Iraq War? Current Situation and Issues for Congress Update [Updated February 5, 2003]   [open pdf - 412KB]

On November 8, 2002, the United Nations Security Council, acting at U.S. urging, adopted Resolution 1441, giving Iraq a final opportunity to "comply with its the disarmament obligations" or "face serious consequences." During January 2003, the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf continued, amid reports that U.S. forces would be ready to launch a war by mid-February or early March. President Bush, other top U.S. officials, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have indicated that Iraq has little time left to offer full cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors. However, the inspectors themselves, with leaders of France, Germany, and other countries, are urging that the inspections process be allowed more time. The Administration asserts that Iraq is in defiance of 17 Security Council resolutions requiring that it fully declare and eliminate its weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Skeptics, including many foreign critics, maintain that the Administration is exaggerating the Iraqi threat. In October 2002, Congress authorized the President to use the armed forces of the United States to defend U.S. national security against the threat posed by Iraq and to enforce all relevant U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq.Analysts and officials are concerned about instability and ethnic fragmentation in Iraq after any war. U.S. planners are reportedly planning for an occupation of the country that could last 18 months or longer. Whether the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein leads to democratization in Iraq and the wider Middle East, or promotes instability and an intensification of anti-U.S. attitudes, is an issue in debate. The extent to which an Iraqi conflict would create a substantial humanitarian crisis, including refugee flows and civilian deaths, will likely depend on the length of the conflict and whether it involves fighting in urban areas. Constitutional issues concerning a possible war with Iraq were largely resolved by the enactment of P.L. 107-243, the October authorization. International legal issues remain, however, with respect to launching a pre-emptive war against Iraq if there is no new Security Council resolution authorizing such a war.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31715
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