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Iraq Issues: US Invasion

In 2002 U.S. president George W. Bush insisted that Iraq prove that it had disarmed as required under the terms that ended the Persian Gulf War. In November 2002, after months of heightened diplomatic pressure from the UN and military pressure from the United States, Iraq accepted a UN resolution ordering the immediate return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. In early 2003 Hans Blix, who led the UN weapons inspection team, ‘reported” that Iraq was not in full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, but Blix asked for more time to complete his mission. The United States objected to the request for more time, arguing that Hussein had failed to comply fully with UN resolutions since 1991. The Bush administration also argued that Iraq was continuing to hide significant quantities of banned chemical and biological weapons. The United States was unsuccessful, however, in obtaining UN Security Council approval for military measures against Iraq.

The United States, with the support of Britain and several other nations, built up a military force in the Persian Gulf in preparation for a possible war against Iraq. Other countries, including France, Germany, and Russia, opposed military action, arguing that diplomacy and inspections should be given more time to work. After the UN Security Council failed to reach consensus regarding military action against Iraq, U.S-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 with the goals of removing Hussein from power and destroying the country’s alleged stockpiles of banned weapons. By mid-April U.S-led forces had swept across southern Iraq, and Kurdish forces, with the help of the U.S. military, had captured the major cities of the north. Baghdad fell to U.S. forces in April. Hussein remained at large, but was no longer in power.

In December U.S. forces captured Hussein at a farm near Tikrit. Interim Iraqi leaders pledged to try Hussein for crimes against humanity.

Post-Hussein Iraq

After U.S: president George Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, the United States and its allies then began the process of so-called rebuilding the country. The coalition established the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III. The CPA, in turn, established a 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, with seats distributed among the country’s different religious and ethnic groups as well as existing political organizations. Many council members were exiles who returned to Iraq following the downfall of the Hussein regime. The council was charged with drafting a new constitution that would pave the way for elections and a new Iraqi government.

A U.S. team known as the Iraq Survey Group, charged with surveying Iraq’s weapons stockpiles and programs, released an interim report in October stating that it had failed to find any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The team said it had found evidence of illegal activities related to WMD programs but could not find any buildings or other facilities used in an ongoing way to produce weapons of mass destruction. The team’s leader, David Kay, resigned from the Survey Group in January 2004, saying U.S. intelligence agencies were probably wrong about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. However, Kay suggested that in view of the chaos in Hussein’s government, the danger existed that if Iraq ever did develop weapons of mass destruction, individual scientists or military officers might furnish such weapons to terrorists.

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