Today, March 20, marks an important day in world history. 15 years ago, in 2003, United States of America, with coalition forces, primarily the United Kingdom, waged war on Iraq that went for over eight years.
How it all started
The roots of this war can be traced back to 1991 when the Gulf war had just ended. After the Gulf War ended on February 28, 1991, Iraq was subjected to United Nation sanctions and arms inspection. It was suspected that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological and nuclear). Iraq restricted the inspections in its facility. These disputes led to US led air raids in December 1998.
On September 11, 2001, there was a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks on the US by Al-Qaeda. Two of the four hijacked airliners were crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. This attack killed 2,996 people, injured 6000 and caused damage worth $10 billion.
After this attack, US-led forces began military actions in Afghanistan in October 2001. In January 2002, US president, George W Bush identified Iraq, Iran and North Korea as a part of “an axis of evil”.
On September 2002, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Bush warned Iraq of military action if it does not comply with UN resolution on disarmament. In the same month, UK published a dossier which included claims of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction which could be used within 45 minutes.
The UN’s Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission carried out about 700 inspections in Iraq but failed to find weapons of mass destruction. On February 2003, US and the UK submitted a draft resolution to UN stating Iraq has missed the opportunity to disarm peacefully. This however, was opposed by France, Russia and Germany. France and Russia announced that they were ready to veto a UN Security Council resolution which gave Iraq seven days to disarm.
Attack on Iraq begins
Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war. After this, on March 19, when the explosions started rocking the city of Baghdad, in a televised address, Bush said, “At this hour, 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.”
The first targets were hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles from US fighter-bombers and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf.
Soon after, Saddam went into hiding even though he declared in March 2003: “it is without doubt that the faithful will be victorious against aggression.”
In just three weeks, the forces could capture Iraq’s major cities and on May 1, 2003, Bush declared end of major combat operations.
Execution of Saddam Hussein and establishment of provisional government
In June, 2004, a provisional government was set in place after Saddam’s ouster transferred the power to Iraqi Interim Government. In January 2005, people of Iraq elected a 275-member Iraqi National Assembly and a new constitution was signed in October
After a massive manhunt, Saddam Hussein was found to be hiding in a six to eight foot deep hole, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit. Hussein was arrested and in October, 2005, trials against him for charges of mass killings started and in November 2006 he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and was sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on December 30, 2006.