Iraq was occupied by the US-led troops from 20 March to first of May 2003. Five years have passed since the Bush administration launched the war on terror beginning with the campaign entitled “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to topple the Saddam regime in Iraq. Yet the panoramic picture of Iraq continues to remain in a sombre situation. The US was yet to reach its target to “disarm” Saddam Hussein’s regime of weapons of mass destruction in the fight against “terrorism”, but nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons were never found in Iraq after the military occupation.
Iraq war is the most expensive in terms of human and material costs in the US history after the Vietnam War. The official statistics released by the US Congressional Budget Office on 4 December shows that the Administration had spent some US $350 billion for military operation in Iraq. Recently, the US Congress approved an additional amount of US $70 billion for the war against terrorism, in which US $50 billion is to be reserved for the war in Iraq.
The actual spending for the war in Iraq could reach US $1,000-1,500 billion, and ten times higher than the initial estimate.
In the next few months, the Administration is expected to ask the Congress to gear another US $127 billion for the purpose. This shows that the war in the Iraq has cost the US over US $500 billion in three and a half years, equivalent to the 15-year war in Vietnam from 1960 to 1975. It is noticeable that the expenses for the Iraq war rose year after year from an average of US $217 million per day in the first days of the war to the current amount of US $267 million per day.
According to the estimates by Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz from the Columbia University, Nobel Prize winner in economics of the year 2001, and Congressman Lee Hamilton, the actual spending for the war in Iraq could reach US $1,000-1,500 billion, accounting for one tenth of the US GDP and ten times higher than the initial estimate.
They said that the costs for this war should include all indirect expenses such as health care for war invalids and sick soldiers, compensations for families of dead soldiers, social insurance for all those participating in the war and others.
A report released by the Pentagon on 18 December said that the war had killed 3,195 of coalition troops including 2.984 from the US and injured over 25,000 others. Military experts believed that the US casualties could be much higher. The Pentagon only mentioned those troops killed in action without taking into account the deaths during emergency services and in hospitals. It is estimated that this number should account for 16-30% in the past wars. As a result, the total of US soldiers killed in Iraq should have reached over 8,000, much higher than the war against Vietnam—recent reports talk from about 4000 US deaths.
Despite increasing losses and expenses, it is still far for the US to reach its targets in Iraq. Many people have hoped that following the elections on December 2005, the establishment of an official government on April 2006 together with the killing of Al-Qua’eda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 2006, the situation Iraq would be improved.
However what is developing in Iraq has gone beyond the US expectations. Iraq is falling in a chaotic situation and the sectarian and religious conflicts are pushing the country in the whirl of bloody violence. In an interview with the BBC, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticised the US-led war in Iraq was illegal, saying that “the level of violence in Iraq was ‘much worse’ than that of a civil war.”
A report completed by the Iraq Study Group under the US Congress said that as many as 750,000 Iraqi people had been killed and another 1, 3 million were forced to leave their country since the US launched the war in 2003. In fact, Iraq is being divided into three regions: the south dominated by the Shiites, the central part by the Sunnis and the north by the Kurds. The US forces failed to ensure security and daily minimal needs for the Iraqi people, let alone the efforts of national reconstruction.
The increasing problems in Iraq are affecting in the US itself and creating outstanding changes in the face of the region and the world at large. There are more and more critics against the US war in Iraq, marked by the resignations of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador John R. Bolton, Permanent US Representative to the United Nations and recently the commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Admiral William Fallon. With President Bush’s prestige reduced to the lowest level since he was elected president in 2001, leading to the defeat of the Republicans during the mid-term congressional elections in November, President Bush had to propose ISG that comprises the representatives from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party led by James Baker, former Secretary of State (Republican), and Lee Hamilton, US congressman (Democrat) find a way out of the deadlock situation in Iraq.
Since having got bogged down in Iraq, it is difficult for the US to open a second front against the Islamic Republic of Iran which is “the main sponsor of terrorism” and it has failed to bring pressure to bear on the regime concerning their bilateral conflicts.
The US knows but ignores the fact the IRI is formed from a group of Islamist thugs, masquerading as a State which is responsible for the main problems of the region. The invasion of Iraq unburden the West to seriously consider the criminal background and the constant violations of human rights of this regime, so the regime got the chance not only to further repress its people, but also to interfere in Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestine conflict.
With a huge military potential, the IRI is emerging as a power in the region. Bush’s opponent in the US pressurised his administration to make “grand bargain” with the Mollah’s regime and Syria to help stabilise the security in Iraq.
The US invasion coincided with an escalation of violence and islamisation in the region. Islamists groups like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon became significant forces. Many analysts said that the US-led coalition against terrorism is facing the danger of disintegration. So far, over 20 countries, including those actively supporting the war in Iraq, namely Spain, Canada, Japan and Italy, have withdrawn their troops from Iraq.
Since having got bogged down in Iraq, it is difficult for the US to open a second front against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The development of the US-led wars in Iraq proved the failure of the “pre-emptive theory” in the anti-terrorist war. Its powerful military strength could destroy other countries’ infrastructure in a short time, but Washington found it impossible to control and stabilise the security situation.
Regarding this issue, former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates assessed that “the US would not gain a military victory in Iraq.” On December 6, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the strongest supporter for the US war in Iraq, also admitted that “the war in Iraq was a “disaster” and was developing in a wrong trend and the US would not be able to win in Iraq”.
Iraq is now overshadowed by sectarian violence and lack of any stability, US troops pretend to do a necessary job for disarming militia groups, persuading all the political and sectarian and religious groups in Iraq to achieve a charter on national reconciliation.
It is not an easy decision for the US to withdraw all 155,000 troops from Iraq at this time, but it is thinking about reducing the combat troops and shifting to positive diplomatic activities to improve the situation. The US administration is also undertaking the contacts and dialogues with resistance groups in Iraq including members of the former ruling Ba’ath party.
The Middle East situation continues to be tense. Violence is still spreading in Iraq and the country is facing the danger of a civil war. The Palestine-Israel conflict is being landed in a cul-de-sac because it has yet to find a way out. The situation in Lebanon and the nuclear issue in Iran are still latent with a possible breaking out. Under such circumstances, it is extremely difficult to find the solutions to all the issues for the whole region. Therefore, it is necessary for all the concerned parties to make greater efforts to step by step establish a real and lasting peace, democracy and stability in the Middle East.