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The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War. The invasion phase began on 19 March 2003 (air) and 20 March 2003 (ground) and lasted just over one month,[24] including 26 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq. This early stage of the war formally ended on 1 May 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared the "end of major combat operations", after which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established as the first of several successive transitional governments leading up to the first Iraqi parliamentary election in January 2005. U.S. military forces later remained in Iraq until the withdrawal in 2011.[25]

The U.S.-led coalition sent 177,194 troops into Iraq during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 1 May 2003. About 130,000 arrived from the U.S. alone, with about 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers, and 194 Polish soldiers. 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops assembled in Kuwait by 18 February.[26] The coalition forces also received support from the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition aimed "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."[27] Others place a much greater emphasis on the impact of the September 11 attacks, on the role this played in changing U.S. strategic calculations, and the rise of the freedom agenda.[28][29] According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq's failure to take a "final opportunity" to disarm itself of alleged nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace.[30]

In a January 2003 CBS poll, 64% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq; however, 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism directed against the U.S. would increase due to war.[31] The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand.[32][33][34] Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading that country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's 12 February 2003 report. About 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs were discovered during the Iraq War, but these had been built and abandoned earlier in Saddam Hussein's rule before the 1991 Gulf War. The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government's invasion rationale.[35][36]

On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which the Guinness Book of Records listed as the largest ever anti-war rally.[37] According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.[38]

The invasion was preceded by an airstrike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on 20 March 2003. The following day, coalition forces launched an incursion into Basra Province from their massing point close to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. While special forces launched an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf to secure Basra and the surrounding petroleum fields, the main invasion army moved into southern Iraq, occupying the region and engaging in the Battle of Nasiriyah on 23 March. Massive air strikes across the country and against Iraqi command-and-control threw the defending army into chaos and prevented an effective resistance. On 26 March, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was airdropped near the northern city of Kirkuk, where they joined forces with Kurdish rebels and fought several actions against the Iraqi Army, to secure the northern part of the country.

The main body of coalition forces continued their drive into the heart of Iraq and met with little resistance. Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and the coalition occupied Baghdad on 9 April. Other operations occurred against pockets of the Iraqi Army, including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk on 10 April, and the attack on and capture of Tikrit on 15 April. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On 1 May President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations: this ended the invasion period and began the period of military occupation.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War. The invasion phase began on 19 March 2003 (air) and 20 March 2003 (ground) and lasted just over one month,[24] includ

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War. The invasion phase began on 19 March 2003 (air) and 20 March 2003 (ground) and lasted just over one month,[24] including 26 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq. This early stage of the war formally ended on 1 May 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared the "end of major combat operations", after which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established as the first of several successive transitional governments leading up to the first Iraqi parliamentary election in January 2005. U.S. military forces later remained in Iraq until the withdrawal in 2011.[25]

The U.S.-led coalition sent 177,194 troops into Iraq during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 1 May 2003. About 130,000 arrived from the U.S. alone, with about 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers, and 194 Polish soldiers. 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops assembled in The U.S.-led coalition sent 177,194 troops into Iraq during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 1 May 2003. About 130,000 arrived from the U.S. alone, with about 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers, and 194 Polish soldiers. 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops assembled in Kuwait by 18 February.[26] The coalition forces also received support from the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition aimed "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."[27] Others place a much greater emphasis on the impact of the September 11 attacks, on the role this played in changing U.S. strategic calculations, and the rise of the freedom agenda.[28][29] According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq's failure to take a "final opportunity" to disarm itself of alleged nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace.[30]

In a January 2003 CBS poll, 64% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq; however, 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism directed against the U.S. would increase due to war.[31] The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand.[32][33][34] Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading that country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's 12 February 2003 report. About 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs were discovered during the Iraq War, but these had been built and abandoned earlier in Saddam Hussein's rule before the 1991 Gulf War. The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government's invasion rationale.[35][36]

On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which the Guinness Book of Records listed as the largest ever anti-war rally.[37] According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.[38]

The invasion was preceded by an airstrike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on 20 March 2003. The following day, coalition forces launched an incursion into Basra Province from their massing point close to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. While special forces launched an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf to secure Basra and the surrounding petroleum fields, the main invasion army moved into southern Iraq, occupying the region and engaging in the Battle of Nasiriyah on 23 March. Massive air strikes across the country and against Iraqi command-and-control threw the defending army into chaos and prevented an effective resistance. On 26 March, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was airdropped near the northern city of Kirkuk, where they joined forces with Kurdish rebels and fought several actions against the Iraqi Army, to secure the northern part of the country.

The main body of coalition forces continued their drive into the heart of Iraq and met with little resistance. Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and the coalition occupied Baghdad on 9 April. Other operations occurred against pockets of the Iraqi Army, including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk on 10 April, and the attack on and capture of Tikrit on 15 April. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On 1 May President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations: this ended the invasion period and began the period of military occupation.

