Timeline of the Path to War
The August 2002-March 2003 Sequence of Events Leading to the Coalition War With Iraq
August 12, 2002: 4,000 US troops begin landing in Jordan’s Port of Aqaba, to be transferred to the northeast Jordanian desert region bordering on Iraq.
June 2002: Preparing for a military conflict with the US, Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein establishes a special High Command under the direct command of himself and his son, Qusay. The key members of this High Command are Abd-al-Tawwab al-Mulla Huwaysh; Uday Saddam Hussein, supervisor of Saddam’s Fedayeen; Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Minister of Defense; Muyassar Raja Shalah, Minister of Industry and Minerals; Dr Fadil Muslim al-Janabi, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Staff Lt.-Gen. Muzahim Sab al-Hassan, Commander of the Air Defense; Staff Lt.-Gen. Hamid Raja Shilah, Commander of the Air Force; and Staff Maj.-Gen. Kamil Ismail Mahmud, Dean of the Military Engineering College. According to Iraqi senior officials, Pres. Saddam Hussein’s High Command also includes several “specialized mujahedin and fighters” with unique skills and responsibilities.
July 2002: Special Unit 223 — Iraq’s pre-eminent ballistic missile force — reportedly put on high alert with experts preparing its chemical and biological warheads for imminent use. At the same time Pres. Saddam Hussein activates “Saddam’s Fedayeen”; a 35,000-strong praetorian guard, comprised solely of Pres. Saddam Hussein’s own Tikrit tribe under the command of his son, Uday.
August 5, 2002: Continuing a pattern of escalating air-strikes under the Northern Watch and Southern Watch mandates, US and British bombers destroy the Iraqi air command and control center at al-Nukhaib in the desert between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, 260 miles south-west of Baghdad. The center contained advanced fiber optic networks recently installed by Chinese (PRC) companies.
August/September 2002: Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein continues preparations for likely conflict with the US. Iraq moves stockpiles of chemical weapons and nuclear matériel as well as key production machinery and key experts to the Hsishi compound near Kamishli (al-Qamishli), in Syria, along with strategic weapons, ammunition, military fuels and other defense matériel, gold reserves, national archival records and national art treasures. Some of the matériel, production machinery and experts moved into Hsishi compound are from the al-Qaim facility, which had been based near the H-3 base area in Western Iraq.
September 6, 2002: 100 US-UK fighter-bombers, reconnaissance and air tanker craft strike the H-3 Iraqi air base cluster in Western Iraq and the al Baghdadi air installation in Central Iraq under mandate of Northern Watch. After al-Nukhaib strike of August, 2003, this is second major blow to Iraqi air defenses and command-and-control.
September 8, 2002: Iraqi Gen. Ali Hasan al-Majid visits Libyan capitol of Tripoli, meets with Libyan officials. Reportedly finalizes terms of $3.5 billion Iraqi aid package to Libya in exchange for guarantee of refuge for any fleeing Iraqi officials in the event of a war.
September 12, 2002: US Pres. Bush address the UN General Assembly. Calls for Iraq's complete and total disarmament, warning Iraq of serious consequences if the demands of the world are not met.
September 2002: By mid-month, Iraq activates and deploys all four missile units: Special Units 222, 223, 224, and 225 to various locations throughout the country, permitting them to hit predetermined targets and carry out orders directly from Pres. Saddam Hussein. This strategic effort is supervised and coordinated by Abd-al-Tawwab al-Mulla Huwaysh, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Military Industrialization.
September 23, 2002: Israel’s Shin Bet security service arrests a three-man Arab Liberation Front cell from Ramallah, trained in Iraq with Iraqi instructors in the execution of strikes against Israeli targets. Cell reportedly planned to down an Israeli civilian aircraft.
October 1, 2002: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz meets with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in Ankara; Tariq Aziz warns that Turkey will be regarded as an enemy of the state if it allows the US to use its Turkish bases for an attack on Iraq.
October 11/October 12, 2002: The US House of Representatives approves a resolution by a measure of 296-133. allowing Pres. Bush to take whatever action necessary to uphold UN resolutions demanding the disarmament of Pres. Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The following day, the US Senate passes the resolution by a vote of 77-23.
October 2002: Iraqi war preparations continue, as reports by Defense & Foreign AFfairs sources indicate that barges and other water-based craft on the Tigris and Euphrates were possibly being utilized by the Iraqi Government as storage for significant quantities of WMD and as possible platforms for medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM).
October 2002: The Iraqi Embassy in Helsinki lodges a query with the Finnish Foreign Ministry regarding suitable methods “for the early detection of anthrax”. Finland refuses to answer the request.
