Iraq War

Iraq War
Part of the Iraqi conflict and the War on Terror
Iraq War montage.png
Clockwise from top: U.S. troops at Uday and Qusay Hussein's hideout; insurgents in northern Iraq; an Iraqi insurgent firing a MANPADS; the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square
Date20 March 2003 – 18 December 2011 (2011-12-18)
(8 years and 8 or 9 months)

Invasion phase (2003)
 United States
 United Kingdom

Supported by:
Invasion phase (2003)

 United States
 United Kingdom

New Iraqi government

Supported by:
Iran Iran[4][5]
 Iraqi Kurdistan

Post-invasion (2003–11)
Ba'ath loyalists

Sunni insurgents

Shia insurgents

supported by:

For fighting between insurgent groups, see Sectarian violence in Iraq (2006–08).
Commanders and leaders
Ayad Allawi
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Nouri al-Maliki
Ricardo Sanchez
George W. Casey, Jr.
David Petraeus
Raymond T. Odierno
Lloyd Austin
George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Tommy Franks
Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
David Cameron
John Howard
Kevin Rudd
Silvio Berlusconi
Walter Natynczyk
José María Aznar
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Aleksander Kwaśniewski

Ba'ath Party
Saddam Hussein POW) Skull and Crossbones.svg
Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri
Iraq Qusay Hussein 
Iraq Uday Hussein 
Iraq Abid Hamid Mahmud POW)
Iraq Ali Hassan al-Majid POW)
Iraq Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti POW)
Iraq Taha Yasin Ramadan POW)
Iraq Tariq Aziz POW)
Iraq Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed

Sunni insurgency
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 
Abu Ayyub al-Masri 
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi 
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Islamic Army of Iraq (emblem).png Ishmael Jubouri
Abu Abdullah al-Shafi'i POW)

Shia insurgency
Muqtada al-Sadr
Shiism arabic blue.svg Abu Deraa
Qais al-Khazali
Akram al-Kaabi


Invasion forces (2003)
 United States: 192,000[16]
 United Kingdom: 45,000
 Australia: 2,000
 Poland: 194
Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga: 70,000

Coalition forces (2004–09)
176,000 at peak
United States Forces – Iraq (2010–11)
112,000 at activation
Security contractors 6,000–7,000 (estimate)[17]
Iraqi security forces
805,269 (military and paramilitary: 578,269,[18] police: 227,000)

Awakening militias
≈103,000 (2008)[19]
Iraqi Kurdistan
≈400,000 (Kurdish Border Guard: 30,000,[20] Peshmerga 375,000)

Coat of arms of Iraq (1991–2004).svg Iraqi Armed Forces: 375,000 (disbanded in 2003)
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svg Special Iraqi Republican Guard: 12,000
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svg Iraqi Republican Guard: 70,000–75,000
Fedayeen Saddam SSI.svg Fedayeen Saddam: 30,000

Sunni Insurgents
≈70,000 (2007)[21]
≈1,300 (2006)[22]

Islamic State of Iraq
≈1,000 (2008)
Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order
≈500–1,000 (2007)
Casualties and losses

Iraqi security forces (post-Saddam)
Killed: 17,690[23]
Wounded: 40,000+[24]
Coalition forces
Killed: 4,815[25][26] (4,496 U.S.,[27] 179 UK,[28] 139 other)[25]
Missing/captured (U.S.): 17 (8 rescued, 9 died in captivity)[29]
Wounded: 32,776+ (32,252 U.S.,[27] 315 UK, 212+ other[30])[31][32][33][34]Injured/diseases/other medical*: 51,139 (47,541 U.S.,[35] 3,598 UK)[31][33][34]
Killed: 1,554[36][37]
Wounded & injured: 43,880[36][37]
Awakening Councils
Killed: 1,002+[38]
Wounded: 500+ (2007),[39] 828 (2008)[40]

Total dead: 25,285 (+12,000 policemen killed 2003–2005)""
Total wounded: 117,961

Iraqi combatant dead (invasion period): 7,600–10,800[41][42]
Insurgents (post-Saddam)
Killed: 26,544 (2003–11)[43]
Detainees: 12,000 (Iraqi-held, in 2010 only)[44]
119,752 insurgents arrested (2003–2007)[45]

Total dead: 34,144–37,344

Estimated deaths:
Lancet survey** (March 2003 – July 2006): 654,965 (95% CI: 392,979–942,636)[46][47]
Iraq Family Health Survey*** (March 2003 – July 2006): 151,000 (95% CI: 104,000–223,000)[48]
PLOS Medicine Study**: (March 2003 – June 2011): 405,000 (95% CI: 48,000–751,000), in addition to 55,000 deaths missed due to emigration.[49]

Documented deaths from violence:
Iraq Body Count (2003 – 14 December 2011): 103,160–113,728 civilian deaths recorded,[50] and 12,438 new deaths added from the Iraq War Logs[51]
Associated Press (March 2003 – April 2009): 110,600[52]

For more information see: Casualties of the Iraq War
* "injured, diseased, or other medical": required medical air transport. UK number includes "aeromed evacuations".
** Total excess deaths include all additional deaths due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc.
*** Violent deaths only – does not include excess deaths due to increased lawlessness, poorer healthcare, etc.

