Russia is planning to discuss the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq that overthrew the regime of the then-dictator Saddam Hussein under Operation Iraqi Freedom at the UN Security Council on Monday, pro-Kremlin channels reported citing an RIA Novosti source. Russia is slated to discuss the war crimes and other issues linked to the US-led coalition’s military offensive that ravaged the Middle Eastern country two decades ago on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion on March 20, a UN source said.
“March 20 marks the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the basis of false accusations of weapons of mass destruction [WMD]. The Russian delegation intends to raise this issue as part of the discussion in the ‘miscellaneous’ section at consultations on Monday," agency's interlocutor was quoted as saying.
Previously, Russia had demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss air strikes by US-led forces on Syrian troops near Deir al-Zor.
In 2003, former US President George W Bush sent an estimated 130,000 US troops into a sovereign territory of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government on the pretext of what turned out to be “false accusations” of possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMD]. The Iraq Survey Group consisting of hundreds of intelligence analysts and military personnel from the US formed in 2003 by the Bush administration tasked with locating WMD stockpiles in Iraq could only make “isolated discoveries” of a total of 53 ammunitions that were part of pre-1991 Gulf war stocks. In its report published years later, ISG concluded, that "Saddam Hussein ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war."
Captured Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Credit: AP
ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program. And that “while a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter.” At a separate congressional testimony, the head of the ISG, Charles Duelfer, said that the US “was almost all wrong" on Iraq’s possession of WMD, the search for which was called off in 2005.
Making a speech in March 2003, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin questioned America’s power status in a geopolitical context as he pressed for the US to resort to a “peaceful resolution to the Iraqi crisis” adding that the US military attack would have the "gravest consequences.” "We stand for resolving the problem exclusively through peaceful means," Putin said at a meeting Kremlin scheduled to discuss a referendum in Russia’s breakaway republic of Chechnya. "Any other option would be a mistake. It would be fraught with the gravest consequences. It will result in casualties and destabilize the international situation in general,” he had warned.
Russia emerged as the strongest opponent of the US invasion of Iraq as it derided America’s military influence and US-dominated unipolarity that dismantled the political climate in the Middle East. Russia’s posture was cultivated from friendly relations it shared with Baghdad since the 1960s post the Arab-Israeli conflict and Cold War. USSR was also the leading supplier of munitions to Saddam during Iraq's 1980-1988 war with the rival Shiite regime of Iran. Moscow also regularly spoke in favour of Iraq at the UN debates in the 1990s accusing America of trying to squander the country’s oil wealth, which Americans argued was aimed at lifting Iraqi sanctions to facilitate debt repayment towards $7-$8 billion Soviet-era arms sale to Saddam’s regime.
As Russia planned to veto the resolution for Western-backed military intervention in Iraq at the Security Council session, just hours before Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov arrived at the UN, the United States, Britain and Spain had withdrawn the resolution. It may not be surprising that this may have nurtured Russia’s strategy to secure militarily its own political and regional interests. It was also revealed, years later, that Russia had sent two officials to Baghdad to persuade then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to accept exile to Moscow.
In May 2022, former US president George W Bush lambasted Russian President Putin for what he described as aggression in neighbouring Ukraine. While he delivered a speech from the podium, Bush, instead derailed the speech to the war in Iraq. “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” said the ex-US commander-in-Chief rectifying himself, “I mean Ukraine”, and muttering “Iraq, too.” Russia, since the invasion of Ukraine, has used US military intervention in Iraq as a pretext to justify the war on Europe’s eastern flank. Putin accused Americans of being the “architects” of several wars globally, and for “destroying” many countries for its hegemony goals.
Ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday at a briefing that Russia's invasion of Ukraine cannot be equated with the US-led invasion of Iraq. Moscow's military invaded "a country that has a democratically elected president who, to my knowledge, has never started a regional conflict or committed any aggression against its neighbours," Blair, in a hypocritical tone, argued. Saddam Hussein "had brutalized his own people," argued the 69-year-old British British politician defending the US invasion. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had earlier noted that Russia will be laying the groundwork to justify a war.
"You know, if he [Putin] didn't use that excuse, he'd use another excuse," Blair said.