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Attacking Iraq - Countdown Timeline

The Bush Administration has almost certainly not approved the timing of military operations against Iraq, and consequently any projection of the probable timing of such operations is neccessarily speculative. Based on the timeline contained in the 08 November 2002 Security Council resolution, the US might have been prepared to delay military operations until the last week of January 2003. However, the announcement of the deployments of major forces in mid-January 2003 seemed to indicate that the United States did not intend to begin the invasion until later as these forces would have required considerable time to arrive. It is important to note though that US military operations could have commenced after only a week or ten days of overt force buildups at any time prior to late February 2003.

The setting of the countdown clock was intended to focus attention on the progression of the military build-up in Southwest Asia. The build-up, if not yet completed, should be in its final stages. As such, the current setting of the clock is intended to focus attention on political and diplomatic considerations notably with regards to the United Nations, Turkey, and the summit between the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain in the Azorres

29 January 2002
In his first State of the Union address, President Bush named three countries that he said continue to sponsor terror: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. He called them and their terrorist allies "an axis of evil," and said the price of indifference to them would be "catastrophic." He also warned that the country cannot afford to delay in further responding to the terrorist threat. "Time is not on our side," he said. "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer."

01 June 2002
Speaking to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, President Bush said "Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.... We have our best chance since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war.... America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace."

September 2002
In late February 2002 it was reported that it would take six months to produce enough Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision guided munitions before the Pentagon could contemplate an attack on Saddam Hussein's Iraq [SOURCE: The Washington Post, February 24, 2002, page A1].

Foreign ministers of the 15-nation European Union are developing a plan under which a UN Security Council resolution would require Iraq to re-admit weapons inspectors by a specific date, or face military action.

03 September 2002
Congress returned to business on 03 September. If President Bush decided to seek authorization from Capitol Hill, he may ask in September for military action in late 2002.

04 September 2002
US defense officials confirmed plans to transport a brigade's worth of equipment -- about 70 tanks and other tracked vehicles plus additional military cargo -- to Kuwait from the United States aboard a commercial cargo vessel in late September.

12 September 2002
In an address to the United Nations, President Bush is expected to include a case for removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. At the request of the United States, the general debate, the part of the UN General Assembly session featuring speeches by world leaders, was moved forward by almost two weeks so that President Bush can deliver a major address one day after he participates in the September 11the commemoration events.

16 September 2002
Iraq said it would allow international weapons inspectors to return "without conditions." Inspectors will be governed by the timetable established in UN Security Council resolution 1284, which reorganized the inspections program in 1999. The UNMOVIC and the IAEA inspectors, not later than 60 days after they have both started work in Iraq, would report to the Security Council to lay out a work plan. After the work plan is adopted, UNMOVIC and IAEA have 120 days within which to make an initial report on whether Iraq is cooperating.

16 September 2002
Israel decided to vaccinate 15,000 "first responder" personnel against smallpox, as a first stage of a general vaccination campaign against a possible bio-weapons attack originating in Iraq or carried out by Palestinian proxies. The Health Ministry planned the large-scale vaccinations for hospital and first aid personnel "between Yom Kippur and Succoth" (high Jewish festivals falling between September 16-20).

16 September 2002
The United States acknowledged that it had recently asked the British Government for permission to build special shelters on the island of Diego Garcia so that US B-2 Spirit's could operate from the airbase there. It takes 30 days to complete the construction of one shelter.

24 September 2002
The 82nd Airborne Division has reportedly been notified to be prepared to deploy to the Gulf within two weeks.

Early October 2002
The United States and Britain were drafting a United Nations resolution that would give Saddam Hussein about two months [that is, apparently until the end of November 2002] to cooperate fully with weapons inspectors and to make new efforts to comply with the resolutions that ended the Persian Gulf war. Under the resolution, inspectors would have broad new powers to hunt for suspected weapons of mass destruction, and have armed security while they conduct their search. If Iraq does not accept the terms within a week of passage, or fails to disclose required information within 30 days, the resolution authorizes "all necessary means" to force compliance-in other words, a military attack.

10 October 2002
Congress adopted joint resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq. The Republican-controlled House voted 296 to 133 to allow the president to use the military "against the continuing threat" posed by the Iraqi regime. The Democratic-run Senate followed at 1:15 a.m. 11 October with a vote of 77 to 23 for the measure.

