The recent withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq was met with joy and relieve from the American citizens. It was an opportunity to end the bloodshed and suffering of their brothers, friends and fellow citizens who served as soldiers and had continued to languish in the Iraq war. It is worthy to note that this war had a geopolitical agenda, and terrorism was used as a mere propaganda tool to ensure the American population supported it. Bush administration ignored United Nations weapon inspectors’ report that categorically stated that the country had no weapons of mass destruction. It is clear from the controversies surrounding the war including failure to discover intensity in which the US government fabricated evidence to justify the Iraq invasion that there were other motivating factors. In my opinion, the main reason was firstly to take advantage and exploit the oil resources in Iraq; secondly, to protect Israel from the perceived enemy Saddam and thirdly, to establish a base from which it controls its Middle Eastern affairs. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE CONFLICT Rise of Saddam Hussein On April 9, 2003, Saddam Hussein ceased to be Iraq’s fifth president having been in power since 1979. Aburish (2000) notes that this man, was involved in four main wars, first the Iran-Iraq war, Invasion of Kuwait, gulf War and recently the Iraq War. It is of interest to understand the upbringing of this man that many consider the most ruthless and evil. Saddam was born in 1937 in the town of Al-Awja, 8 miles from Iraq town. The name Saddam is Arabic, which means the one who confronts. His mother was known as Subha Tulfah al-Mussalat, and his father Hussein Abid al –Majid who died when Saddam was still an infant. After his 13-year-old brother died of cancer, the young Saddam was sent to live with his maternal uncle Khairallah Talfar until he was 3 years old (Aburish 2000). His mother remarried Ibrahim al-Hassan who became his stepfather and had three-step brothers. As a young man, Saddam stole for the family to eat (Aburish, 2000) .At the age of 10, he moved to Baghdad to live with his uncle an army officer where he learnt to read and write and by 19, he was active in politics. Under the influence of his uncle, he studied at nationalistic high school and later joined Iraq law school for three years. He dropped out in 1957 at age of 20 to join a revolutionary socialist Baath party, by that time he supported himself as a secondary school teacher. The Baath Party In 1957, Saddam joined Iraq Baath party, a radical political movement founded in 1940.s in Syria whose main aim was to unite Arab world and create one giant powerful Arab state. The founder of the movement was known as Michael Aflaq. In Iraq, this movement was mainly composed of violent and ruthless men who were willing to sacrifice all to gain control of the country. In 1959, Saddam together with other revolutionaries were involved in a failed attempt to assassinate the then military ruler Abdul Karim. He fled to Syria after being shot in the leg before eventually settling in Cairo, Egypt where he studied Law at the University. In 1963, the Baath party managed to overthrow the government and Saddam returned to Iraq. With the help of his cousin, he was made the Baath regional commander, the highest decision making body in Iraq. The party was not able to hold power for a long time as the Iraq military overthrew them and sent Baath leaders to prison. It is while serving a sentence that Saddam was able to come up with reasons why the party could not hold power. He felt that the party had relied too much on the military and therefore, he decided to build his own security forces with Baath party. Hussein managed to escape from prison two years later, and he became security organizer for his party. He created a large force that mainly terrified citizens and assassinated political rivals. In 1968, with the Baath party overthrew the government again with Bakr becoming president of Iraq while Saddam was deputy chairperson of party’s revolutionary Command council. The ruling party maintained power using violence and threat, Hussein being the head of internal security became most powerful person in the government. Although this acts of violence were kept secret, the government sometimes used displayed the acts in public to keep its critics in line. For example, in January 1969, Iraq arrested a number of foreign journalists and accused them of being spies for Israel.
Despite of these acts of crimes against humanity, the government still enjoyed from United States of America and European countries. This friendliness was because the Americans were involved in the cold war with the soviets. It was during this period that Saddam as a vice chairman of the party, he oversaw the nationalization of national oil, ordered mandatory literacy programs, led a spirited campaign that built schools, hospitals and roads. At that time, Iraq had one of the best health systems in Middle East. This earned him an award from the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization.
