The Middle East in Turmoil

The war in Iraq continued through 2003 in spite of the orchestrated “Mission Accomplished” claims of President Bush on May 1, 2003, onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Following increased fighting, speculation about the administration's misuse of intelligence, and the realization that the war was going to last longer than originally hoped, good news came in December with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The announcement of Ambassador Paul Bremer on December 14, 2003, was “Ladies and gentlemen. We got him! Saddam Hussein had been captured hiding in a dirt cellar in the town of Abduar, about 15 kilometers from his hometown of Tikrit.”

On January 17, 2004, the number of dead U.S. soldiers reached 500. Later that month CIA reports suggested that civil war was becoming a distinct possibility. This was further supported by a CIA intelligence report given to the Bush administration in September 2004. In September 2004, the death toll of U.S. soldiers reached 1,000. In October 2004, the British publication the Lancet estimated that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the Iraq War.

On January 30, 2005, Iraq held elections to select a 275-seat National Assembly. The election results gave the Shiites a majority and the Kurdish community a minority representation. The Sunni Arab community boycotted the election. On October 15, 2005, Iraqi voters ratified a new constitution. October also saw the beginning of the trial of Saddam Hussein, and the death toll of U.S. soldiers reached 2,000. In December 2005, Iraq again held elections for the 275-seat National Assembly. In this election the Sunni community participated and the resulting assembly is more representative of the different Iraqi factions. About 11 million Iraqis, 70 percent of the country's registered voters, participated in selecting their first permanent Parliament since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Once again, Shiites won a majority of the seats.

Which branch of government has the constitutional authority to declare war?

Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. The last war in United States history that was declared by Congress was World War II. Since that time the United States has fought in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War, none of which were declared by the United States Congress.

Unfortunately, the threat of civil war increased as 2006 arrived with an escalation in sectarian violence. Between January 4 and January 9, 2006, hundreds died at the hands of suicide bombers. In April, the European Parliament announced that the CIA had conducted more than 1,000 secret flights over Europe, apparently transporting terrorism suspects to countries that would allow torture. Also in April, Jawad al-Maliki, an advocate for Iraq's Shiite Muslims, was chosen to replace Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister. On June 8, an attack by coalition forces north of Baghdad was successful in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The month of July 2006 was the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi citizens with 3,438 civilian deaths. According to American military authorities, as reported in the New York Times, bomb strikes against American and Iraqi security forces numbered 1,666 in the month of July. In August, top United States military personnel in Iraq stated that civil war was a distinct possibility.

Treatment of Detainees in War on Terror

Following continuing reports of the use of torture in the interrogation methods of the United States, on September 27, 2006, the House of Representatives voted 253 to 168 to support a bill drafted in part by Senator John McCain that held the president to the guidelines of the Geneva Convention. The bill also banned the use of evidence that was gathered using cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 65 to 34. When President Bush signed the bill into law, he did so with the use of a signing statement.

A signing statement is a pronouncement of the president's interpretation of the law. The first time the signing statement was used was by President James Monroe. Although the signing statement was only used 75 times from Monroe's first use through Reagan's presidency, President Bush has used the procedure 134 times.

Sadaam Hussein Is Found Guilty

On November 5, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty by Iraq's High Tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity, including the 1982 killings of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail. Upon hearing the verdict, the former Iraqi leader shouted, “God is great.” Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging on December 30, 2006.

Is Iran Next?

The recent Iranian nuclear crisis can be traced back to 2002 when intelligence reports stated that Iran had built a large uranium plant without informing the United Nations. In December of 2002, satellite photographs confirmed that nuclear sites existed in Iran. After the United States accused Iran of developing weapons of mass destruction, Iran agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Authority. In 2005, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was installed as Iranian president, and Iran pledged an “irreversible” resumption of uranium enrichment. On January 3, 2006, Iran announced it would restart its nuclear energy program. The United States and several European nations condemned the move.

During April, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Iran had successfully enriched uranium and would continue to produce nuclear fuel. The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) announced that Iran had not cooperated with inspectors. On July 31, 2006, the United Nations Security Council resolution called on Iran to stop enriching uranium by August 31 or face the threat of sanctions. As of November 2006 the IAEA was still pursuing inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities to determine the country's nuclear intentions.

Israel and Lebanon

Following the capture of an Israeli soldier in late June by Palestinian (Hamas) soldiers in Gaza, Israel soon found itself fighting a two-front conflict. Hezbollah (the militant Shiite organization based in Lebanon) captured two Israeli soldiers as they patrolled Lebanon's border. Israel sent tanks into southern Lebanon, bombing several targets, including bridges and roads, to prevent militants from taking hostages north. In mid-August an Israel-Hez-bollah cease-fire went into effect on the thirty-fourth day of fighting.

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