October 2002: First US leaflet drops are made into Iraq, the first such operation in a year's time
October 28, 2002: USAID worker Lawrence Foley is assassinated in front of his Amman, Jordan home. Attack is masterminded by al-Qaida commander Abu Musab Zarqawi, based out of the Ansar al-Islam enclave in Northern Iraq. Jordan initiates crackdown on Islamists and Iraqi military intelligence in and around Ma’an, following the shooting.
November 2002: In an interview with Sayyid Nassar, a long-time Egyptian friend and journalist for the November edition of al-Usbu, Pres. Saddam Hussein explains the Iraqi Administration’s mindset: “We are getting ready as if war would take place within an hour. We are prepared psychologically for that.”
November 3, 2002: In a meeting broadcast on Iraqi state-run television, Gen. Hamid Raja Shilah, the Iraqi Air Force Commander, assures Pres. Saddam Hussein that the coming war would be first and foremost for the liberation of Palestine and not merely resisting the US onslaught on Iraq, noting that he expects Saddam to “fulfill the ambitions and hopes of the Arab masses, and lead them to liberate Palestine and its crown, Holy Jerusalem, from the claws of the Zionists.”
November 5, 2002: Senior Iraqi emissaries are dispatched throughout the region and quietly deliver ultimatums to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and most possibly other Gulf states. Pres. Saddam’s emissaries tell the Arab leaders that Iraq has already resolved to pre-empt any US build-up rather than face a major onslaught. Toward this end, they stress, Iraq will not hesitate to again invade and occupy Kuwait, invade Saudi Arabia, and decisively strike out at Qatar. The emissaries added that Saddam was adamant on striking Israel the first moment hostilities erupted and that any Israeli retaliation would be met with a “surprise” weapon.
November 8, 2002: UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1441, requiring Iraq to fully disarm, declare any continuing WMD programs, allow UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors into Iraq without conditions, and abide by all pertinent previous UN resolutions.
November 9, 2002: Iraq sets fire to stretches of its south-eastern marshes, resulting in plumes of black smoke blanketing the area in an effort to limit the visibility of US spy satellites and reconnaissance planes tracking Iraqi military activity.
November 13, 2002: Iraq accepts UN Resolution 1441, agrees to let inspectors in.
November 26, 2002: First of UNMOVIC weapons inspectors arrive in Iraq. Inspections begin the following day.
November 27-29, 2002: Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein leaves Baghdad, moving to a fortified hiding place somewhere on the outskirts of Al-Habbaniyah (50 miles north-west of Baghdad), along with Latif Nasif Jasim; Ahmad Habbushi, and élite forces from the Army and the Air Force. Concurrently, Pres. Saddam Hussein’s son Qusay, along with Taha Yassin Ramadan, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Lt.-Gen. Kamal Mustafa move together to another secret location just west of Baghdad.
December 8, 2002: Iraq submits to the UN its 11,880-page, final declaration on Iraqi WMD. Iraq maintains it has no WMD programs.
December 2002: At least 52 crates containing new air-defense systems and spare parts are transported from Syria to Iraq via the al-Walid border crossing. The Russian-made equipment is reported to have been purchased through a Belorussian middleman. The shipment may contain Russian-made, so-called “GPS scramblers” to hinder US GPS-guided missiles in the anticipate conflict.
December 2, 2002: Pres. Saddam Hussein’s half brothers, Barzan and Watban al-Tikriti arrive in Amman, Jordan, from their postings in Western Europe. Meet with emissaries of several foreign countries to discuss emergency relocation of key family members and substantial amounts of cash.
January 7, 2003: Team of US personnel travels with armed Kurdish bodyguards to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) command center at Halabja, escorted by PUK leader Jalal Talabani’s son, Bavel. Reportedly survey Ansar al-Islam positions in Biarrah from PUK base on Shinerwe Mountain.
January 12, 2003: Ansar al-Islam leader Mullah Mohammed Hasan tells a Turkish journalist: “If America invades Iraq, we will attack its troops.”
January 14, 2003: Headed by US Army Maj. Gen. Charles Simpson, first members of American liaison team responsible for coordination with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the event of US conflict with Iraq arrive in Israel and move into US Embassy in Tel Aviv. US Pres. Bush urges Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein to disarm, declares that the Iraqi leader is “running out of time”.
January 20, 2003: UK announces it will deploy 30,000 ground troops to the Gulf in an effort to persuade Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein to give up his chemical and biological weapons.
January 27, 2003: UNMOVIC head, Hans Blix, makes report to UN Security Council. Demands Baghdad provide more cooperation to the hunt for illegal arms, lists evasive behavior of Iraqi officialdom, but reports that no banned weapons have been found. IAEA Chief Nuclear Inspect, Mohammed ElBaradei, reports no signs of Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
February 5, 2003: Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat sends an ‘Id Al-Adha telegram to Pres. Saddam Hussein. In the message, published in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Jumhuriya, Arafat writes: “May Allah the Powerful protect Iraq from the great dangers and evils that loom over it…and together, hand in hand [we will march] to Al-Quds Al-Sharif with the help of Allah.”
