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In 1979, President Bakr resigned under pressure from Hussein, who then became president. Immediately after his succession, Hussein called a Baath Party meeting and had all of his opposition systematically murdered. As president, Hussein continued to reinforce his power base by enlarging security forces and employing family members in the government.
One 1984 analysis indicated that 50 percent of Iraqis were either employed by the government or military or had a family member who was -- thus making the population intimately connected to and dominated by Hussein.
For the past two decades, Hussein has tyrannically ruled Iraq. He started a war with Iran, and his invasion of Kuwait led to the Persian Gulf War. While his abuses are widespread, opposition groups receive little popular support, and uprisings have been minor and easily squelched. Fear of reprisals forced nearly unanimous positive votes for Hussein in the 1995 and 2002 referendums on the presidency. In addition, many in the Middle East seem to believe that if Hussein is deposed the country will break into pieces, leading to more problems in the already troubled region.
Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Gulf War I
The Iran-Iraq War permanently altered the course of Iraqi history. It strained Iraqi political and social life, and led to severe economic dislocations. Viewed from a historical perspective, the outbreak of hostilities in 1980 was, in part, just another phase of the ancient Persian-Arab conflict that had been fueled by twentieth-century border disputes. Many observers, however, believe that Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran was a personal miscalculation based on ambition and a sense of vulnerability. Saddam Hussein, despite having made significant strides in forging an Iraqi nation-state, feared that Iran's new revolutionary leadership would threaten Iraq's delicate SunniShia balance and would exploit Iraq's geostrategic vulnerabilities--Iraq's minimal access to the Persian Gulf, for example. In this respect, Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran has historical precedent; the ancient rulers of Mesopotamia, fearing internal strife and foreign conquest, also engaged in frequent battles with the peoples of the highlands.
Iraq and Iran had engaged in border clashes for many years and had revived the dormant Shatt al Arab waterway dispute in 1979. Iraq claimed the 200-kilometer channel up to the Iranian shore as its territory, while Iran insisted that the thalweg--a line running down the middle of the waterway--negotiated last in 1975, was the official border. The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement.
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The Iraqis also perceived revolutionary Iran's Islamic agenda as threatening to their pan-Arabism. Khomeini, bitter over his expulsion from Iraq in 1977 after fifteen years in An Najaf, vowed to avenge Shia victims of Baathist repression. Baghdad became more confident, however, as it watched the once invincible Imperial Iranian Army disintegrate, as most of its highest ranking officers were executed. In Khuzestan (Arabistan to the Iraqis), Iraqi intelligence officers incited riots over labor disputes, and in the Kurdish region, a new rebellion caused the Khomeini government severe troubles.
As the Baathists planned their military campaign, they had every reason to be confident.
Not only did the Iranians lack cohesive leadership, but the Iranian armed forces, according to Iraqi intelligence estimates, also lacked spare parts for their American-made equipment. Baghdad, on the other hand, possessed fully equipped and trained forces.
Morale was running high. Against Iran's armed forces, including the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) troops, led by religious mullahs with little or no military experience, the Iraqis could muster twelve complete mechanized divisions, equipped with the latest Soviet materiel. With the Iraqi military buildup in the late 1970s, Saddam Hussein had assembled an army of 190,000 men, augmented by 2,200 tanks and 450 aircraft.
• Iraqi Offensives, 1980-82
Despite the Iraqi government's concern, the eruption of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran did not immediately destroy the Iraqi-Iranian rapprochement that had prevailed since the 1975 Algiers Agreement. As a sign of Iraq's desire to maintain good relations with the new government in Tehran, President Bakr sent a personal message to Khomeini offering "his best wishes for the friendly Iranian people on the occasion of the establishment of the Islamic Republic." In addition, as late as the end of August 1979, Iraqi authorities extended an invitation to Mehdi Bazargan, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to visit Iraq with the aim of improving bilateral relations.
The fall of the moderate Bazargan government in late 1979, however, and the rise of Islamic militants preaching an expansionist foreign policy soured Iraqi-Iranian relations.
