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The Iraq War: Background and Issues Essay

Background of the Iraq war

The genesis of the Iraq war can be traced back to the cold war period. The term ‘cold war’ refers to the persistent military and political anxiety that was experienced by countries in the Eastern Bloc, including Russia and Warsaw pact allies and the Western Bloc countries such as the United States (US), Japan, and NATO member states.

The cold war temporarily divided the Second World War alliances against Germany, leaving the US and Russia as the world’s superpowers. The two (US and Russia) held different views about capitalism, communism, liberal democracy, and totalitarianism. Many historical scholars disagree on the exact period when the cold war started and ended. However, the most commonly cited period is between 1946 and 1991.

During the cold war, the entire Middle East was affiliated to the Eastern Bloc. After the end of the cold war, the US continued its presence in the Middle East and has been intensively involved in the conflict between Israel and Palestine where it has been supporting Israel.

The fallout between the US and Iraq was initiated by the invasion of Iran by Iraq in 1990. After the end of the gulf war, President George H. Bush made a resolution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which was an escalation of the gulf war and as a result, he chose to support Israel to reward it for its support in stopping the invasion of Iran by Iraq.

Using the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR), George H. Bush outlined a framework for peace which culminated into the launching of the Oslo peace treaty in 1991 (Migdalovitz 218). The Oslo peace treaty continued under President Clinton who emphasized the need for regional leaders to make peace instead of war (Migdalovitz 219).

After the Hebron protocol of 1997, the US became an indispensable and respected agent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Edwin and shaul 237). President Clinton mediated the 1998 negotiations at Camp David, where the two countries (Israel and Palestine) failed to reach a peace deal.

When he assumed power in 2001, President George W. Bush played a less prominent role by limiting the involvement of the US in the peace efforts because he believed that a lasting peace deal was only possible if the two countries were committed. After the September 11 terrorism attacks, George W. Bush focused on the peace process from the perspective of war on terrorism (Copson 54).

The ‘what’ of the Iraq war

After the end of the gulf war, the relationship between the US and Iraq was characterized by conflict which culminated into the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies namely the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland. The war lasted between March and May 2003. As a result of the war, there were massive violations of human rights especially the killing of innocent Iraqi women, children, and the elderly.

The invasion also exposed many Iraq citizens to various hardships such as lack of food, shelter, healthcare, and education. Freedoms of worship and movement were also curtailed by the war. The war also culminated into the hanging of the former Iraq President Saddam Hussein. Many human rights activists have argued that Saddam Hussein was not accorded a fair trial. In total, 170 US soldiers were killed and over 7000 Iraq citizens killed.

The Iraq war also had serious economic implications on both countries. For instance, the US spent a tune of $ 1.7 trillion to sustain its military in Iraq for a couple of years. It also spent heavily in the reconstruction of Iraq by ensuring that there was a democratically elected government to replace the dictatorial government which had been in place for decades.

The cost of the war is projected to escalate to $ 6 trillion in a couple of years to come especially due to expenses of maintaining victims of the war and their families. Iraq’s economic infrastructure was completely destroyed.The destruction had serious implications, the major one being increased levels of poverty. Economic analysts have argued that it may take decades to rebuild the Iraq economy to the levels before the invasion by the US.

The ‘why’ of the Iraq war

Initially, the invasion of Iraq by the US was on the basis of eradication of weapons of mass destruction. But when it turned out that there were no such weapons, the US and its allies termed the invasion as being aimed at freeing the Iraq citizens from the leadership of Saddam Hussein, who they termed as a dictator.

After the September 11 terrorism attacks, Iraq was included in the list of countries which were termed by President George W. Bush as ‘the axis of evil’ in that they were not only perceived as supporting terrorism but also perpetuating other criminal activities like manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.

Many political analysts have differed on what exactly made the US and its allies to invade Iraq. However, there has been a general agreement among them that the Iraq war had more to do with economic sabotage and aggression by the US. When Saddam Husein took power, Iraq witnessed high rates of economic growth especially due to its oil deposits.

