In the ancient world, Iraq represented a civilized nation, but the post-Cold War world perceived it as a country, which initiates conflicts. It is a well-known fact that the United States of America together with its allies has been involved in combat activities in Iraq since the Gulf War. It was the longest period of America’s direct military intervention. American bombs and missile weapons have threatened Iraq every single year for more than two decades.
The people born in the peaceful Western countries or not far from the Near East at the end of the 20th century realized that Iraq was their personal experience of war in the contemporary world. Twenty-five years after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions and imposed a restrictive policy on Iraq, American forces still fight against the remnants of the former regime. The purpose of this essay is to examine the historical background of America's military intervention in Iraq since the Gulf War until the present time coping with ISIS terrorists and to discuss its meaning and implication. The detailed study of this twenty-five-year struggle provides an understanding of American military strengths and limitations in the post-Cold War times. Moreover, it provides lessons that may be useful for the development and future use of U.S. forces in the 21st century.
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Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
Before the Gulf War, the administration of the United States of America wanted to improve the relations with Iraq. However, these hopes have never been justified due to the dark actions of the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
In April 1990, he demanded that Americans should leave the region, including the Persian Gulf. He also stated that Iraq possessed a binary chemical weapon that he would use to fight Israeli nuclear one. The following month, he accused Kuwait’s government of stealing oil from Iraq. He also demanded to forgive all Iraqi debts as his country fought on behalf of all Arab nations against Iran. The economic situation in Iraq was devastating. In 1990, the country’s military budget was approximately thirteen billion dollars that are seven hundred dollars per citizen. However, the country’s annual income was nearly two thousand dollars. The inflation rate in Iraq was forty percent at that time.
All Saddam’s attempts to rescue his country from the economic and political disaster were desperate. He accused Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA in being unfaithful in terms of the oil productions on the international market. This economic crisis sparked the war, which culminated in the Persian Gulf War.
The Gulf War
Thus, on August 2, 1990, Iraqi troupes initiated the invasion and occupation of the small country of Kuwait. This invasion was substantial because it was the first U.S. external policy crisis after the Cold War. Moreover, it was the biggest overseas military commitment of the nation since the Vietnam War. Unlike its former interventions such as Panama, and the Vietnam War itself, the USA did not act unilaterally in this one.
President George Bush coordinated thirty-eight nations in a coalition that opposed Iraqi invasion. It included the former Soviet Union that worked alongside the USA in the armed encounter with Iraq. Most importantly, the American policy implemented military involvement only after diplomatic negotiations and economic sanctions, which the United Nations Security Council imposed. Unfortunately, they failed to affect Saddam Hussein.
American military men successfully concentrated in the Gulf region right before the beginning of the conflict. In a fortnight after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, George Bush ordered American troops to move to the Gulf. The brave military men supported and defended Saudi Arabia, which at that time was an oil-rich ally, from the possible overrun of Iraq. The Pentagon established this operation and called it Desert Shield. By the middle of October 1990, nearly a quarter of a million of theU.S. forces arrived in the Persian Gulf. By January 1991, there were more than half a million troops. Interestingly enough, this number was much higher than during the Vietnam War.
When the United Nations’ legacy of peace failed to solve the conflict, President George Bush announced the start of the consolidated offensive combat. The operation began on January 16, 1991, and the Pentagon entitled it the Desert Storm. After more than a month of intensified bombing attacks, on February 24, 1991, America together with its allies conducted a land attack and ended the war.
The estimated number of Iraqi casualties was more than a hundred thousand. Even though the USA and other nations entirely defeated the Iraqi army, their leader, Saddam Hussein, remained in power. The Gulf War resulted in more tense relations between the United States of America and Iraq.
Bombing of Iraq
At the end of the Gulf War, the United Nations Special Commission together with International Atomic Energy Agency demanded Iraq to disclose and dismantle its program of building biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons of mass destruction and other prohibited arms used during the war. They destroyed some of them or confirmed their destruction. By December 1998, Iraq had not met all the requirements and failed to solve the conflict diplomatically. Soon enough, Iraq interrupted this cooperation due to its mistrust towards the UN. Even though the United Nations Council members tried to foster Iraqi cooperation, the disarmament process of 1997 and 1998 did not bring any positive results.
In December 1998, the United States of America together with the United Kingdom decided to solve this issue by using military force. Thus, on December 16, 1998, they launched the operation called Desert Fox. Their aim was to strike Iraqi military and security targets that produced, stored, maintained, or delivered weapons of mass destruction.
The operation’s objectives were to mitigate Saddam Hussein’s ability to produce any kind of weapon and minimize the possibility to fight a war with his neighbors. Moreover, the UK and the USA wanted to demonstrate the implications of ignoring international obligations. The integrated air attacks lasted for four days and ending on the first day of the Muslim holy month - December 19, 1998.
This military operation was the U.S. and UK success. It was one of the most precise bombardments in the history of the world’s warfare. However, the successful completion of the air strikes was highly controversial. People also stated that Saddam Hussein weakened the unity of the 1991 Coalition and stopped the United Nations’ inspections in Iraq. However, the implications of this war were dreadful. The Iraqi leader moved mobile weapons into the exclusion zones and broke into the No-Fly Zones.
People will remember the first decade of the 21st century not only for the expansion of Islamic terrorism but also for America’s military intervention in Iraq that finally overthrew the dictator’s rule and his ruthless regime.
American citizens will remember the terrorist attacks, which happened on September 11, 2001, for a lifetime as that day they became the terrorists’ target. The Islamic extremist organization who called themselves al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden, planned four attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Nineteen suicidal terrorists illegally seized four airliners, two of which crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York. In two hours, both buildings crashed that resulted in fires and collapse of other buildings. The third airplane hit the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition, the fourth one crashed in a field near Pennsylvania on its way to the White House. People on board this plane tried to prevent a terrorist attack. The total amount of deaths was approximately three thousand. The biggest number of firefighters and law enforcement personnel in the history of the U. S. died in these incidents.