The principal events that touched off the rapid deterioration in relations occurred during the spring of 1980. In April the Iranian-supported Ad Dawah attempted to assassinate Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. Shortly after the failed grenade attack on Tariq Aziz, Ad Dawah was suspected of attempting to assassinate another Iraqi leader, Minister of Culture and Information Latif Nayyif Jasim. In response, the Iraqis immediately rounded up members and supporters of Ad Dawah and deported to Iran thousands of Shias of Iranian origin. In the summer of 1980, Saddam Hussein ordered the executions of presumed Ad Dawah leader Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqr as Sadr and his sister.
Simultaneously, six Iraqi army divisions entered Iran on three fronts in an initially successful surprise attack, where they drove as far as eight kilometers inland and occupied 1,000 square kilometers of Iranian territory.
As a diversionary move on the northern front, an Iraqi mechanized mountain infantry division overwhelmed the border garrison at Qasr-e Shirin, a border town in Bakhtaran (formerly known as Kermanshahan) Province, and occupied territory thirty kilometers eastward to the base of the Zagros Mountains. This area was strategically significant because the main Baghdad-Tehran highway traversed it.
On the central front, Iraqi forces captured Mehran, on the western plain of the Zagros Mountains in Ilam Province, and pushed eastward to the mountain base. Mehran occupied an important position on the major north-south road, close to the border on the Iranian side.
The main thrust of the attack was in the south, where five armored and mechanized divisions invaded Khuzestan on two axes, one crossing over the Shatt al Arab near Basra, which led to the siege and eventual occupation of Khorramshahr, and the second heading for Susangerd, which had Ahvaz, the major military base in Khuzestan, as its objective. Iraqi armored units easily crossed the Shatt al Arab waterway and entered the Iranian province of Khuzestan. Dehloran and several other towns were targeted and were rapidly occupied to prevent reinforcement from Bakhtaran and from Tehran. By mid-October, a full division advanced through Khuzestan headed for Khorramshahr and Abadan and the strategic oil fields nearby. Other divisions headed toward Ahvaz, the provincial capital and site of an air base. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the troops made a rapid and significant advance--almost eighty kilometers in the first few days. In the battle for Dezful in Khuzestan, where a major air base is located, the local Iranian army commander requested air support in order to avoid a defeat. President Bani Sadr, therefore, authorized the release from jail of many pilots, some of whom were suspected of still being loyal to the shah. With the increased use of the Iranian air force, the Iraqi progress was somewhat curtailed.
Iran may have prevented a quick Iraqi victory by a rapid mobilization of volunteers and deployment of loyal Pasdaran forces to the front. Besides enlisting the Iranian pilots, the new revolutionary regime also recalled veterans of the old imperial army, although many experienced officers, most of whom had been trained in the United States, had been purged. Furthermore, the Pasdaran and Basij (what Khomeini called the "Army of Twenty Million" or People's Militia) recruited at least 100,000 volunteers. Approximately 200,000 soldiers were sent to the front by the end of November 1980. They were ideologically committed troops (some members even carried their own shrouds to the front in the expectation of martyrdom) that fought bravely despite inadequate armor support. For example, on November 7 commando units played a significant role, with the navy and air force, in an assault on Iraqi oil export terminals at Mina al Bakr and Al Faw. Iran hoped to diminish Iraq's financial resources by reducing its oil revenues. Iran also attacked the northern pipeline in the early days of the war and persuaded Syria to close the Iraqi pipeline that crossed its territory.
Iran stopped Iraqi forces on the Karun River and, with limited military stocks, unveiled its "human wave" assaults, which used thousands of Basij (Popular Mobilization Army or People's Army) volunteers. After Bani Sadr was ousted as president and commander in chief, Iran gained its first major victory, when, as a result of Khomeini's initiative, the army and Pasdaran suppressed their rivalry and cooperated to force Baghdad to lift its long siege of Abadan in September 1981. Iranian forces also defeated Iraq in the Qasr-e Shirin area in December 1981 and January 1982. The Iraqi armed forces were hampered by their unwillingness to sustain a high casualty rate and therefore refused to initiate a new offensive.
In confronting the Iraqi air defense, Iran soon discovered that a low-flying group of two, three, or four F-4s could hit targets almost anywhere in Iraq. Iranian pilots overcame Iraqi SA-2 and SA-3 antiaircraft missiles, using American tactics developed in Vietnam; they were less successful against Iraqi SA-6s. Iran's Western-made air defense system seemed more effective than Iraq's Soviet-made counterpart. Nevertheless, Iran experienced difficulty in operating and maintaining Hawk, Rapier, and Tigercat missiles and instead used antiaircraft guns and man-portable missiles.
