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Conflict in Iraq

Iraq has one of the oldest recorded histories in the world, and was once part of Mesopotamia. Iraq was under British control from 1920 until it gained independence as a kingdom in 1932.

During World War II, Iraq aligned itself with Britain, and later became a key supply centre for United States and British forces when those countries were in conflict with the Soviet Union. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became President and an eight-year war with Iran began, in which Iraq enjoyed the support of the United States who supplied them with extensive military aid including ingredients to make chemical weapons. This war crippled the economies of both countries.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The United Nations condemned the occupation and demanded withdrawal. Saddam refused to withdraw, so United States-led troops attacked and gained Iraq's surrender. But the US-led forces did not enter Iraq or attempt to overthrow Saddam's leadership. As part of the surrender, the United Nations demanded that Iraq destroy all its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile stockpiles and permit United Nations weapons inspectors to enter the country. However, no weapons were found.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq because of the lack of cooperation with inspectors. Soon after, the inspectors were expelled by Iraq after it was discovered the US was using them as spies. The United Kingdom and the United States retaliated in 1998 by bombing Iraq's suspected nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes.

Four months after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, US President George Bush named Iraq as one of three members of an 'axis of evil' that threatened Western stability and safety. This threat was taken seriously by the United Nations, who managed to negotiate with Saddam for the return of weapons inspectors, who once again found no weapons.

The US accused Saddam of not cooperating and threatened to attack. Many countries were cynical about the US stance that there were weapons of mass destruction and believe it was a 'smoke screen' for the US wanting to control Iraq's oil and obtain a base to control the region.

Negotiations broke down in March 2003 and the United States-led forces invaded Iraq, without a mandate from the United Nations. The invading forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's government and Saddam went into hiding. His location continues to be unknown.

Humanitarian agencies, the United Nations and the US-led forces are now involved in rebuilding projects to help Iraq eventually return to self-rule. Many Iraqi's continue to resist the US and UN forces, and violence continues on a daily basis.