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Avinash Kiran asked: Were there reasons other than the presence of chemical weapons that led the Western countries particularly the US to bring about a regime change in Iraq in 2003? More recently, why are they trying to change the regime in Syria ?

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  • Md. Muddassir Quamar replies: The stated reasons for the 2003 Iraq war were presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and harbouring of terrorists that subsequently proved to be exaggerated and erroneous. The actual reason was lingering problems between the United States (US) and Iraq since early 1990s. Iraq had attacked and annexed Kuwait in August 1990. The US responded by launching Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, which was achieved in January 1991. Despite the defeat, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continued to defy the US and the international pressure to disarm and step down. He brutally suppressed the local uprisings against his rule and allegedly used chemical and biological weapons upon his own people. According to the UNSC resolution 1441, Iraq had also failed to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) demands to furnish details of all its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

    In the meanwhile, the September 11, 2001 attacks galvanised the US public opinion and led President George W. Bush to take strong action to restore American pride. Thus began the “war on terror” against the declared enemies of the US. Iraq was named as one of the global “axis of evil.” The US had already attacked the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in October 2001 for giving refuge to al Qaeda and its chief Osama bin Laden. With the benefit of hindsight, it can be said that the attack on Iraq was a serious miscalculation that not only harmed the US but pushed Iraq and the whole West Asia (or Middle East) toward chaos.

    So far as Syria is concerned, there is no direct link with the US invasion of Iraq. In fact, the US under Barack Obama administration showed reluctance to join the war for effecting regime change in Syria. Obama was criticised for this by the regional allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel as well as the opposition groups inside Syria. Donald Trump administration has showed greater willingness to step up military involvement in Syria but has remained non-committal largely because of the Russian military presence.

    Posted on May 23, 2018