IRAQ 2002-2006Text by James Oakes, St Helena Secondary College
Key question: How does the situation in Iraq help us understand the nature of global conflict since 1991?

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The Age Newspaper

IRAQ 2003

Conflict in Iraq since 2003 has further defined the nature of global conflict. In late 2002, the US claimed Iraq was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Although UN resolution 1441 had demanded Iraqi disarmament it had only threatened action not authorise action. The US, Great Britain, Australia and Poland in the face of opposition from France Germany and Russia launched Operation Iraqi Freedom March 20, 2003. Forces entered in the South through Kuwait unable to access Iraq from Turkey into the north. By April Bagdad was under siege and resistance vanished.

President Bush declared hostilities over in May 1st 2003 with conventional forces defeated. But attacks continued on Coalition forces after that time, particularly in the Sunni Triangle, around Bagdad, Fallujah and Tikrit. A low point in the conflict was a bomb attack on the UN headquarters that killed the Sergio Vieira Mello the senior UN envoy in Iraq, and saw the withdrawal of the UN. The UN may never return ; it will certainly be wary of sending its personnel in harms’s way again in the future.

Since the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was ongoing resistance but also some progress towards US goals. Although George Bush announced major combat over in May 1 2003, it took until December of 2003 to capture Saddam Hussein. In the meantime, Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay had been killed in a bloody shoot out as the US pursued the top 55 on the most wanted list. By the end of 2003 most had been captured or killed. But there has been some suggestion there were not enough troops had been committed to Iraq and the chaos that followed the fall of Bagdad, led to looting, lawlessness and a lack or order, which would come back to haunt the US. The destruction of basic services, hospital, power and water, led to resentment, and fuelled opposition to the occupation. The killing of civilians or collateral damage has also cause a new front of opposition in old fashioned revenge. As well the Iraq Survey Group set up by the US to find evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction reported little evidence. This has undermined the main justification for the invasion and regime change.

Since the Iraq War of 1991, the UNO had inspectors supervising disarmament in Iraq and searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction, particularly evidence of production of biological and chemical weapons and the development of nuclear weapons capability. The US and Great Britain had maintained no fly zones to protect minorities in the north and south of Iraq but conflict had continued. The UN had been obstructed, expelled, readmitted and generally frustrated, but had found no real evidence of WMD’s. With Sept 11tth and the Axis of Evil Speech the US had unfinished business in Iraq, and was to go further than the UN Security Council was prepared to authorise in the action they took, bringing a new conflict.

Gerry Engwerda and James Oakes, International Studies 2005, Victorian Association of Social Studies Teachers (VASST) inc, Melbourne, 2004, p78

In July 2003, the US nominated a Iraqi Interim Governing Council with sympathetic representatives from all major groups. Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians. It was given the task of drawing up a democratic constitution by the end of 2004.

The official transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority of Paul Bremer, to the Iraqi Interim Governing Council led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi took place in June 2004. But opposition has continued.

Opposition has come from Ba’athists, the supporters of the former president Saddam, Sunni Muslims in the so called Sunni triangle north and north west of Bagdad particularly in the city of Fallujah where US forces carried out a major offensive in November 2004, Shia Islamic fighters followers of the Moqtada al Sadr in Bagdad and further south particularly the city of Najaf, and Foreign fighters thought to be responsible for the beheadings organised by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

On the positive side, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has been a moderate force amongst the Shiite advocating negotiation and peace. Many citizens of Bagdad, and in the far North in Kurdish areas and the Shia in South support the US and the British and the regime change they have seen.
Opposition groups have variously used all out assaults on US forces, attacks on oil pipe lines, rocket attacks, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, snipers, truck and car bombs targeting US troops, Iraqi police stations and Foreign aid organisations and the United Nations Organisation itself. Assassinations, hostage holding and execution by beheading, all reported by the international media and Al Jazeera TV have become more common towards the end of 2004.

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The US had effectively sidelined the UN in the process as well during the initial phase of the war, but has called on the UN to become more involved in the reconstruction and establishment of democratic institutions. The UN has been reluctant, especially since the security situation has not been able to be guaranteed. Earlier in 2003, Bush told the UN that they were in danger of becoming a talking shop and irrelevant in the world because of their lack of support for decisive US-led action. In late September 2003, he was there again to ask for their support in rebuilding Iraq. It is proving to be a much bigger job than even the US could handle alone. The US has been embarrassed to have to go cap in hand to the UN and then be lectured by France and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over its behaviour. The UN has not been impressed, and there has been little indication that many member countries, particularly among the Europeans, would put their hands up to bail the US out of a predicament they felt that the US had made for itself. The Americans have not exactly helped themselves when they said that they wanted UN help, but were not prepared to hand authority in Iraq over to the UN.