11 October 2002
The navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) ordered a commercial roll-on roll-off vessel to move 99,000 square feet, 867 separate pieces of "hazardous rolling stock" to the Gulf. The ship, due to load on the west coast of the United States in mid-October, will carry the largest quantity of military equipment to date using merchant shipping. The vessel is due to discharge no later than mid-November. MSC submitted a separate order for a roll-on roll-off ship to carry 52,869 square, 253 pieces of "wheeled, track vehicles and containers," loading at ports in Belgium and Italy between October 14-21 and discharging at two undisclosed Middle Eastern ports. The two new commercial tenders bring to six the number of large roll-on roll-off ships known to have been chartered by MSC since August.

11 October 2002
On 11 October 2002 the Pentagon issued orders to the Army's V Corps and I Marine Expeditionary Force to deploy headquarters staffs to Kuwait, in the first non-routine dispatch of conventional ground forces to the Persian Gulf region in anticipation of military action against Iraq.

19 October 2002
Inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were prepared to return to Iraq as early as 19 October.

mid October 2002
If the United States had recieved permission to build the 4 special shelters on Diego Garcia for B-2 Spirit's from the United Kingdom on around September 16, the first of the shelters would be complete by mid-October. It takes 30 days to build the structures.

Mid-October 2002
Reports that up to 20,000 US Marines from Camp Pendelton in California are to arrive in Southwest Asia in mid-October turned out to be without foundation.

Mid-October 2002
Military vehicles and equipment -- trucks, road graders, Humvees and bridging gear -- were being shuttled aboard the T-AKR 288 Bellatrix, a Military Sealift Command vessel, set to leave soon for the Middle East. This was the first time since the Gulf War that the Pentagon had deployed a large sealift vessel with military equipment in San Diego for delivery to the Persian Gulf, as part of the deployment of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Mid-October 2002
Two Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ships -- TAKR 300 Bob Hope and TAKR 301 Fisher-- were activated and sent to pick up equipment for "a mechanized Army division based in Georgia". The equipment was being shipped to Kuwait and could arrive there by mid-November. Crews loaded 8,300 metric tons aboard the TAKR 300 Bob Hope. Another ship, the TAKR 301 Fisher, was loaded with 6,600 tons of equipment.

23 October 2002
The United States formally introduced a draft resolution on Iraqi disarmament to the UN Security Council.

02 November 2002
The CV-64 Constellation carrier battle group will deploy on 02 November, which would provide a fourth carrier available for operations [in addition to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) battle group which could deploy from Japan to the region].

03 November 2002
Turkey's 03 November 2002 election dramatically altered the Turkish political scene. The economy was the dominant election issue with foreign affairs hardly mentioned during the campaign. Polls suggest that 80% of the Turkish public oppose a war with Iraq. Voters overwhelmingly turned against the ruling three-party coalition that was viewed as corrupt and ineffective. The big winner was the newly formed Justice and Development Party headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who himself has been banned from running for office because of his controversial pro-Islamist views. Despite that, the party of the 48-year-old former mayor of Istanbul won a third of the vote. The incoming government may run into trouble with secular forces, particularly the army. Given the fact that the party leading the polls is a party that others designate as Islamist [though it denies the label itself], there may be some trouble with the military and civilian establishment, it remains to be seen how stable Turkish politics will be. The Islamist Virtue Party (successor to the Welfare Party, Refah) was closed in June 2001, and replaced by the newly formed pro-Islamic, conservative Justice and Development Party [known as AK for short].

05 November 2002
Ramadan for the year 1423 AH / 2002 AD begins on November 5, 2002 for all of the United States.

05 November 2002
US Congressional elections were held on November 5th. The Bush Administration had indicated that there would be no major military action prior to the election. Republicans won control of Congress in the midterm elections, solidifying their hold on the House of Representatives and regaining the Senate, in a stunning victory for President Bush. Republican wins in several close Senate elections including Missouri, North Carolina and Texas -- helped the party regain control of the chamber. The party slightly expanded its narrow control of the House. When the new Congress is sworn-in in January, it will be the first time in 50 years that Republicans have outright control of the presidency and both houses of Congress.

