March 20, 2003, Institute For Strategic Studies: Iraq Deadline Passes
The US-imposed 48-hour deadline for Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq passed at 20.00hrs US Eastern Time on March 19, 2003, opening the way for a Coalition attack against forces loyal to Pres. Saddam at a time of the US’ choosing. Coalition forces were reported ready to strike against Iraqi targets, and Iraqi forces were on full alert. In the UK, the British House of Commons supported the Government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to commit US troops to the conflict, but only because of opposition Conservative Party support, leaving the Government itself divided. In Australia, a bitter debate in Parliament did nothing to constrain Prime Minister, John Howard’s commitment of forces. The UK and Australia were regarded as the principal military forces engaged with the US in the war, although some 30 countries were actively engaged, militarily, and French troops were already on standby to intervene with the Coalition in the event that Iraq used chemical, biological or radiological weapons in the war.