Hostilities of the Gulf War were suspended on 28 February 1991, with a cease-fire negotiated between the UN Coalition and Iraq.[39] The U.S. and its allies tried to keep Saddam in check with military actions such as Operation Southern Watch, which was conducted by Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) with the mission of monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel (extended to the 33rd Parallel in 1996) as well as using economic sanctions. It was revealed that a biological weapons (BW) program in Iraq had begun in the early 1980s with help from the U.S. and Europe in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972. Details of the BW program—along with a chemical weapons program—surfaced after the Gulf War (1990–91) following investigations conducted by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) which had been charged with the post-war disarmament of Saddam's Iraq. The investigation concluded that the program had not continued after the war. The U.S. and its allies then maintained a policy of "containment" towards Iraq. This policy involved numerous economic sanctions by the UN Security Council; the enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones declared by the U.S. and the UK to protect the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Shias in the south from aerial attacks by the Iraqi government; and ongoing inspections. Iraqi military helicopters and planes regularly contested the no-fly zones.[40][41]

A UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 2002.

In October 1998, removing the Iraqi government became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act. Enacted following the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors the preceding August (after some had been accused of spying for the U.S.), the act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq."[42] This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change.[43] One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the U.S. and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign's express rationale was to hamper Saddam Hussein's government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Saddam's grip on power.[44]

Two US F-16 Fighting Falcons prepare to depart Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia for a patrol as part of Operation Southern Watch, 2000.

With the election of George W. Bush as president in 2000, the U.S. moved towards a more aggressive policy toward Iraq. The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act as "a starting point" in a plan to "remove" Saddam.[45] After leaving the George W. Bush administration, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that an attack on Iraq had been planned since Bush's inauguration and that the first United States National Security Council meeting involved discussion of an invasion. O'Neill later backtracked, saying that these discussions were part of a continuation of foreign policy first put into place by the Clinton administration.[46]

Despite the Bush administration's stated interest in invading Iraq, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks. For example, the administration prepared Operation Desert Badger to respond aggressively if any Air Force pilot was shot down while flying over Iraq, but this did not happen. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed National Security Agency (NSA) intercept data available by midday of the 11th that pointed to al-Qaeda's culpability, and by mid-afternoon ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for attacking Iraq.[47] According to aides who were with him in the National Military Command Center on that day, Rumsfeld asked for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden."[48] A memo written by Rumsfeld in November 2001 considers an Iraq war.[49] The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.[50]

On 20 September 2001, Bush addressed a joint session of Congress (simulcast live to the world), and announced his new "War on Terror". This announcement was accompanied by the doctrine of "pre-emptive" military action, later termed the Bush Doctrine. Allegations of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were made by some U.S. Government officials who asserted that a highly secretive relationship existed between Saddam and the radical Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of meetings reportedly involving the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). Some Bush advisers favored an immediate invasion of Iraq, while others advocated building an international coalition and obtaining United Nations authorization.[51] Bush eventually decided to seek UN authorization, while still reserving the option of invading without it.[52]

Preparations for war

George W. Bush addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 September 2002 to outline the complaints of the United States government against the Iraqi government.
From left: French President Jacques Chirac, US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at the G8 Summit at Evian, France. Chirac opposed the invasion; the other three leaders supported it.

While there had been some earlier talk of action against Iraq, the Bush administration waited until September 2002 to call for action, with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card saying, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."[53] Bush began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his 12 September 2002 address to the United Nations General Assembly.[54]

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the U.S. actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplom

In October 1998, removing the Iraqi government became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act. Enacted following the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors the preceding August (after some had been accused of spying for the U.S.), the act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq."[42] This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change.[43] One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the U.S. and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign's express rationale was to hamper Saddam Hussein's government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Saddam's grip on power.[44]

Two US president in 2000, the U.S. moved towards a more aggressive policy toward Iraq. The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act as "a starting point" in a plan to "remove" Saddam.[45] After leaving the George W. Bush administration, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that an attack on Iraq had been planned since Bush's inauguration and that the first United States National Security Council meeting involved discussion of an invasion. O'Neill later backtracked, saying that these discussions were part of a continuation of foreign policy first put into place by the Clinton administration.[46]

Despite the Bush administration's stated interest in invading Iraq, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks. For example, the administration prepared Operation Desert Badger to respond aggressively if any Air Force pilot was shot down while flying over Iraq, but this did not happen. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed National Security Agency (NSA) intercept data available by midday of the 11th that pointed to al-Qaeda's culpability, and by mid-afternoon ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for attacking Iraq.[47] Ac

Despite the Bush administration's stated interest in invading Iraq, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks. For example, the administration prepared Operation Desert Badger to respond aggressively if any Air Force pilot was shot down while flying over Iraq, but this did not happen. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed National Security Agency (NSA) intercept data available by midday of the 11th that pointed to al-Qaeda's culpability, and by mid-afternoon ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for attacking Iraq.[47] According to aides who were with him in the National Military Command Center on that day, Rumsfeld asked for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden."[48] A memo written by Rumsfeld in November 2001 considers an Iraq war.[49] The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.[50]

