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Remembering Op Telic: How The Iraq War Was Won & Arguably Lost

To understand the second Gulf conflict, you’ve got to look back to the first...

Iraq War

The Second Gulf War, 2003, known to UK Forces as “Operation Telic”.

To understand the second Gulf conflict, you’ve got to look back to the first.

Saddam Hussein, Iraqi’s dictator, invaded Kuwait in 1990 and in due course, was kicked out of the country by a wide-ranging coalition, but that’s where it stopped.

Saddam was allowed to remain in power in Iraq, albeit, under significant sanctions.

A lot of people thought it was a job half done.

Fast-forward… and in the wake of the Twin Towers attacks in 2001, the War on Terror was proclaimed by US President George W Bush.

Many hawks within the Bush Jnr Whitehouse pushed for an immediate invasion of Iraq, but caution prevailed. A case had to be made.

Was Saddam protecting or colluding with Al Qaeda? It was suggested so.

Did he have Weapons of Mass Destruction? The UK Government, at the time, said so.

UN resolutions were passed, votes in the commons and soon US, British, Australian and Polish troops invaded Iraq.

Remembering Op Telic: How The Iraq War Was Won & Arguably Lost

The date was 20th March 2003.

The vast air assets of the allies dealt a serious blow to Iraqi Forces – in particular, their morale.

The presidential palace in Baghdad was the first target.

The first British objective was Umm Qasr – a port city where troops met stiff resistance.

Then it was on to Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra.

The 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats fought their way in, constantly harried by Iraqi regular troops and Fedayeen militia.

Joining them was 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment.

2 weeks of fierce fighting, including the biggest tank battle by UK forces since the war, and Basra was entered.

A total of 11 British soldiers were killed, whilst between 395–515 Iraqi soldiers, irregulars, and Fedayeen (militia) were killed.

Remembering Op Telic: How The Iraq War Was Won & Arguably Lost

Meanwhile, US-led forces further north met little organised resistance and quickly arrived at the Iraqi capital.

It was all over in weeks, with ‘job done’ being declared on 1st May 2003.

Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed British Forces in Iraq saying:

“When people look back on this time and look back on this conflict, I honestly believe they will see this as one of the defining moments of our century. And you did it.”

British troops now had to patrol the ground they’d captured and BFBS reporters joined them.

Shortly after the war, troops from 1 Black Watch began patrolling without body armour, wearing their traditional Tam O’Shanter bonnets.

The locals were declared friendly and the area was described as safe. That didn’t last.

Remembering Op Telic: How The Iraq War Was Won & Arguably Lost

6 Military Policemen were killed by an angry mob in Majar al-Kabir.

And as the mission stretched to months and then years, the British grip on the city faltered.

In 2005, nine airmen and one soldier were killed when an RAF Hercules was shot down by insurgents.

Mobs attacked UK tanks, roadside bombs and the inadequate Snatch Landrovers left many dead or maimed.

In 2007, the British withdrew from Basra heralding the ultimate withdrawal of UK personnel a couple of years later.

But the fallout from the Iraq War continues.

Iraq remains turbulent and unstable at best. At worst, it’s become a haven for so-called Islamic State.

UK troops are once again in the country, this time training and mentoring Iraqi and Kurdish Forces.

12 years on, the second gulf war still impacts the world, but particularly the UK.

The Chilcot report into the war, finally released last year, concluded that the legal basis for the war was “far from satisfactory”.

179 British Armed Forces personnel died serving on Telic between the start of the campaign and July 2009.

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