The Issue of the War in Iraq

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1. Read an historical overview written by Yara, a student from Noble and Greenough and follow her links to online resources.

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3. Review the strengths and weaknesses of candidate positions on the issue as outlined by JJ, a student from Noble and Greenough.

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1. Historical Overview of the Iraq War
Iraq War
The United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003 after giving president Saddam Hussein 48 hours notice to leave the country. Tensions between Iraq and the U.S. can be traced to 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq invaded Kuwait, a U.S. ally, sovereign state and important petroleum producer, thus the U.S. as well as the United Kingdom felt that they needed to attack Iraq after it refused to leave Kuwait. More recently, there were the September 11 attacks in 2001 that were linked to the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, lead by Osama bin Ladin. Following the attacks the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in search of Osama, but have thus far been unsuccessful. Then, President Bush accused Iraq leader, Saddam Hussein, of being linked to Al-Qaeda as well as storing weapons of mass destruction. Up until this very day there is no evidence supporting President Bush’s belief that Hussein was linked to Al-Qaeda, nor that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
President Bush promptly declared victory in Iraq in April 2003 after the U.S. army reached the capital Baghdad on April 4-5. There was one large issue which the U.S. had not planned out properly: the reconstruction of the Iraq government. With Saddam Hussein out of power there was much looting and disorder throughout the country; there was no organized labor and tension between Sunni and Shiite as well as Kurds continued. President Bush then assigned Paul Bremer III to lead the creation of the Iraqi Interim Government. This temporary government was designed for, “improving security, promoting economic development and for the important process of preparing for
democratic elections in January 2005” ( The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) would represent all of the legal aspects of the Interim Government. The Iraqi Interim Government was lead by President Sheikh Ghazi Ajil Al-Yawar and Prime Minister of Iraq, Dr. Aryad Allawi. Though the Interim Government had a lot of power, it could not decide on things that would permanently affect Iraq in the long run. In early 2005 the Iraq presidential elections were held and on April 6, 2005 Jalal Talabani became the sixth president of Iraq alongside Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister.
So far, the Iraqi government continues to struggle to bring piece within the nation between the different religious and ethnic groups. Although, since 2003 Iraq’s revenue has nearly tripled and business are being built daily. Also, Prime Minister Maliki has been able to bring the Kurds and Sunnis together to discuss and come into agreement on some of the oil industry details. As the death toll for U.S. soldiers reaches 4,075 and steadily increases and war costs reach three trillion dollars ( pressure to pull out increase. The U.S. presidential candidates of 2008 now face the question of whether it is time that Iraq stand on its own two feet and fund its own reconstruction programs and military strengthening. In addition, with the evidence of Iran’s shipping of arms to Iraqis and training of soldiers, the candidates have to show the relationship that they hope to have with Iran, as well as how to deal with the nuclear power threat that Iran poses.
US Involvement in Iran/Iraq:
The US has been involved in Iran for half a century, and has helped shape Iran to what it has become today. Mohammed Mossadegh, who was the prime minister of Iran, nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951 and thereby cut off Britain from Iran’s oil supply. The US, worried that this would set a precedent in the Middle East and trying to protect its oil supply launched a covert operation through the CIA in 1953, which successfully removed Mossadegh from power and installed Riza Sha Pahlavi. Shah Pavlavi adopted a much more pro-American stance, and allowed the US forty percent of Iran’s oil concessions. This government only lasted until 1979, though, when Islamic fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini led a successful revolution against Shah Pahlavi. As a retaliation to the fact that Pahlavi was allowed into the US for medical treatment after he was exiled, the fundamentalists took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran. The captives were held for 444 days, but eventually all returned safely. More US involvement in Iran occurred 1986, when it was discovered that the US had secretly used money, gained from arms deals with Iran for use against the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq War, to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. It was not clear what President Reagan’s role in this scandal was, though it smeared the reputation of the US internationally. In 1990, there was direct military conflict between the US and Iraq, during the Persian Gulf War. The US first carried out Operation Desert Shield, to defend Kuwait from the invading Iraqis. But this later turned into Operation Desert Storm, which was a successful offensive bombing and ground campaign that pushed the Iraqis back to the Iraq border, though the US did not continue deeper into Iraq.
Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities:
Iran’s nuclear capabilities remain unclear. Whether or not Iran already has nuclear weapons is not clear, though a report by the National Intelligence Council stated “with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran currently does not have nuclear weapons”. That same report goes on to discuss the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, as well as the potential of Iran to gain nuclear weapons. It judged that until 2003, Iran was working towards developing nuclear weapons, but that in 2003 Iran halted its program and has since not restarted it (though all of these assessments are assertions and not necessarily facts). The report judges that it is possible for Iran to attain nuclear weapons by 2009, but is not likely to happen (if Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons) until 2010-2015. This report was an official report from the US government, under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But various news organizations have given other estimates as to Iran’s capabilities. Time Magazine asserted that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons (,9171,1177010,00.html), while the Council on Foreign relations, a “nonpartisan resource for information and analysis” claimed that “most international proliferation experts suspect the fundamentalist Muslim theocracy is using its nuclear program to enrich uranium to higher levels than necessary for civilian nuclear-energy production and secretly trying to manufacture nuclear weapons.” ( It would seem that there is no consensus on the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, and the situation in Iran is still developing today.
Wed May 7

read more at Yara's "blog"

