Iraq's ethnic and religious divisions, together with the brutality of the conflict that this had engendered, laid the groundwork for postwar rebellions. In the aftermath of the fighting, social and ethnic unrest among Shi'ite Muslims, Kurds, and dissident military units threatened the stability of Saddam's government. Uprisings erupted in the Kurdish north and Shi'a southern and central parts of Iraq, but were ruthlessly repressed.
The United States, which had urged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, did nothing to assist the rebellions. The Iranians, despite the widespread Shi'ite rebellions, had no interest in provoking another war, while Turkey opposed any prospect of Kurdish independence, and the Saudis and other conservative Arab states feared an Iran-style Shi'ite revolution. Saddam, having survived the immediate crisis in the wake of defeat, was left firmly in control of Iraq, although the country never recovered either economically or militarily from the Gulf War.
Saddam routinely cited his survival as "proof" that Iraq had in fact won the war against the U.S. This message earned Saddam a great deal of popularity in many sectors of the Arab world. John Esposito, however, claims that "Arabs and Muslims were pulled in two directions. That they rallied not so much to Saddam Hussein as to the bipolar nature of the confrontation (the West versus the Arab Muslim world) and the issues that Saddam proclaimed: Arab unity, self-sufficiency, and social justice." As a result, Saddam Hussein appealed to many people for the same reasons that attracted more and more followers to Islamic revivalism and also for the same reasons that fueled anti-Western feelings."
As one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam's record and concentrated on America ... Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it is not America who should correct him." A shift was, therefore, clearly visible among many Islamic movements in the post war period "from an initial Islamic ideological rejection of Saddam Hussein, the secular persecutor of Islamic movements, and his invasion of Kuwait to a more populist Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist support for Saddam (or more precisely those issues he represented or championed) and the condemnation of foreign intervention and occupation."
Saddam, therefore, increasingly portrayed himself as a devout Muslim, in an effort to co-opt the conservative religious segments of society. Some elements of Sharia law were re-introduced, and the ritual phrase "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great"), in Saddam's handwriting, was added to the national flag. Saddam also commissioned the production of a "Blood Qur'an", written using 27 litres of his own blood, to thank God for saving him from various dangers and conspiracies.
Relations between the United States and Iraq remained tense following the Gulf War. The U.S. launched a missile attack aimed at Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad 26 June 1993, citing evidence of repeated Iraqi violations of the "no fly zones" imposed after the Gulf War and for incursions into Kuwait.
The United Nations sanctions placed upon Iraq when it invaded Kuwait were not lifted, blocking Iraqi oil exports. During the late 1990s, the U.N. considered relaxing the sanctions imposed because of the hardships suffered by ordinary Iraqis. Studies dispute the number of people who died in south and central Iraq during the years of the sanctions. On 9 December 1996, Saddam's government finally accepted the Oil-for-Food Programme that the UN had first offered in 1992.
U.S. officials continued to accuse Saddam of violating the terms of the Gulf War's cease fire, by developing weapons of mass destruction and other banned weaponry, and violating the UN-imposed sanctions. Also during the 1990s, President Bill Clinton maintained sanctions and ordered air strikes in the "Iraqi no-fly zones" (Operation Desert Fox), in the hope that Saddam would be overthrown by political enemies inside Iraq. Western charges of Iraqi resistance to UN access to suspected weapons were the pretext for crises between 1997 and 1998, culminating in intensive U.S. and British missile strikes on Iraq, 16–19 December 1998. After two years of intermittent activity, U.S. and British warplanes struck harder at sites near Baghdad in February 2001.
Saddam's support base of Tikriti tribesmen, family members, and other supporters was divided after the war, and in the following years, contributing to the government's increasingly repressive and arbitrary nature. Domestic repression inside Iraq grew worse, and Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, became increasingly powerful and carried out a private reign of terror.
Iraqi co-operation with UN weapons inspection teams was intermittent throughout the 1990s.
Saddam continued involvement in politics abroad. Video tapes retrieved after show his intelligence chiefs meeting with Arab journalists, including a meeting with the former managing director of Al-Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, in 2000. In the video Saddam's son Uday advised al-Ali about hires in Al-Jazeera: "During your last visit here along with your colleagues we talked about a number of issues, and it does appear that you indeed were listening to what I was saying since changes took place and new faces came on board such as that lad, Mansour." He was later sacked by Al-Jazeera.
In 2002, Austrian prosecutors investigated Saddam government's transactions with Fritz Edlinger that possibly violated Austrian money laundering and embargo regulations. Fritz Edlinger, president of the General Secretary of the Society for Austro-Arab relations (GÖAB) and a former member of Socialist International's Middle East Committee, was an outspoken supporter of Saddam Hussein. In 2005, an Austrian journalist revealed that Fritz Edlinger's GÖAB had received $100,000 from an Iraqi front company as well as donations from Austrian companies soliciting business in Iraq.
In 2002, a resolution sponsored by the European Union was adopted by the Commission for Human Rights, which stated that there had been no improvement in the human rights crisis in Iraq. The statement condemned President Saddam Hussein's government for its "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law". The resolution demanded that Iraq immediately put an end to its "summary and arbitrary executions ... the use of rape as a political tool and all enforced and involuntary disappearances".
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