The US led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is considered to be the most significant military operation carried out against a sovereign state by the US in the last few decades. The Iraq war began on March 19, 2003 with the US President George W. Bush making the declaration that “American and Coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger” (Long par. 14).
Following this proclamation, the US and its Coalition allies launched an aggressive attack against Iraq. This war has cost the US almost a trillion dollars and led to a breakdown of peace in Iraq. Over a decade after the start of the war, US forces continue to occupy some parts of Iraq to improve security and ensure that US interests are protected. The Iraq War of 2003 was in essence the climax of a belligerent relationship between the US government and Saddam’s regime. In the post 9/11 era, the US adopted a strong stand against terrorism and nations that were seen as posing a security threat to the US. Iraq fell under the category of nations that posed a security threat since Saddam was rumoured to have a huge stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
The Saddam Administration had already established itself as an anti-US regime and there were fears that Saddam posed a real threat to US security. The US therefore targeted Iraq with the key objective of toppling Saddam and destroying the WMDs. This paper will argue that the US succeeded in achieving its main objectives for invading Iraq which were; to get rid of the Saddam regime, destroy the weapons of mass destruction, and acquire control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves.
Historically, the relationship between the Saddam Regime and the US Administration was not always volatile. During the 1980s, the US and Iraq had enjoyed a favourable relationship. The US had provided Saddam with military and financial support to help him fight against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. Due to US support, Iraq was able to engage in the prolonged military confrontation with its neighbour Iran. This war eventually ended in 1988 as a result of negotiations by the UN. After the war, Baghdad adopted an aggressive attitude in the Middle East (Fisher and Biggar 698).
This led to a radical shift in the relationship between Iraq and the US in the 1990s. The first major cause of the rift between the US and Iraq was Saddam’s threats against neighbouring Kuwait. Iraq was taking an aggressive stance against its neighbour Kuwait and Saddam threatened to invade the country in order to exploit its vast oil reserves. These threats culminated in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Washington spearheaded the Gulf War of 1991, which ejected Iraqi troops from Kuwait. In addition to this, Iraq had stockpiled huge amounts of chemical weapons over the course of the Iran-Iraq War.
Saddam threatened to use these weapons against Israel and other Middle East countries. In response to this aggressive attitude by Saddam, the US government adopted a hostile policy towards Iraq (Fisher and Biggar 689). Over the 1990s, the US government imposed crippling sanctions against Iraq and continued to look for opportunities to oust the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
The opportunity presented itself following the 9/11 terror attacks against the US. After the devastating September 11, 2001 attacks on US soil by the Al-Qaida terror network, the US adopted a proactive attitude towards perceived threats. The post 9/11 period saw the birth of the Bush led “War on Terror” policy. As a result of this policy, Washington sought to take action against international terrorist networks and any nation that posed a threat to the US (Cheney 1).
Iraq fell under the category of nations that posed a security threat to the US. To begin with, the country allegedly had huge stockpiles of WMDs that could be used against Washington and her allies. Saddam had already established himself as an enemy of the US and there was little doubt that this dictator would hesitate to use the WMDs against Washington or supply the weapons to terrorist networks. The Bush Administration therefore targeted Iraq in a full-scale military invasion that was carried out within the context of the United State’s “War on Terror”.
Analysis of the effects of the war on Iraq 2003
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The US succeeded in destroying Iraq’s capacity to develop a Weapons of Mass Destruction program through the 2003 invasion. The key objective of the Iraq War was to destroy Iraq’s stockpile of WMDs and demolish the country’s capacity to engage in the production of WMDs in future. Before the invasion, the Bush administration clearly stated that a primary reason for the invasion was to “rid Iraq of its WMDs and associated programs (Fisher and Biggar 688).
The US intelligence community held the opinion that Saddam’s regime had chemical weapons and that the country had an active WMD program in place. While other countries in the Middle East such as Syria had stockpiles of WMD, Iraq was considered a real threat for a number of reasons. To begin with, Saddam had strong anti-American sentiments and his regime had expressed its displeasure with US policies in the Middle East. To make matters worse, Saddam had already demonstrated his willingness to use chemical weapons against his enemies. In the Iran-Iraq war of 1982-1988, Saddam pervasively deployed chemical weapons against Iranian forces and civilians. This usage was done contrary to international laws that prohibit the use of chemical weapons in conventional warfare. Saddam had also used the WMDs against his own citizens.
By the mid 1990s, Iraq had lost most of its WMD stocks. Military commentators note that Saddam’s regime had lost the militarily significant WMD stocks that it possessed by the late 1980s (Fisher and Biggar 688). However, it was widely known that Saddam still had ambitions of restoring his WMD arsenal. The intelligence community had warned the US that Iraq was poised to reacquire its full WMDs capability. The US Vice President Dick Cheney expressed his concern that Hussein was prepared to share his WMDs with terrorists who would in turn use them to inflict catastrophic damage on the US (Cheney par 3). The Iraq war therefore aimed to disable Saddam’s WMD program and destroy the remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons. The US succeeded in this goal since its invasion led to a collapse of the Iraqi government. All government operated facilities that could have been used to produce WMDs were destroyed by the invading forces therefore rendering Iraq unable to proceed with such programs.
Deposing Saddam Hussein
The second key objective of getting rid of the Saddam regime was also achieved through the Iraq War. The US President George W. Bush declared that the only way that US security and control of Iraq could be returned to the Iraqis was by toppling the Saddam regime. To the US administration, Saddam was a ruthless dictator who ruled Iraq with an iron fist. In addition to this, Saddam was regarded as a rogue leader who was openly anti-American.
