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Governments' pre-war positions on invasion of Iraq

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This article describes the positions of world governments prior to the actual initiation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and not their current positions as they may have changed since then.

Country positions on the Iraq WarEnlarge

Country positions on the Iraq War

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Varying levels of support
3 Countries supporting the U.S. position
4 Opposing U.S. Position
5 Neutral, unclear
6 See also
7 External links


In 2002, the United States began to campaign for the overthrow of Iraq's dictatorial president, Saddam Hussein. The United States, under the administration of George W. Bush, argued that Saddam Hussein was a threat to global peace, a vicious tyrant, and a sponsor of international terrorism. The Bush Administration also argued that they had reason to believe that Saddam Hussein was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, something he had been forbidden to do since the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

Opinion on the war was greatly divided between nations. Some countries felt that the United States failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hussein had an active weapons program. Others felt that Iraq was an insignificant and militarily weak country that was not worth fighting over. Some saw the war as an act of imperialism, and charged that the United States just wanted Iraq's oil.

On the other side, supporting countries argued that Saddam Hussein was one of the 20th Century's worst despots, and that free countries should be obligated to remove brutal dictators from power. Others felt that Saddam's ties to terror groups were well-established, and his weapons programs very real.

Varying levels of support

Analysis of the count reveals the complexities in world diplomacy. Some national governments publicly denounced the invasion plan while at the same time accepting U.S. aid earmarked for the war, or providing to the war effort troops, fueling stations, military support, and/or airspace. Some national governments provided only a semblance of support.

Some nations originally on the White House list disavowed membership in the "coalition". Furthermore, significant opposition to the war exists in segments of the populations and Parliaments in many of the supporting nations. Adding to the complications, the Bush administration claimed to have the support of some 15 nations that wished to remain anonymous. This bloc has been dubbed by some "the shadow coalition" or, sardonically, "the coalition of the unwilling to be named."

Support can be so different in nature, from armed troops to use of airspace and bases, logistic support, political support, to participation in reconstruction efforts, that it appears to some to be difficult to exclude most countries from the official list, except Iraq for obvious reasons (although some might claim some movements inside Iraq will probably also help reconstructing their own country).

After George W. Bush (March 26, 2003) mentioned Warsaw's contribution prominently in a speech, Poland asked that its participation in the coalition not be used for "propaganda purposes."

Countries supporting the U.S. position

The US government announced that 49 countries are joined in a "coalition of the willing" in favor of forcibly removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, with some number of other countries expressing their support in private. The 49 countries named by the White House are Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uzbekistan. Of these, the following countries had an active or participant role, by providing either significant troops or political support: Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and USA Some newspapers and organizations ([1]) have questioned what "willing" means in this context, or whether these countries' populations or even their governments were in favor of the plan to remove Saddam Hussein. For example, Nicaragua still has not received the U.S. restitutions for military and paramilitary activities as ruled by the International Court of Justice and as supported by a United Nations General Assembly resolution. Many of the countries are extremely poor and rely on U.S. military or development aid. In no country other than the U.S. did opinion polls show a majority of the population was in favor of the war when it started. Critics also asked why the United States sought for the support of such questionable regimes as those of Azerbaijan ([1]), Colombia ([1]), Rwanda ([1]), Uganda ([1]), Ukraine ([1]) or Uzbekistan ([1]) when trying to install a democracy in Iraq.

Four of these countries supplied combat forces directly participating in the invasion of Iraq: the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland. Other countries are providing logistical and intelligence support, chemical and biological response teams, overflight rights, humanitarian and reconstruction aid, and political support.