On 20 September 2001, Bush addressed a joint session of Congress (simulcast live to the world), and announced his new "War on Terror". This announcement was accompanied by the doctrine of "pre-emptive" military action, later termed the Bush Doctrine. Allegations of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were made by some U.S. Government officials who asserted that a highly secretive relationship existed between Saddam and the radical Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of meetings reportedly involving the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). Some Bush advisers favored an immediate invasion of Iraq, while others advocated building an international coalition and obtaining United Nations authorization.[51] Bush eventually decided to seek UN authorization, while still reserving the option of invading without it.[52]

While there had been some earlier talk of action against Iraq, the Bush administration waited until September 2002 to call for action, with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card saying, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."[53] Bush began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his 12 September 2002 address to the United Nations General Assembly.[54]

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the U.S. actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised "serious consequences" for non-compliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government.[55] Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, and the UK ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, publicly confirmed this reading of the resolution, assuring that Resolution 1441 provided no "automaticity" or "hidden triggers" for an invasion without further consultation of the Security Council.[56]

Resolution 1441 gave Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and set up inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Saddam accepted the resolution on 13 November and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. As of February 2003, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq"; the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses.[57] UNMOVIC "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction" or significant quantities of proscribed items. UNMOVIC did supervise the destruction of

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the U.S. actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised "serious consequences" for non-compliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government.[55] Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, and the UK ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, publicly confirmed this reading of the resolution, assuring that Resolution 1441 provided no "automaticity" or "hidden triggers" for an invasion without further consultation of the Security Council.[56]

Resolution 1441 gave Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and set up inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Saddam accepted the resolution on 13 November and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. As of February 2003, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq"; the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses.[57] UNMOVIC "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction" or significant quantities of proscribed items. UNMOVIC did supervise the destruction of a small number of empty chemical rocket warheads, 50 liters of mustard gas that had been declared by Iraq and sealed by UNSCOM in 1998, and laboratory quantities of a mustard gas precursor, along with about 50 Al-Samoud missiles of a design that Iraq stated did not exceed the permitted 150 km range, but which had traveled up to 183 km in tests. Shortly before the invasion, UNMOVIC stated that it would take "months" to verify Iraqi compliance with resolution 1441.[58][59][60]

In October 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the "Iraq Resolution". The resolution authorized the President to "use any means necessary" against Iraq. Americans polled in January 2003 widely favored further diplomacy over an invasion. Later that year, however, Americans began to agree with Bush's plan. The U.S. government engaged in an elaborate domestic public relations campaign to market the war to its citizens. Americans overwhelmingly believed Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction: 85% said so, even though the inspectors had not uncovered those weapons. Of those who thought Iraq had weapons sequestered somewhere, about half responded that said weapons would not be found in combat. By February 2003, 64% of Americans supported taking military action to remove Saddam from power.[31]

The Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division (SAD) teams, consisting of the paramilitary operations officers and 10th Special Forces Group soldiers, were the first U.S. forces to enter Iraq, in July 2002, before the main invasion. Once on the ground, they prepared for the subsequent arrival of U.S. Army Special Forces to organize the Kurdish Peshmerga. This joint team (called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE))[61] combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, a group with ties to al-Qaeda, in Iraqi Kurdistan. This battle was for control of the territory that was occupied by Ansar al-Islam. It was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group. This battle resulted in the defeat of Ansar and the capture of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat.[61] Sargat was the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war.[62][63]

SAD teams also conducted missions behind enemy lines to identify leadership targets. These missions led to the initial air strikes against Saddam and his generals. Although the strike against Saddam was unsuccessful in killing him, it effectively ended his ability to command and control his forces. Strikes against Iraq's generals were more successful and significantly degraded the Iraqi command's ability to react to, and maneuver against, the U.S.-led invasion force.[61][64] SAD operations off

SAD teams also conducted missions behind enemy lines to identify leadership targets. These missions led to the initial air strikes against Saddam and his generals. Although the strike against Saddam was unsuccessful in killing him, it effectively ended his ability to command and control his forces. Strikes against Iraq's generals were more successful and significantly degraded the Iraqi command's ability to react to, and maneuver against, the U.S.-led invasion force.[61][64] SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi Army officers into surrendering their units once the fighting started.[62]

NATO member Turkey refused to allow the U.S. forces across its territory into northern Iraq. Therefore, joint SAD and Army Special forces teams and the Pershmerga constituted the entire Northern force against the Iraqi army. They managed to keep the northern divisions in place rather than allowing them to aid their colleagues against the U.S.-led coalition force coming from the south.[65] Four of these CIA officers were awarded the Intelligence Star for their actions.[62][63]

In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush said "we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs".[66] On 5 February 2003, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations General Assembly, continuing U.S. efforts to gain UN authorization for an invasion. His presentation to the UN Security Council, which contained a computer-generated image of a "mobile biological weapons laboratory". However, this information was based on claims of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed "Curveball", an Iraqi emigrant living in Germany who later admitted that his claims had been false.

