Read articles: “Case Study: Iran and the United States” and “The Iraq War of 2003” APA Style minimum 5 pages.Prepare case analysis of the Invasion of Iran case. You are required to have a minimum of 5 academic scholarly journal articles from the KU online library on decision making to support your opinions and analysis of the case decisions. Strong ties from your analysis to decision making theories and concepts learned in weeks 1-6 are also expected.Videos: Barzegar, K. (2014). Iran–US relations in the light of the nuclear negotiations. The international spectator, 49(3), 1-7.Duncombe, C. (2017). Twitter and transformative diplomacy: social media and Iran–US relations. International Affairs, 93(3), 545-562.Ronen, Y. (2010). The Iran nuclear issue. Bloomsbury Publishing.Kar, M. (2003). The invasion of the private sphere in iran. Social Research, 70(3), 829-836. Retrieved from, I. (2008). Iran and instability in the middle east: How preferences influence the regional order. International Journal, 63(4), 941-964. doi:, M. (2007). The new aggressiveness in iran’s foreign policy. Middle East Policy, 14(2), 125-132. Retrieved from, M. (2006). Sandstorm: Policy failure in the middle east. Middle East Policy, 13(1), 132-135. Retrieved from, S. (2008). Strategic interests in the middle east: Opposition and support for US foreign policy. Choice, 45(10), 1851. Retrieved from…Videos:— – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – Guide video of how to write 7 Steps to Writing a Business Case – A 3-Minute Crash Course Study: Iran and the United States
Few nations have relationships as troubled as Iran and the US.
Today, whether it comes to international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, fossil fuels, the
United Nations or the Middle East Peace Process, there are few global issues where the
strained relation between the US and Iran are not clearly felt. As a result, there are few
instances where cultural diplomacy is more desperately needed.
In this regard, it has become absolutely vital to arrive at a clear understanding of the
relations between these two nations. What follows is a case study of precisely that.
The study will begin with a brief summary of the past and present relations of Iran and
the US including attempts to reach a dialogue. The case study will then conclude with
an analysis of the situation and some suggestions for future endeavors
Introduction to Iranian and US Relations
The US and Iran severed official diplomatic relations following the turmoil of the 1979
Islamic Revolution in Iran and currently have no official relations. However, it was not
always so. Ambassador exchanges began in the mid-1800s and during the Second
World War ties were cemented as Iran collaborated with the Allies allowing the
transportation of war material through Iran to the beleaguered Russians in the
Caucasus region.
As the Cold War Developed, US Iranian ties depended; the US sought further Iranian
cooperation in containing communism in Asia while on Iran received military and
economic support and enjoyed Western technological assistance in exploiting its oil
wealth. At this time, cultural, military, economic and political relations ran deep. Yet, it
was precisely in this context that US-Iranian relations grew then ultimately withered.
The Iranian perspective.
Iran could be considered a fiercely anti-American nation. Antagonism to the US
occupies a central role in the daily political, and in many cases, the social fabric of Iran.
This animosity has its sources in previous decades and revolves around two main
themes; opposition to US intrusion into domestic Iranian affairs and what Iran considers
to be US aggression. 1
The CIA/UK orchestrated coup that removed Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed
Mossadeq in 1953 is one example of US interference in Iranian affairs. Additionally, Iran
accuses the US of fostering rebellion in Iran through funding and support of antigovernment groups in Iran. The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (Kurdish) and the Jundallah
(Balochi) are two militant nationalist movements that Iran has long charged the United
1, retrieved April 29, 2010
States with funding.2 In addition, Iran charges that the US has played a role in the
demonstrations against the 2010 Presidential elections in Iran
Military aggression is another issue that lies at the top of Iran’s list of grievances.
During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) most of the world’s nations supported moderate
Iraq against radical Iran. Yet Iran resents the US support of Iran’s enemy during this
war in particular. Specifically, Iran continues to carry a grudge over the US supplying
Iraq with the chemical weapons it used during the war. 3
Adding fuel to the fire, in July of 1988, US guided missile Cruiser the USS Vincennes on
station in the Persian Gulf mistakenly shot down Iranian Airlines flight 655 killing 290.
The US maintains the downing was a case of mistaken identity with the Iranians
considering it a deliberate act of war and another example of US aggression.
A final major sticking point is the economic sanctions that the US has placed on Iran.
Starting under the Carter administration, the US has steadily increased its sanctions
regime in place. These sanctions prohibit the transfer of much-needed military and
petroleum technology as well as prohibiting US companies and individuals from
investing in or doing business with Iranian nationals and companies.4
In short, in Iranian political thought, anti-American sentiments run deep. The list of
grievances is long; foreign intervention, coups, military aggression, support of Iraq and
not to mention a perceived political disrespect for the Iran itself and accusations of
American attempts of global hegemony. Recently a senior Iranian diplomat summed up
the Iranian view,
“Our biggest problem with the U.S. is its arrogance. The United States thinks itself the
commander in chief of the entire world and thinks it has the right to dictate to everyone what to
do and how to act. That’s arrogant and disrespectful. We reject this.”
These are the major issues that lie at the center of Iranian and US relations.5
The American Perspective
Despite the cooperation of the 40s, 50s and 60s, it was the overthrow of the US
Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the subsequent 444-day hostage crisis which severed
American and Iranian relations. However, according to the United States, tensions with
Iran are perpetuated by Iran’s current conduct rather than events that occurred 30
years ago. Today it’s Iran’s nuclear program and support for international terrorism,
which the US considers to be one of the major the obstacles to the resumption of USIran relations.6
2, retrieved April, 28, 2010.,retrieved April 21, 2010
4, retrieved February 27, 2010
5,retrieved March 29, 2010
6,retrieved April 21, 2010
Currently, Iran’s nuclear program might be the single greatest impediment to the
resumption of US-Iranian relations. According to the US, Iran has been developing a
clandestine nuclear weapons program under the guise of an effort to acquire atomic
energy. Iran contends that their program is peaceful. Nevertheless, the US sites a series
of inconsistencies and failure to meet AEIA requirements. This case is currently being
played out.