Soon after the catastrophe, President Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the core of evil. He accused Saddam Hussein of the involvement in 9/11 attacks and producing more weapons. He truly believed that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was rational and justified.
In October 2002, the American Congress empowered the President to defend the national security of the country from the continual threat of Ira. Republicans fully supported the resolution, while Democrats divided in their opinions. Later, Bush used that as the legal authority for invading Iraq. On March 19, 2003, American aerodynamic missiles struck Baghdad starting the new war with Iraq. A couple of days later, American troops in coordination with British ones invaded Southern Iraq, secured petroleum deposits, and moved north. In spite of the Iraqi resistance, in April American forces occupied Baghdad that resulted in regime fall, Saddam Hussein’s fleeing, and municipal services collapse.
On May 1, 2003, the aircraft carried a banner saying “Mission Accomplished”. In December 2003, American military troops captured Saddam Hussein, and Iraqi court convicted him for genocidal attacks on Iraq’s population and sentenced to execution three years later.
However, after Saddam’s death, the situation in Iraq only aggravated. The minority of Muslims dominated the politics of Iraq and did not want to dissolve the army and all officials who served under Hussein. Their power sparked more violence than ever before. In 2004, they created self-made explosive devices, causing bombings and deadly blasts. In June 2005, the death toll on Iraq was more than a thousand people.
Since that time, al-Qaeda strengthened its power in Iraq and the Middle East during America’s occupation of these territories. In 2007, the Islamic terroristic groups attacked London, Madrid, Saudi Arabia, and Istanbul proving that Bush’s policy has failed. Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda expanded its influence in Iraq, Europe, and the whole world. In May 2007, the death toll of American soldiers increased reaching nine hundred. The following year, President Bush changed the leadership and made Raymond Odierno the new commanding general. In 2009, the U.S. military men handed over the security obligations to Iraq. It was the first step to the American withdrawal from Iraq. When Barack Obama won the forty-fourth Presidential elections of the USA, he promised to withdraw all troops from Iraq within the next sixteen months.
Iraq and the United States eventually signed a Status of Forces Agreement. In accordance with this document, thirty-nine thousand of American soldiers returned from Iraq thus ending the nine-year war. Overall, the price of the military conflict was incredibly high, including eight hundred billion dollars from the American Treasury, approximately five thousand American soldiers, and a hundred thousand Iraqis killed.
ISIS Terrorist Groups
Since the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the U.S. has been facing a new threat, which became even more dreadful compared to what the extremist predecessors did. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a terrorist group analogous to the one of al-Qaeda (AQI). It has been the American military operations’ objective and target since 2014. They have ruthlessly executed an enormous number of innocent and unarmed Western civilians. In 2007, the U.S. military troops supported Sunni Muslims and weakened AQI. However, in 2011, the group started acting in Syria and regained its power there. Two years later, it came back to Iraq and changed its name to ISIS.
These extremists known for their cruelty and religious fanaticism have attracted the world’s attention in recent years. They spread videos of torturing prisoners through social media. The so-called success of ISIS is in its power to mobilize and recruit people. Moreover, their advantages are monetary resources and territory. However, their weaknesses lie in violence, dissent, and psychotic interpretations of the law.
In September 2014, the American troops started aggressive bombardment against ISIS extremists. The American government states that there are nearly thirty thousand such terrorists. The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center claimed that more than twenty thousand of foreigners from approximately a hundred countries around the world joined this organization.
Thus, there are two major threats to the U.S. if the group becomes more dangerous and powerful. Firstly, terroristic acts of ISIS may spread from Western part throughout the whole country. Secondly, those people who volunteered to fight against terrorism in Syria, as well as Iraq, may come back and commit the same violent actions. The ISIS organization provides them with weapons, Warcraft, explosive materials, and access to the networks through which they plan terror attacks. Before the American bombing campaign, ISIS fought only with its regional population. However, they started conducting deadly attacks in the Western U.S. at the same time taking revenge on the government for their attempt to destruct it. For instance, in 2015, the intelligence officers arrested the member of ISIS who planned to attack the American Capitol.
However, the most ruthless and at the same time frightening thing is that they attack minority groups that are under their control. They brutally kill Christians, trap and coerce Yazidis putting them in terrible conditions. Moreover, they consider faithless females as their slaves. Overall, it is impossible to fight such a powerful terroristic group unless the U.S. and Iraq together with their allies try to find a solution in political as well as military interventions.
America’s military intervention in Iraq left a historical impact on both sides. The USA has never made a meaningless decision regarding one of its most hostile enemies. The history of relations between America and Iraq started with the Gulf War. Its aim was to defend Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi invasion. This war was very important in the history of the USA because it was fought in cooperation with thirty-eight nations. Even though the war ended with an Iraqi defeat, it did not accomplish its ultimate goal. Seven years later, the U.S. invaded Iraq aiming to stop its production of weapons of mass destruction. The war was a success for America itself and its ally. However, it caused the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was a dreadful tragedy of the 21st century. As a result of a new war, which lasted nine years, dictator Hussein’s rule was overthrown, which at the same time made Iraqi more rigorous. Even when the war was eventually over, the spread of new terrorist groups caused troubles to American society and especially government.
The aim of the U.S. interventions in Iraq was to create a peaceful world. It sought to stop the dictatorship, which caused an enormous number of deaths. These twenty-five years of military conflicts resulted in economic, social, and political devastation of both countries. Even though the United States of America brought down one of the most ruthless leaders and regimes in the world, it still faces threats of terrorist attacks.