US - Iraq War
After the United States toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to Iraq. Although a U.S.-led coalition had defeated Iraq in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, remained in power. After that war ended, the United Nations (UN) ordered Iraq to destroy its biological and chemical weapons. Weapons inspectors were sent to Iraq to monitor its disarmament. However, in 1998 Iraq announced that it would no longer cooperate with the UN, and UN weapons inspectors left the country.
In 2002 the Bush administration put a renewed focus on Iraq as part of its war on terrorism. It claimed that Iraq supported terrorist organizations and still had an arsenal of banned weapons. The United States pressed the UN to force Iraq to allow weapons inspectors back into the country. In October the U.S. Congress passed a resolution authorizing the president to use military force against Iraq if Iraq did not cooperate with the UN. The next month the UN passed a resolution cosponsored by the United States and Britain ordering the immediate return of weapons inspectors to Iraq and threatening “serious consequences” if Iraq did not disarm. Iraq agreed to comply with the resolution, and inspectors began working in Iraq that same month.
In early 2003 the United States and Britain claimed that Iraq was not cooperating with UN weapons inspectors, and they sought UN authorization of force against Iraq. However, some countries, including France, Germany, Russia, and China, wanted to give the inspections more time to proceed and opposed military action. After weeks of diplomatic wrangling, the United States decided to forgo UN approval and pursue military action against Iraq with a coalition of willing countries.
In March 2003 U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq. By mid-April they had captured the capital city of Baghdād and other major population centers and overthrown the regime of Saddam Hussein. In May President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended and that an ally of al-Qaeda had been defeated. However, in the months that followed more U.S. troops were killed by guerrilla insurgents than during the invasion itself. In September Bush conceded that there was no evidence proving an al-Qaeda link to the regime of Saddam Hussein. Unrest continued in Iraq and even the capture and arrest of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 failed to end it. The insurgency was concentrated mainly among Sunni Muslims and a segment of Shia Muslims opposed to the U.S. occupation. See also U.S.-Iraq War.
The United States appointed a 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, consisting of the major ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, but the council’s authority was subordinate to that of the U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III. In March 2004 the council approved an interim constitution, although the 12 Shia Muslim members of the council objected to some of the constitution’s provisions. The constitution guaranteed a broad array of democratic rights, including rights for women and the Kurdish minority, and called for elections for a national assembly by January 1, 2005. The Bush administration transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June 2004, but it maintained about 130,000 troops in Iraq and imposed a number of orders that introduced privatization to Iraq’s previously state-run economy.
In the meantime the hunt for Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction proved fruitless. In October 2003 a team of U.S. weapons inspectors reported that it had found no weapons of mass destruction. In January 2004 the head of the group, David Kay, resigned and told Congress that “we were all wrong, probably” about the existence of such weapons. Kay urged an independent inquiry into the failure of U.S. intelligence. Kay said the group not only could not find weapons of mass destruction but more importantly could not discover any of the facilities needed to produce such weapons on a large scale. A final report concluded that Hussein had ordered the destruction of biological and chemical weapons and had discontinued a nuclear weapons program but tried to keep these facts secret, fearing an attack by Iran. The two countries had fought a nearly eight-year-long war (see Iran-Iraq War).
In July 2004 the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11 attacks also concluded that there had been no collaborative relationship between the Hussein regime and al-Qaeda. Despite the undermining of the two principal reasons for invading Iraq, the Bush administration maintained that the toppling of the Hussein regime had nevertheless made the region more stable and more open to democracy.
Summary: A protracted military conflict in Iraq that began in 2003 with an attack by a coalition of forces led by the United States and that resulted in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.