Iran’s alleged support for international terrorism is another major point of contention.
According to the US Department of State, the government of Iran is a Designated State
Sponsor of Terrorism. This means that Iran provides support for groups who target
civilians for political goals.7 For the most part, this support amounts to the arming,
funding, training, or providing sanctuary to those groups. The United States alleges that
Iran supports terrorism primarily through its proxies, two well-known ones being
Hezbollah and Hamas. Inside Iran there is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp
(IRGC) which the US also is considering labeling a terrorist organization do to its
provision of terrorist training and support to groups active in areas such as Georgia,
Chechnya, the Balkans and the wider Middle East.8
Furthermore, the United States charges Iran with supporting groups that have
committed terrorist attacks upon the US specifically. Two such cases are; the April
1983, bombing of a US Embassy in Beirut with a loss of over 60 lives and the October
1983, suicide bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut with a loss of 299 lives. The US
believes Iran to be responsible for planning and coordination these attacks and civil
cases have been brought against Iran.9 In American eyes, Iran’s support for
international terrorism, its nuclear weapons program and its vitriolic anti-Western policy
creates a ‘perfect storm’ which the US simply cannot ignore.
Iran-US Relations: Missed Opportunities
As the open military clashes of the 1980s subsided each side entrenched themselves
and a type of Cold War developed. As a result, Iranian and American relations are
difficult to outline as they did not follow a linear path. Often disagreements ran parallel
to breakthroughs. Additionally, on both sides, regular changes in Presidents and global
issues have left both nations with a somewhat incoherent strategy to each other.
However, as the Twentieth Century closed each nation seemed to be sending out
feelers in order to gauge the chances of a re-establishment of relations on their own
Khatami, Clinton and Bush
The 1990s saw a slight thawing of relations between the two nations. This was possible
largely in part due to the election of Mohamed Khatami in 1996. Viewed by many as a
Raphael F. Perl, “Terrorism, the Future and US Foreign Policy”. Issue Brief: 95112, Congressional Research Service, Washington
D.C. (December 9, 1996). Retrieved, April 13, 2010
8, retrieved April 28, 2010
retrieved April 5 , 2010
moderate reformer, Khatami made peace overtures to the United States.10 For example,
in an interview with CNN’s Christianne Amanpour, Khatami proposed cultural exchanges
between the US and Iran hoping to the ‘crack the wall of mistrust’.11 The United States
accepted this offer and the two nations began hosting athletic-based cultural exchanges
beginning in 1996.12
Around the same time, the US also lifted some of the sanctions on Iran and US
Secretary of State Madeline Albright invited Iranian diplomats to ‘draw up a road map to
normalized relations’. As the cultural exchanges continued, Albright publicly described
the US’s role in the 1953 coup as ‘regrettable’.13 In 2005, Khatami ran for election but
lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Amadinejad and Bush
Anyone familiar with the Presidencies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush
will not be surprised to learn that US-Iranian relations did not improve markedly during
their terms in office.
Perhaps the first indication of this trend was Bush’s now infamous Axis of Evil speech
that he gave in 2002 while Khatami was still President of Iran. During this speech Bush
directly identified Iran, due to its support of terrorism and nuclear ambitions, as being a
clear threat to international security, labeling them a member of an ‘axis of evil’.14 Many
analysts suggest this speech dealt a death-blow to the nascent reform movement in
As strange as it might seem, the 2003 US invasion of Iraq actually brought the US and
Iran closer. On some level, it has obligated the US to recognize (perhaps tacitly) that
Iran is a regional power and ultimate success in Iraq or Afghanistan will only be
achieved with Iranian cooperation.16 In April of 2003, at the outset of the war with Iraq,
Iran approached the United States with what is now known as the “Grand Bargain”.17
This offer was officially presented through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran which
represents US interests in Iran. Iran sought; a lifting of the crippling US sanctions,
diplomatic recognition of Iran, discontinuation of the US funding of domestic Iranian
opposition groups and an end to the US policy of regime change in Iran.18 In return,
Iran offered to accept a two-state solution regarding Israel and Palestine, to reduce the
funding of what the US considered terrorist organizations, pledged cooperation with
the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and finally offered to enter into a Persian Gulf security
10, retrieved April 12, 2010
12, retrieved April 4, 2010
13, retrieved April 26, 2010
14, retrieved April, 26, 2010
15, April 12, 2010
16, retrieved March 19, 2010
17, retrieved March 20, 2010
18, retrieved March 20, 2010
agreement which, in theory, would have voluntarily brought an end to Iran’s nuclear
The diplomats involved met and the US believed the offer to be sincere. They then
passed a report on to Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, who agreed the offer was
significant but rejected it as “a non-starter”. The Hawks in the Whitehouse ignored the
offer as they felt it made no real concessions on the issues the US deemed significant.19
It is therefore surprising that in May of 2006, Iranian president Amadinejad again sent a
letter to US President George W. Bush suggesting a meeting where both could discuss
Iran’s nuclear program.20 In September of the same year, Ahmadinejad challenged
Bush to a debate at the United Nations. Both offers were considered publicity stunts
and as they, again, made no clear concessions on the necessary issues, were rejected
by the US. White house representative quipped, “No, there will be no steel-cage grudge
match between Bush and Ahmadinejad.”21 At the end of the Bush administration
relations remained hostile.