The war may have been over but the conflict is not and the US could be there for a very long time, a prospect that already was raising the unpleasant memory of Vietnam in the American consciousness; the soldiers were restless and there was growing opposition to the war at home.

For Bush, the war and his handling of it was not sufficient reason in itself for US voters to vote him out whatever the cost. The cost of the US presence in Iraq has become prohibitive. Unlike the 1991 war, the US has been paying for this one all by itself and, as a consequence, the budget is in record deficit, with the conflict in Iraq draining billions every month from the Treasury.

What went wrong? Iraq suffers widespread violence and a non functioning economy. It is not a viable state and cannot be one until the government can guarantee basic security. A government that cannot provide security cannot survive. Iraq falls well short of what bush had in mind at this point in time.

The Bush administration certainly expected that the Iraqis would welcome US Forces with open arms and embrace democracy with the same passion. From there it was expected that a reborn Iraq would act as a beacon for democracy in the region and inspire other states to go the same way.

The major mistake was of course the initial deployment of troops – there were simply not enough. The state department argued for 500,000 troops based on the lessons of Kosovo. The result – not enough troops to maintain law and order, the borders were not properly patrolled to screen for fleeing insurgents (or arriving “foreigners”) and renegade bullies like Muktada Al Sadr were allowed to operate unchecked building up their power base as they went. The US has blamed for the appalling security situation that gradually worsens while it is left unattended.

AS a consequence the likelihood of US action against Iran, Syria, or North Korea for that matter has diminished as the US has been increasingly bogged down in Iraq. The quick resolutions to both the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq desired by the Bush administration has not been forthcoming. The forces of ethnic and religious nationalism in the Middle East have been underestimated by the US, and the conflict of the new century is looking more and more like a drawn out conflict between the West on one side and Extremist Islam on the other.

The world has become uni-polar in that the US is recognised at least in this conflict in Iraq as the sole world power, a power that is not under challenge amongst nation states. The new post cold war conflict seems that significant opposition to the US will come from groups within countries, and across borders, and likely to be unified by extremist Islam. In Europe, Russia and China there is unease about the US and its uni-polar world and their doctrines of pre-emptive strike and regime change. France, Germany and Russia have become more conciliatory towards the US for their own national interests. In fact Russia has been the target of extremist terrorism itself, but although still friends and allies of the US, they are not willing to militarily support the US in its war against the Axis of Evil.

In 2006 attacks from insurgents continue on the occupation forces particularly in and around Bagdad. The Kurdish North is relatively peaceful as is the Shiite dominated South. But in the Sunni triangle in central Iraq and Bagdad, conflict is now being called a civil war.

Up to 1.6 Million refugees have fled to Syria, Jordan and Iran hundreds of brutal civilian deaths occur each month, with estimates anywhere between 40000 and 65000 deaths since 2003. Military casualties continue to mount with 5556 Iraqi, 2772 Americans, 119 UK and 118 others killed.
AGE October 2006

Some progress has been made. A new constitution has been adopted, a President elected, Parliament elected, a Government formed after much horse trading, Iraqi police and army recruited trained although often the target of insurgents and Saddam Hussein has been convicted of mass murder and crimes against humanity and awaits execution. But roadside bombings, kidnappings and murders continue, price of world oil at record high, threatening recession.

Late in 2006 the Bipartisan Iraq Study Group chaired by former Secretary of State George Baker has recommended amongst other things, a loose Federation for Iraq dividing the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish areas, talking to Syria and Iran about Iraq and setting a timetable for troop withdrawals beginning in 2008.

AGE October 2006

President George Bush still insistent that the US will “go the distance”. LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Key knowledge This knowledge includes · the causes and nature of armed conflicts in the post Cold War period, including global terrorism; · the definition of terrorism and terrorist and state and non state terror; · views of the causes and effects of international terrorism and terrorists; · the extent of and limitations on the power of the United States as a superpower in relation to other sources of power; · the success or failure of state/s or group/s involved in a specific conflict in the post cold war period, including global terrorism. Key skills These skills include the ability to · analyse key points of conflict in the post Cold War world; · use and explain key concepts in understanding international relations such as `terror', `terrorism', `international law', `superpower', 'neo-imperialism'; · evaluate the extent of success for the State/s or group/s involved in a specific post cold war conflict; · synthesise evidence to draw conclusions about the nature of conflict in the post Cold War world. (International Politic, VCE Study Design 2005-1008, VCAA, 2005) Tasks this week relate global conflicts.