Powell also presented evidence alleging Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda. As a follow-up to Powell's presentation, the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Spain proposed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but NATO members like Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the US, UK, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Japan, and Australia eventually withdrew their resolution.[67][68]

Opposition to the invasion coalesced in the worldwide Powell also presented evidence alleging Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda. As a follow-up to Powell's presentation, the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Spain proposed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but NATO members like Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the US, UK, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Japan, and Australia eventually withdrew their resolution.[67][68]

Opposition to the invasion coalesced in the worldwide 15 February 2003 anti-war protest that attracted between six and ten million people in more than 800 cities, the largest such protest in human history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.[citation needed][37]

On 16 March 2003, Spanish Prime Minister, José María Aznar, UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, President of the United States George W. Bush, and Prime Minister of Portugal, José Manuel Durão Barroso as host, met in the Azores, to discuss the invasion of Iraq, and Spain's potential involvement in the war, as well as the beginning of the invasion. This encounter was extremely controversial in Spain, even now remaining a very sensitive point for the Aznar government.[69] Almost a year later, Madrid suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Lockerbie bombing, motivated by Spain's decision to participate in the Iraq war, prompting some Spaniards to accuse the Prime Minister of being responsible.[70]

U.S. President George W. Bush meets with his top advisors on 19 March 2003 just before the invasion

In March 2003, the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Italy began preparing for the invasion of Iraq, with a host of public relations and military moves. In his 17 March 2003 address to the nation, Bush demand

In March 2003, the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Italy began preparing for the invasion of Iraq, with a host of public relations and military moves. In his 17 March 2003 address to the nation, Bush demanded that Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, surrender and leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline.[71] But the U.S. began the bombing of Iraq on the day before the deadline expired. On 18 March 2003, the bombing of Iraq by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Spain, Italy and Denmark began. Unlike the first Gulf War, this war had no explicit UN authorisation.

The UK House of Commons held a debate on going to war on 18 March 2003 where the government motion was approved 412 to 149.[72] The vote was a key moment in the history of the Blair administration, as the number of government MPs who rebelled against the vote was the greatest since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Three government ministers resigned in protest at the war, John Denham, House of Commons held a debate on going to war on 18 March 2003 where the government motion was approved 412 to 149.[72] The vote was a key moment in the history of the Blair administration, as the number of government MPs who rebelled against the vote was the greatest since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Three government ministers resigned in protest at the war, John Denham, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the then Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook. In a passionate speech to the House of Commons after his resignation, he said, "What has come to trouble me is the suspicion that if the 'hanging chads' of Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq." During the debate, it was stated that the Attorney General had advised that the war was legal under previous UN Resolutions.

In December 2002, a representative of the head of Iraqi Intelligence, the General Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, contacted former Central Intelligence Agency Counterterrorism Department head Vincent Cannistraro stating that Saddam "knew there was a campaign to link him to 11 September and prove he had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)." Cannistraro further added that "the Iraqis were prepared to satisfy these concerns. I reported the conversation to senior levels of the state department and I was told to stand aside and they would handle it." Cannistraro stated that the offers made were all "killed" by the George W. Bush administration because they allowed Saddam to remain in power, an outcome viewed as unacceptable. It has been suggested that Saddam Hussein was prepared to go into exile if allowed to keep US$1 billion.[73]

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's national security advisor, Osama El-Baz, sent a message to the U.S. State Department that the Iraqis wanted to discuss the accusations that the country had weapons of mass destruction and ties with Al-Qaeda. Iraq also attempted to reach the U.S. through the Syrian, French, German, and Russian intelligence

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's national security advisor, Osama El-Baz, sent a message to the U.S. State Department that the Iraqis wanted to discuss the accusations that the country had weapons of mass destruction and ties with Al-Qaeda. Iraq also attempted to reach the U.S. through the Syrian, French, German, and Russian intelligence services.