To many people the 2008 election of Barak Obama to the United States Presidency
signaled a shift in American foreign policy. While this remains to be seen Obama has
undoubtedly changed the tone. Obama declared meeting and negotiating with Iran as
one of his campaign platforms.22
More recently Obama has poetically verbalized the obstinate American position of in his
first interview as US President symbolically given to Middle Eastern News Agency
stating, “”If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an
extended hand from us.”23 In short, from the American perspective, the names might
have changed but the game has not.
Regardless of Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory message to Obama upon his election, the
Iranian position also remains unchanged.24 Another senior Iranian diplomat answered a
question about potential negotiations between the US and Iran,
“Our idea of negotiation is mutual respect. They should know by now that they can’t impose
their will on Iran. If they don’t change their attitude then negotiations are meaningless. If America
wasn’t arrogant, they would send an answer to Mr. Ahamdinejad’s congratulatory letter to President
Obama. Manners dictate that when someone says hello you answer them back.” 25
19, April 25, 2010, retrieved April 19, 2010
Vick, Karl. “No Proposals in Iranian’s Letter to Bush, U.S. Says.” The Washington Post. Retrieved 29-10-2006. “No ‘steel-cage,
grudge match’ between Bush, Ahmadinejad.” CNN. Retrieved 10-01-2007.
22, retrieved April 9, 2010
23 retrieved, may 3, 2010
24, retrieved April 2, 2010.
25, retrieved April 22, 2010
From their perspective, Obama’s election has not brought any apparent changes in
policy or behavior as well.
In light of the long past and repeated, albeit half-hearted, attempts to establish a
dialogue one must ask why these two nations have remained so hostile. The answer
lies less in the past as one might think. In the case of Iran it is a matter of path
dependency and ambiguity. For the US it’s a matter of not backing down and
surrendering a powerful position. In both cases, a lack of trust is a central theme.
In Iran, anti-Americanism has become such an integral part of policy that changing
course is nearly impossible. The Islamic Republic was founded upon a perception of
American aggression and perpetuating that perception of aggression is key to the
regime’s legitimacy. As long as tensions between with the US remain, the Islamic
Regime has legitimacy and power. As Robert Litwak has observed,
“Hostility to the US has been a central plank of the revolutionary platform and sometimes appears
to be the Revolution’s only platform Deprived of this, radicals would have to devise another
enemy, another excuse, or possibly even a program…Normalization implies that Iran would be a
country like any other, losing its Revolutionary mission. The more pragmatic Iran becomes, the
less ideology will exercise a hold on its citizens. The clerical regime would then lose its power and
control over the country.”333
Further, the internal mechanisms of the Iranian government means that foreign policy
goals are always subordinate to domestic political wrangling. The underlying problem,
says Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, is,
“There’s been a breakdown in the country’s foreign policy machinery. Iran doesn’t have a foreign
policy right now. It has domestic politics, and its foreign policies are just a sporadic expression of
that. It’s not sinister; it’s not duplicitous; it’s just incompetent.”26
In this regard, not knowing who is calling the shots and when makes diplomatic
relations elusive leaving America unable to engage Iran with effective diplomacy.
Furthermore, in terms of international relations, Iran’s position and demands can be
described as ambiguous. For example, Iran has, on many occasions, provided list of
grievances requiring apologies such as the 1953 coup, the Vincennes incident and the
Iran Iraq War. However, as mentioned, the US has on occasion already publicly
apologized, expressed regret or provided compensation for such incidents. For example,
in 1996 a 61.8 million dollar settlement was reached under the International Court of
26, retrieved April 3, 2010
Justice regarding the Iran Air tragedy yet Iran still demands an apology and
Making matters more complicated, the Iranian government often objects to matters
that have little bearing on international relations. For example, in the Hollywood film
The Wrestler an actor portraying a professional wrestler destroys an Iranian flag during
a show. The Iranian government has objected to this calling it ‘psychological warfare’, a
somewhat odd accusation considering the government sponsored anti-American
propaganda that permeates much of Iranian society.28 This idiosyncratic approach to
foreign policy seems to be a legitimate, perhaps contrived, obstacle to an effective
dialogue between the two nations.
On the other hand, the United States seems to be asking a great deal from Iran with
very few guarantees. The disagreement over Iran’s nuclear program is an excellent
example of this dynamic. The Islamic Regime has sensibly framed the nuclear issue as a
national issue, in short, linking a nuclear program to national sovereignty. If the US is
expecting Iran to surrender its nuclear program, it might be waiting a long time. Should
Iran surrender its nuclear program, what guarantees do they have that such a move
will be reciprocated? To solve this dilemma the US should, and is, seek sanctions in the
United Nations. This would have the twofold effect of increasing the pressure on Iran as
well as providing a mechanism for removing those sanctions once Iran has complied.
A Case for Cultural Diplomacy
In light of these dilemmas, one could suggest cultural diplomacy as an excellent tool in
reestablishing relations. Cultural Diplomacy revolves around the themes of dialogue,
understanding and trust, all lacking elements n Iran-US relations.29 However, between
the citizens of each nation, feelings are far less belligerent. Recent polls show that 50%
of Americans support establishing a dialogue with Iran while slightly more Iranians,
61%, support negotiations without preconditions. A further 73% of Americans supports
the use of diplomacy to solve issues with Iran.30 Therefore, one must ask, “What are
the real stumbling blocks to renewed relations?” At the Governmental level, renowned
US-Iranian relations expert Dr. Houshang Amirahmadi summarizes it this way, “The
gravest problem between Iran and the West is this issue of distrust between the two
It would appear then that the political leaders and diplomats have too far entrenched
themselves in their respective positions to allow for the flexibility required. Athletes,
artists and students do not have these limitations and would represent the ideal cultural
retrieved April 2, 2010
28, retrieved, May 19, 2010
29, retrieved March 12, 2010
30, retrieved April 15, 2010
In this regard, the cultural exchanges initiated under the Clinton/Khatami
administrations have borne fruit. Take the case of Hamed Ehadadi as an example.
