Since the end of the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq's relations with the UN, the US, and
the UK remained poor. In the absence of a Security Council consensus that Iraq
had fully complied with the terms of the Persian Gulf War ceasefire, both the UN
and the US enforced numerous economic sanctions against Iraq throughout the
Clinton administration, and the U.S. and the U.K. patrolled Iraqi airspace to
enforce Iraqi no-fly zones that they had declared to protect Kurds in northern
Iraq and Shi'ites in the south. The no-fly zone was contested however by Iraqi
military helicopters and planes on numerous occasions. The United States
Congress also passed the "Iraq Liberation Act" in October 1998 after Iraq had
terminated its cooperation with the U.N. in August, which provided $97 million
for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" in order to "establish a program
to support a transition to democracy in Iraq."  This contrasted with the terms set
out in U.N. Resolution 687, all of which related to weapons and weapons
programs, and made no mention of regime change. Weapons inspectors had
been used to gather information on Iraq's WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)
program and to enforce the terms of the 1991 cease fire, which forbade Iraq
from developing WMD. The information was used in targeting decisions during
Operation Desert Fox, a US and UK bombardment of Iraq in December 1998
which was precipitated by lack of cooperation between Iraq and the UN weapon
inspections team.

The United States Republican Party's campaign platform in the U.S. presidential
election, 2000 called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act and
removal of Saddam Hussein with a focus on rebuilding a coalition, tougher
sanctions, reinstating inspections, and support for the pro-democracy,
opposition exile group, Iraqi National Congress then headed by Ahmed Chalabi.
Upon the election of George W. Bush as president, according to former
treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, an attack was planned since the inauguration,
and the first Security Council meeting discussed plans on invasion of the
country. O'Neill later clarified that these discussions were part of a continuation
of foreign policy first put into place by the Clinton Administration.

Notes from aides who were with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the
National Military Command Center one year later, on the day of the September
11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, reflect that he wanted, "best info fast. Judge whether
good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden."
The notes also quote him as saying, "Go massive," and "Sweep it all up. Things
related and not." Shortly thereafter, the George W. Bush administration
announced a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of 'pre-emptive'
military action, termed the Bush doctrine. From the 1990s, U.S. officials have
constantly voiced concerns about ties between the government of Saddam
Hussein and terrorist activities, notably in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Through the Palestinian Arab Liberation Front (PALF), Saddam had
offered $10,000 USD for families of "civilians killed during Israeli military
operations" and, $25,000 USD for "families of suicide bombers."

In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation. In
October 2002, with the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States
Armed Forces Against Iraq", the United States Congress granted President
Bush the authority to "use any means necessary" against Iraq, based on
repeated Bush Administration statements to Congress and the public, which
turned out to be incorrect, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The joint resolution allowed the President of the United States to "defend the
national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by
Iraq and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions
regarding Iraq."

In November 2002, United Nations actions regarding Iraq culminated in the
unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and the
resumption of weapons inspections. Force was not authorized by resolution
1441 itself, as the language of the resolution mentioned "serious
consequences," which the majority of Security Council members argued did not
include the use of force to overthrow the government; however the threat of
force, as cultivated by the Bush administration, was prominent at the time of the
vote. Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, and the UK
ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, in promoting Resolution 1441, had given
assurances that it provided no "automaticity," no "hidden triggers," no step to
invasion without consultation of the Security Council. Such consultation was
forestalled by the US and UK's abandonment of the Security Council procedure
and their invasion of Iraq. The stated cause by the United Kingdom to forego
further UN resolutions was notice supplied by France that they would block any
further Security Council resolutions on Iraq. Negroponte was noted as saying
"one way or another, Mr. President, Iraq will be disarmed. If the Security Council
fails to act decisively in the event of a further Iraqi violation, this resolution does
not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat
posed by Iraq, or to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions and protect world peace
and security."

There is still considerable disagreement among international lawyers on
whether prior resolutions, relating to the 1991 war and later inspections,
permitted the invasion. Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's
Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, argued in November 2003, that the
invasion was against international law, but still justified. At the same time Tony
Blair's Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, while concluding that a reasonable
case could be made that resolution 1441 required no further resolution of the
UN, he could not guarantee that an invasion in the circumstances would not be
challenged on legal grounds.

The United States also began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host
of diplomatic, public relations, and military preparations.