Iraq: U.S. Regime Change Efforts and Post-Saddam Governance [Updated December 22, 2004]   [open pdf - 289KB]

"Operation Iraqi Freedom accomplished a long-standing U.S. objective, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but replacing his regime with a stable, moderate, democratic political structure has run into significant difficulty. That outcome would contribute to preventing Iraq from becoming a sanctuary for terrorists, a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission report (Chapter 12, Section 2). During the1990s, U.S. efforts to covertly change the regime failed because of limited U.S. commitment, disorganization of the Iraqi opposition, and the vigilance of Iraq's several overlapping security services. Previous U.S. Administrations had ruled out a U.S. military invasion to change the regime, believing such action would be risky and that Iraq did not necessarily pose a level of threat that would justify doing so. President George W. Bush characterized Iraq as a grave potential threat to the United States because of its refusal to abandon its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and its potential to transfer WMD to terrorist groups. After a November 2002-March 2003 round of U.N. WMD inspections in which Iraq's cooperation was mixed, on March 19, 2003, the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm Iraq and change its regime. The regime fell on April 9, 2003. Although acknowledging that the insurgency is adversely affecting U.S. policy, the Bush Administration asserts that U.S. policy in Iraq will ultimately succeed as U.S., NATO, and other trainers build Iraq's various security bodies. Some believe the United States should add significant numbers of troops to the current level of about 150,000, plus about 26,000 foreign military personnel. Others believe the United States needs to take new steps to recruit major international force contributors, and yet some others believe that the United States should end its presence in Iraq."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31339
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