Ehadadi is an Iranian basketball player who visited the US on a State Department
sponsored athletic exchange. While there he was noticed by National Basketball
Association talent scouts who offered him a position on the Memphis Grizzlies
Basketball team.32 Doing so was not easy as entering into contracts with Iranian
nationals is prohibited under US sanctions regime, an example of the ability of private
citizens to achieve where politicians cannot. Since joining the NBA, Ehadadi has served
as a cultural ambassador and even meeting and shaking hands with an Israeli NBA
player Omri Casspi.
Another example is the frequent Greco-wrestling exchanges between Iran and the US
that were also begun during the Clinton-Khatami period. These exchanges have gone a
long way in simply establishing a dialogue upon which to foster understanding. During
the exchanges, both Iranians and Americans take advantage of the off-mat time to
meet their foreign counterparts and learn more about each other’s respective cultures.
After a recent competition in 2007, member of the Iranian Junior Wrestling delegation,
Abbas Ali Genii said, “this program has changed my outlook on the United States. I
really felt the spirit of cooperation and friendship”.33
Yet athletics aren’t the only thing that can unite Iranians and Americans. In March of
2010, an American film delegation of actors and producers visited their Iranian
counterparts.34 The visit was not without controversy, as Ahmadinejad’s cultural advisor
demanded the delegation first apologize for negative depictions on Iran in American
movies. Regardless, Hollywood Producer Sidney Ganis described the focus of his trip to
Iran this way, “To communicate with our fellow filmmakers….to meet, talk to, express,
visit with, understand the problems of Iranian filmmakers, and express to them
universal problems of filmmaking and just generally exchange ideas.” When asked
about future possibilities of cooperation Ganis replied, “Well, we’re ready to go,
filmmakers to filmmakers. That’s why we’re here. We’re open; the Iranian filmmakers
are also open, to even more mutual dialogue.”35
In closing, few nations have maintained their mutual animosity as Iran and the US
have. Simply having conflicts is not a good enough explanation for thirty years of
bitterness. Russia and Germany have cordial if not good relations; two of America’s
strongest allies, Japan and Germany were at one time mortal enemies of the US.
Something lies at the heart of the US-Iran issue. This study suggests that internal
Iranian politics have combined to create a dynamic where re-establishing US relations
amounts to political suicide as leader after leader use an anti-American slant to slander
opponents. Additionally, the regime in Iran uses the threat of American intervention to
maintain its control over many of its people.
32, retrieved April 15, 2010, retrieved march 12, 2010
34, retrieved march 23, 2010
At the same time, the US perpetuates the conflict simply because it can. As the world’s
last superpower, there is little that Iran can do to compel the US’s behavior. Leadership
in the US seems to take the position that the responsibility to make the first move rests
solely on Iran; Obama’s ‘unclenched fist’ statement being a good example of this policy.
In either case, governments have only succeeded to institutionalize disagreements. All
of this works counter to what the people of each nation desire. Both sides have
expressed a desire to conduct talks.
In September of 2009, Iranian and US diplomats publicly met in Geneva Switzerland.
While some suggest that these meeting have been conducted for years on an unofficial
level, it does show a sincere attempt to discuss issues if not evidence of a new phase in
Iranian-US relations.
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez
Youngstown State University
Anticipatory self-defense, or preemption, must show “a necessity of
self-defense . . . instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no
moment for deliberation.”
Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, 1837
Without the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, the war against
Iraq would have been unthinkable. Even if some top officials of the Bush
administration had already decided to remove Saddam Hussein independently of the terror attacks, the President would not have been able to
find any support from the American people or its allies. The political will
and the factual predicates essential to justify this war were simply nonexistent. In the aftermath of 9/11, however, the crucial question for the
administration and the American people was what actions should be
taken to defeat terrorism.
This was not a question that had received any sustained consideration from the administration. Indeed, on 11 September 2001, Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser to the President, was scheduled to
deliver a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University. In it she would address the security threats faced by
the United States. But Rice never delivered the speech. Had she done so,
Rice would have declared that the major security threat was long-range
missiles. It is abundantly clear from more than a few speeches and interviews given by the President, the Vice President, and Rice that this was
the administration’s focus. For example, in June 2001, at his first meeting
with NATO leaders, Bush presented the top five defense issues facing
this organization. Missile defense was at the top of the list. Terrorism by
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
Islamicist groups was not mentioned. On 2 August, at a news conference
with Republican congressional leaders, Vice President Cheney said,
“We’re fundamentally transforming the U.S. strategic relationship around
the world as we look at missile defenses and modifications to our offensive strategic arms.” And on 9 September, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,”
Rice reported that the administration was prepared “to get serious about
the business of dealing with the emergent threat. Ballistic missiles are
ubiquitous now.” In April 2002, Rice returned to Johns Hopkins. This
time the speech had little to say about missile defense. The focus was on
international terrorism. “An earthquake of the magnitude of 9/11 can
shift the tectonic plates of international politics,” she said.2
Between 9/11 and April 2002, the Bush administration was at work
on a new strategic posture. The Cold War doctrines of deterrence by
mutual assured destruction or counterforce response, and of containment of rogue states were designed to meet particular threat environments. While some of them remain, the threat of international terrorism
by non-state groups, such as al-Qaida, presented a novel security challenge. On 1 June 2002, at a commencement speech at West Point, Bush
announced the new national security strategy for the United States. “We
will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants . . . .
