The Invasion of Iraq – dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom” by the United States – starts a conflict that later evolves into the Iraq War. Following massive air strikes, coalition forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invade Iraq. Meeting little resistance, they capture the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and depose the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein.
According to U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission is “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”
The invasion is strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argue that there is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country is not justified. A month before the invasion, there are worldwide anti-war protests, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally.
An estimated 7,500 Iraqi civilians are killed during the invasion, with approximately 30,000 Iraqi combatant fatalities and 196 killed combatants of coalition forces.
Iraq and the international reputation of US foreign policy are left in ruins.