• Iraqi Retreats, 1982-84
The Iranian high command passed from regular military leaders to clergy in mid-1982.
In March 1982, Tehran launched its Operation Undeniable Victory, which marked a major turning point, as Iran penetrated Iraq's "impenetrable" lines, split Iraq's forces, and forced the Iraqis to retreat. Its forces broke the Iraqi line near Susangerd, separating Iraqi units in northern and southern Khuzestan. Within a week, they succeeded in destroying a large part of three Iraqi divisions. This operation, another combined effort of the army, Pasdaran, and Basij, was a turning point in the war because the strategic initiative shifted from Iraq to Iran.
Beginning in 1984, Baghdad's military goal changed from controlling Iranian territory to denying Tehran any major gain inside Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq tried to force Iran to the negotiating table by various means. First, President Saddam Hussein sought to increase the war's manpower and economic cost to Iran. For this purpose, Iraq purchased new weapons, mainly from the Soviet Union and France. Iraq also completed the construction of what came to be known as "killing zones" (which consisted primarily of artificially flooded areas near Basra) to stop Iranian units. In addition, according to Jane's Defence Weekly and other sources, Baghdad used chemical weapons against Iranian troop concentrations and launched attacks on many economic centers. Despite Iraqi determination to halt further Iranian progress, Iranian units in March 1984 captured parts of the Majnun Islands, whose oil fields had economic as well as strategic value.
• The War of Attrition, 1984-87
By 1984 it was reported that some 300,000 Iranian soldiers and 250,000 Iraqi troops had been killed, or wounded. Most foreign military analysts felt that neither Iraq nor Iran used its modern equipment efficiently. Frequently, sophisticated materiel was left unused, when a massive modern assault could have won the battle for either side. Tanks and armored vehicles were dug in and used as artillery pieces, instead of being maneuvered to lead or to support an assault. William O. Staudenmaeir, a seasoned military analyst, reported that "the land-computing sights on the Iraqi tanks [were] seldom used. This lower[ed] the accuracy of the T-62 tanks to World War II standards."
In addition, both sides frequently abandoned heavy equipment in the battle zone because they lacked the skilled technical personnel needed to carry out minor repairs.
Late, in March 1986, the UN secretary general, Javier Perez de Cuellar, formally accused Iraq of using chemical weapons against Iran. Citing the report of four chemical warfare experts whom the UN had sent to Iran in February and March 1986, the secretary general called on Baghdad to end its violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. The UN report concluded that "Iraqi forces have used chemical warfare against Iranian forces"; the weapons used included both mustard gas and nerve gas. The report further stated that "the use of chemical weapons appear[ed] to be more extensive [in 1981] than in 1984." Iraq attempted to deny using chemicals, but the evidence, in the form of many badly burned casualties flown to European hospitals for treatment, was overwhelming. According to a British representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in July 1986, "Iraqi chemical warfare was responsible for about 10,000 casualties." In March 1988, Iraq was again charged with a major use of chemical warfare while retaking Halabjah, a Kurdish town in northeastern Iraq, near the Iranian border.
In late May 1987, just when the war seemed to have reached a complete stalemate on the southern front, reports from Iran indicated that the conflict was intensifying on Iraq's northern front. This assault, Operation Karbala Ten, was a joint effort by Iranian units and Iraqi Kurdish rebels. They surrounded the garrison at Mawat, endangering Iraq's oil fields near Kirkuk and the northern oil pipeline to Turkey.
Believing it could win the war merely by holding the line and inflicting unacceptable losses on the attacking Iranians, Iraq initially adopted a static defensive strategy.
This was successful in repelling successive Iranian offensives until 1986 and 1987, when the Al-Faw peninsula was lost and Iranian troops reached the gates of Al-Basrah.
Embarrassed by the loss of the peninsula and concerned by the threat to his second largest city, Saddam ordered a change in strategy. From a defensive posture, in which the only offensive operations were counterattacks to relieve forces under pressure or to exploit failed Iranian assaults, the Iraqis adopted an offensive strategy. More decision-making authority was delegated to senior military commanders. The change also indicated a maturing of Iraqi military capabilities and an improvement in the armed forces' effectiveness. The success of this new strategy, plus the attendant change in doctrine and procedures, virtually eliminated Iranian military capabilities.