Hussein Takes Control of the Government
In July 16 1979, he managed to force Bakr. His cousin out of office and seized the control of the government. Shortly afterwards, he tightened the grips on the presidency by carrying out massive assassination and imprisonment of his rivals and close associates. He used these brutal acts to inspire and force Iraq people to be loyal to the government. A historian Peter Cipwoksi quoted Saddam in his article entitled Understanding the crisis in the Persian Gulf as saying “I know that there are scores of people plotting to kill me, and this is not difficult to understand. After all, did we not seize power by plotting against our predecessors? Fortunately, I am far cleverer than they are. I know who is conspiring to kill me long before they can actually start planning to do it. This enables me to get them before they have the slightest chance of striking at me.”
The Iran-Iraq War
The Iran-Iraq war was one of the most protracted wars that started in September 1980 to august 1988. This war to say the least was multifaceted and included religious splits, border disputes, and political differences. Conflicts contributing to the outbreak of hostilities ranged from Sunni who were in power in Iraq-versus-Shia the majority but suppressed in Iraq and Arab-versus-Persian religious and ethnic disputes, to a personal animosity between Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini. Above all, Iraq launched the war in an effort to consolidate its rising power in the Arab world and to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. The personal animosity between Saddam and his Iranian counterpart was due to Saddam government quick praise to the revolution, while on his side Ayatollah Khomeini called for a Shia revolution in Iraq against the Baath government. Many observers and analysts however, believe the invasion was a personal miscalculation, based ambition and vulnerability of Iran as they in the period of revolution.
American Involvement in the War
The attack of foreign oil tankers bound for enemy territories by both countries raised concern among the western oil importing countries, which relied on affordable petroleum. An interruption of oil supply would have serious global ramifications. In 1987, Ronald Reagan administration put Kuwait tankers to sail under the American flag. This gave the United States the right under international law to retaliate for any attacks on those ships. In 1987, Iran attacked one of the tankers and USA retaliated by bombing Iranian offshore facilities that housed its military. In July 1988, a US navy ship shot down an Iranian passenger jet carrying 300 people for mistakenly. These actions were received with much condemnation from the international community. As the war continued and it was during this time that Iraq adopted the use of Chemical weapons. Although this was against the Geneva protocol, both the soviets and USA did not mount any pressure on Iraq, as no one wanted a clear-cut victory to the Iranians. In 1988, The Iraqi forces involved in a series of in a series of battles became victors, gaining considerable amounts of Iranian territory and capturing quantities of Iranian equipment. These defeats, combined with general exhaustion, pushed Iran into finally agreeing to settle the war. On 2009 August, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire. The War was costly to both countries as well as resulting to deaths of many Iraq’s and Iranians.
US Relations with Iraq; Theoretical Perspective
US relations with Iraq have dominated American foreign policy in many of the administrations that have entered the white House. American interests in Middle East started after World War II due to the presence of large oil reserves. By 1944, American corporations controlled over 40% of Middle East oil reserves and by 1955; they were producing 50% of their oil from this region (Gibson, 2010). In 1955 USA facilitated the establishment of Baghdad pact, an alliance between Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries to contain soviet as well as Arab nationalism and coordinate military, economic and political affairs in the region. At this time, King Faisal leader of Iraq was a reliable ally to the Americans. However, with the influence of Gamel Abdel Nasser Faisal was ousted by kassim leading to an end in the Baghdad pact. In 1963 members of Baath party ousted Kassim. American intelligence operatives began to cooperate with Ba’ath officers, providing them with names of alleged communists and other radicals. However, after some time the Americans started to support separatist Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq in 1970 (Gibson, 2010).During Iraq-Iran War United States found assisting Iraq’s to defeat the Tehran government by offering the intelligence, weapons and technology. After the war ended, Iraq found itself with high amounts of debt that could only be paid by oil exports. The world oil prices were low due to high supply of oil from Middle East countries especially Kuwait. Saddam suspected that Kuwait was using modern technology to siphon Iraq’s oil.