08 November 2002
The UN Security Council adopted a revised US draft resolution on Iraqi disarmament. Security Council Resolution 1441 contains no hidden triggers and no automaticity with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach reported to the council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a member state, the matter will return to the Council for discussions. The Bush administration claimed a major diplomatic victory the unanimous Security Council resolution to send UN weapons inspectors back to Iraq. But the process required nearly eight weeks of painstaking negotiations and entailed some concessions by Washington.
The resolution adopted by the Security Council on 08 November 2002 gave Iraq seven days, until 15 November, to accept the resolution. The resolution called on Iraq to declare its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles within 30 days, giving Iraq until 09 December 2002 to declare what weapons of mass destruction and related materials it has in its possession. The resolution gave UN inspectors 45 days to resume their work in Iraq, or until 24 December 2002. The chief UN inspector Hans Blix said he intended to go to Baghdad within little more than a week, about 19 November, to begin the task of restoring the inspections mission, with some inspectors expected to arrive a week thereafter. The inspectors have 60 days to report on their progress to the Security Council, though it was not immediately clear from the draft resolution when this period started. However, at any point the inspectors can decide that their work is being obstructed. Assuming that the inspectors would report 60 days after the the 45 day inspection deadline, the inspectors could report back to the Security Council as late as about 22 February 2003. Assuming that initial inspections began on 25 November, soon after the arrival of some inspectors, the inspectors might report back to the Security Council by 24 January 2003. Although the US would consult the Council if inspectors reported Iraq had failed to cooperate to discuss the consequences Baghdad whould face, the US would not have to wait for UN approval before taking military action.

November 2002
The average temperatures in Iraq range from higher than 48 degrees C (120 Fahrenheit) in July and August to below freezing in January. The cool season begins in November and runs through March, the months during which high temperatures in Baghdad average 23 degrees C (75 Fahrenheit). Military operations could be deferred until late January or eary February 2003, and still be completed prior to the onset of hot weather at the end of March. The southern and southeasterly sharqi, a dry and dusty wind with occasional gusts to 80 kilometers an hour, occurs from April to early June and again from late September through November. Air operations may be reduced during the windy season. Troops will have to be dressed in chemical protection gear the whole time, which is unbearably hot outside the November through March timeframe.

Mid-November 2002
Two Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ships that were activated and sent to pick up equipment for "a mechanized Army division based in Georgia" in mid-October arrived in Kuwait by mid-November.

27 November 2002
UN officials say the first inspections inside Iraq should resume by 27 November, though the Security Council resolution requires that they start no later than 23 December.

December 2002
A majority of the rainfall in Iraq occurs from December through April. Flash flooding in wadis and across roads hinder traffic ability and resupply efforts during the rainy season.

December 2002
The Pentagon was expected to begin vaccinating up to half a million troops against smallpox as soon as the vaccine is licensed in mid-November. Of the 1.4 million active duty service members, 350,000 to 500,000 could be immunized under the plan. Most would be in units that might be deployed to the Middle East.

03 December 2002
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz met with Turkish officials in Ankara December 3 and afterwards told reporters that Turkey has a role to play in dealing with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Turkey reportedly agreed to allow the US to use airbases in Turkey. But a day after Turkey's foreign minister said his country will open its airbases to US planes for a potential attack against Iraq, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's office issued a statement saying Turkey has not made a final decision on the issue and has not committed itself to anything.

04 December 2002
The last day of Ramadan is December 4, 2002.

05 December 2002
CVN-75 Truman carrier battle group deployed on 05 December, which would provide a fifth carrier available for operations if the Kitty Hawk were to deploy as well.

07 December 2002
The resolution adopted by the UN Security Council on 08 November 2002 called on Iraq to declare its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles within 30 days. Iraq will declare on 07 December 2002 what weapons of mass destruction and related materials it has in its possession.

Mid-December 2002
Federal health officials have proposed resuming vaccination against Smallpox in stages, beginning with as many as 500,000 hospital workers most likely to see an initial case. Later, as many as 10 million police, fire and medical personnel would be offered the vaccine. The Pentagon hopes to vaccinate 500,000 soldiers.

Late-December 2002
The Israeli Health Ministry has inoculated 15,000 to 20,000 medical and rescue workers against the smallpox virus and has enough immunizations to vaccinate the 6.6 million population.

20 December 2002
The CVN-73 Washington carrier battle group, which deployed on 20 June 2002, concluded operations and returned to homeport on 20 December 2002.

