Iraqi soldiers at a military parade in Baghdad, January 2024. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office / Reuters

Most Iraqi prime ministers serving in the past two decades have at some point asked the U.S. military to leave their country. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the first public call for a U.S. withdrawal in 2005, followed by Nouri al-Maliki in 2008, Adel Abdul-Mahdi in 2020, and Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the current incumbent, in December 2023. For much of this period, these requests have originated with the Iranian-backed Islamist militia groups operating in Iraq, which have pushed the country’s political leaders to demand a drawdown of U.S. forces.

Bilateral negotiations over the past 15 years or so have dramatically reduced the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqis gather in the capital Baghdad's Tahrir square for a solidarity march with the Palestinians, on 15 May, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

It has been 20 years since the United States and United Kingdom invaded Iraq with the promise of peace and stability. ‘The removal of Saddam Hussein is an integral part of winning the war against terror,’ said President George W Bush, adding that ‘a free Iraq will make it much less likely that we’ll find violence in that immediate neighbourhood. A free Iraq will make it more likely we’ll get a Middle Eastern peace.’

But instead of stabilizing, Iraq fell back into cycles of conflict, with violence becoming part of everyday life for ordinary citizens. The ripple effects shook the region too, and events in Israel and Palestine today remind us that the US-led invasion did not create a more peaceful neighbourhood.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elizabeth Tsurkov in Istanbul in 2017. Ahmad Mohamad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It’s a beautiful summer day at my in-laws’ house in Los Angeles. The sun is out. My kids are playing on the grass with their grandparents, a rare treat since we live in Jerusalem. But I can’t enjoy it. One of my oldest friends, Liza —  Elizabeth Tsurkov — is being held by a militia in Iraq, and I’m terrified.

“She’s still alive”, the news reports and the Israeli government both say.


Liza, a Russian-Israeli doctoral student at Princeton University, traveled to Iraq this winter to conduct field work for her research into human rights and sectarianism in the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, speaking in Baghdad, January 2022. Ahmed Saad / Reuters

On the surface, Iraq appears to have achieved a measure of stability. The country finally has a functioning government after a yearlong political vacuum. Terrorist violence has fallen to its lowest rate since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Even the country’s Iran-backed militias—long a source of tension with Washington—have significantly reduced their attacks on U.S. diplomatic and military sites. In a May 4 speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan credited a U.S strategy built on the “twin pillars of deterrence and diplomacy” for the decrease in attacks on U.S. interests.

As Sullivan’s speech illustrates, President Joe Biden’s national security team sees a quiet Middle East as an end unto itself—including in Iraq.…  Seguir leyendo »

Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, Baghdad, June 2003. Foreign Affairs Illustration / Reuters

The history of Iraq was already being rewritten by L. Paul Bremer on his flight into Baghdad. It was May 2003, and Bremer, an experienced former ambassador and bureaucratic player—he’d served as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s chief of staff—was just weeks into his new role as presidential envoy to the freshly liberated country. After a flurry of briefings in Washington and a final Oval Office meeting with President George W. Bush, “Jerry”, as everyone called Bremer, had flown into Qatar and on to Kuwait and then Iraq. Bremer’s diplomatic career had taken him to most Middle Eastern capitals, but this was the first time he’d ever seen Baghdad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi Kurdish men carry fire torches, as they celebrate Nowruz Day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the new year, in the town of Akra near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq March 20, 2019. REUTERS / Ahmed Jadallah

Nowruz, the new year for Persians, Kurds and many others, marks the arrival of spring, a time of joyous renewal. For Iraqi Kurds, the occasion is bittersweet, because it was springtime 35 years ago, at the tail end of the Iran-Iraq war, when the Iraqi army swept through the Kurdish countryside, razing villages and massacring the inhabitants. Some 100,000 men, women and children were systematically murdered at sites in Iraq’s southern desert during what Saddam Hussein’s regime called the Anfal counter-insurgency operation. Today, twenty years after the U.S. invasion, the Kurds are free of such repression, and rural communities are slowly coming back to life.…  Seguir leyendo »

Siento vergüenza ajena cuando se acusa al Gobierno de España, entonces presidido por Aznar, de intervenir en la «ilegal guerra de Irak» y «contra la ONU» Recientemente se ha vuelto a escuchar en el Congreso de los Diputados siguiendo la habitual trampa del Gobierno de hacer oposición a la oposición. ¡Y retrocediendo veinte años! Señalaré hechos que desmontan esa manipulación tan reiterada.