The first Persian Gulf War (January 1991-Desert Storm)
The Persian Gulf War code name desert storm’ was because of Iraq invasion of Kuwait. There were three main causes of this war. Firstly, Iraq considered Kuwait as part of their territory, secondly the rich oil deposits in the ill-defined border between Iraq and Kuwait brought constant allegations that Kuwait oilrigs were siphoning Iraq’s oil and thirdly the fall out between Iran-Iraq wars strained Baghdad-Kuwait relations. The War began on August 2 1990, when Iraq military invaded and seized a small town in Kuwait. Within days, the international community led by United States demanded immediate withdrawal of Iraq forces. According to Schwartzkopf (1992), after protracted negotiation, it bore no fruits; the allied forces were forced to start bombing Iraq and its forces in Kuwait. To counter air attack, Saddam ordered the launching of SCUD missiles to both Israel and Saudi Arabia. By this, he hoped that Israel would counter attack hence turning Arab nations against them. The United States defended Israel cities from scud missiles using patriot missile batteries that shot the scuds in the air. February 1991, allies launched ground war and by that time, the Iraq forces were cut from supplies, and they easily gave up rather than fight. Those who decided to resist could not match the sophisticated British and American weapons against their archaic soviet made weapons. On February 27th Bush ordered a cease fire and surviving troops were allowed to escape to Iraq. On March 3 Iraq accepted the terms of cease-fire and the war ended (Schwartzkopf, 1992)
In July 1990, The Iraq diplomat met with United States officials who assured them that they would not meddle in border disputes, this, to Iraq’s was a green light to enter Kuwait. Invasion of Kuwait by Iraq did not go well with Britons. They marshaled support of the international community through sanctions to Iraq that led to a warning by UN to Iraq government to withdraw or face an attack. After failure to withdraw and subsequent invasion, the allied forces led by United States of America defeated Iraq. The United Nations imposed sanctions four days after Iraq invasion of Kuwait. These sanctions were originally meant to force Saddam withdraw from Kuwait, pay reparations and disclose weapons of mass destruction (WMD). At first the united nations security council imposed trade restrictions but later the sanctions stopped all trade and financial resources allowing medicine and in humanitarian foodstuffs only. Some scholars and historians have argued that the sanctions had an indirect goal of removal of Saddam Hussein. In 1991, Paul Lewis wrote in the New York Times: “Ever since the trade embargo was imposed on Aug. 6, after the invasion of Kuwait, the United States has argued against any premature relaxation in the belief that by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.”However, it should be noted that these sanctions further entrenched Saddam’s rule. These sanctions had an effect of impoverishing Iraq people. The rate of malnutrition increased; diseases and lack of medical supplies was reported during this era. The economy that relied heavily on exportation of oil was ruined. It is estimated that more than 170000 children died as a direct result of these sanctions.
As results of aforementioned effects of sanctions, The United Nations passed several resolutions that allowed Iraq to export oil in exchange for food. This resolution proposed allowing up to $1.6b of oil, the revenue from which it would be paid to UN administered account. August 15th 1991 another resolution was passed, that demanded Iraq complies with weapon inspection. Other resolutions included import monitoring system by Unscom and IAEA and Iraq officials who had obstructed weapon inspectors was banned from travelling.
The Second Gulf War-March 2003
The second Iraq War was fought from March 2003 to December 2011. The United States and British government had claimed prior to attack, that weapons of mass destruction were still hidden in Iraq that was a threat to their national security. The United Nations Security council passed a resolution requiring the Iraq government to cooperate fully with weapon inspectors to verify that they did not have weapons of mass destruction. The council found no evidence of weapons but could not verify the accuracy of Iraq’s weapon declarations. Some US officials accused Saddam of harboring Al Qaeda, human rights abuses and allegations that the Iraq government was supporting Palestinian suicide bombers. However, no conclusive evidence was found to link Saddam with weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties with Al Qaeda, US government supported by British government invaded Iraq. According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George Bush and, the coalition mission were “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”The invasion was preceded by airstrike on the presidential palace in Baghdad on 19th march 2003 followed by the incursion by ground forces to Basra province the following day. The war continued until the capture of Tikrit, Saddam hometown on 15thApril and Saddam went into hiding. On December 2003, Saddam Hussein was capture in the town of ad-Dawr Tikrit bringing to an end his regime.
