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Iraq Pre- and Post-SaddamResearch Paper

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Iraq

In 2003, the U.S. War on Terror expanded its footprint to incorporate an invasion of Iraq. From the moment that the first Rangers parachuted into the Kurdish-held territory in the north to the moment when President Bush declared victory on the aircraft carrier, the Iraq war was controversial. The expressed motives for the conflict where, well, conflicting, and if there was confusion about the mandate of the invasion, there was even more confusion about what the desired post-conflict Iraq would look like. If viewed through the lens of a business transaction, the high cost of the conflict in Iraq can only be justified if there was a subsequent benefit that exceeds that cost. This paper will look at the conditions in Iraq before and after the invasion in an attempt to determine whether Iraq is even better off at all for the invasion.

Background

The state of Iraq that America invaded was formed in 1958 in a coup d'etat. The country was held by the British until 1932, when the country became the Kingdom of Iraq as an independent nation. The coup brought about the end of the monarchy and the dawn of the military government in the country. Saddam Hussein rose to power as a General before taking the title of President. He came to power in 1979, the same year as the Iranian Revolution took place, events that would soon lead to a prolonged confrontation between the two countries. This was also the dawn of sectarian violence in the country, as Iran supported arming Shiites and Kurds in Iraq against Hussein (El-Azhary, 2011).

The Iran-Iraq War was the contextual setting for Saddam's Iraq, as it was his first foreign and domestic policy move. In the course of the war, Hussein used chemical weapons against both Iran and against the Kurds (Haines & Fox, 2014), an ethnic group in the country's north who have largely operated independent of central authority for the entirety of the time since Saddam's rise to power. The use of chemical weapons against his own people was one of the main talking points about Saddam's brutality, and a justification for removing him from power. It should be noted here that the Kurds being a different society from mainstream Iraq, so there are at least two different experiences to compare. Indeed, the Kurdish experience pre- and post-Saddam is strongly positive; it is mainly in the other areas of the country where the study should focus.

A Brief Note on the Kurdish North

The Kurds have long held their territory in northern Iraq as a region with a high level of autonomous rule. Under Saddam, the Kurds were supported by the Iranians during 1980s, and thus the Kurds faced repression, including becoming victims of chemical weapons attacks. The post-Saddam Kurdish region has been something of a success story, at least pre-ISIS. The Kurds fought alongside American troops against Saddam, such was their opposition, and their cooperation was critical to the effort. The Kurds had also fought against Saddam in the first Gulf War, but were forced to flee Saddam's forces when the U.S. abandoned its efforts against Saddam. There was context at the time -- the U.S. had tacitly supported Saddam in the conflict with Iran and therefore there was always a sense of mistrust between the U.S. And the Kurds. The Kurdish region under Saddam was therefore in a state of conflict, oppression and high risk from the central government. Saddam would eventually be charged with genocide in a special Iraqi court for killing at least 50,000 Kurdish civilians in 1988, and destroying thousands of villages in the Kurdish territory, all in retaliation for their opposition to his regime during the Iraq-Iran conflict (Wong, 2006).

In the post-Saddam world, Kurdish independence was essentially a non-starter. The Kurdish homeland had been split in the 20th century among Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. The support that Turkey lent to the invasion of Iraq was critical, and Turkey is a key NATO ally in the region. Thus, the nature of the Turkey-Kurdish relations essentially rendered an independent Kurdish state a non-starter, but a de facto Kurdish state emerged. In the years prior to ISIS, the Kurdish part of Iraq was secure and prosperous. With oil wealth, strong government and a strong security apparatus, the Kurdish region became a success story (The Economist, 2013). The capital, Erbil, started receiving international flights, from the Gulf states in particular, and saw GDP growth of 8% by 2013 (Crowcroft, 2014). At one point, Erbil was being touted as another Dubai (Fagotto, 2012).

The final chapter in the story of Kurdistan has not been written, however, as the coming of ISIS has threatened the stability and economic progress of this region. When ISIS captured Mosul, it was within around an hour of Erbil, and the Kurdish defense forces were forced to mount a staunch defense. There have been economic consequences of this, and international agencies have been forced to step in and lend assistance in order to maintain the stability of the Kurdish region (World Bank, 2014). ISIS cannot be taken independent of the events in Iraq earlier. While it arose in Syria and that conflict, ISIS has leveraged the weakness of security in Iraq to gain territory, strength and most importantly money in northern Iraq. There is little doubt that ISIS would have never been able to set foot on Iraqi soil had Saddam still been in power. Nevertheless, the Kurds and their de facto state have thus resisted ISIS and have been an economic success story, if one that needs constant defense, in post-Saddam Iraq. The rest of the country has not experienced the same level of success.

Iraq under Saddam

Saddam's military government seemed to exist, in the early stages, primarily to wage war. Following on the heels of the conflict with Iran, the country invaded Kuwait, sparking the first Gulf War in 1991. After the conflict, Saddam paid more attention to governing the country, but the outcomes were generally not positive. First, there was a strong sectarian divide, and this characterized some of the oppression. It is reasonable to argue that this divide has existed long before Saddam, and will exist long into the future, as it relates to the schism in Islam and the reality that Iraq is a demographically complex country, and most groups have been there for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The Hussein regime was nominally secular, but the reality on the ground was that the regime perpetrated extensive ethnic violence and oppression. Anecdotes from the period are legion. Iraq has long been one of the main battlegrounds for the conflict within Islam relating to the Shiite/Sunni schism. The Sunni are minorities within the country, and Saddam was nominally Sunni, so they were favored in positions of power and wealth. The Shiites were supporters of Iran during that conflict, as Iran is a Shiite country. While Saddam's military strength lessened the overt violence of the conflict between these groups, and between these groups and the country's other minorities, the conflict still simmered (Gritten, 2006).

With Sunni Arab's -- 20% of Iraq's population -- in positions of power, there was significant resentment and oppression among the country's other groups. The issues with the Kurdish minority have already been discussed, but there was significant economic oppression put upon the Shia majority of the country, which account for 60% of Iraq's population. Thousands of Shia were imprisoned or killed in organized pogroms and campaigns against them over the entire course of Saddam's rule. They were part of the southern rebellion who were brutally crushed after the Gulf War, when their U.S. support evaporated (Gritten, 2006).

Economically, Saddam's Iraq was a relatively poor performer. The country had tremendous oil wealth, but spent much of it on war. The per capita GDP was higher in the 1980s due to defense spending than it was in the 1990s. The 1990s also saw a significant decline in oil exports from Iraq, reflecting a change in the country's economic relations, in particular losing customers in the West and the Gulf. Oil exports had not recovered to 1980s levels even by the time that the U.S. invaded (Foote, 2008). Wars and international sanctions under Saddam hurt the economy and the decision to invade Kuwait squandered whatever goodwill he had earned by fighting Iran.

Compounding the issue is that Iraq was running a closed economy. Government controlled most markets, and there was tremendous corruption during the Saddam regime. The economic prospects for Sunni Arabs were relatively poor, and for the rest of the country the economic prospects were abysmal. Combined with the fact that only 20% of the country could feel secure given the intensity of the Baathist security apparatus and it was clear that life under Saddam was difficult for the majority of Iraqis, if not outright dangerous.

The Conflict and its Costs

The conflict came with tremendous cost, and this must be included in the calculus of how Iraq has performed in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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