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Consequences of the UK's Decision to Participate in the Iraq War

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2595 words Published: 18th Mar 2021

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Why and with what consequences did the United Kingdom decide to participate in the Iraq War (2003-2009)?

 Operation TELIC is the code name for the United Kingdom’s military intervention in Iraq which commenced on 18th March 2003. The House of Commons voted in favour of the participation which allowed the Prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair, to give the green light to the armed forces to invade Iraq as part of a US-led coalition.[1] The two military powers in the West were the USA and the UK.[2] Moreover,  The relationship between the two powers grew after defeating Germany in WWII.[3] In this essay, I will discuss the publicly announced reasons the UK Prime Minister used to convince Parliament to vote in favour of military action. Also the consequences of taking part in that war. These reasons are as follows: the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), Al-Qaeda attacking the US on 11September 2001 (9/11), and the United Nations Special Commission sent to Iraq being prevented from doing their job searching for evidence WMDs, and finally, being fear of an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait happening again against the neighbouring countries. There were also hidden reasons which the British Public were not made aware of. Then, the consequences of the war in Iraq will be mentioned which are: the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the civil war in Iraq, and the corruption within the Iraqi government which the Iraqi public suffer from to this day.  In addition, the loss of trust between the British government and the public and the financial cost of the war which could have been put to better used domestically. 

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The first announced reason by the British Prime Minister was the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDS.[4] Based on flawed intelligence Blair took the decision which displayed a lack of experience and was not aligned with the history of American policy in the Middle East in general and in Iraq in particular. However, there was no hard evidence that Iraq possessed such weapons. Tony Blair added that if Saddam decided to use these weapons, he could reach the UK in 45 minutes.[5]

The above reasons which Blair declared, and stating that ‘weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue unstable states is not part of some different danger’[6] were enough to close the door against increasing sanctions on Iraq from the United Nations said, and he did not give ample time for diplomatic engagement. There was also not enough time given to the United Nations Weapons Inspection to confirm whether or not Iraq possessed WMDs. So, if the United Nations Security Council UNSC did not sanction the use of force against Iraq, why Tony Blair dragged the UK and adopted the decision of George Bush position which was the necessity of the military intervention. Bush would never decide that before getting Blair ‘s support for the sake of the international point of view and to cover the fact that the military intervention was not form the US only, but the UK which is the second power in the world at that time was a partner in that war.[7]

Invading Iraq based on flawed intelligence and a lack of evidence from the UK side put the UK in a critical position at least in the point of the British Public. The consequences of the US and the UK of such intervention can be seen clearly. Iraq has seen conflict and fighting ever since the invasion, and the control of the country is much more difficult than under the power of Saddam Hussein. 

The second reason which Blair announced was a responsibility to act in response to Al-Qaeda attacking the US on 11September 2001 (9/11). That attack demonstrated the threat of terrorism and Bush declared his ‘war on terrorism’. However, there was not any evidence of direct link between Saddam and Al Qaeda as suggested by some reports .[8] It was mentioned “it might be or maybe there is an indirect such relationship”.[9] At that time Blair declared he would stand with the US ‘shoulder to shoulder’.[10] The consequences of that were losing some British soldiers and the financial budget invested in the war. The situation of invading Iraq was different from invading Afghanistan in 2001 which was based on fighting terrorism. 

The third reason was when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) declared Resolutions 686 & 687 and required the Iraqi leader to relinquish any WMD in his possession, including any related materials and /or any development programmes. [11] However, Iraq did not possess such weapons but Saddam Hussein chose that he maintained the impression of status through possible possession of WMD.[12] Resolution 686 & 687 was followed up by Resolution 1441, which would make Saddam face serious consequences if he did not cooperate and failed to give unrestricted access to his facilities by United Nations inspectors. After that, the United Nations Special Commission, which were sent to Iraq with the mandate ‘to carry out immediate on-site inspections of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities’.[13] Unfortunately, they ‘were unable to account for 6,000 chemical aircraft bombs, seven Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles and two Russian-supplied Scuds. Because of this failure, and in spite of Iraq had already disclosed documents which prove that they were completely complying with the United Nations Resolution 1441, the American president made a decision, based on his foreign affairs minister Colin Powell to declare that a ‘material breach’ of the resolution had taken place on 19 December 2002. This led the US to take military action and encouraged the UK to join them in a coalition. This is another reason the UK participated in the war. The consequences were unbearable, and the UK government did not analyse the predictions well[14], the UK tarnished its reputation in the Middle East, and Iraq became in a mess after Saddam, the US controlled all the oil fields of Iraq and the UK spent vast sums of money on foreign policy that could have been put to better use at home.[15]

The last announced which Blair and his government took into consideration was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.[16] However, this invasion had its own reasons between the two neighbouring countries. Blair was concerned that that Saddam would attack Israel or a nearby country in the region. Then, Blair changed his point of view to be a moral reason to protect the Iraqi people form the dictator and give the Iraqi their freedom and put in place a good leader for them. The consequence of the UK participation Iraq War is what is seen nowadays, which looks like a civil war. This is the reality of Iraq nowadays. Besides, the consequences of the UK itself wasting good soldiers and financially as well.[17]