And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on
every continent,” Bush declared. On 26 August, at a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville, Tennessee, Cheney began to apply the
new doctrine to Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he declared, is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons and enhancing his chemical and biological capabilities.
We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to
acquire nuclear weapons . . . . What we must not do in the face
of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful
blindness . . . . Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the
hands of a terror network or murderous dictator or the two
working together constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of
A little over a week later, Cheney went on “Meet the Press.” There he
said he knew “for sure” and with “absolute certainty” that Hussein had
“reconstituted his nuclear program.”3
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
Finally, on 6 March 2003, a few days before the invasion of Iraq,
Bush linked the war against Iraq with 9/11.
Saddam is a threat, and we’re not going to wait until he
does attack . . . . If the world fails to confront the threat posed
by the Iraqi regime . . . free nations would assume immense and
unacceptable risks. The attacks of September 11, 2001, showed
what enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not
wait to see what . . . terrorist states could do with weapons of
mass destruction.4
Thus the war against Iraq would be a major front on the global war on
terrorism. Once the two were linked, invading Iraq could be regarded as a
preemptive war: Hussein would be defeated before he attacked us.
The new doctrine was signed by Bush on 17 September 2002. It
declares that the United States
will act against . . . emerging threats before they are fully
formed. [W]e will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against
such terrorists . . . . We must be prepared to stop rogue states
and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use
weapons of mass destruction . . . . We must adapt the concept
of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s
adversaries . . . . To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our
adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.5
The task of making the case for preemptive war to the international
community fell on Colin Powell, Secretary of State.6 On 5 February 2003,
in a highly anticipated event, Powell described to the Security Council of
the United Nations in painstaking detail “what the United States knows
about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction . . . . These are not assertions.
What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid evidence
. . . . Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pose . . . real and present dangers
to the region and the world.”7 Those weapons included biological agents,
e.g., anthrax and botulinum toxin in vast quantities, and mobile produc-
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
tion facilities. “Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agents . . . . a
massive clandestine nuclear weapons program . . . . [and] has made
repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes
[that] can be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium.” Powell then
described “the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and
the al-Qaida terrorist network,” a “decades-long experience,” which coupled with Hussein’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, make for
a “frightening future.” “We know,” Powell concluded, “that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction . . . . [G]iven
what we know of his terrorist associations . . . . should we take the risk
that he will not someday use these weapons at a time and in a manner of
his choosing?”8
The case for preemptive war, the Bush administration thought, was
clear and compelling. First, Hussein had not disarmed, he had instead
increased his stockpile of banned weapons and developed a nuclear capability; second, he had used chemical weapons in the past, to repress the
Kurds and during the war with Iran, and he might use them in the future;
third, he had long-established ties with al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, and he could at any time supply them with WMDs to attack the
U.S. and its allies; and fourth, to fight terrorism, we must transform Iraq
into a stable, prosperous democracy that would lead to the democratization of other autocratic regimes in the Middle East. By its account, then,
the Bush administration’s war against Iraq is just and necessary to (i)
remove an imminent threat before it materializes and (ii) create the political conditions that lessen the appeal of terrorism.
In March 2003, the United States, along with several other nations
providing various levels of troops, launched the invasion of Iraq. It was
an extraordinary military success. Iraqi forces gave no significant resistance, and within a short period of time Baghdad was occupied. Many
Iraqi civilians greeted U.S. and Coalition forces as liberators and casualties were few. There was significant looting in Baghdad immediately following its occupation, but much less so in other parts of the country. On
1 May 2003, Bush declared that major military operations were over. The
United States and its allies had prevailed. The “battle of Iraq is one victory in the war on terror that began on September 11, 2001 — and still
goes on.” He then added:
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign
against terror. We have removed an al-Qaida ally, and cut off a
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the
Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. In this 19 months
[since 9/11] that changed the world, our actions have been
focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense . . . .
With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared
war on the United States. And war is what they got.9
The mission now was to secure the ground, rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure,
and establish the political conditions necessary for a constitutional
A few months into the occupation of Iraq, pre-war assertions about
weapons of mass destruction were being challenged. Simply put, none
had been found. By the fall of 2004, nearly every pre-war assertion made
by Bush, Cheney, Powell, and Rice had been contradicted. The Duelfer
report, the most definitive accounting by the U.S of Iraq’s capabilities,
concludes that since 1991 Iraq’s nuclear weapons program had “progressively decayed” and that no evidence had been discovered of any “concerted efforts to restart” it. “There is no indication,” the report states,
“that Iraq had resumed missile material or nuclear weapons research and
development activities since 1991.” Evidence was discovered that Iraq
“clearly intended to reconstitute long-range delivery systems” beyond the
93-mile limit imposed by the United Nations after the 1991 war. But
none of the desired systems had reached the production stage. Moreover,
the small arsenal of mobile Scud missiles that remained after the 1991
war had been destroyed.
The findings for biological and chemical weapons were very similar.