As the war continued, Iran was increasingly short of spare parts for damaged airplanes and had lost a large number of airplanes in combat. As a result, by late 1987 Iran had become less able to mount an effective defense against the resupplied Iraqi air force, let alone stage aerial counterattacks.
• Special Weapons
To avoid defeat, Iraq sought out every possible weapon. This included developing a self-sustaining capability to produce militarily significant quantities of chemical warfare agents. In the defense, integrating chemical weapons offered a solution to the masses of lightly armed Basif and Posdoran. Chemical weapons were singularly effective when used on troop assembly areas and supporting artillery. When conducting offensive operations, Iraq routinely supported the attacks with deep fires and integrated chemical fires on forward defenses, command posts, artillery positions, and logistical facilities.
• War Termination
The Iran-Iraq war lasted nearly eight years, from September of 1980 until August of 1988. It ended when Iran accepted United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 598, leading to a 20 August 1988 cease-fire.
At the end, virtually none of the issues which are usually blamed for the war had been resolved. When it was over, the conditions which existed at the beginning of the war remained virtually unchanged. Although Iraq won the war militarily, and possessed a significant military advantage over Iran in 1989, the 1991 Persian Gulf War reduced Iraq's capabilities to a point where a rough parity existed between Iran and Iraq-conditions similar to those found in 1980.
Gulf War II
• Why Would Iraq invade Kuwait ?
Kuwait supplies much of the world’s oil supplies, and when Hussein invaded Kuwait, he controlled 24% of the world’s oil supplies . Though this is a good reason, it is not the only one. Iraq’s real excuse for annexing Kuwait was that he believed that Kuwait was producing more oil than it was supposed to, taking out of Iraq’s profits. Also, Iraq was $80 billion in debt to Kuwait, and Iraq thought that the debt should be forgiven . After Iraq attacked Kuwait, the United States and other countries feared that Saudi Arabia would be next and that the world’s oil supply was in jeopardy. This was the spark that leads to the Persian Gulf War. There was also controversy with Iraq even before the invasion of Kuwait. Iraq was suspected of developing chemical weapons. The United Nations had often asked to check their weapons supplies to prevent Iraq from gaining great military power. When Iraq refused to let the UN inspectors into the country, suspicion was raised. One final thing that began the Persian Gulf War was Iraq’s development of the SCUD Missile. Though not as powerful as any weapon in the United States’ arsenal, the SCUD Missile still had the ability to hit any target within 500 miles, and destroy large buildings. Just before the United States began air strikes over Iraq, Hussein decided to test his new weapon on the city of Iraq. Little damage was caused, but it just was another excuse for the United States to attack .
The First war with iran left Iraq with huge battle-tested army and vast stockpiles of modern weapons. To intimidate Kuwait over the issue of access to the gulf and Kuwait's unwillingness to limit its oil production, President Saddam Husayn massed Iraqi troops on Kuwait's border. On August 2, 1990, to the surprise of the world, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait announcing Kuwait's annexation as Iraq's nineteenth province. Iraqi combat forces continued to move southward to the Saudi border, and enormous amounts of supplies were transported to the frontline troops. Intelligence sources indicated that Husayn planned to seize the nearby Saudi oil fields and processing installations. The Saudi Arabian National Guard was mobilized and deployed along the border, with army units to follow. Convinced that an Iraqi attack on Saudi territory was imminent and recognizing that available Saudi forces were no match for the divisions Husayn had moved into Kuwait, King Fahd authorized the deployment of United States forces to defend his northern border against Iraqi aggression.
In the ensuing months, an allied force of more than 600,000 ground, sea, and air force personnel was assembled to defend Saudi Arabia and to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait. Command of the allied forces was divided, with the head of the United States Central Command, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, in charge of United States, British, and French units and his Saudi counterpart, Lieutenant General Khalid ibn Sultan Al Saud, son of the minister of defense and aviation and nephew of the king, in charge of units from twenty-four non-Western countries, including troops from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, and other states of the Persian Gulf. Saudi ground forces deployed for the allied undertaking (called Operation Desert Shield and renamed Operation Desert Storm when the war began in January 1991), consisted of one armored brigade, three mechanized brigades, and two national guard mechanized brigades. Saudi military resources were also strained by the need to manage the allied military buildup and to ensure that the nations contributing forces to the coalition were supplied with fuel, housing, power, and food. The Saudi air force flew 3,000 supply missions, losing only one Tornado and two F-5E fighter aircraft to Iraqi fire.