There were also some hidden reasons behind the participation of the UK into the Iraq War. The US had their own intensions for removing Saddam Hussein, who represented a power in the Middle East after beating Iran through 10 years of war. The US and the UK thought that his power would affect their interests in the Arab Gulf area and then Blair thought that he had to display the UK international power as well.[18]  In addition, the US sought to control the biggest oil fields in the world which were owned by Iraq. Besides, they wanted to show the other countries in the Middle East that the US protected all of them against the threat of Saddam Hussein. But what about the real reasons which pushed the government of Blair to support intervention; it is mentioned that Blair thought that he would be the representative of the American government in the European Union.[19] The consequences of that were very clear; the British people lost in trust their cabinet.[20]  However there was not real grounds for such a war, besides the United Nations did not give green light to any power to use military intervention but Blair has his reason which was to free the Iraqi people from Saddam as a fighter for freedom, however, when he was asked about that he said it was about Saddam and the WMDs.[21]

The consequences of that war in Iraq were worse than could have been predicted. The first was the absence of the justice, most of Iraqi people do not feel safe or peace of mind as they used to feel in the past. A big number of  criminals in many different parts in Iraq were able to act with impunity and nobody could control them.[22] The war has not yet finished; the loyalists of Saddam Hussein moved and participated with Al Qaeda who represented Sunni, and began fighting Shia Muslims who were living alongside them for decades without any troubles.[23] Those people do not threaten the Iraqi people only but they threaten the international security. Then a number of Iraqi soldiers formed armed group called ISIS which sought to form a separated state and they tried to control the country and control the oil fields of Iraq.[24] They could sell the oil with cheap price and get too much money which they invested in attracting participants from many parts of the world especially European countries. In addition, Iraq has been living in a civil war which no one can predict its end until now.[25] Finally, and because there is no a real power in Iraq, the corruption everywhere was one of the consequences of the war.[26] This made it easy for most of the national income could be stolen and sent abroad using money wash and many Iraqi people are living out of Iraq after stealing the country fortune.      

In conclusion, the essay illustrated the publicly announced reasons which were: the threat of WMDs, Al-Qaeda attacking the US, the failure of United Nations Special Commission in Iraq, and finally, the concern of Saddam attacking Israel or a nearby country in the region. The essay pointed out the consequences of the war on Iraq and how it affected Iraq long after the conflict ended. It is also demonstrated the hidden reasons for the UK participation in the Iraq War (2003-2009). 


  • Chilcot, J. (2016). The Report of the Iraq Inquiry. London: The House of Commons, pp.1-87.
  • Coates, D. & Joel K. (2004) Blair’s War: Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Harvey, Frank. P (2012), ‘Explaining the Iraq War; Counterfactual Theory, Logic and Evidence’ New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hinnebusch, R. (2007) American Invasion of Iraq: Causes and Consequences”, Critique: Critical, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol 16, No 3, pp. 209-228.
  • Keegan, J. (2005) The Iraq War: The 21-day Conflict and its Aftermath (London: Pimlico).
  • Lee, P. (2012) Blairs Just War: Iraq and the Illusion of Morality. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • McHUGH, K. (2010). Bush, Blair, and the War in Iraq: Alliance Politics and the Limits of Influence. Political Science Quarterly, 125(3), pp.465-491.
  • Ministry of Defence (2019). UK Armed Forces Deaths: Operational deaths post World War II. London: Ministry of Defence, p.3.
  • Sifry, M. and Cerf, C. (2003). The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions. 1st ed. New York: Tough Stone, pp.394 - 396.
  • Stephens, H. (2019). Questioning the Reasons For U.S. Involvement in the Middle East. [Online] Worldpoliticsreview.com. Available at: https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/insights/27262/questioning-the-reasons-for-u-s-involvement-in-the-middle-east [Accessed 01 November. 2019].
  • United Nation Special Commission: Establishment (1991), United Nations, https://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/unscom.htm#ESTABLISH accessed 02 November 2019.
  • Weiss, T. G. (2004), ‘The Sunset of Humanitarian Intervention? The Responsibility to Protect in a Unipolar Era, Security Dialogue, Vol 35, No 2, pp.135–153.
  • Younge, G. (2018). Fifteen years on, the Iraq war is still poisoning our national life | Gary Younge. [Online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/29/iraq-war-poisoning-national-life-corbyn-brexit-britain-vietnam [Accessed 03 November. 2019].

[1] Chehab (2005), p. 13.

[2] Stephens (2019) https://worldpoliticsreview.com/onsights/27262/questioning-the-reasons-for-U-S-involvement-in-the-middle-east .

[3] Keegan (2005), p. 165.

[4] Coates, Krieger and Vickers (2004), pp. 66 – 71.

[5] Sifry and Cref (2003), p. 394.

[6] Coates, Krieger and Vickers (2004), pp. 66 – 71.

[7] Bluth (2004), p. 2.

[8] Weiss (2004), p. 149.

[9] Chilcot (2016), p. 10.

[10] The National Archives, 11 September 2001, September 11 attacks: Prime Minister ‘ statement.

[11] Keegan (2005) pp. 104 – 105.

[12] Lee (2012), p. 42.

[13] Unites Nation Special Commission: Establishment (1991).

[14] Evans (2008), P. 351.

[15] Ministry of Defence (2015), p. 1.

[16] Coates and Krieger (20040, p. 72.

[17] Ministry of Defence (2015), p. 1.

[18] McHUGH (2010), p.  468.

[19] Ibid., p. 468.  

[20] Younge (2018), https://www.the guardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/29/Iraq-war-poisoning-national-life-corbyn-brexit-britain-vietnam.

[21] Harvey (2012), p. 207.

[22] Chilcot (2016), p.  86.

[23] BBC Panorama – Iraq: The Final Judgment.

[24] Three truths about the Iraq war and its consequences’ Financial Times, 6 July 2016.  

[25] Hinebusch (2007), p. 17.

[26] McHUGH (2010), p.  468.


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