The stockpiles that remained after 1991 had been destroyed, and by 1995
Iraq had abandoned all research into these weapons, the report concludes. A few frozen samples of ordinary microbes, for example, bolutinum, were found in the home of one Iraqi official, but no evidence of
any bulk inventory was discovered. The report also states that Hussein
had no intention to strike at the United States with nuclear or other
weapons of mass destruction and that its inability to give clear answers to
U.N. inspectors may have been the result of poor accounting rather than
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
Assertions by the Bush administration about ties between al-Qaida
and Iraq have similarly been contradicted. In the early summer of 2004
the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
(the 9/11 Commission) released a study on the history and evolution of
al-Qaida. It states that while bin Laden was opposed to Hussein’s secular
rule and supported “anti-Saddam Islamicists in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he did
explore “possible cooperation with Iraq.” In 1994, a senior Iraqi intelligence officer did meet with bin Laden in Sudan. At that meeting bin
Laden is reported to have requested “assistance in procuring weapons,
but Iraq apparently never responded.” But the report concludes that
there is “no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on
attacks against the United States.”10 Later in the summer, the 9/11 Commission released its full report. Section 10.3 summarizes the contents of a
memorandum requested by the President and written by Richard Clarke
on 18 September 2001. Citing that memo, titled “Survey of Intelligence
Information on Any Iraq Involvement in the September 11 Attacks,” the
Commission report states that the “memo found ‘no compelling’ case
that Iraq had either planned or perpetrated the attacks . . . . [and] no confirmed reporting on Saddam cooperating with bin Laden on unconventional weapons.”11
On 26 February 2003, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute Bush announced that as part of the global war on terrorism, the goal
of the U.S. in Iraq was not only to disarm Hussein but also to change the
Iraqi regime into a prosperous and stable democracy as a precursor to the
political transformation of the Middle East. “A liberated Iraq,” he said,
“can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region by bringing hope and progress to the lives of millions . . . . A new [democratic]
regime in Iraq could serve as a dramatic example of freedom to other
nations in the region.” Bush then went on to cite the historical experience
of the U.S. in transforming Germany and Japan following WW II into
democratic states.12 And on September of 2003, in a televised address to
the nation, he said:
In Iraq, we are helping . . . to build a decent and democratic
center of the Middle East . . . . The triumph of democracy and
tolerance in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism . . . . When tyrants fall, and
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture
reject the ideologies of terror and turn to the pursuits of peace.
Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.13
On this account, the source of Islamic terrorism is politically repressive regimes. By changing Iraq from a tyranny to a democracy, other
nations in the Middle East will follow and the conditions productive of
terrorism will be removed. That same view was later given by top members of the Bush administration. Rice, for example, stated that “a transformed Iraq can become a key element in a very different Middle East in
which the ideologies of hate will not flourish.”14
The main challenge to this objective is, of course, whether the U.S.
occupation forces can provide a sufficiently stable security situation for
the creation of those institutions necessary for democracy. Even assuming that democracy takes hold in Iraq, the administration has not
explained how other nations in the region will follow. Rice has stated that
just as a democratic “Germany became a linchpin of a new Europe that is
today whole, free, and at peace,”15 so, too, after Iraq the Middle East will
follow. Nor is it clear that establishing democracy will eradicate the conditions of terrorism. In Algeria and Pakistan, for example, the very real
concern of a militant Islam using the ballot box to establish power led to
the suppression of an emergent democracy. American democracy has not
prevented the rise of home-grown terrorism (Weather Underground,
Christian Identity groups, Tim McVeigh, and others, for example). European democracy did not prevent left-wing terrorism in the 1960s and
1970s, or terrorist acts in Northern Ireland (IRA) and Spain (ETA). Nor
has Latin American democracy, in Mexico and Peru, for example, prevented revolutionary activity and terrorism from the 1960s to the
Given the range of societies in which terrorism has emerged, it may
prove quite difficult to identify those background conditions that give
rise to it. We can, however, say provisionally that terrorism, as other
forms of political violence, is a response to a perceived threat or challenge. Some scholars argue that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of a failed
civilization. Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida, among others
have been kindled by the realization that Islamic culture has failed and
Muslims are consequently motivated by a desire to destroy the successful
civilizations of the West by producing an Armageddon-type war between
the two. Ralph Peters, for example, writes:
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
A religio-social society that restricts the flow of information, prefers myth to reality, oppresses women, makes family,
clan, or ethnic identity the basis for social and economic relations, subverts the rule of secular law, undervalues scientific
and liberal education, discourages independent thought, and
believes that ancient religious law should govern all human relations has no hope whatsoever of competing with America and
the vibrant, creative states of the West and the Pacific Rim. We
are succeeding, the Islamic world is failing, and they hate us for
James Klurfield writes that the attacks of 11 September 2001
. . . came from a religious sect lashing out at modernity and
the leading exponent of modernity, the United States. Osama
bin Laden is the product of a failure, a failed culture that is
being left behind by the rest of the world. He and his followers
are lashing out because they cannot cope with the modern
world . . . . Bin Ladenism and other forms of Islamic fundamentalism are attempts to deal with the Arab world’s inability
to cope with modernity.17
Along similar lines, others argue that what motivates contemporary
Islamic terrorism is a hatred of who we, Americans, are. Jean Bethke
Elshtain, for example, writes : “They loath us because of who we are and
what our society represents….”[W]e must and will fight — not in order
to conquer any countries or to destroy peoples or religions, but to defend
who we are and what we, at our best, represent.” The terror attacks of 9/
11 were committed by individuals who are part of a “violent, extremist,
and radically intolerant religious-political movement that now threatens
the world [and] constitute[s] a clear and present danger to all people of
good will everywhere in the world.”18
But terrorism by al-Qaida and other militant Islamic groups might
be motivated not by hatred of who we, Americans, are but by what we do
(or have done). Nations very much like the United States — for example:
Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, and others — have not been targets
of attack by al-Qaida. Israel has suffered a large number of terrorist
attacks by Palestinians. An examination of the relation between Israel and
Palestine might prove instructive in identifying the conditions of contemporary terrorism. For example, the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
for thirty-five years by Israel in violation of UN resolutions subsequent
to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War; continued settlements by Israel in the
Occupied Territories since the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993; its control of
a major portion of land and other resources, like water, in the West Bank;
denial of the right of return or compensation for Palestinians in exile
driven off by Israeli expansion. Further exploration into the conditions
of political violence in other parts of the world might well support the
view that it is the actions and policies of states and governments or, as in
Sri Lanka, the “competition for state resources” that motivate terrorism,
rather than hatred of who the other is.19 Sri Lanka has suffered the greatest number of suicide bombings in the past couple of decades. The leading organization in suicide bombings in the world is the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam, whose ideology is secular and nationalistic with, as Robert Pape observes, some Marxist/Leninist elements, and recruits from
mainly Hindu Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. According to
Pape, it “accounts for 75 of the 186 suicide bombings between 1980 and
When the weapons of mass destruction were not found, weakening
the case for anticipatory self-defense, the Bush administration advanced
another and quite different justification. This is a war of humanitarian
intervention. Hussein is a murderous dictator who has slaughtered several hundred thousand of his own citizens. To protect future victims the
United States and its allies must therefore intervene militarily. Typically,
such wars of intervention are justified to stop ongoing humanitarian crises or when they are about to occur, seldom, if ever, for those that have
already occurred. The Bush administration offered no evidence that Hussein was committing, or was about to commit, the kind of atrocities that
would justify humanitarian intervention. There was none.