The war started on January 16, 1991 by allied airstrikes. The aim of those was to destroy all military installations owned and controlled by Iraqi forces. Within a month the allies more or less accomplished such task and after Iraq’s refusal to accept US ultimatum involving withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from all of Kuwait’s territory the airplanes were followed by ground forces on February 23, 1991. The ground force was mainly comprised of US Army and Marines supported by various Arab Armies’ troops. On February 26, 1991, Kuwait resistance forces announced the regain of control over nation’s capital, Kuwait City. The following day, then in power US president George Bush Sr. ordered a ceasefire effective at midnight of February 27, 1991. The actual war lasted for only 6 weeks and ended with a total defeat of Iraq.
President Husayn didn’t seem to learn his lesson however, escalating the situation in the area several times afterwards. First in 1998 he denied the international weapons inspectors the access to chosen installations and tried to play the same trick again in 2001. In years between the international community tried to open the way for the inspectors again, but suceeded only after direct threatening Saddam with declaring of the war on Iraq again.
Gulf War III
The first and most obvious ploy of the war hawks was to claim, in the words of the president, "He [Saddam] possesses the most deadly arms of our age." The problem with this argument is that it is probably not true and, even if true, suggests a need to disarm Iraq, not to wage a war to bring down Saddam Hussein. Iraq certainly had such weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) at one time, but between 1991 and 1998 a combination of the Gulf War, UN sanctions, and UN inspectors destroyed almost all or all of them and Iraq's capabilities to produce more of them. In the words of Scott Ritter, "I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them."
On October 7, 2002, President Bush contributed what was surely the weirdest of his "homicidal-dictator-with-WMDs" rationales for a war with Iraq. In a speech in Cincinnati, he first noted that "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction" and then warned that "Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions targeting the United States." Presumably Bush was here referring to the Czech L-29 jet training aircraft, 169 of which Iraq bought in the 1960s and 1980s. The L-29 is a single-engine, dual-seat airplane meant to be a basic flight trainer for novices, the Soviet bloc's version of America's Cessna. It has a range of about 840 miles and a top speed of around 145 miles per hour. There is some evidence that even before t! he Gulf war Iraq had experimented with converting these aircraft into unmanned aerial vehicles-but they may have been merely crop-dusters.
Perhaps the least convincing of the official reasons for wanting to get rid of Saddam is the administration's contention that he has no respect for UN resolutions. On September 30, 2002, Rumsfeld staged a show at the Pentagon featuring gun-camera footage of Iraqi antiaircraft artillery firing at American and British warplanes patrolling the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. Rumsfeld said, "With each missile launched at our air crews, Iraq expresses its contempt for the UN resolutions -- a fact that must be kept in mind as their latest inspection offers are evaluated." But Secretary Rumsfeld must know that no UN resolution (or other international authority) exists to legitimate the no-fly zones. The U.S., Britain, and France created them unilaterally in March 1991 in order to protect Kurds and Shiites who had risen in revolt against Saddam after the Gulf War. Although this stopped Saddam from using his air power, the Bush administration then stood by as he crushed the uprisings because it feared that a successful Kurdish revolt would destabilize its ally, Turkey, which has long been engaged in a ruthless suppression of its own Kurdish minority. France soon dropped out of the no-fly zone enforcement, but the U.S. and Britain ! have continued and, more recently, escalated their air attacks, although they are clearly illegal under international law.
The attacks of September 11 have, in turn, given the United States a renewed opportunity to expand its power and influence in the region -- this time potentially to use its new Persian Gulf bases to establish even more bases in the ancient territories between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.
• War Starts
The U.S. and British warplanes bombed Iraqi targets north and south on Thursday and hit Republican Guard units trying to blunt the advance on Baghdad. Officials said 25 Marines were wounded or missing after a battle at an undisclosed location.
Free of constraints imposed by two days of sandstorms, combat aircraft dropped bombs "just about as fast as we can load them," said Capt. Thomas A. Parker, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf.