La II guerra de Irak de 2003 era una reedición de la I guerra del Golfo de 1990-1991. Se produjo porque Sadam Husein no cumplió las condiciones impuestas por la coalición vencedora. El paraguas de la ONU estaba vigente durante el periodo 1990-2003.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman counts Iraq dinars at the headquarters of the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad's Shorja district on 9 March 2023. Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

Iraq has once again been hit by US financial restrictions, this time aimed at restricting specific banks and individuals from trading in the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI)’s daily currency auctions. The timing of these economic measures can in part be attributed to increased tensions between the US and Iran, that are once again being played out in Iraq. However, the elites targeted by the sanctions are finding ways around them, while the real impact is being felt by ordinary Iraqis, whose lives are made even more difficult as currency fluctuations make essential goods, like food and medicine, more expensive and less accessible.…  Seguir leyendo »

Relying on weak intelligence for invading Iraq has had a negative impact on US and UK credibility with several consequences that persist to this day.

20 years on from the fateful decision to invade Iraq, it is generally accepted that the US and UK governments overstated the evidence available for them to justify military action. The central claim to defend invading Iraq was that the country had continued its illicit nuclear weapons programme and had retained illegal stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. None of these claims supported an imminent threat justification nor could any hidden caches of WMD be found by the US Iraq Survey Group after the invasion.

In the US, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney hinted at additional evidence which could not be shared publicly to suggest that if only people knew what the government knew, they would agree that Iraq posed a significant threat to the West and needed to be disarmed.…  Seguir leyendo »

The American-led invasion of Iraq, which took place 20 years ago this week, set in motion a series of commitments to the Middle East, which have shaped the limits and tempered the expectations of American policy in the region and beyond. The 2003 invasion, a tactical success, gave way to a second act that laid bare how unprepared the United States was to win the peace. It managed the problem, which grew increasingly intractable, through a series of uninformed (or misinformed) decisions, the way it always has: by throwing resources at the problem.

Burdened by this history, and facing the need to reshape foreign policy in the light of challenges posed by China’s increased engagement in the region and the raw aggression of Russia, the Biden administration has a new vision for policy in the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. President George W. Bush announcing the start of the Iraq War, Washington, D.C., March 2003. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Twenty years ago this month, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, the most important foreign policy decision of his eight years in office and, arguably, the most significant since the end of the Cold War. The U.S.-led invasion—and the insurgency, counterinsurgency, and sectarian strife that followed—led to the deaths of over 200,000 Iraqis and the displacement of at least nine million. More than 9,000 U.S. soldiers and contractors sacrificed their lives in the war and it cost U.S. taxpayers over $2 trillion. The invasion besmirched the United States’ reputation, fueled a sense of grievance among Muslims, complicated the "global war on terror”, divided the American people, and sundered trust in government.…  Seguir leyendo »

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the mismanagement of what followed significantly diminished American power, making our security and prosperity more difficult and costly to sustain. They were mistakes of historic proportions. Yet they were not America’s first significant foreign-policy debacle, nor the first time the United States has been a flawed beacon of its values. In many ways, the failures of the Iraq war mirror some of those of the Vietnam war, and have already had significant repercussions in domestic debates and international attitudes. But, just like Vietnam, they have not meant, and they do not mean, an end to America’s global dominance.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protesting the US occupation, Baghdad, 2008. Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

I first visited Iraq in October 2002, barely a year after the United States attacked Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I went there as a photojournalist, invited by the government of Saddam Hussein to cover the presidential referendum in which, according to Iraqi officials, 100 percent of the population voted to extend his rule. It was my first experience working under the supervision of government minders, without freedom of movement, only allowed to cover pro-regime events. The US invasion already seemed inevitable after the passage that month of the joint resolution authorizing “use of military force against Iraq”.

Over the next two decades I covered conflicts big and small in Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal, the former Soviet Union, Lebanon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I spent more time working in Iraq than anywhere else.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tropas estadounidenses y kuwaitíes cierran la frontera entre Kuwait e Irak tras el paso de los últimos convoyes militares el 18 de diciembre de 2011, poniendo fin a la Operación Nuevo Amanecer, sucesora de la Operación Libertad Iraquí iniciada en marzo de 2003. Wikimedia Commons / Corporal Jordan Johnson, United States Army

Ocultos tras el protagonismo que acapara la guerra que se está librando en Ucrania, se cumplen estos días veinte años del comienzo de la operación militar que puso fin al despotismo de Saddam Hussein, que alteró irremediablemente el equilibrio de poder en Oriente Medio y que sacudió los cimientos del sistema internacional de una forma aún no totalmente vislumbrada.

