From the start, his ideology was leading by repression, this proved why he persecuted the Shia and Kurdish population and went to war with Iran as his leadership began and following that the invasion of Kuwait that has been analyzed in the beginning of this essay. This important for us to understand because it helps us to determine the attitude that Saddam had towards being controlled by United Nations or even so America. The dictator who was ruling by keeping his people in fear and repression, would for obvious reasons would not be willing to surrender while the United Nations carryout their inspections. Saddam had some other plans for his Iraq; he wanted to Iraq to be a dominant player in the Middle East however what had happened in reality was that Iraq was a country that was socially, politically and economically at the brink of collapsing. When all routes failed, Saddam finally refused his cooperation in 1998 and taking the matters in his own hand chose to decide Iraq’s fate by his own will and made America an enemy.
The US invasion of 2003
The next four years were gruesome for relations between Iraq and America. In 1998, Operation desert fox was initiated that was an American and British led operation which aimed to destroy Iraqi sites that held nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. But a major shift happened with the change in the American leadership and George W. Brush becoming the President in January 2001 but the turning point in America’s behavior towards Iraq was after the 9/11 attack as America responded by declaring a “war of terror”, an ideology whose repercussions are still a subject of interpretation. Saddam responded to the 9/11 attack as America facing the consequences of its own inhumanities and hence for America, Iraq had become an enemy to be defeated and a threat that needed to be shunned. Since then, Bush administration started advocating for a military intervention in Iraq and to dispose the long ruling dictator Saddam Hussein. After lobbying for a year, Bush got the support and congress passed a resolution known as the Iraq Resolution in October 2002.
Consequently, the disruption between America and Iraq that had continued for over a decade resulted in the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The invasion led to the downfall of the Baathist regime and capture of Saddam Hussein who was trialed threes after that and faced a death sentence for his crimes. The Bush administration justified this invasion on the grounds that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction, they had refused to cooperate with the United Nations on the subject of disarmament and therefore, had a become danger to not just its neighbors but also to the entire world and hence needed to be stopped. “… The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military. In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military — a final atrocity against his people….”
The following is an extract from the speech that President Bush made from the Oval office at the beginning of the Iraqi invasion providing the justified reasoning for the initiation of the war and making the American people aware of the enemy that they were fighting.
Secondly they advocated the idea that Iraq was under a repressive dictatorship for the past twenty years and America as the leader of the democratic world wanted to restore peace and democracy in Iraq and help it thrive.
In the aftermath
To what extent the American military intervention was able to succeed in bringing the order that they hoped they will is a point of a large debate. Yet equally important as we need to understand its role as well as its connection to the current crisis happening in Iraq. Immediately after the invasion, what followed was a power vacuum. The twenty years of tyranny that the people of Iraq were under Saddam’s rule was gone in matters of months and it created an environment of uncertainty. What was to be the fate of the people of Iraq? This country had seen the westerners making the decisions on the behalf of the people at the time of its birth, and in ways parallels can be drawn that Iraq was in a similar situation or at least the similarity that once again the fate of the Iraqi people was in the hands of a western power.
The Americans that had invaded Iraq did not manage to curb the reactions of the people once Saddam was out of the picture. Insurgency started to rise and an anti-western sentiment aggravated by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda expanded to Iraq and set up camps. In 2004, suicide bomb blast in Karbala at the Shia festival killed 140 people which triggered the sectarian violence. Shia population was a majority in Iraq but had long been suppressed under Saddam’s regime. Shia and Sunni both communities took up arms and the sectarian violence begin to escalate out of proportions. The Americans handed the sovereignty to the interim government headed by Iyad Allawi who was not capable nor equipped to resolve the issues that were building up in the country.
Meanwhile the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a key player in the rising insurgency in Iraq. A Sunni extremist Zarqawi wanted to remove Shia from Iraq and was against the presence of America in the Islamic states. He was responsible for suicide bombings and terror cells that existed across the country. Zarqawi was killed in an air strike in 2006, the same year that the Iraq elected a new Shia president, Nouri Al-Maliki. However this was not the end of the insurgency but only the beginning as Iraq and Baathist Syria joined hands and the fuel to the sectarian violence escalated further and in 2007, Bush administration came up with a new strategy for Iraq and that was to send thousands of more troops in the country to curb the violence which are going to stay there for another four years until 2011.
In retrospect, in this essay we have explored the US-Iraq relations in a specified timeline and have commented on the pathway that led to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 which was at the heart of this essay. We were also able to analyze the immediate events after the invasion and the status quo that was established in the aftermath of the invasion. The purpose of this essay was not to provide you with conspiracies but to give you a summary of the chain of events that led to the Iraq war and to give you an analysis as till what extent was the American invasion of Iraq successful in achieving the peace that it had intended. We studied that the part of reason of the American invasion was that Iraq at the time was a safe haven for weapons of mass destruction, the inspection of which it had refused to cooperate with. If that was the case, then what happened immediately after the war, was not what Americans had hoped for. Did they not perceive that the Shia majority that has been repressed for the past twenty years will be aggressive towards their Sunni counterparts? Did they not foresee that invading Iraq and not providing the suitable mode of government can lead to rise of insurgency as terrorist cells in the neighboring countries would have an opportunity? US might have gotten rid of the weapons of mass destruction however what the invasion created in effect was something much worse: a consequential circumstance that would give rise to catastrophic instances and essentially spark a long disastrous civil war in the country. And in addition would keep America engaged in the war to fight their battles for the following years to come.
I will conclude this essay on the note that the American intervention might be classified as necessary or can be argued as manipulation to support the agendas back home but amidst all of that argument what we will find as the commonality is the fact that in the past thirty years, millions of lives have been effected and have been punished for the simple crime of being born.