This article describes the positions of world governments prior to the actual initiation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and not their current positions as they may have changed since then
Opinion on the war was greatly divided between nations. Some countries felt that the United States failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hussein had an active weapons program. Others felt that Iraq was an insignificant and militarily weak country that was not worth fighting over. Some saw the war as an act of imperialism, and charged that the United States just wanted Iraq's oil.
On the other side, supporting countries argued that Saddam Hussein was one of the 20th Century's worst despots, and that free countries should be obliged to remove brutal dictators from power. Others felt that Saddam's ties to terror groups were well-established, and his weapons programs very real. Although the U.S. has yet to find the location of the WMD's, they did find records of bank transactions from some of Saddam's accounts that paid various suicide bomber's families $25,000 in exchange for their son's martyrdom. Supporters also argue that the chemical and biological weapons that were believed to be in Saddam's control were shipped to Syria prior to the engagement and that the current existence of bio and chemical weapons labs in Iraq are an indication of Saddam's continued desire to produce WMD's. Furthermore, supporters point out that although the U.S. does have oil interests in the Middle East, so do the Islamic terror cells who want to gain control of the oil in an effort to pressure the western world. Additionally, they argue that the U.N. rejected the invasion of Iraq because of their involvement in the "Oil for Food Scandal," (established in 1995). In which U.N. and Iraqi officials skimmed money to allegedly bribe U.N. officials. Peter van Walsum, the former chairman of the Iraq sanctions committee from 1999 to 2000, speculated in a recent book that Iraq deliberatley divided the U.N. Security Council by awarding contracts to France, Russia, and China but not the United Kingdom or United States. Coincidentally it was France and Russia who were leading the opposition to the invasion of Iraq. He also claimed that sanctions were not effective and that the lack of Iraqi cooperation was designed to exacerbate the suffering of his own people. Other allegations included a $400,000 contribution from Shaker al-Kaffaji, and Iraqi-American businessman to produce a film by ex-UN inspector Scott Ritter discrediting the weapons searches.
Scott Ritter points out in his October 19, 2005 interview with Seymour Hersh that the US policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power started with President George H. W. Bush in August 1990. Ritter concludes from public remarks by President George H. W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that the economic sanctions would only be lifted when Saddam Hussein was removed from power. The justification for sanctions was disarmament. The CIA offered the opinion that containing Saddam Hussein for six months would result in the collapse of his regime. This policy resulted in the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq.
MR. HERSH: One of the things about your book that's amazing is that it's not only about the Bush Administration, and if there are any villains in this book, they include Sandy Berger, who was Clinton's national security advisor, and Madeleine Albright.
Another thing that's breathtaking about this book is the amount of new stories and new information. Scott describes in detail and with named sources, basically, a two or three-year run of the American government undercutting the inspection process. In your view, during those years, '91 to'98, particularly the last three years, was the United States interested in disarming Iraq?
MR. RITTER: Well, the fact of the matter is the United States was never interested in disarming Iraq. The whole Security Council resolution that created the UN weapons inspections and called upon Iraq to disarm was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is a vehicle for the maintenance of economic sanctions that were imposed in August 1990 linked to the liberation of Kuwait. We liberated Kuwait, I participated in that conflict. And one would think, therefore, the sanctions should be lifted.
The United States needed to find a vehicle to continue to contain Saddam because the CIA said all we have to do is wait six months and Saddam is going to collapse on his own volition. That vehicle is sanctions. They needed a justification; the justification was disarmament. They drafted a Chapter 7 resolution of the United Nations Security Council calling for the disarmament of Iraq and saying in Paragraph 14 that if Iraq complies, sanctions will be lifted. Within months of this resolution being passed--and the United States drafted and voted in favor of this resolution--within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly, not privately, publicly that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.
That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained through the maintenance of sanctions and facilitated regime change. It was never about disarmament, it was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. It started with George Herbert Walker Bush, and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency, and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush Administration.
Some nations originally on the White House list disavowed membership in the "coalition". Furthermore, significant opposition to the war exists in segments of the populations and Parliaments in many of the supporting nations. Adding to the complications, the Bush administration claimed to have the support of some 15 nations that wished to remain anonymous. This bloc has been dubbed by some "the shadow coalition" or, sardonically, "the coalition of the unwilling to be named".