La operación Iraqi Freedom fue una deslumbrante ofensiva convencional ejecutada con notable pericia profesional por una fuerza conjunto-combinada liderada por Estados Unidos. Nada pudo hacer ante su superioridad un poco motivado enemigo iraquí compuesto por una amalgama de unidades del ejército regular, de la Guardia Republicana y de milicias improvisadas, que trató inútilmente de contener el torrente ofensivo que anegaba el país.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi soldiers surveying the aftermath of an ISIS suicide car bomb in East Mosul in 2017, years after the Iraq war ended. Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

It was supposed to be a farewell party.

Young soldiers and their barely older civilian government colleagues were dressed in swimming trunks, cannonballing into a palace pool that had once been a symbol of the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein’s power. Other young Americans were chowing down on corn on the cob and burgers. I was one of only two journalists on hand, having been sneaked in by a friend who was working with the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority, which was the transitional government in Iraq for the first year after the U.S.-led invasion.

It was emblematic but not surprising that there were no Iraqis there for the occasion: what was being billed as a celebration of the formal end of the Iraq war.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of the Iraqi Federal Police stands guard near the 17 Ramadan Mosque in Baghdad on 9 March 2023. 20 years after the US-led invasion, the oil-rich country remains deeply scarred by the conflict. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

It is now 20 years since the United States-led coalition invaded Iraq with the intent to remove the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and usher in democracy.

Despite the hundreds of billions spent for this effort, Iraq is still not a functioning democracy and continues to struggle to build coherent state institutions. Instead, the invasion and subsequent occupation unleashed wave after wave of crisis, from the rise of salafi-jihadi organizations like Al-Qaeda or ISIS to fallout from the US confrontation with Iran.

Today, conflict continues to be an everyday reality in Iraq, from armed groups competing for territory and influence, to the structural violence of a corrupt system where political elites pocket state funds meant for the provision of basic services, leading, for instance, to the proliferation in the healthcare system of fake medicine.…  Seguir leyendo »

An man reading a newspaper in Los Angeles, March 2003. Jim Ruymen / Reuters

Twenty years ago, the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and eliminate the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) officials said he had. Getting the American public to support a war against a country that had not attacked the United States required the administration to tell a convincing story of why the war was necessary. For that, it needed the press.

I was Knight Ridder’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief at the time, and among other duties handled our national security coverage. This gave me a front-row seat to Washington’s march to war and the media’s role in it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters inside the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, July 2022. Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters

Twenty years ago this month, the United States and a handful of allies invaded Iraq, promising to unseat the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and build a new, flourishing democracy. They succeeded in quickly bringing down Saddam, but conjuring a democratic Iraq proved to be much more difficult. Instead, what emerged after 2003 was a political system grounded in corruption, self-dealing, and brutal oppression at times reminiscent of the violence of the previous regime.

On paper, Iraq in the last 20 years has looked like democracy, staging five national elections and seeing five largely peaceful handovers of power between different political parties and prime ministers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two decades ago, on March 19, 2003, then-President George W. Bush ordered the US invasion of Iraq. A week later, near Najaf, a city in southern Iraq, then-US Major General David Petraeus turned to the American journalist Rick Atkinson and asked him a simple question: “Tell me how this ends”. That remains an excellent question.

The Amna Suraka Museum, which was once a prison and torture site used by dictator Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agents in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, is a good place to try to contemplate the legacy of the US invasion and, perhaps, an ancillary question: Was it all worth it?…  Seguir leyendo »

Rose Gentle, left, at a news conference held by relatives of military personnel killed during the Iraq War, after listening to the Iraq inquiry report on 6 July 2016 in London. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Although it’s 20 years since the Iraq war started, and coming up to 19 years since my son was killed, it still feels like yesterday to me. Anniversaries don’t mean much except another year without Gordon. It’s just as hard as it was in the beginning.

Gordon never really had an ambition to join the forces. He was just a normal boy: full of fun, loved his sisters to bits, never got into trouble. He loved climbing, so if you were looking for Gordon you’d look up the nearest tree. He’d have his pals round every weekend, and they built a shed in a neighbour’s garden and nicknamed themselves the shed heads.…  Seguir leyendo »