In late January 2003, a statement released to various newspapers and signed by the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic showed support for the US, saying that Saddam should not be allowed to violate U.N. resolutions. The statement went on to say that Saddam was a "clear threat to world security," and urged Europe to unite with the United States to ensure that the Iraqi regime is disarmed. Later ten more Eastern European countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania - all seven are future EU members - Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia issued another statement on Iraq, in general support of the US's position but not commenting on a war without support of the UN Security Council. French President Jacques Chirac commented in saying "it is not well brought up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet". It was reported (but no citation is available) that Jacques Chirac suggested Romania and Bulgaria, which were not yet official EU members, might not be allowed to join because of the statement. This was later taken back, and, of course, this has not affected these countries chances for EU accession. Romanian President Ion Iliescu called Chirac's remarks irrational, saying "such reproaches are totally unjustified, unwise, and undemocratic." Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Ivanov told reporters "it is not the first time that pressure is being exerted upon us in one or another form but in my opinion this is not the productive way to reach unity and consensus in the Security Council."

In the Netherlands the first Balkenende cabinet supported the USA. After that government fell in October 2002, there were new elections in January which the Second Balkenende cabinet won, so this policy continued. Dutch soldiers were sent to Iraq, and it was recently announced that they would stay at least until after the summer of 2004. So far there have been no Dutch casualties in this war.

While millions demonstrated on the streets of London, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford, Belfast, Londonderry, Trimdon, Strabane, Omagh, Glasgow, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Santa Cruz, Valencia, Málaga, Sevilla, Gerona, Santander, la Coruña, Santiago de Compostela, Lisbon, Porto, Evora, Rome, Venice, Milan, Naples, Bologna, Turin, Palermo, The Hague, Amsterdam and at least 13 other Dutch cities, Copenhagen, Prague, Sofia, Bucharest, Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Dublin, Vienna, Salzburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Brussels, Paris, Rennes, Toulouse, Montpellier, Lille, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Lyon, Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Bern, Zurich, Lucerne, Bâle, Winterthour, Rheinfelden, Brigue, Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklion, Nicosia, Moscow, Minsk, Kiev, Berlin and "a half-dozen other German cities" (The Washington Post, March23,, e.g. Leipzig, Halle, Dresden, Jena, Rostock, Hamburg, Munich, Köln, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Karslruhe, Heidelberg, Würzburg, Bielefeld, Hannover, Dortmund, Essen, Bochum, Gelsenkirchen, Wattenscheid, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Mülheim, Herne, Hattingen, Velbert, Hilden, Datteln, Münster, Osnabrück, Bonn, Aachen, Saarbrücken, Kassel, Bremen, Oldenburg, Kiel, Heide, etc., Donald Rumsfeld tried to downplay the French and German criticism, most prominently heard because both countries at that time were members of the United Nations Security Council, as the opinion of "Old Europe", while he relied on a new situation after the EU enlargement, although opinion polls showed that also in eastern Europe the war was not supported by a majority of the population. Rumsfeld also called Slovenia and Croatia a member of his coalition. Slovenia's government rejected this statement. Croatia's President Mesic called the war illegal.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom government has remained the strongest supporter of the U.S. plan to invade Iraq. Prime Minister Tony Blair has frequently expressed support for the United States in this matter, while many Members of Parliament have expressed their objections. Blair experienced the biggest rebellion from amongst government MPs ever witnessed in an English or British parliament; in a debate in the House of Commons, he only achieved a parliamentary majority through the support of most Conservative MPs and Ulster Unionists. One cabinet minister delivered a stinging personal attack on the Prime Minister, calling his behaviour 'reckless'. The Leader of the House and Lord President of the Council, Robin Cook and several other British ministers resigned over the war. Cook, a former Foreign Secretary and at the time Leader of the House of Commons, said in his resignation speech, which was widely received with an unprecedented standing ovation by fellow MPs, that while he agreed with most of Blair's policies, he could not support the war. (MPs of Blair's own Labour Party spoke of mounting a leadership challenge to Blair over his support for the war, however this has not eventuated.)

The United Kingdom has sent 45,000 personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force, including the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to the gulf region. The ground component will include 100 Challenger tanks. The First Armoured Division's 7th Armoured Brigade and 4th Armoured Brigade will take part in any war.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of British people would support war with UN backing, but are strongly opposed to war without.


