Former UN weapons inspectors decry invasion of Iraq 20 years on

Former UN weapons inspectors decry invasion of Iraq 20 years on
The US-led invasion of oil-rich Iraq plunged the country into two decades of bloodshed and poverty.
2 min read
20 March, 2023
Mohamed ElBaradei was a vocal opponent of the Iraq invasion [Getty]

Former UN weapons inspectors and other experts who had attempted to prevent the harrowing US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 marked its solemn 20th tragic anniversary by warning against repetitions of this illegal act in the future.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during the time of the Iraq war, was one of many officials who had attempted to stop the assault planned by former US President George Bush and ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003.

The US and UK had claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and gave an ultimatum to his regime to hand over the alleged chemical stockpiles, which later, it was proven, did not exist.

Despite the best efforts by ElBaradei and others to stall the military action, the invasion went ahead on 20 March 2003 with as many as one million people killed as a result of the regime change.

The former Nobel Prize winner, ElBaradei, told a Chatham House panel, marking the anniversary, that the invasion was "clearly a predetermined war… based on lies and deceptions regarding WMDs".

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During the build-up to the invasion, ElBaradei and Hans Blix, the former chairman of UNMOVIC, were both under pressure to agree with the US and UK narrative on the existence of alleged WMDs even though their own findings contradicted these claims. 

"What is even more concerning is that there has been zero accountability," Baradei asserted, "no criminal charges were made."

Blix, former chairman of UNMOVIC, was absent from the panel but told Baradei to say that the US and UK's "WMD case was weak and was turning weaker with more UN inspections".  

Former UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) weapons inspector Scott Ritter criticised the US intelligence community for rejecting expert findings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in an op-ed marking the anniversary. 

Ritter, who was previously tasked with verifying Baghdad's compliance with WMD disarmament, has highlighted that "regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind US policy before Saddam Hussein’s Iraq".