On March 19, 2003, American
and British forces began the Third Persian Gulf War, a conflict which
became popularly known as "The Iraq War." The U.S. government
referred to this conflict "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Regardless of
what it is called, this conflict is by far the first truly major war
of the 21st Century. While considered by many to be another part of
the "War on Terror," it is in many ways separate and unique in its
own right. In scope of preparation and potential consequences, the
new war in Iraq by far overshadows the earlier invasion of
History Guy Website considers this the Third Persian
Gulf War, following two previous major international wars
involving Iraq in the Persian Gulf region. The First Persian
Gulf War lasted from 1980 to 1988 and pitted Iraq against
Iran. The Second Persian Gulf War began in 1990 with
Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait and ended in 1991 with a
Coalition of nations under United Nations authority and led by the
United States which forcibly ejected the Iraqi military from
on the menu bar below to navigate this page.
NAMES: The Iraq War, The War on Iraq, "Operation Iraqi Freedom",
The Second U.S.-Iraq War, Gulf War II (US), "Operation Telic", 5th
Anglo-Iraq War (UK), "Operation Falconer" (AUS)
Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates,
Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
**Nations and groups in
denote actual combat
involvement thus far.
Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam)
& Komala Islami Kurdistan (Islamic Society of Kurdistan)
Iranian-supported Shia terrorist/guerrilla
March 19, 2003 -Coalition bombing of Iraq began
OF CONFLICT: Inter-State
(Related conflicts which occurred before)
There are several basic
reasons for the second major war between a United States-led
coalition and Iraq. First, there was the lingering tension and
hostility left over from the Gulf
War of 1991, in
which Iraqi occupation troops were forced out of Kuwait. As a result
of this war, the Iraqi government agreed to surrender and/or destroy
several types of weapons, including SCUD missiles and various Weapons
of Mass Destruction (WOMDs). The United Nations were allowed to send
weapons inspectors to confirm the destruction of Iraqi weapons and
also to search for prohibited weapons believed to be in hiding. Also,
two "No Fly Zones" were established over northern and southern Iraq
for the protection of Iraqi minority groups in opposition to the
Over these two zones, Allied aircraft patrolled the air in order to
prevent Iraqi aircraft from attacking northern Kurds or southern
Shiites. Over the years, Iraqi air-defense forces fired missiles and
other weapons at the Allied warplanes (mostly American and British
planes) in unsuccessful attempts to shoot them down. In response to
these attempted shoot-downs, Allied warplanes often responded by
bombing the air-defense sites and the radar installations associated
with them. (see outside link: http://www.ccmep.org/usbombingwatch/)
In 1998, under Iraqi pressure, the UN weapons inspectors left Iraq,
prompting the United States to launch a severe three-day bombing
campaign called "Operation Desert Fox." Following this, Iraqi forces
significantly increased attempts to challenge the Allied planes
patrolling the No-Fly Zones, thereby also causing an increase in the
Allied bombing of Iraqi targets.
Second, following the
terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001,
President George W. Bush's rhetoric implied an (as yet unproven)
Iraqi connection with al-Qaida. Using the potential threat of
Saddam-supplied Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of
terrorists, the U.S. government increasingly insisted on total Iraqi
disarmament. With initial backing by the UN Security Council, the
United States encircled Iraq with growing military forces, leading
Iraq to permit UN weapons inspectors back into the country. By early
2003, however, the U.S. and British governments claimed that Iraq was
not cooperating fully with the UN inspectors.
detail on the inspectors and the UN debates to follow as time
On Monday, March 17, 2003,
President Bush issued an ultimatum for Saddam Hussein and his sons to
enter into exile within 48 hours or face military conflict. Saddam
defiantly refused, thereby setting the stage for Bush's order for war
On March 19, 2003, at 5:34
AM in Iraq, (6:34 PM on the U.S. West Coast), U.S. Stealth bombers
and Tomahawk Cruise Missiles struck "leadership targets" in and
around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad to begin the second major war
between a United States-led Coalition and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Soon
thereafter, air attacks began against Iraqi targets in southern Iraq,
followed by missile attacks from Iraq toward U.S. military positions
in the Kuwaiti desert. The stated goals of the Coalition were the
disarmament of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his Baath
On the first full day of
the war, March 20, U.S. and British ground forces advanced into
southern Iraq, entering the port city of Umm Qasr, near the major
Iraqi city of Basra, while a second wave of air attacks hit Baghdad.
Over the next several days, Iraqi militia (known as the Saddam
Fedayeen), and holdout troops continued to resist Coalition forces,
inflicting several casualties.
By March 23, Coalition
forces had seized H-2 and H-3, airfields in western Iraq, and
controlled parts of Umm Qasr, Basra and Nasiriyah. Armored and
mechanized forces had advanced to within 100 miles of Baghdad and
forced a crossing of the Euphrates River at Nasiriyah, where Iraqi
forces put up a stiff fight. In northern Iraq, the U.S. launched an
attack with 40 to 50 cruise missiles on forces of two Islamist
parties opposed to the Pro-U.S. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
These two groups are Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam), believed
associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida and Komala Islami
Kurdistan (Islamic Society of Kurdistan). Also on March 23, U.S.
forces began airlifting troops into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq
in what appears to be the opening move toward a second front against
Also on March 23, Iraqi
forces ambush the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company.
