Gulf War in Iraq 2003
When coalition forces pulled out of Iraq in 1991, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, millions of Iraqis felt betrayed by the United States and its allies because Hussein continued his policy of persecuting those he felt had assisted his enemies before and during
the Gulf conflict.
United Nations weapons inspectors were installed in Iraq to monitor the dictator’s defence programme but were continually ejected from
the country by Hussein who refused, after several years, to continue co- operating with them.
In the wake of the Al-Qaeda attacks on New York, on September 11th 2001, the United States administration of President George W. Bush decided to launch a ‘War on Terror’ directed against radical Muslim terrorists and their alleged supporters. The administration accused Saddam Hussein of links to Al-Qaeda and alleged that the dictator
had hidden ‘weapons of mass destruction’, e.g. chemical warheads,
in the deserts of Iraq. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, supported American efforts to persuade the United Nations Security Council to sanction the use of military force against Iraq. Despite
the failure to gain the support of the UN Security Council, and mass demonstrations on the streets of London and other major cities,
the USA and UK led a powerful coalition force and invaded Iraq. The aims were to topple the Hussein regime and search for weapons of mass destruction. With relatively minimal losses and casualties, Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Iraq was occupied by coalition forces.
British forces were responsible for security in Southern Iraq around Basra. However, many problems remained. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found; no links with Al-Qaeda were proved; and the US plans for the occupation and re-building of the country were ineffective. Over time, Iraqi militia (some supported by neighbouring Iran) and former soldiers and supporters of Saddam Hussein turned against the coalition occupation. Al-Qaeda established a presence in Iraq and launched attacks against coalition forces. Attempts to introduce democratic reforms proceeded slowly and were hindered by revelations that American soliders were responsible for torturing Iraqi suspects at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004.
The Iraqi population became increasingly frustrated by the failure to provide jobs and restore basic amenities such as proper water and electricity supplies. It grew used to frequent insurgent attacks which targeted coalition soldiers and ordinary Iraqi civilians. In particular, violence directed by Sunni and Shia Mulims against each other tore the country apart.
In 2007, the US General Petraeus increased the number of US troops in Iraq and made more effective use of local Iraqis against insurgents. Since then violence has declined and the situation in much of Iraq has improved. A democratic government has been established.
In 2009, British troops withdrew from Southern Iraq having suffered one hundred and seventy-nine deaths during its occupation.
Speech by Lt Col Tim Collins The Royal Irish Regiment