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Context of 'January 2003: US Officials Say Aerial Strikes in Iraq Are Retaliatory, Not Offensive'

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The frequency of US and British aerial attacks against targets in Iraq’s “no-fly” zones increases dramatically as part of Operation Southern Focus. [Independent, 11/24/2002; Time, 11/27/2002; Washington Post, 1/15/2003; New York Times, 7/20/2003; London Times, 5/29/2005] According to the London Times, US and British planes drop twice as many bombs on Iraq during the second half of 2002 as they did during the entire year of 2001. [London Times, 5/29/2005] Between June 2002 and March 19, 2003, US and British planes fly 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, dropping 606 bombs on 391 carefully selected targets. [Washington Post, 1/15/2003; New York Times, 7/20/2003; London Times, 6/27/2005] As Timur Eads, a former US special operations officer, notes in January 2003: “We’re bombing practically every day as we patrol the no-fly zones, taking out air defense batteries, and there are all kinds of CIA and Special Forces operations going on. I would call it the beginning of a war.” [Boston Globe, 1/6/2003] The airstrikes, which occur primarily in the southern no-fly zone, are also becoming more strategic, targeting Iraq’s surface-to-air missiles, air defense radars, command centers, communications facilities, and fiber-optic cable repeater stations. [Independent, 11/24/2002; Time, 11/27/2002; Washington Post, 1/15/2003] The repeater stations are bombed in order to disrupt the network of fiber-optic cables that transmit military communications between Baghdad and Basra and Baghdad and Nasiriya. “They wanted to neutralize the ability of the Iraqi government to command its forces; to establish control of the airspace over Iraq; to provide air support for Special Operations forces, as well as for the Army and Marine forces that would advance toward Baghdad; and to neutralize Iraq’s force of surface-to-surface missiles and suspected caches of biological and chemical weapons,” the New York Times reports in July 2003. [New York Times, 7/20/2003] “We’re responding differently,” one Pentagon official explains to Time magazine in November 2002. “[We’re] hitting multiple targets when we’re fired upon—and they’re tending to be more important targets.” [Time, 11/27/2002] Some time after the invasion, a US general reportedly says (see July 17, 2003) at a conference at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base “that he began taking out assets that could help in resisting an invasion at least six months before war was declared.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19/2005 Sources: Charlie Clements]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom, United States

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The UN Security Council unanimously votes 15-0 in favor of UN Resolution 1441, which stipulates that Iraq is required to readmit UN weapons inspectors under tougher terms than required by previous UN resolutions. The resolution does not give the US authority to use force against Iraq. [United Nations, 11/8/2002] The resolution makes it very clear that only the UN Security Council has the right to take punitive action against Iraq in the event of noncompliance. [Common Dreams, 11/14/2002] After the resolution is passed, top Bush administration officials make public statements threatening to use military force against Iraq if Saddam’s regime does not comply with the resolution. George Bush, Colin Powell, John Negroponte, Andrew Card, and Ari Fleischer make statements asserting that the resolution does not prevent the US from using force.
bullet A provision that would have authorized UN member states to use “all necessary means” to disarm Iraq is relocated to the preamble of the resolution where it has no practical significance. [New York Times, 11/6/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet A provision requiring that security guards accompany the inspectors is removed. [New York Times, 11/6/2002]
bullet The resolution requires Iraq to provide the UN with the names of all its weapons experts. [New York Times, 11/6/2002; London Times, 11/9/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet The resolution states that weapons inspectors will be authorized to remove Iraqi scientists, as well as their families, from Iraq in order to interview them. An official later tells the Washington Post that the power to interview Iraqi scientists was “the most significant authority contained in the resolution” and “the one thing that is most likely to produce overt Iraqi opposition.” [United Nations, 11/9/2002; Washington Post, 12/12/2002]
bullet The resolution overturns provisions of the previous Resolution 1154 that required UN inspectors to notify Baghdad before inspecting Saddam Hussein’s presidential sites. Resolution 1154 had also required that inspections of those sensitive sites occur in the presence of diplomats. The new resolution demands that Iraq allow the inspectors “immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access” to any sites chosen by the inspectors. [United Nations, 11/9/2002] Unnamed diplomats and US officials tell USA Today that the US may attempt to claim that Iraq is engaged in a pattern of defiance and deceit if it hinders the inspectors in any way. [USA Today, 12/19/2002 Sources: Unnamed diplomats and US officials]
bullet The resolution includes a provision calling for “no-fly” and “no-drive” zones in the areas surrounding suspected weapons sites to prevent the Iraqis from removing evidence prior to or during inspections. [United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet The final resolution includes statements stipulating that an Iraqi failure to comply with the terms of the resolution, including “false statements or omissions” in the weapons declaration it is required to submit, will “constitute a further material breach” of its obligations. Additional wording included in the same provision explains that any breach of the resolution will “be reported to the Council for assessment.” Also, towards the end of the resolution, it states that the chief weapons inspector should “report immediately to the Council any interference” by Iraq so that the Council can “convene immediately to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all the relevant council resolutions in order to restore international peace and security.” [New York Times, 11/6/2002; CNN, 11/8/2002; London Times, 11/9/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet Paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 states that Iraq “shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA or of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution.” The US contends that this applies to the US- and British- patrolling of the “no-fly” zones that the two countries imposed shortly after the Gulf War. The “patrolling,” which has never been officially sanctioned by the UN and which is not recognized by Iraq, often includes aerial attacks on Iraqi sovereign territory. Iraq consistently fires on the attacking jets in self-defense. Other UN Security Council members explicitly oppose this interpretation of the resolution before its passage. [United Nations, 11/9/2002; Associated Press, 11/12/2002]
bullet The resolution gives Iraq seven days to announce whether or not it will comply with the resolution, and 30 days (December 8) to declare its chemical, biological, and nuclear-related capabilities—even those that are unrelated to weapons programs. 10 days after Iraq’s acceptance of the terms, inspectors will send an advanced team to Baghdad, but will have a total of 45 days to begin the actual work. The inspection team will be required to provide the UN Security Council with a report 60 days (January 27) after the commencement of its work. [Guardian, 11/7/2002; Associated Press, 11/8/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002; Associated Press, 11/13/2002] Diplomats and US officials speaking off the record tell USA Today that the declaration due on December 8 represents a hidden trigger, explaining that any omissions will be considered a material breach and sufficient justification for war. [USA Today, 12/19/2002 Sources: Unnamed diplomats and US officials]
bullet Syria requested that the resolution include a provision stating that Iraq’s compliance with the terms would result in the lifting of sanctions. This provision was not included. [CNN, 11/8/2002]
bullet Syria requested that the resolution declare the entire Middle East a “nuclear-free and weapons of mass destruction-free zone.” This provision was not included. [CNN, 11/8/2002]
bullet France did not want the resolution to include any wording that might authorize the use of force. Instead it argued that the resolution should include only terms for tougher inspections. In the event of Iraqi noncompliance with the terms, France argued, a separate resolution should be agreed upon to decide what further action would be necessary. France lost its argument, and the new resolution includes a warning to Iraq “that it will face serious consequences” in the event of its failure to comply with the terms of the resolution. [Guardian, 11/7/2002]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During a question and answer period following President Bush’s signing of the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, the president is asked about the weapon inspectors’ progress in Iraq and if he believes “the signs are not encouraging that they’re doing their job.” Bush responds: “This isn’t about inspectors. The issue is whether Saddam Hussein will disarm. Will he disarm in the name of peace.” He also condemns Iraq’s shooting of US and British planes that have been patrolling the so-called “no-fly” zones over northern and southern Iraq (see June 2002-March 2003) and contends that these actions demonstrate that Saddam does not intend to comply with UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Bush also implies that no decision has been made to use military force against Iraq. “The best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm,” he insists. “It’s up to him to make his decision.” [US President, 12/9/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

