The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell pictured in 2008 during a TV appearance
The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell pictured in 2008 during a TV appearance

Fifteen years on from Colin Powell's fateful speech, Iraqis are still picking up the pieces

Exactly 15 years ago, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that Iraq had missed its "last chance" to prove its compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. The rest is history.

This anniversary, February 5, is one that will pass most people by. However, it is an important historical moment that still casts its shadow over Iraq and on the international community. While Iraq is left to deal with the fallout of the 2003 war that followed Mr Powell's speech, the UN continues to suffer from the impact of the declaration of war by a security council member and an ensuing invasion.

In his fateful speech, Mr Powell said: "This council placed the burden on Iraq to comply and disarm and not on the inspectors to find that which Iraq has gone out of its way to conceal for so long. Inspectors are inspectors; they are not detectives". And yet, as is now well known, no weapons of mass destruction were found. While inspectors are definitely not detectives, much rests with them to determine compliance with international agreements. Their inability to determine the course of developments in Iraq has not stopped their all important role in monitoring other situations. Most recently, Syria has been found in breach of its international obligations time and again, using chemical weapons against its own people. But no decision to stop the current regime in Syria has been made.

Back to Iraq. Mr Powell's speech was a precursor to American's intervention in 2003. While outsiders, in large part journalists, activists and academics, argue over that decision, Iraqis in 2018 contend with their present and future, while continuing to pick up the pieces of the past. There are key milestones for Iraq this year, most importantly the upcoming elections in May that can either build a stable foundation towards the future or create further chaos. However, more immediately, Iraqis are looking towards ways of reconstructing their societies and cities after years of war, the most recent being the battle against ISIL that has devastated several cities and dozens of villages. The upcoming reconstruction conference, which Kuwait will be hosting this month, will be significant in pushing forward this reconstruction effort. The Iraqi government and the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations are already working towards reconstruction projects, but need international support to expedite them, according to Mustafa Mohammed Amin Al-Hiti, president of the fund.


Read more from Opinion


Mr Al-Hiti was part of the official Iraqi delegation attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, delivering this message. Speaking to him, the challenge seems both huge and surmountable. Mr Al-Hiti said: "our philosophy is comprised of two dimensions, the first is the physical reconstruction of the damage, but this is not the only element". He added: "we are greatly concerned about the human aspect of the reconstruction process. Unless we take care of the human, at any time we will face a renewed challenge. We need to immunise the people from extremists". In Mosul alone, Iraq's second city, there is 10 million tonnes of rubble to be cleared from the brutal war against ISIL. Mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges facing workers in the country. And yet, the city has already hosted its first marathon and cultural festival. The contrast between the challenges and possibilities is a testament of the complexities of modern-day Iraq.

If anything is to be learnt from the past 15 years, it is that there are no short cuts. Hard decisions, based on long term investments and weeding out corruption, are the only way to get Iraq back on track. As several articles in the constitution continue to be contested between different groups, and key legislation like the hydrocarbon law is pending, the problems of 2003 continue. The taking down of institutions by the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by American Paul Bremer in 2003, and the standing up of militias, continues to plague Iraq.

In completing his lengthy remarks at the UN, Mr Powell said: "We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility to the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body". Perhaps this is one of the least remembered lines from Mr Powell, but it is, perhaps, the only one that rings true. The responsibility to protect citizens, especially Iraqi citizens who have had to contend with the repercussions of international actions, remain as important today as ever before.

The years Ramadan fell in May





The National Archives, Abu Dhabi

Founded over 50 years ago, the National Archives collects valuable historical material relating to the UAE, and is the oldest and richest archive relating to the Arabian Gulf.

Much of the material can be viewed on line at the Arabian Gulf Digital Archive -

Company profile

Company name: Tuhoon
Year started: June 2021
Co-founders: Fares Ghandour, Dr Naif Almutawa, Aymane Sennoussi
Based: Riyadh
Sector: health care
Size: 15 employees, $250,000 in revenue
Investment stage: seed
Investors: Wamda Capital, Nuwa Capital, angel investors

The specs: 2018 Nissan 370Z Nismo

The specs: 2018 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Price, base / as tested: Dh182,178
Engine: 3.7-litre V6
Power: 350hp @ 7,400rpm
Torque: 374Nm @ 5,200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
​​​​​​​Fuel consumption, combined: 10.5L / 100km

Things Heard & Seen

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton


The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

The biog

Full name: Aisha Abdulqader Saeed

Age: 34

Emirate: Dubai

Favourite quote: "No one has ever become poor by giving"


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

The BIO:

He became the first Emirati to climb Mount Everest in 2011, from the south section in Nepal

He ascended Mount Everest the next year from the more treacherous north Tibetan side

By 2015, he had completed the Explorers Grand Slam

Last year, he conquered K2, the world’s second-highest mountain located on the Pakistan-Chinese border

He carries dried camel meat, dried dates and a wheat mixture for the final summit push

His new goal is to climb 14 peaks that are more than 8,000 metres above sea level


Director: Abu Bakr Shawky 

Starring: Omar Alatawi, Tulin Essam, Ibrahim Al-Hasawi 

Rating: 4/5

The specs: 2017 Lotus Evora Sport 410

Price, base / as tested Dh395,000 / Dh420,000

Engine 3.5L V6

Transmission Six-speed manual

Power 410hp @ 7,000rpm

Torque 420Nm @ 3,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 9.7L / 100km

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)

Most Read
Top Videos