The Iraq War[nb 1] was a protracted armed conflict that began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government.[53] An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 or more Iraqis were killed in the first three to four years of conflict. In 2009, official US troops were withdrawn, but American soldiers continued to remain on the ground fighting in Iraq, hired by defence contractors and private military companies.[54][55] The U.S. became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition; the insurgency and many dimensions of the civil armed conflict continue. The invasion occurred as part of a declared war against international terrorism and its sponsors under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush following the unrelated September 11 terrorist attacks.[56]

In October 2002, Congress authorized President Bush to use military force against Iraq should he choose to.[57] The Iraq War began on 19 March 2003,[58] when the U.S., joined by the U.K. and several coalition allies, launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S. forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba'athist government; Saddam was captured during Operation Red Dawn in December of that same year and executed by a military court three years later. However, the power vacuum following Saddam's demise and the mismanagement of the occupation led to widespread sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis, as well as a lengthy insurgency against U.S. and coalition forces. Many violent insurgent groups were supported by Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq. The United States responded with a troop surge in 2007, a build up of 170,000 troops.[59] The surge in troops gave greater security to Iraq's government and military, and was largely a success.[60] The winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq accelerated under President Barack Obama. The U.S. formally withdrew all combat troops from Iraq by December 2011.[61]

The Bush administration based its rationale for the war principally on the assertion that Iraq, which had been viewed by the U.S. as a rogue state since the 1990–1991 Gulf War, supposedly possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) program,[62] and that the Iraqi government posed a threat to the United States and its coalition allies.[63][64] Some U.S. officials falsely accused Saddam of harbouring and supporting al-Qaeda,[65] while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq.[66][67] In 2004, the 9/11 Commission said there was no evidence of an operational relationship between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda.[68] No stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD program were ever found in Iraq.[69] Bush administration officials made numerous assertions about a purported Saddam-Al-Qaeda relationship and WMDs that were based on sketchy evidence, and which intelligence officials pushed back on.[69][70] The rationale of U.S. pre-war intelligence faced heavy criticism both domestically and internationally.[71] The Chilcot Report, a British inquiry into its decision to go to war, was published in 2016 and concluded military action may have been necessary but was not the last resort at the time and that the consequences of invasion were underestimated.[72]

In the aftermath of the invasion, Iraq held multi-party elections in 2005. Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006 and remained in office until 2014. The al-Maliki government enacted policies that were widely seen as having the effect of alienating the country's Sunni minority and worsening sectarian tensions. In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a military offensive in northern Iraq and declared a worldwide Islamic caliphate, eliciting another military response from the United States and its allies. The Iraq War caused over a hundred thousand civilian deaths and tens of thousands of military deaths (see estimates below). The majority of deaths occurred as a result of the insurgency and civil conflicts between 2004 and 2007. Subsequently, the Iraqi Civil War, which was largely considered a domino effect of the invasion, propelled at least 29,000 civilian deaths in addition to the displacement of five million people within the country.[73][74][75]


Strong international opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime began after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The international community condemned the invasion,[76] and in 1991 a military coalition led by the United States launched the Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, the US and its allies tried to keep Saddam in check with a policy of containment. This policy involved numerous economic sanctions by the UN Security Council; the enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones declared by the US and the UK to protect the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Shias in the south from aerial attacks by the Iraqi government; and ongoing inspections to ensure Iraq's compliance with United Nations resolutions concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

A UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 2002

The inspections were carried out by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). UNSCOM, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, worked to ensure that Iraq destroyed its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and facilities.[77] In the decade following the Gulf War, the United Nations passed 16 Security Council resolutions calling for the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Member states communicated their frustration over the years that Iraq was impeding the work of the special commission and failing to take seriously its disarmament obligations. Iraqi officials harassed the inspectors and obstructed their work,[77] and in August 1998 the Iraqi government suspended cooperation with the inspectors completely, alleging that the inspectors were spying for the US.[78] The spying allegations were later substantiated.[79]

In October 1998, removing the Iraqi government became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act. The act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq."[80] This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change.[81] One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the US and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign's express rationale was to hamper Saddam Hussein's government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Saddam's grip on power.[82]

Following the election of George W. Bush as president in 2000, the US moved towards a more aggressive Iraq policy. The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act as "a starting point" in a plan to "remove" Saddam.[83] However, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks.[84]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Irakse Oorlog
العربية: حرب العراق
asturianu: Guerra d'Iraq
Bân-lâm-gú: Iraq Chiàn-cheng
беларуская: Іракская вайна
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ірацкая вайна
български: Война в Ирак (2003)
Boarisch: Irak-Kriag
brezhoneg: Brezel Irak
čeština: Válka v Iráku
Cymraeg: Rhyfel Irac
dansk: Irakkrigen
Deutsch: Irakkrieg
español: Guerra de Irak
Esperanto: Iraka milito
euskara: Irakeko Gerra
فارسی: جنگ عراق
føroyskt: Irak-kríggið
français: Guerre d'Irak
한국어: 이라크 전쟁
हिन्दी: इराक युद्ध
hrvatski: Rat u Iraku
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Irak
íslenska: Íraksstríðið
italiano: Guerra in Iraq
لۊری شومالی: جئن عراق
latviešu: Irākas karš
Lëtzebuergesch: Irakkrich
lietuvių: Irako karas
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Iraq
Nederlands: Irakoorlog
日本語: イラク戦争
norsk nynorsk: Irak-krigen
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਇਰਾਕ ਯੁੱਧ
Plattdüütsch: Irakkrieg
português: Guerra do Iraque
Scots: Iraq War
Seeltersk: Irakkriech
Simple English: Iraq War
slovenščina: Iraška vojna
српски / srpski: Рат у Ираку
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rat u Iraku
svenska: Irakkriget
Türkçe: Irak Savaşı
українська: Війна в Іраку
Tiếng Việt: Chiến tranh Iraq