Increasingly, invading forces operated in all regions of Saddam Hussein's domain.
Cargo planes delivered military supplies into northern Iraq, one day after 1,000 American airborne troops parachuted in to seize an airfield. Hundreds of miles to the south, British officials said their forces destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks emerging from the besieged city of Basra.
And in central Iraq, the first resupply plane landed on a restored runway at Tallil Airfield – hastily renamed "Bush International Airport" by American forces who secured it earlier in the week.
Still, Iraqi resistance continue to slow the drive on the capital and kept American and British forces out of key cities such as Basra and An Nasiriyah. Its mines kept ships with humanitarian assistance from unloading their cargo at the southern port city of Umm Qasr.
"The enemy must come inside Baghdad and that will be its grave," Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed vowed defiantly.
Half a world away, President Bush hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a Camp David summit where both men vowed victory over Saddam. With speculation rising about a monthslong conflict, the president refused to estimate how long the fighting might last.
"However long it takes," he said, thumping the podium for emphasis with each word. "This isn't a matter of timetable, it's a matter of victory."
As he spoke, advance elements of the 4th Infantry Division prepared to leave Fort Hood, Texas, for Kuwait, beginning a long-planned deployment of 20,000 more ground troops.
Eight days into the war, Iraqis accused U.S. and British forces of targeting civilians.
They, in turn, were accused of seizing Iraqi children to force their fathers into battle.
"They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their morale," Iraqi Health Minister Omeed Medhat Mubarak told reporters. Officials said about 350 civilians had been killed in the operation, and more than 3,500 others injured.
One day after Iraq claimed more than a dozen civilians were injured in a missile strike in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said it was possible that an Iraqi missile was responsible. "It may have been a deliberate attack inside of town," he added.
There was little information about the reported Marine casualties in fighting around An Nasiriyah, one of the southern Iraq cities where irregular forces have put up far more resistance than American military planners expected.
Brooks told reporters merely that some Marines had been injured in a 90-minute battle in the area. Officials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the troops are based, said 14 members of the 2nd Expeditionary Force were listed as wounded in action and another 11 as missing after fighting on Wednesday.
After two days of curtailed bombing because of bad weather, officials reported more than 600 bombing missions over Iraq during the day, including many directed against Republican Guard formations near Baghdad.
Small groups of Iraqi armored personnel carriers, ranging from three to six vehicles, tested U.S. defenses around Karbala, about 50 miles from the capital. American commanders called in air strikes when the Iraqis closed to within 10 miles, and U.S. troops cheered as the bombs found their targets.
Baghdad was hit, as it has been every day since the war began. Bombs fell, too, on Iraqi positions near the Kurdish zone in the northern part of the country.
To the south, British forces have been trying for days to gain control over Basra, but die-hard defenders of Saddam's regime have held positions inside the city amid reports of clashes with the local population.
Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the British defense staff, told reporters that British forces destroyed 14 tanks that tried to leave the city during the morning. According to historians, it was Britain's biggest such battle since World War II.
"It's a suicidal approach which is irrational with no military logic to it," said Capt. Al Lockwood, a British officer.
Bush and Blair used their news conference to demand that the United Nations' oil-for-food program restart immediately. About 60 percent of Iraq's 22 million people are fed through the program, under which Iraq is allowed to sell unlimited oil, as long as the money goes mainly to buy food, medicine and other humanitarians goods for the population. The program was halted when the United Nations ordered its workers to leave the country.
While administration officials say Bush has not decided how to administer postwar Iraq, they said many top advisers want to limit U.N. participation to primarily humanitarian relief. The administration is inclined to leave political and military decisions to the wartime coalition partners, officials said.
• Baghdad Falls 9th April 2003
As American marines gradually take control of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on the twenty-first day of the war on Iraq, broadcasters have switched to rolling news.
Baghdad may have had a reprieve from bombing attacks last night, but the Iraq war is not over.
This is the warning from American officials, who have cautioned that, even with the arrival of American troops in central Baghdad, battles remain - especially in northern Iraq, where major cities such as Mosuel are still under Iraqi government control.
As the Iraqi leader's control of Baghdad crumbled yesterday, coalition warplanes continued to strike Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, about 145 kilometers north of Baghdad.
The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed al-Douri, admitted Saddam's regime is finished.