Critical Outcomes of the War
There are various views on the results of the war. Some believe that the war was a victory against terrorism while others believe it strained relations with the Middle East regions, therefore, increasing chances of more Arabs joining terrorist groups to avenge the death of their loved ones. The Iraq cost United States of America $ 800 billion. When long-term benefits are paid to dead and injured soldiers the cost will raise to about $1 trillion dollars. The Iraq war has also led to destabilization effect of the Middle East region and Hoffman, (1998), the only winner in the war is Iran where majority of the population is made up of Shiite Muslims. This has alarmed Sunni led countries such as Saudi Arabia. Sectarian cleansing has taken part in various cities of Iraq with Sunni and Shiite Muslims taking over neighborhoods and driving out residents of opposite sect. Kurdish and Arab tension also ran high. It is crucial to note that democracy has improved in Iraq. In 2010 parliamentary elections, they were regarded as being generally fair though voting broke down to sectarian lines. However, though the Americans have declared the Iraq war over, there is a deep feeling among observers that violence and Islamist terrorism is far from over.
War on Terror; September 11
The twin bombing of world trade Centre in New York on September 11 by suicide bombers are still etched in memory. Trying to understanding why terrorists engage in their acts is both controversial and confusing. Critics argue that it is futile to try to understand cold-blooded killers that injure and maim innocent people. In July 2005, presidential advisor Karl Rove criticized liberals for trying to understand the reasons for 9/11 attacks. The search is equally confusing since the usual suspect of poverty, religious devotion or lack of political representation adequately explains the inhumane acts.
Hoffman (1998) argues that oppression; injustice and personal trauma produce dual desire for escapism and revenge leading those physically and psychologically sick to volunteer to suicidal and terrorist activities. There are those who point out the strategic reason of terrorism in the context occupation and asymmetry in power between the occupied and occupier(Hoffman, 1998) This scenario is best seen in cases where Al Qaeda have vowed to attack any nations that has American interests or is its ally. Terrorism is intended not only to kill but also as an effective communication to the targeted country as well as the international community. The September 11 attacks were meant to send a message to the American who has been accused by Al Qaeda of meddling in Middle East affairs. There are times when terrorism has been used to enhance the legitimacy of the organization. After the daring attacks on the world trade Center, all the attention were diverted to Al Qaeda and most terrorist groups wanted to identify with them. This may have had a psychological sense of satisfaction among the terrorists.
The Activities of United States of America in Middle East have left more questions than answers. After the Second World War, its interests in the Middle East continued to grow amidst threats from Islamist groups in the region (Ahmend, 2003). Since the administration, of Bush senior, American foreign policy has been drafted with Iraq in mind. During the president bush era, Iraq, Iran and N. Korea were labeled axis of evil as they posed the greatest threat to America interests in Middle East. Israel a key ally of America also faces the same threats, with Iran vowing to wipe them out of the earth. Therefore, United States in partnership with British government in an effort to consolidate their influence decided to do away with the increasing threats from Saddam Government. The weapons of mass destruction charges were just an excuse to invade the region in order to exploit and protect their interests as well as opening new frontiers (Ahmend, 2003) After spending more than $800billion in Iraq, the war failed to find the weapons of mass destruction that Baghdad government were alleged to conceal. The war costly and it caused misery, anguish and deaths to thousands of Iraq population as well as American army. It is my opinion that the war was motivated more by economic benefits rather than taking democracy to the Middle East or getting rid of chemical weapons that could not be found after the Saddam government was toppled. Economic theory clearly describes this war. This theory states that Wars begin as a pursuit for markets for natural resources and for wealth. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was quoted as having said “Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry. Iraq had oil that United States of America wanted and considering there was an increasing trend in gas prices; oil was the major reason for evasion. One of the major proponent of War, Dick Cheney owned companies such as Halliburton Company that were directly involved in the drilling of oil in Middle East. It is also true that he is a significant shareholder in a weapon producing company that supplies US army with weapons. Therefore, this was never about weapons of mass destruction nor was it about democratizing Iraq, it was all about natural resources in Iraq and Middle East.