In March 2003, the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq to put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein, their bête noire since the 1991 Gulf War. The war was launched without a UN mandate and was based on the erroneous claim that Iraq had retained weapons of mass destruction. France, under President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, spectacularly opposed the US and British invasion, leading a global coalition against the war that also included Germany and Russia. The diplomatic crisis leading up to the war shook both French and American perceptions of each other, and revealed tensions in the transatlantic relationship that had been building since the end of the Cold War more than a decade before.

Based on exclusive French archival sources and numerous interviews with former officials in both countries, Frédéric Bozo retraces the history of the international crisis that culminated in the 2003 Iraq conflict. It shows how and why the Iraq crisis led to a confrontation between two long-time allies of an intensity unprecedented since the time of Charles de Gaulle, and to deep divisions within Europe, the Atlantic alliance, and the international community as a whole. The Franco-American narrative provides a unique prism through which the US road to war can be better understood.

Frédéric Bozo is a professor in the Department of European Studies at the University of Paris III—Sorbonne Nouvelle. He is the author of Mitterrand, the End of the Cold War, and German Unification (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009), among other works, and was a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center in 2010–11.



Prologue: Faced with a Hyperpower

1. From One War to Another: 1991–2001

2. Bush 43 and September 11: January–December 2001

3. The Axis of Evil: January–September 2002

4. The Negotiations: September–December 2002

5. The Rupture: January 2003

6. The Confrontation: February 2003

7. The War: Spring–Summer 2003

Epilogue: Reconciliation: 2003–2007



“This is an exquisitely written treatment of the decisions leading to the Iraq tragedy. Frédéric Bozo shines light on events that can only come from the outside. France saw things America did not—in Baghdad and Washington. American readers will learn how we are seen from outside and witness the often unexpected reactions to decisions made in Washington. A vital history for both academics and practitioners in international security.”—Charles A. Duelfer, former deputy chairman of the UN Iraq weapons inspectors (UNSCOM) and head of the Iraq Survey Group

“With unusual access to French archival materials, Bozo provides an indispensable account of the contrasting French and American threat assessments and diplomatic initiatives that followed the traumatic attacks of 9/11. This book is a major contribution to the literature and is essential reading for current debates about counterterrorism, alliance politics, and the efficacy of military intervention.”—Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia

A History of the Iraq Crisis, the only serious study in any language of Franco-American relations during the 2002–3 Iraq crisis, is based on the most complete range of sources available on both sides of the Atlantic. It challenges a number of the stereotypes and elements of received wisdom about the crisis, and situates the policies of the George W. Bush administration in their true historical context.”—Jolyon Howorth, Yale University

“This book should be required reading for every serious observer of the Syria crisis. It is not about Syria, but about another country with a dictator who dominated international diplomacy for years and was the target of two Western military interventions, one successful, the other disastrous: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”—Sylvie Kauffmann, Le Monde