In January 2003, Lebanese-American Imad Hage met with Michael Maloof of the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Special Plans. Hage, a resident of Beirut, had been recruited by the department to assist in the war on terror. He reported that Mohammed Nassif, a close aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, had expressed frustrations about the difficulties of Syria contacting the United States, and had attempted to use him as an intermediary. Maloof arranged for Hage to meet with civilian Richard Perle, then head of the Defense Policy Board.[74][75]

In January 2003, Hage met with the chief of Iraqi intelligence's foreign operations, Hassan al-Obeidi. Obeidi told Hage that Baghdad did not understand why they were targeted and that they had no WMDs. He then made the offer for Washington to send in 2000 FBI agents to confirm this. He additionally offered petroleum concessions but stopped short of having Saddam give up power, instead suggesting that elections could be held in two years. Later, Obeidi suggested that Hage travel to Baghdad for talks; he accepted.[74]

Later that month, Hage met with General Habbush and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. He was offered top priority to U.S. firms in oil and mining rights, UN-supervised elections, U.S. inspections (with up to 5,000 inspectors), to have al-Qaeda agent Abdul Rahman Yasin (in Iraqi custody since 1994) handed over as a sign of good faith, and to give "full support for any U.S. plan" in the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. They also wished to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials. On 19 February, Hage faxed Maloof his report of the trip. Maloof reports having brought the proposal to Jaymie Duran. The Pentagon denies that either Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld, Duran's bosses, were aware of the plan.[74]

On 21 February, Maloof informed Duran in an email that Richard Perle wished to meet with Hage and the Iraqis if the Pentagon would clear it. Duran responded "Mike, working this. Keep this close hold." On 7 March, Perle met with Hage in Knightsbridge, and stated that he wanted to pursue the matter further with people in Washington (both have acknowledged the meeting). A few days later, he informed Hage that Washington refused to let him meet with Habbush to discuss the offer (Hage stated that Perle's response was "that the consensus in Washington was it was a no-go"). Perle told The Times, "The message was 'Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad.′"[76]

George Bush, speaking in October 2002, said that "The stated policy of the United States is regime change. ... However, if Saddam were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I have described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed".[77] Citing reports from certain intelligence sources, Bush stated on 6 March 2003 that he believed that Saddam was not complying with UN Resolution 1441.[78]

In September 2002, Tony Blair stated, in an answer to a parliamentary question, that "Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction..."[79] In November of that year, Blair further stated that, "So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not régime change – that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the

In September 2002, Tony Blair stated, in an answer to a parliamentary question, that "Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction..."[79] In November of that year, Blair further stated that, "So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not régime change – that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people ... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change."[80]

At a press conference on 31 January 2003, Bush again reiterated that the single trigger for the invasion would be Iraq's failure to disarm, "Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein."[81] As late as 25 February 2003, it was still the official line that the only cause of invasion would be a failure to disarm. As Blair made clear in a statement to the House of Commons, "I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully."[82]

Additional justifications used at various times included Iraqi violation of UN resolutions, the Iraqi government's repression of its citizens, and Iraqi violations of the 1991 cease-fire.[27]

The main allegations were: that Saddam possessed or was attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam Hussein had used in places such as Halabja,[83][84] possessed, and made efforts to acquire, particularly considering two previous attacks on Baghdad nuclear weapons production facilities by both Iran and Israel which were alleged to have postponed weapons development progress; and, further, that he had ties to terrorists, specifically al-Qaeda.

While it never made an explicit connection between Iraq and the 11 September attacks, the George W. Bush administration repeatedly insinuated a link, thereby creating a false impression for the U.S. public. Grand jury testimony from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trials cited numerous direct linkages from the bombers to Baghdad and Department 13 of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in that initial attack marking the second anniversary to vindicate the surrender of Iraqi armed forces in Operation Desert Storm. For example, The Washington Post has noted that,

While not explicitly declaring Iraqi culpability in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, administration officials did, at various times, imply a link. In late 2001, Cheney said it was "pretty well confirmed" that attack mastermind Mohamed Atta had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official. Later, Cheney called Iraq the "geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."[85]

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, observed in March 2003 that "The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between 11 Sept. and Saddam Hussein]". This was following a The New York Times/CBS poll that showed 45% of Americans believing Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the 11 September atrocities. As The Christian Science Monitor observed at the time, while "Sources knowledgeable about U.S. intelligence say there is no evidence that Saddam played a role in the 11 Sept. attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. ... the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Saddam's regime." The CSM went on to report that, while polling data collected "right after 11 Sept. 2001" showed that only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein, by January 2003 attitudes "had been transformed" with a Knight Ridder poll showing that 44% of Americans believed "most" or "some" of the 11 September hijackers were Iraqi citizens.[86]

According t

According to General Tommy Franks, the objectives of the invasion were, "First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government."[87]

The BBC has also noted that, while President Bush "never directly accused the former Iraqi leader of having a hand in the attacks on New York and Washington", he "repeatedly associated the two in keynote addresses delivered since 11 September", adding that "Senior members of his administration have similarly conflated the two." For instance, the BBC report quotes Colin Powell in February 2003, stating that "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America." The same BBC report also noted the results of a recent opinion poll, which suggested that "70% of Americans believe the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks."[88]

Also in September 2003, The Boston Globe reported that "Vice President Dick Cheney, anxious to defend the White House foreign policy amid ongoing violence in Iraq, stunned intelligence analysts and even members of his own administration this week by failing to dismiss a widely discredited claim: that Saddam Hussein might have played a role in the 11 Sept. attacks."[89] A year later, presidential candidate John Kerry alleged that Cheney was continuing "to intentionally mislead the American public by drawing a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in an attempt to make the invasion of Iraq part of the global war on terror."[90]

Throughout 2002, the Bush administration insisted that removing Saddam from power to restore international peace and security was a major goal. The principal stated justifications for this policy of "regime change" were that Iraq's continuing production of weapons of mass destruction and known ties to terrorist organizations, as well as Iraq's continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions, amounted to a threat to the U.S. and the world community.

