Youtube documentary: ‘The fight for Baghdad’
The capture of Sadam Hussein – Pathe news
(2003–2011) conflict in Iraq that consisted of two phases. The first of these was a brief, conventionally fought war in March–April 2003, in which a combined force of troops from the United States andGreat Britain (with smaller contingents from several other countries) invaded Iraq and rapidly defeated Iraqi military and paramilitary forces. It was followed by a longer second phase in which a U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was opposed by an insurgency. After violence began to decline in 2007, the United States gradually reduced its military presence in Iraq, formally completing its withdrawal in December 2011.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 ended in Iraq’s defeat by a U.S.-led coalition in the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). However, the Iraqi branch of the Baʿth Party, headed by Ṣaddām Ḥussein, managed to retain power by harshly suppressing uprisings of the country’s minorityKurds and its majority Shīʿite Arabs. To stem the exodus of Kurds from Iraq, the allies established a “safe haven” in northern Iraq’s predominantly Kurdish regions, and allied warplanes patrolled “no-fly” zones in northern and southern Iraq that were off-limits to Iraqi aircraft. Moreover, to restrain future Iraqi aggression, the United Nations (UN) implemented economic sanctions against Iraq in order to, among other things, hinder the progress of its most lethal arms programs, including those for the development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. (See weapon of mass destruction.) UN inspections during the mid-1990s uncovered a variety of proscribed weapons and prohibited technology throughout Iraq. That country’s continued flouting of the UN weapons ban and its repeated interference with the inspections frustrated the international community and led U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 to order the bombing of several Iraqi military installations (code-named Operation Desert Fox). After the bombing, however, Iraq refused to allow inspectors to reenter the country, and during the next several years the economic sanctions slowly began to erode as neighbouring countries sought to reopen trade with Iraq.
In 2002 the new U.S. president, George W. Bush, argued that the vulnerability of the United States following theSeptember 11 attacks of 2001, combined with Iraq’s alleged continued possession and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction (an accusation that was later proved erroneous) and its support for terrorist groups—which, according to the Bush administration, included al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks—made disarming Iraq a renewed priority. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, passed on November 8, 2002, demanded that Iraq readmit inspectors and that it comply with all previous resolutions. Iraq appeared to comply with the resolution, but in early 2003 President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that Iraq was actually continuing to hinder UN inspections and that it still retained proscribed weapons. Other world leaders, such as French Pres. Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, citing what they believed to be increased Iraqi cooperation, sought to extend inspections and give Iraq more time to comply with them. However, on March 17, seeking no further UN resolutions and deeming further diplomatic efforts by the Security Council futile, Bush declared an end to diplomacy and issued an ultimatum to Ṣaddām, giving the Iraqi president 48 hours to leave Iraq. The leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and other countries objected to this build-up toward war.
The 2003 conflict
When Ṣaddām refused to leave Iraq, U.S. and allied forces launched an attack on the morning of March 20; it began when U.S. aircraft dropped several precision-guided bombs on a bunker complex in which the Iraqi president was believed to be meeting with senior staff. This was followed by a series of air strikes directed against government and military installations, and within days U.S. forces had invaded Iraq from Kuwait in the south (U.S. Special Forces had previously been deployed to Kurdish-controlled areas in the north). Despite fears that Iraqi forces would engage in a scorched-earth policy—destroying bridges and dams and setting fire to Iraq’s southern oil wells—little damage was done by retreating Iraqi forces; in fact, large numbers of Iraqi troops simply chose not to resist the advance of coalition forces. In southern Iraq the greatest resistance to U.S. forces as they advanced northward was from irregular groups of Baʿth Party supporters, known as Ṣaddām’s Fedayeen. British forces—which had deployed around the southern city of Al-Baṣrah—faced similar resistance from paramilitary and irregular fighters.
In central Iraq units of the Republican Guard—a heavily armed paramilitary group connected with the ruling party—were deployed to defend the capital of Baghdad. As U.S. Army and Marine forces advanced northwestward up the Tigris-Euphrates river valley, they bypassed many populated areas where Fedayeen resistance was strongest and were slowed only on March 25 when inclement weather and an extended supply line briefly forced them to halt their advance within 60 miles (95 km) of Baghdad. During the pause, U.S. aircraft inflicted heavy damage on Republican Guard units around the capital. U.S. forces resumed their advance within a week, and on April 4 they took control of Baghdad’s international airport. Iraqi resistance, though at times vigorous, was highly disorganized, and over the next several days army and Marine Corps units staged raids into the heart of the city. On April 9 resistance in Baghdad collapsed, and U.S. soldiers took control of the city.
On that same day Al-Baṣrah was finally secured by British forces, which had entered the city several days earlier. In the north, however, plans to open up another major front had been frustrated when the Turkish government refused to allow mechanized and armoured U.S. Army units to pass through Turkey to deploy in northern Iraq. Regardless, a regiment of American paratroopers did drop into the area, and U.S. Special Forces soldiers joined with Kurdish peshmerga fighters to seize the northern cities of Kirkuk on April 10 andMosul on April 11. Ṣaddām’s hometown of Tikrīt, the last major stronghold of the regime, fell with little resistance on April 13. Isolated groups of regime loyalists continued to fight on subsequent days, but the U.S. president declared an end to major combat on May 1. Iraqi leaders fled into hiding and were the object of an intense search by U.S. forces. Ṣaddām Ḥussein was captured on December 13, 2003, and was turned over to Iraqi authorities in June 2004 to stand trial for various crimes; he was subsequently convicted of crimes against humanity and was executed on December 30, 2006.