Nonetheless, the number of civilian deaths in this war might rise to
the level of a humanitarian crisis. Although the United States has not
released any figures — “We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy
Franks has said — at least two sources have published estimates of civilian casualties. One source,, places the number of civilian deaths due to direct war related violence between a minimum of
14,563 and a maximum of 16,742 (as of 29 November 2004); 3,000 of
those deaths occurred during the invasion phase of the war, the remain-
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
der during the occupation. There are reports suggesting that the conduct
of this war has not been sufficiently discriminating in the relevant moral
and legal sense. For example, cluster munitions have been used repeatedly in cities and towns. In March and April of 2004 alone U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing nearly 2
million submunitions that, according to Human Rights watch, killed or
wounded more than 1,000 civilians. Additionally, the 50 decapitation
strikes — that is, attempted killing of Iraqi leaders — have all failed to hit
their targets and instead killed civilians. A more recent study conducted
by investigators from the School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, concludes
that violence subsequent to the invasion has produced about 100,000
deaths, with air strikes and coalition forces accounting for most of them.
While there is no evidence that these were intended deaths, and likely are
not so, the war is producing a level of collateral damage that is disproportionate to any reasonable objective of this war.
Additionally, there are some online sources reporting the use of
banned napalm (or napalm-like, phosphorous) and other illegal weapons
against Iraqi troops as early as 21 March 2003, in the advance to Baghdad
and then later against insurgents in the attack on Fallujah. The Pentagon
has admitted using a firebomb called Mark 77, consisting of forty-four
pounds of polystyrene-like gel and sixty-three gallons of jet fuel, that is
“remarkably similar” to napalm.21 On 21 November 2004,
and reported some thirty-four Iraqi civilians from Fallujah
killed by chemical weapons. In Britain these reports have been taken seriously, and several members of Parliament have demanded an explanation
from Prime Minister Blair on the use of such weapons.
Twenty months after the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. and its coalition
partners do not have control of the ground. Suicide bombings; assassination of Iraqi political and civilian leadership; kidnappings and executions
of hostages, soldiers and police; sabotage of oil fields; and direct attacks
against U.S. and coalition forces by elements of the old regime, insurgents, and foreign fighters profoundly challenge the likelihood of success.
Iraq is a nation in chaos. At the time of this writing, the city of Fallujah,
which was under control of insurgents, is under attack by occupation
forces. The U.S. reports some one thousand insurgents killed. Mosques
have been defiled. The city is in ruin. Nearly forty U.S. soldiers have been
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
killed and some one hundred wounded flown to Germany. As insurgents
in Fallujah have fled, other Iraqi cities have seen a rise in violence and
sectors of Mosul and other cities are under insurgent control. The fight
over Fallujah might not be over yet.
So far, U.S. casualties exceed 1,300 and nearly 10,000 have been
wounded. Bush stated in his radio address to the nation on 13 November
2004, that as Iraq moves to democratic elections next January, violence is
likely to increase. The cost of the war to the U.S. alone will soon exceed
$200,000,000,000 and no one doubts that the occupation of Iraq will last
more than a few years. The prospect of the occupation lasting ten to fifteen years appears very real. And the objective of a democratic Iraq leading then to a democratic Middle East and removing the conditions of
global terrorism seems at best very distant. Although the provisional government in Iraq, with strong support from the Bush administration,
called for nationwide elections on 30 January 2005, several Sunni, including the very influential Association of Muslim Scholars, and Kurdish
groups have called for a delay, fearing that continued violence would
challenge the legitimacy of any elections.
There are, nonetheless, some signs that point to a hopeful future for
Iraq and its people. In June 2003, an Iraqi Interim Government was
appointed and vested with full sovereignty; a system of government is in
place that is republican, federal, democratic, and pluralistic; there is the
gradual development of a national police force and an Iraqi army under a
civilian leadership; a Transitional Administrative Law has been adopted in
which all Iraqis are equal in their rights without regard to religion, ethnicity, or gender and which upholds the right to associate and organize
freely, the right to a fair, speedy, and open trial and the presumption of
innocence, as well as the right to freedom of thought, expression and
conscience. A public opinion poll conducted by The American Enterprise Institute reports that seven in ten Iraqis believe that Iraq will be a
better country five years from now; about two in five say that “democracy can work in Iraq”; by a ratio of “4 to 1, the ordinary Iraqi thinks his
country is better off without Saddam . . . . by almost 7 to 1, he is more
hopeful for his own future absent Saddam; and by almost 2 to 1, he
doesn’t want an Islamic government.”22 The United States Agency for
International Development, in its publication “Iraq Reconstruction
Weekly Update,” reports a number of important developments from
rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure — water and sanitation, bridges,
roads, and electricity — to progress in secondary and higher education,
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
and the beginnings of a competitive, private sector economy in banking
and business.23
The Iraq War of 2003 raises a number of important and troubling
questions. Among them are the following:
1. What are the conditions for a morally defensible doctrine of preemptive war? How will we distinguish between genuine threats and
phantom menaces? What is the standard of proof that determines
whom and when to attack? Were those conditions and the burden
of proof met in this war?