In March of 2003, Polish government announced that it will participate in a U.S.-led Iraq invasion and sent about 200 personnel. Poland sent 54 soldiers in elite GROM commando unit, logistic support ship "Xawery Czernicki" with FORMOZA navy commando unit, and 74 antichemical contamination troops. See Polish contribution to the 2003 Gulf War for details. Polls showed that as in other central and eastern European countries the population was generally against the war, although not as strongly as in Spain, Italy or Great Britain.


Turkey was showing reservations, fearing that a power vacuum after Saddam's defeat will give rise to a Kurdish state. Turkey initially agreed to allow U.S. use of the air base at Incirlik, and to allow the U.S. to investigate possible use of airports at Gaziantep, Malatya, and Diyabakir, as well as the seaports of Antalya and Mersi. In December 2002, Turkey moved approximately 15,000 soldiers to the border with Iraq. The Turkish General Staff stated that this move was in light of recent developments and did not indicate an attack was imminent. In January 2003, the Turkish foreign minister, Yasar Yakis, said he was examining documents from the time of the Ottoman Empire to determine whether Turkey had a claim to the oil fields around the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. In late January 2003, Turkey invited at least five other regional countries to a "'last-chance' meeting to avert a US-led war against Iraq."
The group urged neighboring Iraq to continue cooperating with the UN inspections, and agreed that "military strikes on Iraq might further destabilize the Middle East region." In the end, Turkey did not grant access to its land and harbours as asked for by U.S. officials.


Perhaps the only local ally supporting US action is
Kuwait, whose hostility towards Iraq stems from the events surrounding the Gulf War. The public appears to consider Saddam to be as much of a threat today as in the past, and are particularly interested in attempts to repatriate many Kuwaiti citizens who disappeared during the Gulf War, and may be languishing in Iraqi jails to this day. However, even in Kuwait, there is increasing hostility towards the United States. [1]


The Howard government in Australia has been a strong and uncritical supporter of United States policy. Australia has committed a little over 2000 military personnel, including a squadron of F/A-18 Hornet fighters and 150 SAS troops (see Australian contribution to the 2003 Gulf War for details.) The Australian public was clearly and consistently opposed to joining the war without explicit UN backing (around 60 to 70% of those polled) but since the war began has split more evenly: the latest reputable poll has support at 57% with 36% opposed. The current opposition party line, on the whole, opposes the war. Major anti-war demonstrations were reported from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Hobart, etc. [1]


On March 17, 2003, Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi said that he supports the U.S, U.K, and Spain for ending diplomatic efforts against Iraq. He also indicates no further UN resolution is necessary to invade Iraq. [1]

On March 26, 2003, the ambassador to the UN addressed first time at the Security Council that Japan supports the acts of the U.S. and allied countries. He claimed weapons of mass destruction are on hands of the dictatorship and Iraq has been continuously violating resolutionss of the UN for past 12 years. [1]

Other Asian States

Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea all pledged support for the war, as did a number of smaller Pacific nations such as the Federated States of Micronesia.

Opposing U.S. Position

Some nations that were allies of the United States during the Gulf War are either opposed to war this time, or reluctant to help with it.

Many argue that Iraq has no connection to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Others opposed to US military action argue that insufficient and, as in the case of the uranium Niger deal, even forged documents have been produced in order to prove "an immediate threat". Accordingly, such action would be contrary to international law. They claimed that the issue of weapons of mass destruction (if indeed there were any in Iraq) could be solved through inspections and diplomacy, and insisted the weapons issue was merely an attempt to hide American desires to seize oil wells, establish a military presence in the Middle East, and frighten other OPEC nations into submission. This position was later supported by Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury Paul Henry O'Neill who stated that the administration had sought for a reason to invade Iraq ever since Bush took office, with potential oil spoils charted in early documents.

The U.S. government has claimed that some of these countries have shown support in private, asserting that they are afraid to do so in a public way.


