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Fifteen years after: on Iraq war (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II)

Endless Iraq war
Fifteen years ago, a few weeks into the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a 39-foot statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s al-Fardous Square was brought down under the watch of American troops. It was an iconic moment that highlighted more than just the end of the Ba’ath party’s decades-long reign. Within a month, U.S. President George W. Bush had declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq. But one and a half decades later, the country is still fighting the ghosts of the destructive war.

Lack of legitimacy

The war, which began on March 20, 2003, had no legitimate basis, being founded on misleading intelligence information, if not downright lies. The U.S. did not have a UN mandate to use force against Iraq. Repeated attempts by the Bush administration to get Security Council approval failed.

Fought on false claims
But the U.S. went ahead with forming an international coalition that included the U.K., and attacking Iraq, citing mainly two reasons — that the Saddam administration possessed weapons of mass destruction and that it had ties with al-Qaeda. Both claims turned out to be false. The occupying troops failed to find any weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, while al-Qaeda in Iraq was actually founded after the invasion.

Disastrous post war management

The post-war management of Iraq was disastrous. The U.S. first disbanded the Iraqi military, leaving tens of thousands of soldiers jobless overnight, which posed a security threat. There was no coherent strategy to stabilise post-Saddam Iraq or to address the sectarian power struggle to fill the vacuum.

Massive death and destruction

It is difficult to see what the U.S. and its allies achieved from a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions. More importantly, by destroying the state apparatus in Iraq, Washington threw a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country into utter chaos.

Rise of ISIS

It was in this chaos that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi found the fertile ground to build his terrorist empire which, after his death and under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, transformed itself into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In effect, the war got rid of a ruthless dictator, but left the country in a worse and much more dangerous situation — in fact, in disarray and perpetual violence.

Present position of Iraq
Iraq now has a functional government, but with deepening sectarian and ethnic fault lines.

Despite the humanitarian and political tragedy that is still unfolding, none of the architects of the war has been taken to task. No action has been taken even based on the U.K.’s Chilcot report, which took apart the arguments used to justify the war. The Iraq war will remain a reminder of not only one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of the century but also of a grave failure of the international system.

(Adapted from the Hindu)

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