The Bush administration's overall rationale for the invasion of Iraq was presented in detail by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003. In summary, he stated,

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression ... given what we know of his terrorist associations and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not some day use these weapons at a time and the place and in the manner of his choosing at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond? The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post–September 11 world.[91]

Since the invasion, the U.S. government statements concerning Iraqi weapons programs and links to al-Qaeda have been discredited,[92] though chemical weapons were found in Iraq during the occupation period.[93] While the debate of whether Iraq intended to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the future remains open, no WMDs have been found in Iraq since the invasion despite comprehensive inspections lasting more than 18 months.[94] In Cairo, on 24 February 2001, Colin Powell had predicted as much, saying, "[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."[95] Similarly, assertions of operational links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda have largely been discredited by the intelligence community, and Secretary Powell himself later admitted he had no proof.[92]

In September 2002, the Bush administration sa

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression ... given what we know of his terrorist associations and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not some day use these weapons at a time and the place and in the manner of his choosing at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond? The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post–September 11 world.[91]

Since the invasion, the U.S. government statements concerning Iraqi weapons programs and links to al-

Since the invasion, the U.S. government statements concerning Iraqi weapons programs and links to al-Qaeda have been discredited,[92] though chemical weapons were found in Iraq during the occupation period.[93] While the debate of whether Iraq intended to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the future remains open, no WMDs have been found in Iraq since the invasion despite comprehensive inspections lasting more than 18 months.[94] In Cairo, on 24 February 2001, Colin Powell had predicted as much, saying, "[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."[95] Similarly, assertions of operational links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda have largely been discredited by the intelligence community, and Secretary Powell himself later admitted he had no proof.[92]

In Septembe

In September 2002, the Bush administration said attempts by Iraq to acquire thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes pointed to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. Powell, in his address to the UN Security Council just before the war, referred to the aluminum tubes. A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security in 2002, however, reported that it was highly unlikely that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium. Powell later admitted he had presented an inaccurate case to the United Nations on Iraqi weapons, based on sourcing that was wrong and in some cases "deliberately misleading."[96][97][98]

The Bush administration asserted that the Saddam government had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger.[99] On 7 March 2003, the U.S. submitted intelligence documents as evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency. These documents were dismissed by the IAEA as forgeries, with the concurrence in that judgment of outside experts. At the time, a US official stated that the evidence was submitted to the IAEA without knowledge of its provenance and characterized any mistakes as "more likely due to incompetence not malice".

In October 2002, a few days before the US Senate vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, about 75 senators were told in closed session that the Iraqi government had the means of delivering biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones that could be launched from ships off the US' Atlantic coast to attack US eastern seaboard cities. Colin Powell suggested in his presentation to the United Nations that UAVs were transported out of Iraq and could be launched against the United States.

In fact, Iraq had no offensive UAV fleet or any capability of putting UAVs on ships.[100] Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of less than a handful of outdated Czech training drones.[100] Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of less than a handful of outdated Czech training drones.[101] At the time, there was a vigorous dispute within the intelligence community whether the CIA's conclusions about Iraq's UAV fleet were accurate. The US Air Force denied outright that Iraq possessed any offensive UAV capability.[102]

As evidence supporting U.S. and British charges about Iraqi Weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism weakened, some supporters of the invasion have increasingly shifted their justification to the human rights violations of the Saddam government.[103] Leading human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have argued, however, that they believe human rights concerns were never a central justification for the invasion, nor do they believe that military intervention was justifiable on humanitarian grounds, most significantly because "the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention."[104]

Legality of invasion

The legality of the invasion of Iraq under international law has been challenged since its inception on a number of fronts, and several prominent supporters of the invasion in all the invading nations have publicly and privately cast doubt on its legality. It has been argued by US and British governments that the invasion was fully legal because authorization was implied by the United Nations Security Council.[107] International legal experts, including the International Commission of Jurists, a group of 31 leading Canadian law professors, and the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have denounced this rationale.[108][109][110]

On Thursday 20 November 2003, an article published in the Guardian alleged that Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, conceded that the invasion was illegal but still justified.[111][112]

The United Nations Security Council has passed nearly 60 resolutions on Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The most relevant to this issue is Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990. It authorizes "member states co-operating with the Government of Kuwait ... to use all necessary means" to (1) implement Security Council Resolution 660 and other resolutions calling for the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory and (2) "restore international peace and security in the area." Resolution 678 has not been rescinded or nullified by succeeding

The resolution "supported" and "encouraged" diplomatic efforts by President George W. Bush to "strictly enforce through the U.N. Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" and "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." The resolution authorized President Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."

