On March 20, 2003, the United States led a coalition that launched a fully-fledged invasion of Iraq, carefully supported by the United Kingdom
The case it had made for invading the Middle Eastern nation was constructed on three fundamental premises: that the regime of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD); that it was growing extra of them to the potential benefit of “terrorist” teams; and that making a “friendly and democratic” Iraq would set an instance for the area.
However, 20 years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the query of whether or not the invasion of Iraq was the product of the wilful deception of US, UK and different voters, wrongful intelligence or a strategic calculus remains to be a matter of debate.
What seems inescapable is that the Iraq struggle has solid a protracted shadow over the US’s overseas insurance policies, with repercussions to at the present time.
Weapons of mass destruction
“Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here,” David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), instructed the US Senate on January 29, 2004.
His crew – a fact-finding mission arrange by the multinational drive to search out and disable Iraq’s purported WMDs – was in the end unable to search out substantial proof that Hussein had an lively weapons growth programme.
The Bush administration had offered that as a certainty earlier than the invasion.
In a speech in Cincinnati within the US state of Ohio on October 7, 2002, the US president declared that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”
He then concluded that Hussein needed to be stopped. “The Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons,” Bush mentioned.
Then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair had mentioned the identical factor on September 24, 2002, as he offered a British intelligence file affirming that Hussein may activate chemical and organic weapons “within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population”.
When the ISG offered its findings, one of many struggle’s predominant arguments crumbled. “We’ve got evidence that they certainly could have produced small amounts [of WMD], but we’ve not discovered evidence of the stockpiles,” Kay mentioned in his testimony.
According to Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East North Africa programme at Chatham House, the choice to invade Iraq was a “huge violation of international law” and that the true goal of the Bush administration was a broader transformational impact within the area.
“We know that the intelligence was manufactured and that [Hussein] didn’t have the weapons,” Vakil instructed Al Jazeera.
“They felt that by overthrowing Saddam Hussein and supposedly bringing democracy to Iraq then there would be a domino effect,” Vakil mentioned.
Some observers have pointed to the truth that whereas the ISG didn’t discover an lively WMD program, it had gathered proof that Hussein was planning to renew the programme as quickly as worldwide sanctions towards Iraq had been lifted.
According to Melvyn Leffler, writer of the e book, Confronting Saddam Hussein, uncertainty was a defining issue within the months previous to the invasion.
“There was an overwhelming sense of threat,” Leffler instructed Al Jazeera. “The intelligence community in the days and weeks after 9/11 developed what they called a ‘threat matrix’, a daily list of all incoming threats. This list of threats was presented to the president every single day.”
Hussein himself had led many to imagine that Iraq’s WMD programme was lively. In an interview by US interrogators compiling the report into the nation’s WMDs in 2004, he admitted to having been wilfully ambiguous over whether or not the nation nonetheless retained organic brokers in a bid to discourage longtime foe, Iran.
For years previous to the invasion, Hussein resisted inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, established in 1999 with the mandate to disarm Iraq of its WMDs.
While Bush campaigned for the presidency on the promise of a “humble” overseas coverage, the assault on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, dragged the US on a decades-long international counterterrorism army marketing campaign it dubbed the “War on Terror”.
In his State of the Union tackle on January 29, 2002, Bush acknowledged in no unsure phrases that the US would fight “terrorist groups” or any nation deemed to be coaching, equipping or supporting “terrorism”.
“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, aiming to threaten the peace of the world,” he mentioned.
The speech went on to establish Iraq as a pillar within the so-called “axis of evil”.
“Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror,” the US president mentioned.
“This is a regime that agreed to international inspections – then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilised world.”
A 12 months later, on January 30, 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney drew a hyperlink between Hussein’s authorities and the group deemed to be behind 9/11, stating that Iraq “aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda”.
Hussein was identified to have supported varied teams deemed “terrorist” by some states, together with the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and several other Palestinian splinter teams, however proof of ties to al-Qaeda has by no means been discovered.
According to Leffler, Bush by no means believed in a direct hyperlink between Hussein and al-Qaeda.
However, he believed the sanctions regime towards Iraq was breaking down, that containment was failing and that as quickly because the sanctions had been lifted, Hussein would restart his WMD program and “blackmail the United States in the future”.
In a speech on October 14, 2002, Bush mentioned the US was “a friend to the people of Iraq”.
“Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us … The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.”
A couple of months later, he added that “a new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region” and “begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace”.
Ultimately, the try to show Iraq right into a “bulwark for democracy” largely backfired, with little proof of a strengthening of democracy within the wider area.
“Since the war in Iraq, there has been not only a persistent threat from al-Qaeda but also the emergence of ISIS [ISIL] and the growth of the Iranian state as a regional power, which has been profoundly destabilising in the region,” Vakil, of Chatham House, mentioned.
The far-reaching choice by the US to ban the ruling Baath Party and disband the Iraqi Army had been early errors of the Bush administration, in accordance with the analyst.
In 2005, beneath US occupation and with sturdy enter from American-supplied consultants, Iraq rapidly formulated a brand new structure, establishing a parliamentary system.
While not written within the structure, the requirement that the president be a Kurd, the speaker a Sunni, and the prime minister a Shia grew to become widespread apply.
According to Marina Ottaway, Middle East fellow on the Woodrow Wilson Center, the US invasion “created a system dependent on divergent sectarian interests” that’s “too bogged down in the politics of balancing the factions to address policies that would improve the lives of Iraqis”.
“The Iraqi constitution was essentially an American product, it was never a negotiated agreement among Iraqis, which is what a successful constitution is,” the analyst added.
“The United States made a huge mistake in trying to impose its own solution on the country.”