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What's All the Fuss about Iraq?

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• Part 2: The Modern War

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The Persian Gulf War links
Saddam Hussein

Part 1: History of a Conflict

The news these days is full of talk about Iraq. Why is that?

Well, that question has a short answer and a long answer.

Here's the short answer:

  • Iraq is controlled by its leader, Saddam Hussein. The United States and many other countries don't like Hussein or the way he treats his own people.
  • Iraq also has a lot of weapons that Hussein keeps threatening to use on other people, both in his country and elsewhere in the world. Iraq has a lot of missiles, which can fly great distances to explode in other countries.
  • Iraq also has used, in the past, chemical weapons, which hurt other people's eyes or give them harmful diseases.
  • Many people also think that Iraq is working on building an atomic bomb, which is the most powerful weapon ever invented. For all these reasons, not too many people like Iraq right now.

In 1991, Iraq fought in the Persian Gulf War against the United States and other countries. Iraq had taken over Kuwait, one of its neighbors, in what Iraq claimed was a dispute over oil drilling and national borders. To the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries, this was just an example of one country taking over another.

The response of the U.N. and the world community was to work through non-military channels, imposing sanctions and other economic means to make it difficult for Iraq to keep buying and selling things on the world market. The U.N. did these things in hope that Iraq would leave Kuwait. That didn't happen. The result was the Gulf War, which lasted six weeks and ended in the defeat of Iraq and the liberation of Kuwait.

As part of the cease-fire agreement that ended that wary, Iraq agreed to let weapons inspectors conduct periodic inspections of weapons factories in Iraq. People in the United Nations and elsewhere don't want any one country to have too many weapons, especially if the leader of that country is determined to try to control other countries. So, it was hoped, international representatives would be allowed to continue to make sure that Iraq was not building a stockpile of missiles, chemical weapons, or even bombs.

But since 1998, weapons inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq. This is a clear violation of international law, since Iraq is refusing to obey United Nations resolutions that require such inspections. The United States, in particular, wants to punish Iraq for not obeying those resolutions.

But any attack on Iraq must be viewed with some concern in the light of this fact: In the 1990s, Iraq admitted making thousands of gallons of liquid anthrax, the kind of biological weapon that can strike fear into anyone who hears the word.

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