Late-December 2002
The USNS Pilalaau (TAKR 304) was loading equipment in Beaumont, Texas on 19 December 2002, probably associated with the 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). The USNS Yano (TAKR 297) was loading 3rd Infantry Division equipment on or about December 20 at Charleston, SC. The Pililaau left Beaumont, Texas, on 23 December 2002 loaded with combat support equipment, including trucks and Humvees, that filled almost 200,000 square feet of cargo space. The Yano sailed from Charleston, SC, at noon on 24 December 2002, carrying a Black Hawk helicopter and three OH-58 combat helicopters in its holds. Though the fastest route to their destinations would take the ships through the Suez Canal, the Yano and the Pililaau were under orders to take a slower route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. The voyage to the Gulf region was expected to take 21 to 25 days.

Early January 2003
By the second week of January 2003 thousands of pilgrims began pouring into Saudi Arabia's main gates in Jeddah and Madinah for Haj. More than 4,000 pilgrims enter the Kingdom each day. Millions of pilgrims were expected to flock to Makkah and Madinah in the following two months. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford Haj must perform the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime. The pilgrims are required to abide by directives and guidelines that have been issued by the Saudi authorities, including the requirement that they should desist from converging in large numbers in certain place, particularly those that need a smooth flow of people, such as the Jamarat. The pilgrims are also required to desist from indulging in any political activity or carrying any placards with political connotations, and to abide by Saudi laws, rules, and regulations.

12 January 2003
The USS Saipan, the USS Gunston Hall and the USS Ponce will depart from North Carolina carrying elements of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. It will take roughly 3-4 weeks for the task force to transit to the Persian Gulf.

12 January 2003
The Turkish government gave US military planners permission to examine ports and airstrips to see what upgrades are needed for a war against Iraq. But Turkey delayed deciding whether to let US forces use those facilities until after a UN weapons inspectors report due 27 January 2003. If Turkey balks, the Pentagon might order up to six aircraft carrier battle groups to the region. The Navy would need until the end of February to get all those ships in place.

15 January 2003
Though the fastest route to their destinations would take the ships through the Suez Canal, the The USNS Pilalaau (TAKR 304) and the USNS Yano (TAKR 297) were under orders to take a slower route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. The voyage to the Gulf region was expected to take 21 to 25 days, suggesting they would arrive around 15 January 2003.

Late January 2003
CVN-70 Carl Vinson carrier battle group could deploy in the late January timeframe, which would provide a sixth carrier available for operations.

24 January 2003
CVN-72 Lincoln carrier battle group, which deployed on 24 July 2002, would normally conclude operations and return to homeport on or about 24 January 2002.

27 January 2003
Since the initial UN inspections began on 27 November 2002, soon after the arrival of some inspectors, the inspectors are to report back to the Security Council by 27 January 2003. Although the US would consult the Council if inspectors reported Iraq had failed to cooperate to discuss the consequences Baghdad whould face, the US would not have to wait for UN approval before taking military action.

28 January 2003
President Bush delivers the State of the Union address to Congress at 9 pm ET.

29 January 2003
The Russians have insisted that the Security Council should meet on 29 January to consider the UNMOVIC report.

Late January 2003
The USNS Comfort which departed Baltimore on January 06 should arrive at her published destination, the island of Diego Garcia by the end of January.

01 February 2003
The New Moon on 01 February would provide cover of darkness for American forces entering Baghdad. Using night-vision capabilities, this could be helpful in achieving surprise, with the attacker deriving additional advantages from the defender's inability to aim his fire effectively.

10 February 2003
On the first official day of Hajj (8th of Dhul-Hijjah), the two million pilgrims travel a few miles to the plain of Mina and camp there. Dhul-Hijjah is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which the Hajj takes place, from the 8th through 13th.

12 February 2003
Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year. This is the season of the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). This week-long event occurs two months and ten days after Ramadan ends. The Festival of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is one of two major Islamic celebrations and takes place on the tenth day of the Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar in which millions of Muslims from around the world make an annual pilgrimage to Makkah in order to worship Allah. Eid al-Adha recalls the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God and sacrifice his son Isaac. While pilgrims in Makkah re-enact this scene by slaughtering sheep of their own, Muslims who can afford it in the rest of the world also participate in this rite by slaughtering sheep, camels and cows.

14 February 2003 By Valentines Day, the bulk the of the major ground forces should be in Kuwait. Much of the Marine forces that were deployed in mid-January will arrive in the Persian Gulf region by February 14, which should be the final element of the forces intended to take part in the opening phase of the ground war.