Since the 1990s, the Saddam regime had succeeded in alienating Iraq from the global community and Saddam constantly opposed US political interests in the Middle East. The Bush Administration regarded the Saddam regime as a major hindrance to US interests in the Middle East. Since the Iran-Iraq war of 1982-1988, Baghdad had been trying to establish itself as the major power in the Middle East. Saddam had been engaged in actions aimed at increasing its political power among the Arab nations.
The Bush Administration acknowledged that due to the military might of Iraq and its oil revenue, Saddam was well placed to seek and attain domination of the entire Middle East (Cheney par. 19). With Iraq as a political and economic power in the Arab World, the US could not hope to exert significant power in the region. The US therefore hoped to overthrow Saddam and replace his regime with one that would be friendlier to the US. With a pro-US government in Baghdad, US influence in the Middle East could develop unabated. American hegemony in the Middle East would be reinforced though the help of the American friendly regime that the US would install to replace Saddam.
The Iraq was therefore carried out with the express objective of overthrowing Saddam. This objective was achieved since the US led coalition was able to overwhelm Iraqi forces and take over Baghdad. By May 2003, Saddam’s rule was over and in the following months the US was in control of the country. Bolton declares that by overthrowing Saddam, the US was able to send a strong and unmistakable signal of power throughout the Middle East and to the rest of the world (par. 1). US influence in the Middle East was also bolstered since the Iraqi influence in the Arab world was effectively destroyed with the end of Saddam’s reign.
Finally, the US succeeded in acquiring control over Iraq’s vast oil reserves. While the destruction of Iraq’s WMDs and overthrowing Saddam Hussein where the main reasons given by the US administration for invading Iraq, the oil issue was always present. Oil has always been an important commodity for the US. The US economy is largely dependent on the availability of huge quantities of affordable oil imports. The Middle East is the main supplier of this oil demand by the US. While Iraq has significant oil reserves (an estimated 10% of world’s oil reserves are found in this country) Saddam had restricted international exploitation of the country’s oil. Juhasz acknowledges that before the 2003 Iraq War, “Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies” (par. 2).
Over the decades, Saddam had engaged in many nationalization efforts that effectively made it impossible for the country’s huge energy reserves to be exploited by the international community. In addition to the nationalization issue, the free flow of Iraqi oil into the international market could not be guaranteed under Saddam’s regime. Saddam had a history of adjusting the flow of Iraqi oil whenever he felt that it was in his strategic interest to do so.
This erratic energy export behaviour had a destabilizing influence on the international oil market. As of the year 2001, the US policy makers had expressed their concern about an impending global energy crisis that would be caused in part by Saddam’s erratic and unpredictable energy export policies (par. 6). There was a likelihood of Saddam removing Iraqi oil from the international market for extended periods and this would expose the US to unprecedented energy price volatility. The Bush Administration was of the opinion that the only way to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter was by involving foreign companies (Nafeez par. 12).
The 2003 invasion of Iraq led to the fall of the Saddam regime and created the opportunity for the US to open up the Iraqi oil-based economy. The US succeeded in liberalizing Iraq’s oil industry and this increased US access to Iraqi oil. Juhasz reports that for the first time in 3 decades, Western oil companies have gained access into the lucrative Iraqi oil fields (par. 6). A number of the largest US and UK based oil companies have entered into Iraq and started oil production. These companies are engaging in intensive exploration of Iraq fields to increase the oil exports from the country.
This paper set out to show that the US was successful in achieving its objectives for invading Iraq in 2003. The paper began by offering a historical overview of the relationship between Iraq and the US. From this history, it has been seen that Saddam was an enemy of the US and he posed a security threat to Washington. The paper has highlighted that following the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration targeted Iraq in an aggressive military invasion.
The US was successful in destroying the capacity of Baghdad to pursue WMD programs. Any stockpiles of WMDs that Saddam might have had were destroyed during the invasion that destroyed the Iraqi military’s capabilities. The Iraqi war was also successful in getting rid of Saddam’s authoritarian regime. The paper has recorded that as of May 2003, the US had captured Baghdad and Saddam’s reign was effectively over as the dictator was forced into hiding.
Finally, the war enabled the US to exploit the oil resources of Iraq to an extent that was impossible before the war. Once Saddam had been overthrown, the US was able to promote the incorporation of Iraq’s oil resources into the global economy. By controlling Iraq’s oil flow into the international market, the US gained significant political and economic power. From the evidence provided in this paper, it can be stated that the US was successful in achieving the primary objectives of the Iraq invasion of 2003. Even so, this success has largely being overshadowed by numerous negative impacts of the Iraq War. Iraq has being plunged into civil strive with acts of violence against Iraqis and US troops being commonplace in the country. It would be interesting to gauge how successful the Iraq War has been while considering the various negative consequences of the war.
Bolton, John. “Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the right move for the US and its allies.” The Guardian. 2013. Web.
Cheney, Dick. Eyes on Iraq; In Cheney’s Words: The Administration Case for Removing Saddam Hussein. 2002. Web.
Fisher, David and Biggar Nigel. “Was Iraq an unjust war? A debate on the Iraq war and reflections on Libya.” International Affairs 87.3(2011): 687–707. Web.
Juhasz, Antonia. Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil. 2013. Web.
Long, Bryan. Bush: No outcome except Victory. 2003. Web.
Nafeez Ahmed. “Iraq invasion was about oil.” The Guardian. 2014. Web.