Here's How The US Has Been Getting Iraq Wrong For Over 30 Years

An Iraqi terrorist group so radical that it was actually expelled from Al Qaeda’s global network is in the midst of a major offensive. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has taken over Iraq’s second-largest city, and is now pushing into the Baghdad area.

In the past decade, the has U.S. lost thousands of soldiers in Iraq in an attempt to make sure that something like this couldn’t happen.

But America’s rocky relationship with Iraq — and its failure to achieve its objectives in the country — didn’t start 11 years ago, with the beginning of the war that would eventually oust Saddam Hussein.

It didn’t even start in 1990, following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm.

In fact, the two countries began their present-day entanglement over 30 years ago, thanks to Washington’s push to rein in an intransigent Iran that was fresh off of its Islamic Revolution.

Policy planners thought the key to maintaining control over the resource-rich Middle East started with shaking Saddam’s hand.

With jihadists running rampant and Iraq descending into chaos, things haven’t exactly worked out as planned.

The year was 1980. America had just lost a key Middle Eastern ally because of the Iranian Revolution, with overthrew the country's pro-western monarchy.

U.S. officials and media began publicly considering Iraq as a new top ally in the Persian Gulf.

From left are Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Carter, and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Source: Teicher, Howard. Twin Pillars To Desert Storm, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1993

Meanwhile, Iranian calls for a Shia-led coup in Iraq only increased tensions in the region, and caused a series of border skirmishes.

Sensing Iranian weakness and a degree of international support, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded his hated next door neighbour.

Despite widespread reports of Iraqi chemical weapons use, Reagan pulled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein off the list of known terrorists in 1982.

The U.S. began to openly support Iraq, through massive loans, military equipment, and satellite intelligence on Iranian troop movements.

Iraq's use of chemical weapons 'was not a matter of deep strategic concern' compared to U.S. fears that the Iranian revolution could spill into Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, it became clear by 1986 that the two countries were stuck at a costly stalemate.

By the end of the war in 1988, Iraq owed at least $US60 billion to Britain, America, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed National Security Directive 26 establishing the continued flow of Persian Gulf oil and a 'stable' relationship with Iraq as matters of national security.

America's ally, however, could not be controlled. In 1990, with reconstruction costs rising, Saddam invaded Kuwait, claiming the country had made off with billions in stolen oil.

'This aggression will not stand,' George H.W. Bush said in response to Iraq's invasion of its neighbour. Soon, military operations were underway to push Saddam out of Kuwait.

America dubbed it 'The Persian Gulf War' -- the same name they gave to the Iran-Iraq War just 10 years earlier.

U.S. troops successfully ousted Saddam from Kuwait, but pulled up short of invading Baghdad.

Bill Clinton took office in 1992. In 1994 he imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iraq.


In 1995, the U.N. introduced its 'Food for Oil' program, allowing Iraq to sell its otherwise-sanctioned oil resources on the world market in exchange for food.

Two consecutive U.N. envoys, Hans Von Spok and Denis Halliday, resigned over the effect sanctions had on citizens.

In 1998, George H. W. Bush wrote about not taking Baghdad: 'We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed ... Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.'

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz committed to finding the 'Iraq connection.'


In March 2003, America and its 'coalition of the willing' invaded Iraq.

Three weeks later, George Bush claimed 'Mission Accomplished.'

American Iraq administrator Paul Bremer pushed for Iraqi debt to the U.S. to be forgiven, and asked for immunity for Iraq's other debt, which had reached a total of $US100 billion.

On July 24, 2004, U.S. Army Special Forces pulled Saddam out of a 'spider hole.' He would be executed 30 months later.

When president Barack Obama failed to get a status of forces agreement negotiated with the Iraqi government in 2011, America's military was effectively kicked out of the country.

Roughly eight years of war had caused an estimated 190,000 direct war deaths. This included more than 4,500 American service members.

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman HM1 Richard Barnett, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, holds an Iraqi child in central Iraq on March 29, 2003.

(Business Insider)

In total, this war cost America $US2.2 trillion, and possibly $US6 trillion in future interest payments.

Two years later, on the day of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, a car bomb killed 25. With ISIS's recent gains, the country is descending into another round of widespread sectarian violence.

Now that you know the whole story of Iraq ...

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