The legality of the invasion of Iraq under international law has been challenged since its inception on a number of fronts, and several prominent supporters of the invasion in all the invading nations have publicly and privately cast doubt on its legality. It has been argued by US and British governments that the invasion was fully legal because authorization was implied by the United Nations Security Council.[107] International legal experts, including the International Commission of Jurists, a group of 31 leading Canadian law professors, and the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have denounced this rationale.[108][109][110]

On Thursday 20 November 2003, an article published in the Guardian alleged that Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory CommitteeOn Thursday 20 November 2003, an article published in the Guardian alleged that Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, conceded that the invasion was illegal but still justified.[111][112]

The United Nations Security Council has passed nearly 60 resolutions on Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The most relevant to this issue is Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990. It authorizes "member states co-operating with the Government of Kuwait ... to use all necessary means" to (1) implement Security Council Resolution 660 and other resolutions calling for the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory and (2) "restore international peace and security in the area." Resolution 678 has not been rescinded or nullified by succeeding resolutions and Iraq was not alleged after 1991 to invade Kuwait or to threaten to do so.

Resolution 1441 was most prominent during the run-up to the war and formed the main backdrop for Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the Security Council one month before the invasion.[113] According to an independent commission of inquiry set up by the government of the Netherlands, UN resolution 1441 "cannot reasonably be interpreted (as the Dutch government did) as authorising individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council's resolutions." Accordingly, the Dutch commission concluded that the 2003 invasion violated international law.[114]

At the same time, Bush Administration officials advanced a parallel legal argument using the earlier resolutions, which authorized force in response to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under this reasoning, by failing to disarm and submit to weapons inspections, Iraq was in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 660 and 678, and the U.S. could legally compel Iraq's compliance through military means.

Critics and proponents of the legal rationale based on the U.N. resolutions argue that the legal right to determine how to enforce its resolutions lies with the Security Council alone, not with individual nations.

In February 2006, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, reported that he had received 240 separate communications regarding the legality of the war, many of which concerned British participation in the invasion.[115] In a letter addressed to the complainants, Mr. Moreno Ocampo explained that he could only consider issues related to conduct during the war and not to its underlying legality as a possible crime of aggression because no provision had yet been adopted which "defines the crime and sets out the conditions under which the Court may exercise jurisdiction with respect to it." In a March 2007 interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Moreno Ocampo encouraged Iraq to

Critics and proponents of the legal rationale based on the U.N. resolutions argue that the legal right to determine how to enforce its resolutions lies with the Security Council alone, not with individual nations.

In February 2006, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, reported that he had received 240 separate communications regarding the legality of the war, many of which concerned British participation in the invasion.[115] In a letter addressed to the complainants, Mr. Moreno Ocampo explained that he could only consider issues related to conduct during the war and not to its underlying legality as a possible crime of aggression because no provision had yet been adopted which "defines the crime and sets out the conditions under which the Court may exercise jurisdiction with respect to it." In a March 2007 interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Moreno Ocampo encouraged Iraq to sign up with the court so that it could bring cases related to alleged war crimes.[116]

United States Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich held a press conference on the evening of 24 April 2007, revealing US House Resolution 333 and the three articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney. He charged Cheney with manipulating the evidence of Iraq's weapons program, deceiving the nation about Iraq's connection to al-Qaeda, and threatening aggression against Iran in violation of the United Nations Charter.

The United Kingdom military operation was named Operation Telic.

Multilateral support<

In November 2002, President George W. Bush, visiting Europe for a NATO summit, declared that, "should Iraqi President Saddam Hussein choose not to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him."[117]

Thereafter, the Bush administration briefly used the term Coalition of the Willing to refer to the countries who supported, militarily or verbally, the military action in Iraq and subsequent military presence in post-invasion Iraq since 2003. The original list prepared in March 2003 included 49 members.[118] Of those 49, only six besides the U.S. contributed troops to the invasion force (the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark), and 33 provided some number of troops to support the occupation after the invasion was complete. Six members have no military, meaning that they withheld troops completely.

