United States PresidentGeorge W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003. Since then, U.S., Iraqi, and allied forces from many countries have tried to maintain security, restore stability, and rebuild the country. However, Iraqi and foreign militants have carried out many attacks against these military and security forces, as well as against civilian targets. Most of the militants opposethe presence of U.S. and allied foreign forces in Iraq. The Iraq War has remained a major challenge in the presidency of Barack Obama, who took office in 2009.
The U.S. government refers to the war as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some sources use the term war to refer only to the period of combat during March and April 2003.
Background to the war
A coalition of 39 nations, organized mainly bythe United States and the United Nations (UN), defeated Iraq in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. That war had erupted after Hussein's forces invaded and occupied Kuwait, Iraq's neighbor to the south, in 1990. After the invasion, the United Nations Security Council had authorized the coalition to expel Iraq from Kuwait.
Illegal weapons. As part of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Persian GulfWar of 1991, Iraq agreed to destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction—that is, biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons—and any facilities it had for producing such weapons. However, in the years following the war, Iraq did not fully comply with the terms of the agreement. On a number of occasions, it failed to cooperate with UN teams sent to inspect suspected weapons sites. Starting in 1998,the Iraqi government refused to allow UN weapons inspectors into the country.
In 2001 and 2002, President Bush repeatedly claimed that Hussein and his government were a threat to the security of the United States and other countries. The Bush administration accused Hussein of illegally developing and possessing weapons of mass destruction. It also argued that links existed between Hussein'sgovernment and terrorist organizations, including al-Qa`ida, the group responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 (see Qa`ida, Al-; September 11 terrorist attacks). However, many experts doubted that there was any working relationship between Iraq and al-Qa`ida.
Debate within the UN. Bush said that if the UN failed to force Iraq to disarm, the United States mightlaunch a military attack against the country. In response, Iraq began negotiating conditions for a return of the UN weapons inspectors. In November 2002, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding the resumption of weapons inspections and threatening serious consequences if Iraq failed to follow UN terms on disarmament. Iraq allowed weapons inspectors to return to the country later thatmonth. However, in the months that followed, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries charged that Hussein was not cooperating with the inspectors. The United States maintained its threat of possible military action against Iraq.
Members of the UN Security Council disagreed on whether to take military action. The United States was the main supporter of such action. The UnitedKingdom and Spain also favored the use of force. However, France, Germany, Russia, China, and some other countries argued for more time to seek a diplomatic solution. The United States decided to move toward war despite the disagreement among the Security Council members.
On March 17, 2003 (U.S. time), Bush stated that if Hussein and his sons did not leave Iraq within 48 hours,...