2. Is this a just war? The question asks not whether this war is in our
national interest, militarily prudent, or legal according to international law. It wants to know whether it is morally defensible and, if
so, how? Suppose it is not justified on the basis of a morally legitimate doctrine of preemption. Might it be morally defensible on
other, say, humanitarian, grounds, e.g., liberating the Iraqi people
from a murderous tyrant?
3. Suppose it is not a just war. Can an unjust war be fought justly? Or
is it the case that the injustice of the war corrupts the entire conduct
of the war? If so, then regardless of the great care in their conduct,
Coalition forces are engaged in injustice. Suppose further that the
distinction between killing and murder is determined by the justice
of the war, not its conduct. Is it the case, then, that no matter how
scrupulous Coalition forces are in their military conduct, all killing
in this war amounts to murder?
4. Suppose all killing in this war does amount to murder. Are American citizens who support this war supporting, and thereby complicit
in, murder? If such complicity in murder renders one non-innocent,
is there any moral sense is saying that civilians, regardless of their
government’s action, are innocent and, by their innocence, immune
from deliberate military attack? If an Iraqi resistance group now
decides to target Americans at home and abroad, is that killing the
guilty or murdering the innocent?
5. One of the least developed principles of the just war doctrine is the
jus post bellum (or postwar justice). Assume this is a just war by tradi-
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez: Case Study: The Iraq War of 2003
tional just war principles. Is it necessary that prior to waging war
there be a specified and reasonably attainable morally defensible end
to it? What would that be in this war?
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez is Director of the Dr. James Dale Ethics Center and Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University.
This paper has benefited enormously from my conversations with Bruce N.
Waller, as well as his careful and probing reading of earlier versions.
Robin Wright. “Top Focus before 9/11 Wasn’t Terrorism.” Washington Post,
April 1, 2004, A01.
David Barstow, William J. Broad, Jeff Gerth. “Skewed Intelligence Data in
March to War in Iraq.” New York Times, October 3, 2004, A17.
4 Transcript of Bush’s news conference on March 6, 2003. “‘We’re Calling for a
Vote’ at the U.N., Says Bush.” Washington Post, March 7, 2003.
“The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” http://, pp. 2, 7, 12, 14. Accessed on September
30, 2002.
A tapestry reproduction of Pablo Picasso’s mural Guernica hangs in the
entrance to the chambers of the United Nations’ Security Council in New
York City. It is 11 feet 6 inches high and 25 feet 8 inches wide. It commemorates the aerial bombardment of the ancient Basque town of some 5,000
inhabitants. On 27 April 1937, German and Italian air squadrons used it for
bombing practice. For three hours, they dropped high-explosive, incendiary
bombs, killing or wounding 1,600 children, women, and men. The tapestry,
like the mural, depicts their suffering and slaughter — chopped-up, mutilated
human and animal forms totally lacking in color are rendered in stark gray,
black and white tones (the tapestry reproduction, though, adds some brown
and taupe, weakening its effect). It is an awesomely disturbing scene conveying
the inevitable massacre of modern, technological war. Consequently, on the
day Powell made his case for war against Iraq, U.N. officials placed a blue curtain over the tapestry and displayed before it the flags of the various nations
represented in the Security Council. The news conference immediately following Powell’s speech would take place on that spot.
Colin Powell. “Remarks to the United Nations Security Council.” http://, pp. 1, 4, 7. Accessed October 7, 2004.
Powell. pp. 11, 12, 14, 16, 17.
Quoted in Dana Milbank and Claudia Deane. “Hussein Link to 9/11 Lingers
in Many Minds.” Washington Post, September 6, 2003.
Teaching Ethics, Fall 2004
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. “Overview of the Enemy.” Staff Statement No. 15. June 16, 2004.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/
11 Commission Report, Authorized Edition. (New York: W. W Norton, 2004),
“Free People Will Keep the Peace of the World.” American Enterprise Institute. Washington, D.C., February 26, 2003. Also see New York Times, February
27, 2003.
“Bush: We Will Do What Is Necessary.” Washington Post, September 8, 2003.
Condoleezza Rice. “Transforming the Middle East.” Washington Post, August
7, 2003.
“Transforming the Middle East.” Washington Post, August 7, 2003.
Ralph Peter. Beyond Terror. (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002), 46.
James Klurfield. “Bin Laden Is No Match for the Modern World.” Long
Island Newsday, July 11, 2002. See also, Daniel Benjamin and Steve Simon. The
Age of Sacred Terror. (NY: Random House, 2002), 54-55; and Bernard Lewis.
What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle East Response. (NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), 159.
Jean Bethke Elshtain. Just War Against Terror. (NY: Basic Books, 2003), 4, 6,
Mark P. Whitaker. “Sri Lanka.” in G. Palmer-Fernandez, ed., Encyclopedia of
Religion and War. (NY: Routledge, 2004), 407.
Robert A. Pape. “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.” American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 3. (August 2003), 343.
Andrew Buncombe. “U.S. Admits It Used Napalm Bombs in Iraq.” The Independent, August 10, 2003.
030810-napalm-iraq01.htm. Accessed on November 29, 2004.
“How the U.S. Should Help Iraq.”
print-article.asp?articleID=17774. Accessed on December 10, 2004.
Accessed on October 21, 2004.

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