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The lead up for the Iraq War (i.e., the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent hostilities) began with United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 and subsequent U.N. weapons inspectors inside Iraq. This period also saw low level hostilities between Iraq and the United States and its allies.


1991–2000: U.N. inspectors, no-fly zones, and Iraqi opposition groups

Following the 1991 Gulf War, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 mandated that Iraqi chemical, biological, nuclear, and long range missile programs be halted and all such weapons destroyed under United Nations Special Commission control. U.N. weapons inspectors inside Iraq were able to verify the destruction of a large amount of WMD-material, but substantial issues remained unresolved in 1998 when the inspectors left Iraq due to then current UNSCOM head Richard Butler's belief that U.S. and UK military action was imminent. Shortly after the inspectors withdrew, the U.S. and UK launched a four-day bombing campaign. Also, during this period the US Congress and US President Bill Clinton issued a resolution calling for regime change in Iraq.

In addition to the inspection regimen, the U.S. and UK (along with France until 1998) engaged in a low-level conflict with Iraq by enforcing non-UN mandated northern and southern Iraqi no-fly zones. These were known as Operation Provide Comfort in Iraqi Kurdistan in the north and Operation Southern Watch in the south, and were seen by the Iraqi government as an infringement of Iraq's sovereignty. The no-fly zones prohibited Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft but allowed Iraqi helicopters or Turkish bombing of Kurds[1][2]. These overflights intensified one year before the Iraq war began when the U.S. initiated Operation Southern Focus in order to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq before the invasion.


Iraqi expatriate opposition groups

Following the Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush signed a presidential finding directing the Central Intelligence Agency to create conditions for Hussein's removal from power in May 1991. Coordinating anti-Saddam groups was an important element of this strategy and the Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmed Chalabi, was the main group tasked with this purpose. The name INC was reportedly coined by public relations expert John Rendon (of the Rendon Group agency) and the group received millions in covert funding in the 1990s, and then about $8 million a year in overt funding after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. Another opposition group was the Iraqi National Accord which continues to have influence in the current Iraqi government through its leader Ayad Allawi.

Presidential involvement

In late April 1993, the United States asserted that President Hussein had attempted to have former President George H. W. Bush assassinated during a visit to Kuwait on April 16.[3] On June 16, as per order of then-President Clinton, a cruise missile was shot at the Iraq Intelligence Service building in downtown Baghdad. Clinton briefed President-elect George W. Bush in December 2000, expressing his regret that people he regarded as the world's two most dangerous individuals, including Hussein, were still alive and free. He warned Bush that Hussein will "cause you a world of problems."[4]


The CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD) teams were the first U.S. forces to enter Iraq in July of 2002, prior to the US Invasion. Once on the ground, they prepared for the subsequent arrival of US Army Special Forces to organize the Kurdish Peshmerga. This joint team (called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE)) [5] combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al Qaeda, in the North East corner of Iraq. This battle was for control of a territory that was occupied by Ansar al-Islam and was executed prior to the invasion. It was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group. This battle was a significant defeat of a key terrorist organization and the uncovering of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat. [6] Sargat was the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war. [7][8]

SAD teams also conducted missions behind enemy lines to identify leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his Generals. Although the strike against Saddam was unsuccessful in killing him, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against his Generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to, and manuever against the US led invasion force. [9] [10] SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi Army officers into surrendering their units once the fighting started. [11]

Turkey refused to allow the US Army entry into Northern Iraq. Therefore, joint SAD and Army Special forces teams and the Kurdish Pershmerga were the entire Northern force against Saddam. They managed to keep Saddam's Army in place rather than moving the northern army to contest the US led coalition force coming from the south. The efforts of the Kurds, SAD and 10th Special Forces Group with the Kurds likely saved the lives of many US and coalition forces during and after the invasion.[12] As described by Mike Tucker and Charles Faddis in their book entitled, "Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq", four of these CIA officers were awarded the Intelligence Star for their heroic actions. [13][14]

See also


  1. ^ "No-Fly Zones Over Iraq: Washington's Undeclared War on "Saddam's Victims"<!- Bot generated title ->". Retrieved 2008-09-10.  
  2. ^ "The Abuse of the No-Fly Zones as an Excuse for War - UN Security Council - Global Policy Forum<!- Bot generated title ->". Retrieved 2008-09-10.  
  3. ^ FBI Study. "How Do We Know that Iraq Tried to Assassinate President George H.W. Bush?". Retrieved 2008-09-10.  
  4. ^ Chollet, Derek and James Goldgeier (2008). The U.S Between the Wars. Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group.  
  5. ^ Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Simon and Shuster, 2004.
  6. ^ Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Simon and Shuster, 2004.
  7. ^ Tucker, Mike; Charles Faddis (2008). Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq. The Lyons Press. ISBN 9781599213668.  
  8. ^ An interview on public radio with the author
  9. ^ Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Simon and Shuster, 2004.
  10. ^ Behind lines, an unseen war, Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, April 2003.
  11. ^ Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq, Mike Tucker, Charles Faddis, 2008, The Lyons Press |isbn=9781599213668
  12. ^ Woodward, Bob (2004). Plan of Attack. Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 9780743255479.  
  13. ^ Tucker, Mike; Charles Faddis (2008). Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq. The Lyons Press. ISBN 9781599213668.  
  14. ^ An interview on public radio with the author


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