February 5, 2003: US Sec. of State Colin Powell makes presentation to UN Security Council. Using satellite photos, communications intercepts, and Western intelligence reports, Sec. Powell tells the Security Council that Iraq continues to conceal an active WMD program.
February 9, 2003: Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Naji Sabri arrive in the Iranian capitol of Tehran at the head of a delegation comprised of Iraqi intelligence officials at the invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Kamal Kharrazi.
February 10, 2003: Iraq begins dispersal of Iraqi Air Force aircraft from the Baghdad area to Western Iraq, in particular to air bases at H-3, H-2, and H-1, and to base near the Iraqi town of Ghalaysan.
February 10, 2003: France, Germany and Belgium block a US request to extend boosted protection to Turkey in a war contingency, chiefly AWACS surveillance planes, Patriot missiles and anti-chemical and anti-biological warfare teams.
February 14, 2003: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors report to the UN Security Council. Say they have not found any weapons of mass destruction, but urge Iraq to be more cooperative.
February 18, 2003: Reports circulate that Pres. Saddam Hussein has placed Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai under house arrest and jailed several other high-ranking military and government officials.
February 18, 2003: Abdolaziz Hakim denies reports that the al-Badr Corps would cooperate with the US Military once the war started. “The al-Badr Corps is active in Iran, Northern Iraq as well as Iraq proper in underground cells. By mid-February, 2003, some 5,000 Iraqi-Shi’ite and Iranian-Arab troops of Imam Baqir al-Hakim’s al-Badr Corps crossed into northern Iraq from Iran.
February 18-19, 2003: Iraqi Forces are withdrawn from the areas close to the Jordanian and Kuwaiti borders in accordance with Pres. Saddam Hussein’s new “confrontation plan” which focuses on Baghdad, the oil region in Kurdistan, and Tikrit.
February 20, 2003: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah transmits a proposal to the US Bush Administration through his son Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah suggesting that in the event of the removal of the Pres. Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Government, Saudia Arabia should lead a coalition of Islamic nations to occupy Iraq.
February 23-24, 2003: Russia sends former KGB Chief Yevgeny Primakov to Iraq, where he meets with Pres. Saddam Hussein, reportedly at his palace near Tikrit.
February 28, 2003: Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei agan report to the UN Security Council. ElBaradei reports no nuclear finds. Blix asks for more cooperation, notes the find of al-Samoud-2 missiles in Iraq, which exceed the UN-mandated 93-mile range limit, but praises the Iraqis announcement that they plan to destroy the prohibited weapons.
March 2003: Iraq receives 100 inflatable, motorized Zodiac-type boats purchased from companies in the Balkans by Syria and smuggled into Iraq, reportedly for use by a new Iraqi suicide unit.
March 3, 2003: Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (Turkish Grand National Assembly) votes 264-250 in favor of allowing 62,000 US troops to be based in Turkey for the expected US-Iraq conflict, but 19 MPs abstain, denying the proposal a majority, and invalidating the bill.
March 5, 2003: Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein’s Islamic New Year address is read on Iraqi TV by a Government spokesman. Again, emphasizes linkage between Iraq’s struggle and Palestinian liberation.
March 7, 2003: Hans Blix submits UNMOVIC report on unresolved disarmament issues. Makes presentation to UN Security Council. According to Blix, inspections should continue, but UNMOVIC can still not confirm that Iraq has disarmed. Report notes several illegal weapons systems discovered in Iraq, including the FROG-rocket system and drone capable of delivering WMD. UK submits March 17, 2003, deadline for Iraqi disarmament.
March 11, 2003: As US-UK-Spain push 2nd resolution to authorize military action against Iraq, France and Russia announce that they will veto any such resolution.
March 14, 2003: US-UK-Spain withdraw potential second UN resolution, announce plans for meeting between the three nations' leaders on March 16. Under Northern Watch mandate, US B-1 multi-role long-range bombers strike two military radar sites in West Iraq-- mobile anti-aircraft radar system near the H3 military air base and another near the Jordanian border. First use of B-1 bombers in Iraq since Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
March 16, 2003: US Pres. Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Joze Marie Aznar meet at Praia Da Vitoria in the Azores Islands of Portugal. Reiterate that Pres. Saddam Hussein has failed to disarm. Issue an ultimatum to Pres. Saddam Hussein: Voluntarily go into exile, or face military action.
March 17-18, 2003: US Pres. Bush orders the Iraqi President and his sons, Qusay and Uday, to go into exile within 48 hours or face “military conflict launched at a time of our choosing.” The following day, Uday rejects the offer on behalf of his father and brother.