Support can be so different in nature, from armed troops to use of airspace and bases, logistic support, political support, to participation in reconstruction efforts, that it appears to some to be difficult to exclude most countries from the official list, except Iraq for obvious reasons (although some might claim some movements inside Iraq will probably also help reconstructing their own country).
Four of these countries supplied combat forces directly participating in the invasion of Iraq: the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland. Other countries have provided logistical and intelligence support, chemical and biological response teams, overflight rights, humanitarian and reconstruction aid, and political support.
Later, the Eastern European "Vilnius ten" countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia,—all now members of the EU—Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Croatia, and the Republic of Macedonia issued another statement on Iraq, in general support of the US's position but not commenting on the possibility of a war without support of the UN Security Council. However, as Donald Rumsfeld stated that Slovenia and Croatia were members of the US led coalition, Slovenia's government rejected this statement and its Prime Minister Anton Rop reiterated that Slovenia has conditioned the decision to go to war upon a UN Security Council go-ahead to the attack; Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic called the war illegal. French President Jacques Chirac commented on the statement of the ten Eastern European countries saying: "It is not well brought up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet". It was believed by some that Jacques Chirac's criticism could be presumed to imply that Romania and Bulgaria, which were not yet official EU members, should not be allowed to join because of the statement. After criticism by the media, Chirac's remark was taken back, and, consequently, the issue has not affected Romania or Bulgaria's chances for EU accession. Romanian President Ion Iliescu called Chirac's remarks irrational, saying "such reproaches are totally unjustified, unwise, and undemocratic". Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Ivanov told reporters "it is not the first time that pressure is being exerted upon us in one or another form but in my opinion this is not the productive way to reach unity and consensus in the Security Council".
In the Netherlands the first Balkenende cabinet supported the USA. After that government fell in October 2002, there were new elections in January, which were won by the Second Balkenende cabinet who chose to continue their predecessors' policy. Dutch soldiers were sent to Iraq, and it was recently announced that they would stay at least until after the summer of 2004. So far two Dutch soldiers have died in Iraq.
The United Kingdom has sent 45,000 personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force, including the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to the Gulf region. The ground component included 100 Challenger tanks. The First Armoured Division's 7th Armoured Brigade and 4th Armoured Brigade took part in the war.
Before the war, public opinion polls showed that the majority of British people would have supported the war with a clear UN mandate for war, but were strongly opposed to war without another resolution in addition to Resolution 1441, which indicated that Saddam Hussein would face serious consequences if he failed to comply with the resolution.
On March 26, 2003, Japan's ambassador to the UN first stated in the Security Council that Japan supported the acts of the U.S. and allied countries. He said that the Iraqi dictatorship possessed weapons of mass destruction and had been continuously violating UN resolutions for past 12 years.
At home, the prime minister was strongly opposed in this decision both by the opposition and parts of his own coalition government. Most Japanese believe that it was motivated purely to improve Japan's relations to the US government, which had been improving since the beginning of the Bush administration.
Furthermore, the 9th amendment of Japanese Constitution (in place after the end of World War II) forbids any Japanese military involvement overseas. Therefore, Japan did not take part in the invasion itself, but did provide logistical support to the US Navy, which the government considered a non-combat operation, a position that many Japanese disagree with.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq was among the most militant opponents of Israel's right to exist. During the 1991 Gulf War Saddam Hussein targeted Israel with Scud missiles despite the fact Israel was not a member of the coalition arrayed against the Iraqi regime.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq [also] shelter[ed] several prominent Palestinian terrorist organizations in Baghdad [and supported terrorism within Israel.] In April 2002, Saddam Hussein increased from $10,000 to $25,000 the money offered to families of Palestinian suicide/homicide bombers. The rules for rewarding suicide/homicide bombers [were] strict and insist[ed] that only someone who blows himself up with a belt of explosives gets the full payment. Payments [were] made on a strict scale, with different amounts for wounds, disablement, death as a "martyr" and $25,000 for a suicide bomber. Mahmoud Besharat, a representative on the West Bank who [was] handing out to families the money from Saddam, said, "You would have to ask President Saddam why he is being so generous. But he is a revolutionary and he wants this distinguished struggle, the intifada, to continue." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/decade/sect5.html)
In 1991 an Israeli airstrike destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility derailing Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. The U.S. led campaign to remove the Saddam Hussein regime permanently removed the threat Saddam Hussein posed to Israel's security and existence.
The Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau (former American trust territories with a combined population of around 186,000) are legally sovereign and are full member states of the United Nations; however, their governments are largely dependent on the United States Congress for their funding through Compacts of Free Association. Some critics of the war assert that if these states took anti-war stances, they would be severely harmed politically and economically because of their reliance on the United States.
Public perception is that the Iraqis were confrontational and blocking the work of the inspectors. In 98% of the inspections, the Iraqis did everything we asked them to because it dealt with disarmament. However when we got into issues of sensitivity, such as coming close to presidential security installations, Iraqis raised a flag and said, “Time out. We got a C.I.A. out there that's trying to kill our president and we're not very happy about giving you access to the most sensitive installations and the most sensitive personalities in Iraq.” So we had these modalities, where we agreed that if we came to a site and the Iraqis called it ‘sensitive,’ we go in with four people.
In 1998, the inspection team went to a site. It was the Baath Party headquarters, like going to Republican Party headquarters or Democratic Party headquarters. The Iraqis said, “You can't come in – you can come in. Come on in.” The inspectors said, “The modalities no longer apply.” The Iraqis said, “If you don't agree to the modalities, we can't support letting you in,” and the Iraqis wouldn't allow the inspections to take place.
Bill Clinton said, “This proves the Iraqis are not cooperating,” and he ordered the inspectors out. But you know the United States government ordered the inspectors to withdraw from the modalities without conferring with the Security Council. It took Iraqis by surprise. Iraqis were saying, “We're playing by the rules, why aren’t you? If you're not going play by the rules, then it’s a game that we don't want to participate in.” Bill Clinton ordered the inspectors out. Saddam didn't kick them out.
Many argued that, since Iraq had no connection to the September 11, 2001 attacks, going to war against Iraq as part of a broader war on terror was illegitimate. Others opposed to US military action argued that insufficient and, as in the case of the uranium Niger deal, even falsified documents might have been produced in order to show Iraq as "an immediate threat". Accordingly, any such exaggeration would have been contrary to international law. They also claimed that the issue of weapons of mass destruction (if indeed there were any left in Iraq by 2003) could have been solved through continued inspections and diplomacy, and insisted that the weapons issue was merely an attempt to hide American desires to seize oil wells, further a military presence in the Middle East, and frighten other OPEC nations into submission. This position was later supported by Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury Paul Henry O'Neill who stated that the administration had sought for a reason to invade Iraq ever since Bush took office, with potential oil spoils charted in early documents. The Bush camp denies these allegations as ludicrous, though they have admitted that the Niger uranium documents were given to them by a source of questionable credibility and it was simply a mistake on their part to have assumed that the documents told the truth.
France, Germany and Russia were from the very outset publicly opposed to a US-led war. As the US took a more militaristic position, these three nations' governments became increasingly outspoken in opposition to the invasion. In the end, France made it clear it would use its UN Security Council veto against a proposed resolution for war in Iraq at that given point. (See The UN Security Council and the Iraq war.) On March 17, 2003, the US and Britain stated that they would not submit a resolution to the Security Council, admitting they did not have enough votes to force France or Russia to use a veto. In fact, only Bulgaria and Spain (in addition to the US and UK) declared outright that they wanted to vote for the U.S./UK resolution, while a few more nations, such as Chile and Guinea, had only said they would consider supporting it. Though Bush and Blair were optimistic that the 9 out of 15 votes of approval necessary to pass a UN resolution would have been reached, France's threatened veto would have immediately quashed the resolution, as any one of the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, the PRC, and France, had (and has) the unilateral power to veto any resolution, even if the vote is 11-1 in favor. Russia and China expressed that they likely would have supported the UN resolution if some more diplomatic channels had been exercised first, but Bush and Blair stopped trying to appease those two nations once France voiced its unconditional opposition to the resolution. Amid US anger at what they considered France's reckless use of its veto power, the French government pointed to example after example of times when the USA had vetoed such resolutions that otherwise had an 11-1 margin. This controversial abuse of power that France, Britain, China, Russia, and USA could, and often do, make use of prompted harsh international criticism of the UN resolution process, with many calling to reform it, as it gives unfair emphasis to those five nations over all others and just one of the five's dissent could, and often does, have drastic effects on international affairs.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made his opposition to the invasion an issue in his electoral campaign. Some analysts credited Schröder's come-from-behind victory on September 22 to tapping a broad anti-war sentiment among the German people. His critics and the proponents of the Iraq war suggested that he was using the controversy of the war and appealing to the anti-American sentiment felt by the German public for the sole purpose of gaining popularity and winning. This notion deeply offended the American administration and led to a straining of relations between the two nations. However, Schröder met Colin Powell and a rapprochement was established after the Iraqi regime was overturned. At present the governments of the two nations have agreed to put the Iraq issue behind them and move forward.