March 27: Fierce fighting
erupts in the city of Samawah, where U.S. forces are faced by up to
1,500 Iraqi irregulars at a vital bridge over the Euphraties River.
U.S. forces eventually take control of the bridge and continue the
advance to Baghdad. In northern Iraq, approximately 1,000
paratroopers of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted
onto an airfield in an effort to open a northern front against Iraqi
forces. Within days, Kurdish Peshmerga troops of the PUK, along with
U.S. special forces units, assaulted the stronghold of the Ansar
al-Islam group along the Iranian border.
By the tenth day of the war
on March 29, U.S. forces had advanced as far north as Karbala, where
large battles with Iraqi forces took place. Major combat continued at
Najaf, Nasiriyah, Basra and other locations as Iraqi guerrilla
forces, many of whom belonged to the Saddam Fedayeen, proved to be
formidable forces for the Coalition to overcome. Bombing raids on
Baghdad and other Iraqi cities continued, as did Iraqi attempts to
hit Kuwaiti-based targets with surface-to-surface missiles. One
missile successfully hit Kuwait City on March 28, inflicting damage
on a shopping mall and causing minor wounds to two
Also on March 29, the first
suicide bombing on Coalition forces occurs, killing four American
troops at Najaf.
March 30: Six hundred
British commandoes attack near Basra, destroying Iraqi tanks and
capturing nearly 300 prisoners.
April 1: U.S. forces rescue
Pfc. Jessica Lynch and recover the bodies of several other members of
the 507th Maintenance Company.
April 3: U.S. forces reach
Saddam International Airport on the outskirts of Baghdad.
April 5: U.S. armored
forces enter Baghdad, conducting a large raid. Such incursions would
continue for several days. Iraqi civilians begin widespread looting
of the city.
April 7: British forces
reach the center of Basra and declare the city is under Coalition
April 9: U.S. troops help
Iraqi crowds topple a large statue of Saddam Hussein. Coalition
forces continue to extend their control over the city.
April 10: Kurdish fighters
seize the northern city of Kirkuk from the Iraqi forces.
April 11: U.S. and Kurdish
troops enter Mosul in the north.
April 13: U.S. forces enter
Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
April 15: Tikrit falls and
the Coalition declares the war to be effectively over. Despite this
declaration, violence continues, escalating into a low-grade
April 16: U.S. forces
capture Abu Abbas, a Palestinian terrorist living in Baghdad. Abbas
is best-known as the leader of a group which hijacked the Italian
cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. Abu Abbas later died in American
July 22, 2003: Udai and
Qusay Hussein were killed by troops of the U.S. 101st Airborne
December 13, 2004: Saddam
Hussein is captured.
Between mid-April, 2003 and
early April, 2004, most hostile actions were between the Coalition
forces and the old Saddam holdouts and a growing Sunni resistance.
Then, on April 4, 2004, as American troops were already engaged with
Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, an uprising was launched by the Shiite
Mahdi Army, a militia organized and led by a Shiite cleric, Muqtada
In 2007, the United States
increased the number of troops in Iraq in what became known as "The
Surge." Nearly 20,000 additional troops were introduced into the
Iraqi battlefield, with the intention of providing the commanders on
the ground more options with which to battle the ongoing insurgency.
Most analysts agree that
the Surge forces enabled the Coalition and the Iraqi government to
reduce insurgent attacks and terrorist activities.
After the election of
Barack Obama as the President of the United States, a drawdown of
U.S. forces began. Violence continued though as terrorist attacks
continued (at a reduced rate) against Iraqi targets and against
In June, 2011, for example,
15 U.S. troops died in several separate attacks (attributed to the
Iranian-supported Shiite militia known as Kata'ib
to the outset of the war, the Peace/Anti-War Movement in North
America and Europe grows and conducts many large-scale demonstrations
against President Bush and the plans for war.
the United States, a well-organized Pro-War/Pro-Troops Movement forms
in order to challenge the anti-war activists and to support the
President and the U.S. military.
recognized leader of Iraq since 1978, loses power, is captured, put
on trial by the new Iraqi government, and executed.
the withdrawal of American forces in December, 2011, the Sunni
insurgency against the Iraqi government continued, culminating in the
invasion of Iraq by ISIS, which had orginated in Iraq prior to
seeking shelter in Syria. The new ISIS war dragged the U.S. and
other Western allies back into war in Iraq in 2014.
York Times: Iraq Navigator
- directory of online resources relating to Iraq and the war in
Iraq, including military resources, biographies, statements,
organizations, and media coverage. Free registration
Iraq Foundation --"is
a non-profit, non-governmental organization working for democracy
and human rights in Iraq, and for a better international
understanding of Iraq's potential as a contributor to political
stability and economic progress in the Middle
statement is from the Iraq Foundation website.