Counting the cost: Iraq 10 years after US-led invasion

Published March 17th, 2013 - 14:39 GMT

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Image 1 of 10: In 2010, the Washington Post put the cost to the U.S. of the Iraq war at $3trillion. Shocking in itself but according to more recent estimates, a pretty low bar. As the paper later said: that figure doesn’t count ‘could have beens’ or the opportunity costs of peace.

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Image 1 of 10: Impossible to accurately estimate, the Iraqi civilian death toll wavers from 111,000 all the way to 122,000. The larger number includes the sectarian violence that many argue is a consequence of the 2003 invasion.

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Image 1 of 10: Like a desert mirage, the allies’ promise of reconstruction mostly vanished into thin air. Just last week an ex-Army Corps Engineer was found guilty of “contract bribes” in Iraq. Former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld was just one of those raking in the cash at Iraq’s expense.

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Image 1 of 10: With the potential for the greatest oil production in the world, Iraq has been the target of more than just international governments. Giants like Shell, BP and ExxonMobil are heavily invested. But with big supplies in the semi-autonomous North, the country could once again be fractured by oil.

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Image 1 of 10: Under Saddam, a Sunni minority lauded it over the Shia majority population but now that the tables have turned, the country is no less unstable. With Shia PM Nouri al-Maliki pushing anti-terror laws that seemingly only target Sunnis, the minority are starting to rise up with mass protests and car bombs.

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Image 1 of 10: The horrors of the 2003 war pushed many Iraqi families into fleeing the country for good. Most settled in neighboring Jordan but were greeted with a less than friendly welcome. The diaspora has ranged from the U.S. to Turkey and shows no signs of returning “home” any time soon.

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Image 1 of 10: The power vacuum that Saddam’s ousting left, caused warlords and opportunist extremists everywhere to dive in. Al Qaeda certainly got a boost in the chaos that was left, a fact still haunting nearby Syria today as the same fanatics take their chances moving to their neighbor’s civil war.

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Image 1 of 10: With a Shia government left in place, Iraq now has more in common with Iran that with the rest of the Sunni regional leaders. A fact that may have escaped the attention of the Americans, who still consider the Persian state to be one point on the “axis of evil”.

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Image 1 of 10: Throughout the post-invasion chaos, warlords sprung up to get a grip on their regions in the most violent way possible. Leading the charge for civil disobedience was Muqtada al Sadr, Shia war chief extraordinaire. The man who called the U.S. a “big serpent” has now been absorbed into the political process.

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Image 1 of 10: Notorious militant group, Al-Qaeda, formed their own branch especially for the Iraqi invasion in 2003. Pledging allegiance to Osama Bin Laden, the group claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in its bid to force the US to withdraw and to create a pure Islamic state. The legacy of this group still haunts Iraq today.

The 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq falls on March 20.

Ostensibly, the US and UK invaded over fears of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - or Donald Rumsfeld's 'great unknown's-but it was to also impose regime change after President George Bush put Saddam in his so-called 'Axis of Evil'.

In just over three weeks, coalition forces arrived in Baghdad, after intense aerial bombardment, aka 'shock and awe', an effort to knock key command and control centers of the Iraqi military. As troops reached the capital city, US engineers helped pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein, offering both an enduring image and a misguided feeling of relief in the US that the war was effectively over.

The war inflicted a huge toll on the civilian population. Estimates on the numbers of deaths during the years of occupation range from 110,000  in a report published in association with the Lancet medical journal and AFP up to 122,000.

Civilians continue to live with effects of munitions used across the country by coalition forces with increased incidents of children born with deformities and cancer.  Thousands more suffer emotional trauma that is harder to quantify.

Thousands of Iraqis also sought refuge in neighboring countries Jordan and Syria. Many in Jordan still have no plans to return home as violence, though less common, remains a real danger but those who sought safety in Syria face a tough choice.

After Saddam's fall a number of actors competed to fill the power vacuum. The competition became an increasingly bloody sectarian conflict, with Sunni and Shi'ite's  waging armed conflict against each other, which also enabled Al Qa'eda to gain a foothold. Eventually, a Shia government was put in place, representing the majority of the Iraqi population, leaving Sunni muslims feeling marginalized.

The country though has the ability to be one of the wealthiest on earth thanks to its huge oil supplies. The government is hoping to increase oil output to be one of the worlds largest producers, but ongoing trouble between Baghdad and the oil-rich, semiautonomous Kurdish region to the north is concerning the oil companies.

Here, we look at some of the key moments in politics and economics over the last ten years.

Tell us what you think! Should the US-led coalition have invaded Iraq? Did you support it? Have  you changed your mind since? Do let us know your thoughts, add a comment and join the conversation.

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