Occupation and continued warfare
Following the collapse of the Baʿthist regime, Iraq’s major cities erupted in a wave of looting that was directed mostly at government offices and other public institutions, and there were severe outbreaks of violence—both common criminal violence and acts of reprisal against the former ruling clique. Restoring law and order was one of the most arduous tasks for the occupying forces, one that was exacerbated by continued attacks against occupying troops that soon developed into full-scale guerrilla warfare; increasingly, the conflict came to be identified as a civil war, although the Bush administration generally avoided using that term and instead preferred the label “sectarian violence.” Coalition casualties had been light in the initial 2003 combat, with about 150 deaths by May 1. However, deaths of U.S. troops soared thereafter, reaching some 1,000 by the time of the U.S. presidential election in November 2004 and surpassing 3,000 in early 2007; in addition, several hundred soldiers from other coalition countries have been killed. The number of Iraqis who died during the conflict is uncertain. One estimate made in late 2006 put the total at more than 650,000 between the U.S.-led invasion and October 2006, but many other reported estimates put the figures for the same period at about 40,000 to 50,000.
After 35 years of Baʿthist rule that included three major wars and a dozen years of economic sanctions, the economy was in shambles and only slowly began to recover. Moreover, the country remained saddled with a ponderous debt that vastly exceeded its annual gross domestic product, and oil production—the country’s single greatest source of revenue—was badly hobbled. The continuing guerrilla assaults on occupying forces and leaders of the new Iraqi government in the years after the war only compounded the difficulty of rebuilding Iraq.
In the Shīʿite regions of southern Iraq, many of the local religious leaders (ayatollahs) who had fled Ṣaddām’s regime returned to the country, and Shīʿites from throughout the world were able to resume the pilgrimage to the holy cities of Al-Najaf and Karbalāʾ that had been banned under Ṣaddām. Throughout the country Iraqis began the painful task of seeking loved ones who had fallen victim to the former regime; mass graves, the result of numerous government pogroms over the years, yielded thousands of victims. The sectarian violence that engulfed the country caused enormous chaos, with brutal killings by rival Shīʿite and Sunni militias. One such Shīʿite militia group, the Mahdi Army, formed by cleric Muqtadā al-Ṣadr in the summer of 2003, was particularly deadly in its battle against Sunnis and U.S. and Iraqi forces and was considered a major destabilizing force in the country.
Russian reaction to the Iraq War
source: Washington Post (Adam Taylor)
As the situation in Iraq begins to looks more and more like a complete state meltdown, Russia has stepped in with a familiar refrain: “We told you so.”
“We are greatly alarmed by what is happening in Iraq. We warned long ago that the affair that the Americans and the Britons stirred up there wouldn’t end well,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday, according to Voice of Russia. He also described the Iraq war as a “total failure” and said Russia was sorry that its forecasts had come true.
It’s hard to deny that Russia was vocal in saying that the Iraq war was a bad idea. In March 2003, just as the invasion began, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly criticized it. It was the “most serious crisis the world has faced since the Cold War,” he told the Duma, adding that the fighting would be “fierce” and “drawn out.”
At that point, it was a somewhat surprising move (remember, we were then less than three years into the Putin era, now in its 15th year). These days, we’re pretty used to Russian criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, and the finger wagging that comes afterward: Russia loves to remind the United States that it warned against its international follies.
For example, when the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi was attacked in 2012, claiming the life of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the immediate reaction across Russia was neatly summed up by the New York Times’ Ellen Barry as “We told you so.” And even after the Boston Marathon was bombed by two Chechens last year, killing three people and injuring dozens, Russia again responded pretty much with “We told you so,” the New Republic’s Julia Ioffe noted at the time. “Putin has repeatedly said there is no such thing as our terrorists and somebody else’s,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “One must not differentiate between them, deal with some and condemn others.”
There’s an obvious logic here. Russia’s repeated use of “We told you so” also allows it to say: “You didn’t listen to us then, so you should listen to us now.” Putin has brought up his warnings against intervention in Libya and Iraq as a way to defend his positions on Syria.
Even so, it’s tempting to look at Russia’s positions on various conflicts and wonder whether there was something to it. With the events of the past few days, a lot of people probably feel that Putin may well have been right about Iraq (as John Nagl, an Iraq war veteran writes for The Post today, “This is not the end state my friends fought for and died for”). Meanwhile, the chaotic state of Libya today certainly makes you question the path taken there, and as the Syrian war drags on past its third anniversary with no end in sight, perhaps Russia’s calls for more dialogue with Bashar al-Assad weren’t so terrible after all.
There are clearly some other factors at play, of course. Critics might also point out that in Iraq, Libya and Syria, Putin has been unusually vocal in his support of strongman leaders — like supports like, you could say. And, of course, economic issues and a dislike of American hegemony no doubt play a role in Putin’s criticisms. Plus, Russia’s more recent actions in Crimea make criticisms of U.S. intervention look hypocritical.
But it’s also worth remembering that Russia’s tone on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has been more measured. Putin was an early supporter of George W. Bush’s war on terror, though Russia’s involvement in the Afghanistan war was limited to help with supplies and Putin did later express some criticism. Despite that, just last year, Putin said he hoped the United States would keep its military bases in the country after 2014. Writing in the Moscow Times, Michael Bohm argued that this rare acceptance of U.S. military reach was a sign that Russia was concerned about the security situation in the country to its south and wants the United States to deal with it.
So perhaps Putin’s foreign policy is all based on a jaded realism. But sometimes, in hindsight, jaded realism looks better than the alternative.
Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.