Iraq marks 5 years since invasion


MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Five years ago, on March 20, 2003, the U.S. launched a military operation in Iraq to "disarm the country of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."

The United States conducted the operation from March 20 to May 1, 2003 under the codename Shock and Awe, which was later changed to ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation' and then to ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom'.

In February 2003, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain proposed a United Nations Resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but U.S. NATO allies Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged for continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the U.S. eventually withdrew its resolution.

With the failure of its resolution, the U.S. and the U.K. abandoned the Security Council procedures and decided to pursue the invasion without UN authorization, a decision of questionable legality under international law.


The invasion force was approximately 248,000 American, 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian, 300 Danish, and 200 Polish personnel, collectively named by the U.S. the Coalition of the Willing. The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000.

The number of personnel in the Iraqi military prior to the war was believed to be 389,000 plus approximately 650,000 reserves. There were an estimated thirteen infantry divisions, ten mechanized and armored divisions, as well as some special forces units. The Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Navy played a negligible role in the conflict.

In 2005, the CIA released a report saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq.


On March 20, 2003 at approximately 02:30 GMT, or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, the first airstrike was delivered on Baghdad. The United States Army's 3rd Infantry Division crossed the Iraq-Kuwait border, launching a ground operation in Iraq. Coalition Forces took Baghdad on April 9. On April 10 and 11, the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul were captured.

The military campaign lasted 43 days, ending on May 1.

The decision to use military force against Iraq was supported by 45 countries, including six post-Soviet states (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Azerbaijan). Military contingents were made available by 32 states with the U.S. and the U.K. accounting for 98% of the invasion force.

Russia's Position

On March 20, 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the invasion of Iraq a major political mistake that had no justification. Moscow has repeatedly stated that the crisis around Iraq, like any international crisis, should be resolved via the UN Security Council.


According to the U.S. Defense Department, 3,988 U.S. personnel have been killed and 29,395 injured in the five years of war in Iraq, including 3,244 killed in action or terrorist attacks. In addition to that, eight Pentagon civilian officers have been killed in Iraq.

Recent Violence

Over 100 people have been killed in the last two weeks in a series of bomb and mortar attacks throughout Iraq.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman said on Thursday that Moscow strongly condemns the latest militant activity.

"Moscow resolutely denounces any manifestations of terrorism, whatever motives the masterminds and organizers of these crimes may invoke to justify them," Mikhail Kamynin said.

He also noted that the latest eruption of violence coincided with the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of the country.

On the eve of the anniversary, U.S President George Bush hailed the decision to invade, also saying that a recent surge in U.S. forces serving in Iraq had, "opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

Kamynin also said the Iraqi people possessed the ability to "prevent a full-blown national catastrophe and ensure peace, stability and order in their country" without outside interference.

Iraq has been plagued by violence since the formal end of the U.S.-led invasion of the Middle East state in 2003.

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