John McCain discusses the war in Iraq

Barack Obama on the war in Iraq:

Review the strengths and weaknesses of candidate positions on the issue as outlined by JJ, a student from Noble and Greenough.

John McCain - will put economic sanctions on Iran with European countries; will not engage in unconditional diplomacy with Iran; military option for Iran only with congress’ approval; keep troops in Iraq
-not needing the approval of China and Russia in the UN security council would speed up/help process of sanctions of Iran
-using a ‘league of democracies’ when sanctioning Iran might give the US credibility abroad, which was major problem when invading Iraq
-US must appear strong, shouldn’t bend to the will of Iran by negotiating with them
-waiting for congress’ approval before military action in Iran gives re-assurance to American people that McCain won’t rush into another war
-staying in Iraq prevents civil war from breaking out
-if success is achieved, it is a message to the world, and another democracy in the middle east
-if US pulls out, failure is assured and terrorists will be emboldened everywhere
-bypassing UN approval for sanctions to Iran denies US assured international support (as opposed to ‘league of democracies’, which may or may not hurt reputation abroad)
-by not negotiating with Iran, tensions in Middle East will be even higher, may provoke Iran even more
-waiting for congress’ approval before military action in Iran slows down response time
-surge does not seem to be making an impact, Iraq is not much better than before the US invaded
-the war is actively ostracizing the US from the middle east, and strengthening terrorists by creating anti-US sentiment
-war is extremely unpopular, the American people want the troops to return home
Barack Obama
Barack Obama opposed going to war in Iraq since the very beginning and feels that the best way to deal with the current issue is through diplomatic discussions with the leaders of the Middle East countries. He also believes that the U.S. should aim to withdraw troops within a sixteen month period in which there would be no permanent bases or occupations there.
-Withdrawing the troops from Iraq would be a plus because rather than fighting with each other about the United States, groups such as the Shiite, Sunni and Kurds can concentrate on unification. (Right now there are splits within these groups between those in support of the U.S. troops and those who oppose it)
-Having a president that is willing to meet face to face with opposing leaders will help guide our country toward a more diplomatic way of thinking. The talks could also possibly address the issue of helping all the displaced Iraqis as well as bringing the Iraqi towns back to life from the ruins they are now.
-Meeting with leaders and leaving no permanent bases would show Iraq and the other countries that the U.S. is serious and respects Iraq’s new leadership as well as keeping to their word (in terms of withdrawal).
-Backing out of Iraq means that the countries military spending will be cut down and a plethora of more money can be spent on education, health care and other important programs
-Obama does not only plan to withdraw, but also come to some sort of agreements between different conflicting groups (Shiite, Sunni, Kurds). Their conflicts definitely will not be solved, but he hopes to get them talking; this would be a great accomplishment because it would reduce violence in many areas of Iraq and Iran as well as decrease the tension between Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq.
-Withdrawing would also help because there are private security companies such as Blackwater that are somewhat out of control in terms of the way in which they have treated civilians
-If diplomatic talks fail and the U.S. still does withdraw, then the Iraqi government could fall and the country could descend into chaos because of the civil war and the previous destruction of many towns.
-Withdrawing from Iraq could send the message that the Arab countries have ‘won’ the war and it could leave an open door for Iran to increase its influence in Iraq and even possibly move in, making the U.S. look very foolish.
-The Shiite group in particular is split in many ways and one of those ways is between those who support the U.S. and those who do not. If the U.S. withdraws, we could potentially leave our allies within Iraq in great danger. Already there are many who have a strong dislike for those who support the U.S.; there have even been reports of people murdering others (for instance the murder of a young woman that occurred this week) for talking to the ‘enemy’ or helping them.
-Even though Obama repeatedly talks about ending the war and the withdrawal of troops, thousands of troops would still stay in Iraq according to his proposal. The main job of those who stay would not be so much to fight against the Iraqi’s but to keep diplomatic peace between the different groups.
-With Iraq being so weak and vulnerable right now, withdrawing from Iraq could lead to Al Qaeda potentially building up strength there and that would be a slap on the face for the U.S. because that is who we’ve been fighting in Afghanistan and supposedly in Iraq too (there is no evidence that Iraq was connected to Al-Qaeda).
read more at JJ's "blog"

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