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Context of 'September 21, 2002: Bush’s Military Options on Attacking Iraq Leaked to New York Times'

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri meets with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Amir Moussa and gives them a letter expressing Baghdad’s willingness to readmit the UN weapons inspectors without conditions. The offer is made after Saddam Hussein convened an emergency meeting in Baghdad with his cabinet and the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). [Associated Press, 9/16/2002; Associated Press, 9/16/2002; Independent, 9/17/2002; New York Times, 9/17/2002] Iraq’s letter is effectively an agreement to the December 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1284. [New York Times, 9/18/2002] Kofi Annan tells reporters after the meeting, “I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of the inspectors without conditions to continue their work and has also agreed that they are ready to start immediate discussions on the practical arrangements for the return of the inspectors to resume their work.” Annan credits the Arab League, which he says “played a key role” in influencing Saddam Hussein’s decision to accept the inspectors, and suggests that a recent speech by Bush also played a critical part in influencing Baghdad’s decision. [UN News Center, 9/16/2002] UNMOVIC Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix also meets with Iraqi officials and it is reportedly agreed that weapons inspectors will return to Iraq on October 19. UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan tells the BBC, “We are ready to discuss practical measures, such as helicopters, hotels, the installation of monitoring equipment and so on, which need to be put in place.” [BBC, 9/17/2002] The Bush administration immediately rejects the offer, calling it “a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong UN Security Council action,” in a statement released by the deputy press secretary. [Agence France-Presse, 9/16/2002; White House, 9/16/2002] And Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, tells reporters: “We’ve made it very clear that we are not in the business of negotiating with Saddam Hussein. We are working with the UN Security Council to determine the most effective way to reach our goal.” He then claims Iraq’s offer is a tactic to give “false hope to the international community that [President Saddam] means business this time,” adding, “Unfortunately, his more than decade of experience shows you can put very little into his words or deeds.” Two days later Bush will tell reporters that Saddam’s offer is “his latest ploy, his latest attempt not to be held accountable for defying the United Nations,” adding: “He’s not going to fool anybody. We’ve seen him before…. We’ll remind the world that, by defying resolutions, he’s become more and more of a threat to world peace. [The world] must rise up and deal with this threat, and that’s what we expect the Security Council to do.” [Independent, 9/17/2002; Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2002] Later that night, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice reportedly hold a conference call with Kofi Annan and accuse him of taking matters into his own hands. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 285] Britain supports the US position and calls for a UN resolution backed with the threat of force. [BBC, 9/17/2002] Other nations react differently to the offer. For example, Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, says: “It’s important that, through our joint efforts, we have managed to put aside the threat of a war scenario around Iraq and return the process to a political channel… It is essential in the coming days to resolve the issue of the inspectors’ return. For this, no new [Security Council] resolutions are needed.” [Independent, 9/17/2002; BBC, 9/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Hans Blix, Naji Sabri Hadithi, Kofi Annan, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Scott McClellan, Amir Moussa, Colin Powell, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns the House Armed Services Committee of the serious and imminent threat that Saddam Hussein poses to Western countries. He says: “No terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein.” He adds: “What has not changed is Iraq’s drive to acquire those weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that every approach that the United Nations has taken to stop Iraq’s drive has failed. This is a critical moment for our country and for the world. Our resolve is being put to the test. It is a test unfortunately the world’s free nations have failed before in recent history with unfortunate consequences.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Daily Telegraph, 9/19/2002; Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2002] Rumsfeld says of Iraq’s putative nuclear weapons program, “Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent—that Saddam [Hussein] is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain…. He has, at this moment, stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and is pursuing nuclear weapons.” [Salon, 3/6/2004] The Secretary of Defense also says that Congress must authorize the president to use military force against Iraq before the Security Council votes on the issue. “Delaying a vote in the Congress would send a message that the US may be unprepared to take a stand, just as we are asking the international community to take a stand and as we are cautioning the Iraqi regime to consider its options,” argues Rumsfeld, adding, “Our job today—the president’s, the Congress’ and the United Nations’—is to… anticipate vastly more lethal attacks before they happen and to make the right decision as to whether or not it’s appropriate for this country to take action…. The goal is not inspections, the goal is disarmament.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Associated Press, 9/19/2002] He also tries to discredit Iraq’s September 16, 2002 (see September 16, 2002), offer to admit UN inspectors without conditions. He says: “There’s no doubt in my mind but that the inspection program that currently is on the books wouldn’t work because it’s so much weaker than the earlier one. The more inspectors that are in there, the less likely something is going to happen. The longer nothing happens, the more advanced their weapons programs go along.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Rumsfeld is drastically revising his own stance from over a year before, when he told an interviewer on February 12, 2001, that Iraq was “probably not a nuclear threat” (see February 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Congress, Saddam Hussein, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House and Pentagon officials publicly disclose that the Department of Defense has finished a highly detailed plan for attacking Iraq that was delivered to President Bush’s desk in early September by Gen. Tommy R. Franks. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “The president has options now, and he has not made any decisions.” The New York Times interviews senior officials who explain that the plan includes specific details, including the “number of ground troops, combat aircraft and aircraft carrier battle groups that would be needed,” and the “detailed sequencing for the use of air, land, naval and Special Operations forces to attack thousands of Iraqi targets, from air-defense sites to command-and-control headquarters to fielded forces.” Officials also tell the Times that any attack would begin “with a lengthy air campaign led by B-2 bombers armed with 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs to knock out Iraqi command and control headquarters and air defenses.” The principal goal of the air attacks, they say, “would be to sever most communications from Baghdad and isolate Saddam Hussein from his commanders in the rest of the country.” [New York Times, 9/21/2002] The disclosure of this information notably comes only a few days after Iraq has offered to unconditionally admit weapons inspectors (see September 16, 2002).

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The New York Times publishes a highly detailed set of military options the Pentagon has recently given President Bush for attacking Iraq (see September 20, 2002). General Tommy Franks gave Bush the document just before a US speech at the UN calling for military action against Saddam Hussein. The attack would begin with a lengthy air campaign by B-2 bombers using satellite-guided bombs to knock out Iraqi command centers and air defenses, to isolate Hussein from field commanders. Ground forces would stage out of Kuwait. “The President has options now, and he has not made any decisions,” states White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. [New York Times, 9/21/2002] These plans assume that only 5,000 troops would remain in Iraq by December 2006, a date only 45 months from the proposed invasion date - D-Day. The plans discussed goals and strategies for the invasion: “POTUS/SECDEF [President of US/Secretary of Defense] directed effort; limited to a very small group… Integrate / consider all elements of national power… [State Department] will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government - prior to D-day… Iraqi regime has WMD capability.” [National Security Archive, 2/14/2007] The release of the military plans causes no widespread outrage or official US investigation, suggesting the White House approved the leak.

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A carrier group steams toward its destination.A carrier group steams toward its destination. [Source: San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center]The Bush administration announces the deployment of four aircraft carrier groups to the Middle East (see September 20, 2002). All four will be within striking distance of Iraq by December. [Unger, 2007, pp. 264]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Iraq releases a statement saying that the weapons inspectors’ failure to show up in Iraq on October 19 was “a breach of the agreement reached between Iraq and the United Nations secretary general on September 16 (see September 16, 2002).” [Associated Press, 10/20/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Over 100,000 US troops are deployed to the Persian Gulf region, including three aircraft carrier groups (see October 3, 2002). A fourth carrier group is en route, and a fifth is scheduled to deploy soon. Three days later, the US activates 39,000 reservists for active duty in the Gulf. [Unger, 2007, pp. 289]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, US Department of the Army

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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