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Efforts by Iraq to impede U.N. weapons inspections since late 1997 and to challenge the allied-imposed no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq have resulted in further confrontations with the United States and its allies. A decision by Iraq to ban almost all U.N. inspections on October 31, 1998, led the United States and Britain to conduct a 4-day air operation against Iraq on December 16-20, 1998 (Operation Desert Fox). The two allies launched approximately 415 missiles and dropped more than 600 bombs targeted at Iraqi military and logistical facilities.
Since the December 1998 operation, the United States and Britain have carried out air strikes against Iraqi air defense units and installations on a frequent basis, in response to Iraqi attempts to target allied aircraft enforcing no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. On October 7, 2001, following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations warned Iraq not to move against Iraqi opposition groups or attack its neighbors while the United States was involved in its campaign against terrorism.
According to the U.S. Defense Department as of late November 1998, expanded military operations and crisis build-ups in the Gulf since the 1991 war had cost a total of $6.9 billion. Incremental costs of these operations amounted to approximately $1.6 billion in FY1998, 1.3 billion in FY1999, $1.1 billion in FY2000, and $1.1 billion estimated in FY2001. A news report on July 26 estimated that the cost of enforcing no-fly zones is likely to approach $1 billion during FY2002. These figures do not include costs resulting from operations in Afghanistan or from a possible expansion of the campaign against terrorism to target Iraq.
Erosion of the former allied coalition and U.S. force constraints limit some military options. Although some Arab states, notably Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, host U.S. aircraft enforcing no-fly zones, no Arab states with the exception of Kuwait have publicly supported allied air strikes against Iraq. At an Arab summit conference on March 27-28, 2002, the attendees welcomed Iraqi assurances that it would respect the independence of Kuwait, called for respecting the integrity of Iraq, and announced its "categorical rejection" of attacking Iraq.
President Bush remains committed to regime change in Iraq, and media reports indicate that a range of military options are under consideration to meet the President's objective. Some officials and analysts have called for expansion of no-fly zones over Iraq. Others support covert operations to inflict damage on key Iraqi facilities and build a viable opposition to the regime. According to press articles, some U.S. officials favor more strikes against Iraq even in the absence of evidence linking it to the September attacks, in view of its efforts to acquire mass destruction weapons, refusal to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors, and long-standing support for terrorism. On October 10 and 11, 2002, the House and Senate, respectively, passed H.J.Res. 114, which authorizes the President to use military force to defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat from Iraq and to enforce all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 12, 2002, President Bush described the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as "a grave and gathering danger" and added that "Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance." He went on to say that the United States wants the U.N. to be effective and is prepared to work with the U.N. Security Council to meet the current challenge by Iraq. In a subsequent speech in Cincinnati on October 7, the President spoke of Iraq's continued efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and said "I hope this will not require military action, but it may."
On October 10, by a vote of 296 to 133 (Roll no. 455), the House of Representatives passed H.J.Res. 114, which authorizes the President to use the U.S. armed forces to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq and enforce all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq. The Senate passed H.J.Res. 114 by 77-23 (Record Vote No: 237) on October 11.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
This issue brief covers the most recent U.S.-Iraqi confrontations, which began in the fall of 1998. It summarizes events that led to the crisis, the allied military build-up, military strikes against Iraq, international reactions, costs, and options for U.S. policy makers. It does not cover developments in the war in Afghanistan, except insofar as they may relate to the U.S.-Iraqi confrontation. For further information on previous U.S.-Iraqi confrontations, see CRS Report 98-386, Iraq: Post-War Challenges and U.S. Responses, 1991-1998.
Since the cease-fire of March 3, 1991, that ended the Persian Gulf war (Operation Desert Storm), the United States has resorted on several occasions to the use or threat of force against Iraq. Some of these incidents resulted from Iraqi challenges to U.N. cease-fire terms that followed the war. Others resulted from bilateral issues between Iraq and the United States and its allies.
A principal factor in the most recent confrontation was Iraq's failure to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors. The inspection regime, established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 adopted on April 3, 1991, is designed to identify and dismantle Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare systems as well as missiles capable of delivering them. Two agencies are charged with conducting these inspections: the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), which deals with chemical, biological, and missile systems; and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which deals with Iraqi nuclear weapons programs. Since the inception of the inspection regime, Iraq has obstructed its work in various ways:
* False, misleading, or incomplete responses to questions posed by inspectors;
* Interference by Iraqi escorts with the conduct of inspections;
* Denial of access to "sensitive" sites on grounds of national security;
* Removal of or tampering with material evidence of weapons programs; and
* Attempts to exclude U.S. personnel from inspection teams.
On seven occasions between 1991 and 1993, the U.N. Security Council found Iraq in "material breach of cease-fire terms"; however, the Council has not issued a finding of "material breach" since June 17, 1993, despite subsequent Iraqi provocations. According to news reports, some Council members are reluctant to agree to another such finding, which they think might provide the basis for an attack on Iraq.
Another factor contributing to the recent confrontation was Iraqi violation of the no-fly zones imposed by the United States and its allies over portions of northern and southern Iraq. U.S. and British aircraft (and formerly French aircraft) have conducted overflights of northern and southern Iraq since 1991 and 1992, respectively, to enforce the bans on Iraqi aircraft in these zones. The allied overflights are known as Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch and are designed to exclude Iraqi aircraft from flying north of the 36th parallel and south of the 33rd parallel, respectively. The southern zone, covering 227,277 square kilometers (87,729 square miles) is larger than the northern zone, which covers 43,707 square kilometers (16,871 square miles), but Iraqi air defenses reportedly are thicker in the northern zone. Together, these zones cover 270,985 square kilometers (104,600 square miles), or 62% of Iraqi territory.
U.S. officials base the no-fly zones primarily on U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 of April 5, 1991, which demands that Iraq end repression of its population (notably Kurds …