The growing popularity of Iraq in the Middle East was perceived by the US as a potential threat to the influence of the US in the Middle East. As a result, the US took the advantage of fighting terrorism to sabotage the economy of Iraq and tame its growing popularity in the Middle East.

The sabotage of Iraq’s economy by the US and its allies may be described using the international relation theory of realism. The theory looks at states as the key actors in international politics. It is based on the works of historical writers such Rousseau, Machiavelli, and Thucydides.

The main argument of realism is that international relations are characterized by anarchy, in which nations interact for their selfish interests. Realism therefore negates the mutual understanding of nations in their relations and puts more emphasis on the struggle of nations to amass as much resources as possible in order to advance their own interests. With realism therefore, economic success is the guiding principle in international relations.

There have been serious allegations that the US was involved in massive siphoning of oil from Iraq during the war. Political analysts argue that when the military operations were underway, some troops from the US were involved in siphoning of oil due to absence of law and order in Iraq. Critics of the US have described its supremacy as not genuine by arguing that the supremacy is based on the exploitation of resources of other countries.

After the Iraq war, the US was actively involved in establishment of a democratic government in Iraq. This involvement of the US in internal affairs of Iraq has been described as an act of aggression. As if that was not enough, the US went ahead and filed serious charges against Saddam Hussein which resulted to a death sentence against him. The US was involved in the capturing of Saddam Hussein from his hideout and his subsequent hanging in December 2006.

The invasion of Iraq by the US can be described using idealism, which is a political philosophy that entails the advancement of a particular ideology (political, social or economic) both at home and abroad, with the aim of promoting and safeguarding the interests of citizens of the home country and those of citizens of other countries. A good example is the establishment of a democratically elected government in Iraq by the US.

The Obama administration has prioritized the stabilization of Iraq by withdrawing its troops and promoting democratic governance in Iraq so that it may recover from the 2003 invasion. It has also been working towards the stabilization of Afghanistan by ensuring that there is reconciliation between Karzai’s government and the Taliban, promoting political reforms, and seeking regional diplomacy between Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.

According to international law, no sovereign country has the right to intervene in the matters of another sovereign country. While the US is very notorious for meddling with other countries’ internal affairs, it has refused to compromise its sovereignty. For instance, even though it played a significant role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it has tirelessly fought to ensure that it is not subjected to the jurisdictions of the court.

It has also refused to be prosecuted for any violations of international law which occur as it pursues its economic and political interests abroad. The US has relentlessly taken measures to ensure that the court’s jurisdictions do not apply to citizens of the US who commit crimes against humanity by arguing that the US has the capacity to prosecute such citizens.

Many political analysts have argued that the ‘Arab spring’ uprisings witnessed in the Middle East were a manifestation of the resistance of aggression of the US. Even though the US did not invade any of the affected countries, there were indications that it had vested economic and political interests. The reason is that it was perceived to support the interests of the ousted leaders except in Libya and Syria where it supported the rebels (Copson 56).

The difference between the involvement of the US in the Iraq war and the uprisings is that in the case of the uprisings, the US did not act directly but through proxies to push its interests. Since all the affected countries had many oil reserves, the presence of oil was a key factor of interest to the US.

There have been allegations that the US was actively involved in instigating the violence to create conflict and get an opportunity to siphon oil from those countries. The US also sent troops to some of the affected countries just the way it did in Iraq. It did so to pretend that it was against the violence but in real sense, it was in support of the violence.

Works Cited

Copson, R. The Iraq War: Background and Issues, New York: Novinka Books, 2003. Print.

Edwin, C, and G. Shaul. The Search for Israeli-Arab Peace: Learning From the Past and Building Trust, Durham, NC: Sussex Academic Press, 2007. Print.

Migdalovitz, C. Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U. S. Policy, Petersburg, FL: DIANE Publishing, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Iraq War: Background and Issues." March 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-iraq-war-background-and-issues/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Iraq War: Background and Issues'. 26 March.

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