History of Iraq Part 7

History of Iraq Part 7

Invasion and regime change

President Bush gave the Iraqi government an ultimatum on March 17: that Saddam Hussein and his sons had to leave the country within 48 hours – if not a military action would be taken. Then did not happen; UN inspectors left Iraq – and the war started. An hour and a half after the deadline expired, the bombing of Baghdad began on March 20, 2003.

President Bush

The US-led attack on Iraq, gradually known as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), was supported by forces from Australia, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. Only the United Kingdom provided a larger contingent – approx. 45,000 soldiers, while the United States deployed approx. 225,000. Against this, Iraq could muster approx. 390,000 soldiers, most of them – with the exception of the over 80,000 Republican Guard – were poorly equipped. While Saudi Arabia was the closest ally and constituted the most important marching zone for the liberation of Kuwait in 1990–91, in 2003 the country did not endorse the war. The US was allowed to use the Saudi Prince Sultan base, but established its advanced headquarters at al-Udeid base in Qatar, and used Kuwait as a marching zone. The United States also had personnel and equipment stationed in several other countries in the region: Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – as well as in the NATO country of Turkey. However, Turkey refused to allow US forces to invade northern Iraq from Turkish territory. A major reason for this was that Turkey would avoid a Kurdish state formation, either in Iraq or beyond in the region. Turkey also has an interest in protecting the Turkmen minority in Iraq. Collaboration with Kurdish groups, on the other hand, was an important part of the United States’ efforts to build a network of allies in the region, and Kurdish troops played a key role on the northern front. In 2003, the United States also began to train a force of approx. 5000 Iraqis in exile, from two camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Israel, too, has for several years assisted the Kurdish militia, despite Israel’s gradually close cooperation with Turkey. either in Iraq or beyond in the region. Turkey also has an interest in protecting the Turkmen minority in Iraq. Collaboration with Kurdish groups, on the other hand, was an important part of the United States’ efforts to build a network of allies in the region, and Kurdish troops played a key role on the northern front. In 2003, the United States also began to train a force of approx. 5000 Iraqis in exile, from two camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Israel, too, has for several years assisted the Kurdish militia, despite Israel’s gradually close cooperation with Turkey. either in Iraq or beyond in the region. Turkey also has an interest in protecting the Turkmen minority in Iraq. Collaboration with Kurdish groups, on the other hand, was an important part of the United States’ efforts to build a network of allies in the region, and Kurdish troops played a key role on the northern front. In 2003, the United States also began to train a force of approx. 5000 Iraqis in exile, from two camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Israel, too, has for several years assisted the Kurdish militia, despite Israel’s gradually close cooperation with Turkey. 5000 Iraqis in exile, from two camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Israel, too, has for several years assisted the Kurdish militia, despite Israel’s gradually close cooperation with Turkey. 5000 Iraqis in exile, from two camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Israel, too, has for several years assisted the Kurdish militia, despite Israel’s gradually close cooperation with Turkey.

The war began with air strikes, and ground troops entered. The main attack was deployed from the south, and the British forces occupied the southernmost part of the country, with Iraq’s main port city, Umm Qasr, and the regional capital Basra. The bulk of the US forces advanced toward Baghdad and met little resistance, except around Nasiriyah and Najaf. The defense of the capital Baghdad was fast approaching, and the city fell on April 9. Then the most important cities in the north, Kirkuk and Mosul, were taken with the help of Kurdish forces. The following week most of the country was controlled by coalition forces, and President Bush already declared the war on May 1, 2003, after which the occupation entered a so-called stabilization phase, where at most around 30 countries joined the coalition – including Norway.

Saddam Hussein escaped when US forces captured Baghdad, removed the Baath regime and took control of the country. Saddam went on coverage, from which he sent several speeches and statements. After intensive searching, he was captured by US forces in Tikrit in December 2003. He was then placed in custody, tried and sentenced to death. Saddam was hanged in 2006, following a decision by the new Iraqi government, inaugurated after the 2005 election. His two sons, Uday and Qusay, were both killed in combat with US soldiers in Mosul in July 2003.

Critics of the American invasion questioned the intention. While the United States government insisted on making Iraq an example of democracy, in the Arab world, critics argued that a major US concern was to secure greater political control in the region – and over Iraq’s major oil reserves. The United States rejected the war as part of securing better control over the region’s oil resources, but later this was also admitted by members of the US leadership. Another concern was protecting US friends in the region – Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – from Iraqi threats. A geostrategic point for the United States by having a foothold in Iraq was also close to Iran. The United States has viewed Iran as a threat since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and therefore supported Iraq during the first Gulf War. The relationship with Iraq first changed as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Without a UN mandate, the war against Iraq was referred to as a so-called pre-emptive strike – a military action launched without Iraq attacking the United States or other countries in the coalition. This is contrary to international law, which was a major reason why several countries, including Norway, refused to back down or participate in the attack. Without an Iraqi attack, it was imperative for the US government to prove that Iraq was just as clear a threat to the United States. Consequently, some of the intelligence information presented was also adapted to the need to prove a threat scenario as a justification for a pre-war war.

Norway decided not to participate in the war, but in June 2003 the government decided to contribute to the stabilization of Iraq, based on a new UN resolution. The Norwegian force, an engineering company from the Telemark battalion, was therefore not formally regarded as part of the US-British occupation force, even though the Norwegian company was under British command. The Government also emphasized that Norwegian participation should have a humanitarian dimension, with emphasis on mine clearance and support for civil infrastructure reconstruction. The Norwegian participation had broad support in the Storting, but still met with criticism. Norway withdrew the company after one year, but retained a smaller number of staff officers in Iraq, and further contributed to a NATO program for the training of Iraqi officers. Norway’s participation was discontinued in 2005.

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