Invasion force

A U.S. Central Command, Combined Forces Air Component Commander report, indicated that, as of 30 April 2003, 466,985 U.S. personnel were deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This included;[119]

Ground forces element: 336,797 personnel

  • U.S. Army, 233,342
  • U.S. Army Reserve, 10,683
  • Army National Guard, 8,866
  • [119]

    Ground forces element: 336,797 personnel

    Naval forces element: 63,352 personnel

    • U.S. Navy, 61,296, including 681 members of the

      Naval forces element: 63,352 personnel

      • U.S. Navy, 61,296, including 681 members of the U.S. Coast Guard)
      • U.S. Navy Reserve, 2

        Approximately 148,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from the special forces unit GROM were sent to Kuwait for the invasion.[11] The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters, estimated to number upwards of 70,000.[12] In the latter stages of the invasion, 620 troops of the Iraqi National Congress opposition group were deployed to southern Iraq.[3]

        Canada discretely contributed some military resources towards the campaign, such as personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force wh

        Canada discretely contributed some military resources towards the campaign, such as personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force who crewed American planes on missions in Iraq in order to train with the platforms, and eleven Canadian aircrew who manned AWACS aircraft.[120][121] The Canadian Armed Forces had ships, planes, and 1,200 Royal Canadian Navy personnel at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to help support Operation Enduring Freedom, and a secret U.S. briefing cable noted that despite public promises by Canadian officials that these assets would not be used in support of the war in Iraq, "they will also be available to provide escort services in the Straits and will otherwise be discreetly useful to the military effort."[122] However, the Department of National Defence issued an order to naval commanders to not do anything in support of the American-led operation, and it is not known whether this order was ever broken.[122] Eugene Lang, chief of staff to then-defence minister John McCallum, stated that it is "quite possible" that Canadian forces indirectly supported the American operation.[122] According to Lang, Canada's military strongly advocated to be involved in the Iraqi War instead of the war in Afghanistan, and Canada mainly decided to keep its assets in the Gulf to maintain good relations with America.[122] Brigadier General Walter Natynczyk, of the Canadian Army, was Deputy Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps – Iraq, which comprised 35,000 American soldiers in ten brigades spread across Iraq.[123]

        Plans for opening a second front in the north were severely hampered when Turkey refused the use of its territory for such purposes.[124] In response to Turkey's decision, the United States dropped several thousand paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade into northern Iraq, a number significantly less than the 15,000-strong 4th Infantry Division that the U.S. originally planned to use for opening the northern front.[125]

        CIA Special Activities Division (SAD) Paramilitary teams entered Iraq in July 2002 before the 2003 invasion. Once on the ground they prepared for the subsequent arrival of US military forces. SAD teams then combined with U.S. Army Special Forces to organize the Kurdish Peshmerga. This joint team combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al Qaida, in a battle in the northeast corner of Iraq. The U.S. side was carried out by Paramilitary Officers from SAD and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group.[61][62][63]

        SAD teams also conducted high-risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial strikes against Saddam were unsuccessful in killing the dictator or his generals, they were successful in effectively ending the ability to command and control Iraqi forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to and maneuver against the U.S.-led invasion force coming from the south.[61][63]

        SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started and/or not to oppose the invasion force.[62] NATO member Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used for the invasion. As a result, the SAD/SOG and U.S. Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga constituted the entire northern force against government forces during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 5th Corps of the Iraqi army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than moving to contest the coalition force.

        According to General Tommy Franks, April Fool, an American officer working undercover as a diplomat, was approached by an Iraqi intelligence agent. April Fool then sold the Iraqi false "top secret" invasion plans provided by Franks' team. This deception misled the Iraqi military into deploying major forces in northern and western Iraq in anticipation of attacks by way of Turkey or Jordan, which never took place. This greatly reduced the defensive capacity in the rest of Iraq and facilitated the actual attacks via Kuwait and the [61][63]

        SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started and/or not to oppose the invasion force.[62] NATO member Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used for the invasion. As a result, the SAD/SOG and U.S. Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga constituted the entire northern force against government forces during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 5th Corps of the Iraqi army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than moving to contest the coalition force.

        According to General Tommy Franks, April Fool, an American officer working undercover as a diplomat, was approached by an Iraqi intelligence agent. April Fool then sold the Iraqi false "top secret" invasion plans provided by Franks' team. This deception misled the Iraqi military into deploying major forces in northern and western Iraq in anticipation of attacks by way of Turkey or Jordan, which never took place. This greatly reduced the defensive capacity in the rest of Iraq and facilitated the actual attacks via Kuwait and the Persian Gulf in the southeast.

        The number of personnel in the Iraqi military before the war was uncertain, but it was believed to have been poorly equipped.[126][127][128] The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the Iraqi armed forces to number 538,000 (Iraqi Army 375,000, Iraqi Navy 2,000, Iraqi Air Force 20,000 and air defense 17,000), the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam 44,000, Republican Guard 80,000 and reserves 650,000.[129]

        Another estimate numbers the Army and Republican Guard at between 280,000 and 350,000 and 50,000 to 80,000, respectively,[130] and the paramilitary between 20,000 and 40,000.[131] There were an estimated thirteen infantry divisions, ten mechanized and armored divisions, as well as some special forces units. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy played a negligible role in the conflict.

        During the invasion, foreign volunteers traveled to Iraq from Syria and took part in the fighting, usually commanded by the Fedayeen Saddam. It is not known for certain how many foreign fighters fought in Iraq in 2003, however, intelligence officers of the U.S. First Marine Division estimated that 50% of all Iraqi combatants in central Iraq were