US military officials insist that US and British aerial attacks against targets in Iraq are being conducted only in response to Iraqis firing on planes patrolling the so-called “no-fly” zones. The increased number of aerial strikes (see June 2002-March 2003) is a response, they say, to Iraq’s increased hostility toward US and British jets, not preparation for a ground attack as some critics have suggested. “The Iraqi regime has increased its attacks on the coalition, so the coalition has increased its efforts to protect its pilots,” Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the US Central Command in Tampa, says. “Every coalition action is in direct response to Iraqi hostile acts against our pilots, or the regime’s attempts to materially improve its military infrastructure south of the 33rd parallel.” But according to the Washington Post, these officials have also “acknowledge[d] that military planners are taking full advantage of the opportunity to target Iraq’s integrated air defense network for destruction in a systemic fashion that will ease the way for US air and ground forces if President Bush decides war is the only option for disarming Iraq.” Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute who has ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon, says the attacks on Iraq’s southern air defenses will allow the US military “to send in almost anything it wants—bombers, fighters, and helicopters with Special Operations Forces” when the official invasion begins. It will also make it safer for the slow-moving C-17 transports to move troops inside Iraq. Similarly, retired Air Force Col. John Warden, who helped plan the US air campaign against Iraq in 1991, explains, “Anything that would need to be knocked out that is knocked out now saves some sorties once the war starts.” The attacks, he notes, have “some obvious value in the event of a war.” Anthony H. Cordesman, a former defense official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also disputes the notion that the increased US air attacks are purely retaliatory. “You enforce containment when you carry out these strikes, and you deter Iraq from any kind of military adventure,” he explains. “And when you conduct these strikes, you are preparing part of the battleground for a war.” [Washington Post, 1/15/2003]

Entity Tags: James R. Wilkinson, Anthony Cordesman, US Central Command

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

March 19, 2003: US and Partners Invade Iraq

A building in Baghdad is bombed during the US invasion of Iraq.A building in Baghdad is bombed during the US invasion of Iraq. [Source: Reuters]The US begins its official invasion of Iraq (see (7:40 a.m.) March 19, 2003). While most observers expect a traditional air assault, the US planners instead launch what they call a “Shock and Awe” combination of air and ground assaults designed to avoid direct confrontations with Iraqi military forces and instead destroy Iraqi military command structures. [CNN, 3/20/2003; CNN, 3/20/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 302] The initial invasion force consists of 250,000 US forces augmented by 45,000 British troops and small contingents from Poland, Australia, and Denmark, elements of the so-called “coalition of the willing.” [BBC, 3/18/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 302]

Entity Tags: United States

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley gives a briefing assessing the lessons of the war with Iraq to US and allied military officers at Nellis airbase in Nevada. He says that as part of Operation Southern Focus, US and British aerial attacks on Iraq southern and northern no-fly zones laid the foundations for the invasion of Iraq. He explains that during the nine-month period spanning mid-2002 to early 2003 (see June 2002-March 2003), US and British planes flew 21,736 sorties, dropping 606 bombs on 391 carefully selected targets. The pre-invasion bombing campaign made it possible for the official invasion (see March 19, 2003) to begin without a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions. “It provided a set of opportunities and options for General Franks,” Mosely says. [New York Times, 7/20/2003; London Times, 6/27/2005; Raw Story, 6/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Moseley

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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