In Finland, Anneli Jäätteenmäki of the Center Party won the elections after she had accused her rival Paavo Lipponen, who was prime minister at the time, of allying neutral Finland with the United States in the war in Iraq during a meeting with President George W. Bush. Lipponen denied the claims and declared that "We support the UN and the UN Secretary-General." Jäätteenmäki resigned as prime minister after 63 days in office amid accusations that she had lied about the leak of the documents about the meeting between Bush and Lipponen. This series of events was considered scandalous and it is named Iraq leak or Iraq-gate. The main point was that special advisor of President of Finland had leaked series of documents which were considered secret. Special advisor Martti Manninen gave these secret documents to Annneli Jäätteenmäki who used information provided by these documents to accuse Paavo Lipponen of supporting Iraq war. In these secret documents was included memo(s) of discussions between George W. Bush and Paavo Lipponen. Later on criminal charges were pressed against Martti Manninen for leaking secret documents and against Anneli Jäätteenmäki for incitement and aid to the same.
The Finnish government stated that they took a stronger stand on the Iraq question at a meeting chaired by President Tarja Halonen. The meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy issued a statement according to which the use of force against Iraq would not be acceptable without the authority of the UN Security Council.
Mexico, Venezuela , Brazil , Argentina and Chile condemned the UN-opposed war, even though Chile had expressed the likelihood of its voting to approve of a UN war resolution, had one been submitted. In addition to Chile, Mexico also had a seat on the Security Council and had considered approving of the resolution. Major demonstrations were reported from La Paz, Bolivia; Lima, Peru; Bogotá, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile. Pierre Charles, the late Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of Dominica also condemned the war.
After Costa Rica's Constitutional Court ruled that the war broke international law and that the country's support for the war contradicted its constitution, the government declared its withdrawal of support, which was merely moral anyway as Costa Rica has no army. Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic retreated their troops.
The African Union, with all of its 52 members, condemned the war. Guinea, Cameroon and Angola had seats on the Security Council, and amid talks of American financial donations would have likely voted in approval of a UN war resolution against Iraq. Major protests were reported from Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; Rabat, Morocco; Mombasa, Kenya; Mogadishu, Somalia; Nouakchott; Tripoli, Libya; Windhoek, Namibia; Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.
In December 2002, Turkey moved approximately 15,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq The Turkish General Staff stated that this move was in light of recent developments and did not indicate an attack was imminent. In January 2003, the Turkish foreign minister, Yasar Yakis, said he was examining documents from the time of the Ottoman Empire in order to determine whether Turkey had a claim to the oil fields around the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. In late January 2003, Turkey invited at least five other regional countries to a "'last-chance' meeting to avert a US-led war against Iraq. The group urged neighboring Iraq to continue cooperating with the UN inspections, and publicly stated that "military strikes on Iraq might further destabilize the Middle East region".
In the end, Turkey did grant access to its land and harbours as asked for by U.S. officials.
Anti-war demonstrations took place in Damascus, Syria; Baghdad, Iraq; Sanaa; Maskat; Amman, Jordan; Widhat, Maan, Irbid, Beirut, Sidon, Lebanon; Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin, Ramallah and Gaza, Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Tel Aviv, Israel, and in the nation of Bahrain. As is the case in Egypt, demonstrations are not common in many of these less-than-democratic countries and some regimes saw themselves in danger because of riots.
Despite large-scale protests, including many at Shannon Airport itself, opinion polls showed that many people broadly supported official policy on the use of the Airport. While a large majority of the public did oppose the war, there was a fifty–fifty split on the use of Shannon. Keeping US investment in Ireland safe was the principal reason for allowing US stopovers. Ultimately anti-war allies were appeased by the government's not condoning the war while the situation with Shannon kept Irish-U.S. relations cordial.