The War in Iraq

The Second Gulf War

2003 – 2009

Asserting that Iraq was still concealing weapons of mass destruction and alleging links with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, the United States demanded military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime.

Unable to obtain UN backing, the United States pressed ahead with a “coalition of the willing” – the chief participants were the United States, Britain, and Australia. The Second Gulf War commenced on 19 March 2003.

In Australia, as elsewhere, there was debate over going to war. Although divided on the morality of the war, all Australians wished departing troops a safe return home.

Maritime Interception Force – During the Second Gulf War, Australian Captain Peter Jones commanded coalition naval operations in the northern Persian Gulf. In a notable success, a coalition team based in HMAS Kanimbla seized three tugs and a barge preparing to lay sea-mines to attack coalition shipping.

Royal Australian Navy – RAN clearance divers specialise in clearing sea-mines and other explosive objects. From March to May 2003, 32 divers were deployed, working in muddy water with zero visibility, they located a sunken minelayer with live sea-mines aboard. They also worked on land, checking booby-traps and helping British commandos clear unexploded mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

Special Air Service – The SAS were employed in direct combat roles. Elements of 1st Squadron, SAS, entered Iraq on 18 March 2003, and may well have fired the first shots of the war. In western Iraq, the SAS located and destroyed launch sites for Scud missiles that might have threatened either coalition forces or Israel. A notable success was the capture on 16 April of the vast Al Asad airbase west of Baghdad, near the Euphrates River.

Defence formally concluded its military commitment to the rehabilitation of Iraq on 31 July 2009, with the final 11 ADF members, working in various United States-led coalition headquarters, withdrawing on 29 July 2009. More than 20,000 ADF personnel have seen service in Iraq as part of Operation CATALYST between 2003 and 2009.