On the 20th March 2003, an invasion into Iraq was launched by the “coalition of the willing”, a body comprised of the USA, the UK, Spain and Portugal. The coalition stated that the invasion was due to the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and the harbouring of terrorists in Iraq, which posed an imminent threat to each coalition country and its people. The invasion had a dramatic effect on Western relations with the Arab world. Despite a conviction that the coalition was ridding Iraq of an evil dictator, empirical evidence has shown that “Western Intervention” has in fact dramatically increased resentment to the West in Iraq, and indeed in many other parts of the Arab World. Naturally due to its influence, much of this resentment falls at the feet of the USA, and this essay will focus on the US when talking about “the West”. It is important to remember when studying the effect of the invasion on the that while most “Arab states had dramatically reduced their anti-Washington sentiment”, resentment due to both ideological differences and the behaviour of Britain and USA during the colonial period and cold war, that resentment towards the West was harboured just below the surface within the Arab world. In looking at how the 2003 invasion has re-shaped the Wests relations with the Arab world, its crucial to explore three main areas; the effect of the invasion on Iraq and its people and the result of this on Iraqi attitudes to the West, the effect on Iraqi honour of the invasion and the effect of invasion on the sentiment of other Arab nations towards the West.
The effects of the invasion of the lives of ordinary Iraqi’s were devastating, and this had a deeply negative effect on their feelings towards the West., thus representing a breakdown in the Iraqi-Western relationship. By 2007, 70,000 Iraqi citizens and 3100 police and military personnel working for the transitional government were killed, and 2,000,000 Iraqis fled their homes and became refugees. Despite living previously under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime, the behaviour of the coalition forces led to the majority of Iraqi’s viewing them as occupiers and not liberators. It was not just the pure number of people killed or misplaced increased anti-western feeling in Iraq, but the tactics employed by the coalition and their subsequent results on the country. The troops were seen as “lacking in respect for the country’s people, religion and traditions” and “indiscriminate in their use of force when civilians were nearby” There was bombing and firing on densely populated urban areas, collective punishment of villages and food blockades of suspected insurgent areas. It appeared to the Iraqi people that the US forces had a blatant disregard for Iraqi civilians, and thus they were not there as liberators but there purely for selfish reasons and the pursuit of oil. In a Western Poll taken in 4 different regions of Iraq, only 5% of Iraqis thought the US invaded to “assist the Iraqi people” or “ to destroy WMD’s” with 43% saying that the aim was to “rob Iraq’s oils”. Finally 82% of Iraqi’s were against the occupation altogether. The anger of the Iraqi people towards the USA due to US tactics in Iraq, the numbers killed and misplaced due to the invasion and their belief that the West hadn’t come there to liberate them had a hugely negative affect on the Iraqi perspective on the West and thus a monumental breakdown in Western-Arab relations.
It was not just US tactics or the numbers of Iraqi’s killed or misplaced that led to a breakdown in the Iraqi’s relationship with the coalition forces and therefore with the West. In a country with so much emphasis on honour, many of the population felt shame at having a foreign power rid them of their dictator., causing resentment towards the Western “ liberators”. As the Iraqi civilian Haida Assafi said “The