The 2003 invasion of Iraq, termed "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by the US
administration, began on March 20. It was originally coined "Operation Iraqi
Liberation". The United States and the United Kingdom supplied 98% of the
invading forces. They cooperated with Kurdish forces in the north which
numbered upwards of 50,000. Other nations also participated in part of a
coalition force to help with the operation by providing equipment, services and
security as well as Special Forces. The 2003 Iraq invasion marked the
beginning of what is commonly referred to as the Iraq War. Prior to the invasion,
the United States' official position was that Iraq illegally possessed weapons of
mass destruction in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and had to
be disarmed by force. President George W. Bush stated Saddam's weapons of
mass destruction needed to be disarmed, and the Iraqi people were to have
control of their own country restored to them. UN inspection teams were
searching Iraq for these alleged weapons for nearly four months prior to the
invasion and were willing to continue, but were forced out by the onset of war in
spite of their requests for more time.

The Bush administration did not attempt to get a U.N. Security Council
resolution authorizing military force, as it was obvious that France and Russia,
and later joined by China, signaled that they would use their Security Council
veto power against any proposal, let alone any resolution, that would include an
ultimatum allowing the use of force against Iraq. On March 20, 2003, the
invasion of Iraq began. This was seen by many as a violation of international
law, breaking the UN Charter (see Legitimacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq). The
Iraqi military was defeated, and Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003. On May 1, 2003,
President Bush declared the end of major combat operations, terminating the
Baath Party's rule and removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from office.
Coalition forces ultimately captured Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003.

Careful inspections after Iraq's capitulation failed to find weapons of mass
destruction. This has again brought the various, already controversial,
justifications for the invasion into dispute. Post-invasion Iraq has experienced
violence from warring sects and an Iraqi insurgency. Numerous terrorist groups
are active in the area, including one newly-formed called al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Legislative elections were held in January 2005.