Current situation

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime, a United States–led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was set up to govern the country, alongside a 25-member Iraqi Governing Council. In June 2004, it has been agreed, the CPA will hand over power to a Transitional National Assembly and Iraq will regain its sovereignty. A permanent government, elected in accordance with a new constitution, is due to take over in 2005.

In early 2004, Australia still had 850 personnel in the Middle East. HMAS Melbourne was in the Persian Gulf, while RAAF C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orion aircraft were operating in the region. RAAF air traffic controllers remained at Baghdad airport, and soldiers provided security for Australian diplomatic and government personnel. Australians were also helping train the new Iraqi armed forces.

However, the situation in Iraq remains tense. A brutal resistance movement remains active, targeting coalition members, ordinary Iraqis, and international institutions, including the United Nations and the Red Cross. These repeated attacks threaten both political progress and the physical rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure. Establishing a stable Iraq remains a daunting task.

P04237.005 A grisly sight at Abu Ghraib
George Gittoes
Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, hundreds, possibly thousands, of political prisoners were executed or tortured at Abu Ghraib prison, on the outskirts of Baghdad. Coalition forces found 993 unmarked graves at the prison. George Gittoes visited the site on 28 April 2003.P04237.005

P04237.004 The bombed Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad
George Gittoes
On 27 October 2003, the first day of Ramadan, a car-bomb exploded outside the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad. Gittoes, who was nearby and took this photograph of the scene, commented: “it was the day humanitarianism became a target absolute ground zero for the human spirit”.P04237.004

P04237.008 Newly erected statue in central Baghdad
George Gittoes
This fibreglass statue, photographed on 25 October 2003, was created by Iraqi artists as a symbol of unity. It replaced a large statue of Saddam Hussein which had dominated the area.P04237.008