On January 29, 2003, the European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution opposing unilateral military action against Iraq by the United States. According to the resolution, "a pre-emptive strike would not be in accordance with international law and the UN Charter and would lead to a deeper crisis involving other countries in the region."

France, Germany and Russia are publicly opposed to US plans at all levels. As the US took a more militaristic position, these countries became increasingly opposed to the invasion. In the end, France made it clear it would use its UN Security Council veto against any proposed resolution for war in Iraq. (See The UN Security Council and the Iraq war.) On March 17, 2003, the US and Britain stated that they would not submit a resolution to the Security Council, admitting they did not have enough votes to force France or Russia to use a veto. In fact only Bulgaria and Spain declared they wanted to vote for the U.S./U.K. resolution, but a majority of 9 out of 15 votes is needed to make a resolution pass.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made his opposition to the invasion an issue in his electoral campaign. Some analysts credited Schröder's come-from-behind victory on September 22 to tapping a broad anti-war sentiment among the German people. (Schröder met Colin Powell and a rapprochement was established after the Iraqi regime was overturned.[1])

Belgium [1], Switzerland [1], Sweden [1] [1], Norway [1], Greece [1], Austria, Liechtenstein, and Serbia also condemned the war. The Czech Republic, Croatia [1], and Slovenia [1] were already mentioned above.

In Finland, Anneli Jaatteenmaki of the Center Party won the elections after she had accused her rival Paavo Lipponen, who was prime minister at the time, of allying neutral Finland with the United States in the war in Iraq during a meeting with President George W. Bush. Lipponen denied the claims and delcared that "We support the UN and the UN Secretary-General." Jaatteenmaki resigned as prime minister after 63 days in office amid accusations that she had lied about the leak of the documents about the meeting between Bush and Lipponen. The Finnish government stated that the took a stronger stand on the Iraq question at a meeting chaired by President Tarja Halonen. The meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy issued a statement according to which the use of force against Iraq would not be acceptable without the authority of the UN Security Council. [1] [1]

Almost all countries have called on the US to wait for the weapons inspectors to complete their investigations.

Vatican City

The Roman Catholic Church took a firm stance against the U.S. plan to invade Iraq. Pope John Paul II's Peace Minister, Pío Cardinal Laghi, was sent by the Church to talk with George W. Bush to express opposition to the war on Iraq. The Catholic Church says that it is up to the United Nations to solve the international conflict through diplomacy. This war, and indeed most modern wars, do not satisfy the just war requirements set by St. Thomas Aquinas and other theologians. The method of total war, sometimes called terrorism (i.e. any non accidental attacks on non combatants, or civilian infrastructure), used in most modern wars since the Civil War and which were used in Iraq, are not permitted. The Church was also worried of the fate of the Chaldean Catholics of Iraq, that they might see the same destruction as happened to the Churches and Monastaries after the war in Kosovo. The person in charge for the Relations with the States, Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, said that only the UN can decide on a military attack against Iraq, because a unilateral war would be a crime against peace and a crime against international law. The Secretary of State of the Vatican indicated that only the United Nations Security Council had the power to approve an attack in self-defense, and only in case of a previous aggression. His opinion was this was not the case and that an unilateral aggression would be a crime against peace and a violation of the Geneva Convention. [1]


While Canada participated in the Gulf War of 1991, it has refused to engage in a war on Iraq without UN approval. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said on October 10, 2002 that Canada would be part of any military coalition sanctioned by the United Nations to invade Iraq. With the subsequent withdrawal of American and British diplomatic efforts to gain UN sanction, Jean Chrétien announced in Parliament on March 17, 2003 that Canada would not participate in the pending invasion.

While this is the official policy of the government, the Canadian Navy has been engaged in Operation Apollo in the Arabian Sea, escorting American conveys in the "War on Terrorism". The Canadian Minister of National Defence, John McCallum, said that if an American ship is attacked while under a Canadian warship's protection, the captain won't ask if the shells are from terrorists or Iraq before firing back.

