Setting aside your personal views of the Iraq War and its aftermath of violence, compare and contrast the 1991 and 2003 military actions with respect to the roles of the United States, the United Nations, and other states.
Mini Case Study on International Crisis
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, claiming that Kuwait was stealing oil from an oil field that straddled the Iraq-Kuwait border and that the territory of Kuwait had historically been a province of Iraq. Iraq quickly overran Kuwait, which was much smaller and militarily weaker than Iraq. Once Iraq had taken over Kuwait, it destroyed property records and other important documents, as if to eradicate the legal vestiges of the Kuwaiti government. Iraq also postured in a way that was widely viewed as threatening Saudi Arabia, home to the most important oil fields in the world.
In 1991, the United Nations Security Council authorized military action to evict Iraq, and a multinational force with 34 members soon evicted Iraq from Kuwait and restored the Kuwaiti government. The League of Arab States also approved of military action to reverse the invasion of Kuwait; both Iraq and Kuwait were (and still are) members of the league, and a number of Arab states participated in the military action.
Under the terms of the 1991 ceasefire after the restoration of the Kuwaiti government, Iraq pledged to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. It was widely believed that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, it was documented by the UN that Iraq had actually used chemical WMDs against Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and against a minority population in Iraq in 1988. In response to Iraq’s noncompliance with
the commitments it made in the 1991 ceasefire, the UN authorized economic sanctions against it. Despite the sanctions, Iraq continued to defy the UN inspectors who were responsible for checking on Iraq’s progress in dismantling its WMD programs, and relations between Iraq and the United States reached a critical level.
In part, this may have been a reaction on the part of the United States to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, but the attacks heightened the concerns of US leaders about the dangers of nuclear weaponry in the hands of adversaries. Convinced that Iraq was developing WMDs, the United States raised its concerns at the UN, but did not request Security Council authorization for military action against Iraq to enforce the WMD terms of the 1991 ceasefire. UN authorization may not have been requested because the United States knew that the Security Council would not authorize the action; five members of the Security Council have veto power, which is to say any one of them could have prevented the authorization from being passed. The United States claimed that a UN authorization was not necessary because the 1991 ceasefire agreement provided the necessary authority; this view was not widely shared. In 2003, the United States and several allies (the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland) invaded Iraq to enforce the WMD provisions of the ceasefire, but even after defeating Iraqi military forces, no WMDs were found.
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