18 February 2003 The USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group was ordered to deploy to the Persian Gulf on February 4. At the time she was off Puerto Rico and was deploying to the Mediterranean directly. It should take roughly 2 weeks for her to be in position in the E. Med, making her available on or about February 18.

22 February 2003
On January 17, 9 "Cape" Roll-on/Roll-off sealift ships were activated and ordered to be operational no later than Jan 22. These ships, the Cape Race and Cape Rise located in Portsmouth, VA, the Cape Decision and Cape Diamond located in Charleston, S.C., and the Cape Taylor, Cape Texas, Cape Trinity, Cape Victory and Cape Vincent located in Beaumont and Houston, Texas should begin heading to the various ports for uploads by the end of January. A transit from the United States to the Persian Gulf would take roughly 18-21 days allowing them to arrive in Kuwait on or around February 18. Assuming that it would take roughly 2-4 days to unload and transport the equipment from port to the Kabals, where it would marry up with troops, the US should have significant portions of the heavy equipment in place by February 22.

23 February 2003 The USS Kitty Hawk and her Battle Group was ordered to deploy to the Persian Gulf on or about February 6. If she were to steam directly to the Gulf without making port calls and if she left from a position near the Korean Peninsula she should arrive in the Persian Gulf area on or about 23 February.

March 2003
The average temperatures in Iraq range from higher than 48 degrees C (120 Fahrenheit) in July and August to below freezing in January. The cool season begins in November and runs through March, the months during which high temperatures in Baghdad average 23 degrees C (75 Fahrenheit). Military operations could be deferred until late January or eary February 2003, and still be completed prior to the onset of hot weather at the end of March.

01 March 2003
UNMOVIC has reportedly ordered Iraq to destroy all of its Al Samoud 2 missiles and 380 rocket engines that were illegally imported by Saturday, March 1. This is also the date that a written report from UNMOVIC is due to the United Nations Security Council.

03 March 2003
CVN-68 Nimitz carrier battle group deployed on March 3, which providing a sixth carrier available for operations against Iraq. It ought to arrive in the 5th Fleet AOR on or about 10 April.

03 March 2003
The New Moon on 03 March would provide cover of darkness for American forces entering Baghdad. Using night-vision capabilities, this could be helpful in achieving surprise, with the attacker deriving additional advantages from the defender's inability to aim his fire effectively.

Early March 2003
According to a report in USA Today [January 13, 2003] a senior Defense official said the timing of an invasion to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been shifted from mid-February to the end of February or early March, a delay that stems from the complications of moving a huge land, sea and air force.

05 March 2003
Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, beginning the first of the lunar month.

07 March 2003
At 10 AM Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei will give a report to the United Nations Security Council briefing it on a report that it submitted earlier in the month and giving testimony regarding developments in the inspections process.

16 March 2003
On March 16 the IAEA and UNMOVIC were advised by the United States to withdraw their inspectors from Iraq. Such a withdrawl should be completed by March 18 depending on how long it takes for the United Nations to approve such a withdrawl.

17 March 2003
The United Kingdom, along with Spain and the United States, introduced on March 7, 2003, a revised draft of a resolution that presented Iraq with a deadline of March 17, 2003, to cooperate fully with Security Council demands to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. This deadline would, of course, be contingent on a majority of the Security Council voting in favor of the resolution without the use of any veto by a permanent Security Council Member.

17 March 2003
The United States ordered that all non-essential US Embassy personnel working in Syria, Kuwait and Israel should leave those countries and return to the United States. Such a withdrawl should be complete within 24-48 hours.

17 March 2003
UN monitors along the Iraqi side of the DMZ seperating Kuwait and Iraq began to withdraw from their positions and to leave the country.

19 March 2003
President Bush, during an address to the nation on March 17, gave a 48 hour deadline to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or else the United States and its coalition allies will initiate a military action against the Iraqi regime. The deadline for Hussein to enter exile would be 8:00 PM EST on March 19, by this time nearly all of the final preparations would be completed. Military operations against Iraq began at around 9:30 PM EST on March 19.

01 April 2003
The New Moon on 01 April would provide cover of darkness for American forces entering Baghdad. Using night-vision capabilities, this could be helpful in achieving surprise, with the attacker deriving additional advantages from the defender's inability to aim his fire effectively.



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