Canada has indicated that it would take an active part in the reconstruction of Iraq following the war. Major anti-war demonstrations took place for example in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec, Halifax, and Toronto.

Chrétien restates opposition to Iraq war

Latin America

Mexico, Venezuela [1], Brazil [1], Argentina and Chile condemned the war. Chile also had a seat at the Security Council. Major demonstrations were reported from La Paz, Lima, Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.


The African Union with its 52 members condemned the war. Guinea, Cameroon and Angola had a seat at the Security Council. [1] Major protests were reported from Cairo, Alexandria, Rabat, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Nouakchott, Tripolis, Windhoek, and Cape Town.


Major demonstrations took place in Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Quetta. General Pervez Musharraf faced already fierce oppisition of his mostly Muslim population for his support of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. Pakistan also had a seat in the UN Security Council during the pre-war period.


India does not support the war on Iraq. According to a Statement by the Ministry of External Affairs "The military action [...] lacks justification" [1] Delhi, Calcutta, Srinagar and Mumbai saw major demonstrations.

In the Middle East

The Arab League unanimously condemned the war, with the exception of Kuwait. [1] Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said U.S. military could not use Saudi Arabia's soil in any way to attack Iraq. ([1]) After ten years of U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, cited among reasons by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaeda attacks on America on September 11, 2001, most of U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2003. ([1]) The Saudi public remains dead set against US action, regardless of a UN mandate. The government has repeatedly attempted to find a diplomatic solution, going so far as to suggest that Saddam should go into voluntary exile.

Anti-war demonstrations took place in Damascus, Baghdad, Sanaa, Maskat, Bahrain, Amman, Widhat, Maan, Irbid, Beirut, Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin, Sidon, Ramallah, Gaza, and Tel Aviv. As in the case of Egypt, demonstrations are not common in many of these countries and some regimes saw themselves in danger because of riots.


Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov joined France and Germany and said the council could not ignore the fact that "substantial progress" had been made since chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed El Baradei visited Iraq in January.


Belarus unanimously denounces US aggression in Iraq, said President Alexander Lukashenko. [1]


Malaysia [1] and Indonesia [1], both by the majority Muslim countries, and Vietnam condemned the war. Demonstrations took place in Dhaka, Kathmandu, Colombo, Kelantan, Jakarta, Java, Surabaya, and Bangkok.

China, People's Republic of

The People's Republic of China pressed for continued U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq after two arms inspectors told the Security Council they had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.[1] Although it stated its wish that the situation be resolved peacefully, China did not threaten to exercise its Security Council veto and had abstained in many previous decisions on Iraq. Demonstrations were reported from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and even in mainland China some protests were tolerated.


New Zealand

The New Zealand government disagreed with its antipodean neighbour, Australia, and did not support the war. There were major anti-war demonstrations in
Wellington and Auckland.[1]

Neutral, unclear


The Republic of Ireland is an officially neutral country, with a strong tradition of supporting UN institutions, peacekeeping and international law. Nevertheless, the use of Shannon Airport was allowed for transatlantic stopovers by the US army. Under domestic pressure, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern repeatedly glossed over the particulars of the situation, while emphasising the need for a UN mandate.

Despite large-scale protests, opinion polls showed that most people broadly supported official policy. While the majority opposed the war, there was a fifty–fifty split on the use of Shannon. Keeping US investment in Ireland safe was the main reason for allowing US stopovers. Ultimately, by not condoning the war, anti-war allies were kept happy, while the situation with Shannon kept Irish-U.S. relations cordial.


Despite public protests in front of the American Institute in Taiwan, leaders of the Republic of China seemed supportive of the war effort, however Taiwan did not appear in the official list of members of the Coalition of the Willing. This was presumably because the Republic of China is not publicly recognised in the interests of not offending the People's Republic of China. [1]

Solomon Islands

As Croatia and Slovenia, the Solomon Islands were claimed to be members of the coalition but wished "to disassociate itself from the report". [1]

See also

External links