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History of Iraq

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Title: History of Iraq  
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History of Iraq

Part of a series on the
History of Iraq
Detail from the Ishtar Gate
Ancient Mesopotamia
Classical antiquity
Middle Ages
Early modern period
Modern Iraq
Iraq portal

The territory of the modern state of Iraq was defined in 1920 as that Mandatory Iraq. It is centered on the Lower Mesopotamia (corresponding to historical Babylonia, later also known as ʿIrāq-i ʿArab) but also includes part of Upper Mesopotamia (Iraqi Kurdistan) and of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert.

As part of the larger Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia saw the emergence of the earliest emergence of civilization in the Neolithic (the Ubaid period) and formed a significant part of the Ancient Near East throughout the Bronze Age and the Iron Age (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian).[1] After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Mesopotamia fell under Persian and then Greek rule. By the 3rd century, when it was once again under Persian (Sassanid) control, the earlier population was increasingly displaced by Arabs, and the Arabic name al-ʿIrāq dates to about this time.[2] The Sassanid Empire was destroyed by the Islamic conquests and displaced by the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century. Baghdad became the center of the "Islamic Golden Age" under the Abbasid Caliphate during the 9th century. Baghdad's rapid growth stagnated in the 10th century due to the Buwayhid and Seljuq invasions, but it remained of central importance until the Mongol invasion of 1258. After this, Iraq became a province of the Turco-Mongol Ilkhanate and declined in importance. After the disintegration of the Ilkhanate, Iraq was ruled by the Jalairids and Kara Koyunlu until its eventual absorption into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, intermittently falling under Iranian Safavid and Mamluk control.

Ottoman rule ended with World War I, and Iraq came to be administered by the British Empire as Mandatory Iraq until the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1933. A republic was established in 1958 following a coup d'état. It was controlled by Saddam Hussein from 1979 to 2003, into which period falls the Iran–Iraq War and the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein was deposed following the 2003 US-led invasion of the country. Over the following years, Iraq came to the brink of civil war, and the situation deteriorated after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. By 2015, Iraq was effectively divided, the central and southern part being controlled by the government, the northwest by the Kurdistan Regional Government and the western part by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.


  • Prehistory 1
  • Ancient Mesopotamia 2
    • Bronze Age 2.1
    • Iron Age 2.2
  • Classical Antiquity 3
    • Achaemenid and Seleucid rule 3.1
    • Parthian and Roman rule 3.2
    • Sassanid Empire 3.3
  • Middle Ages 4
    • Muslim conquest 4.1
    • Abbasid Caliphate 4.2
    • Mongol invasion 4.3
    • Turco-Mongol rule 4.4
  • Ottoman and Mamluk rule 5
  • 20th century 6
    • British mandate 6.1
    • Independent Kingdom of Iraq 6.2
    • Republic of Iraq 6.3
      • Ba'athist Iraq 6.3.1
      • Under Saddam Hussein 6.3.2
  • Recent history (2003–present) 7
    • 2003 invasion 7.1
    • Occupation (2003–11) 7.2
    • Insurgency and civil war (2011–present) 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


During 1957–1961 Shanidar Cave was excavated by Ralph Solecki and his team from Columbia University, and nine skeletons of Neanderthal man of varying ages and states of preservation and completeness (labelled Shanidar I – IX) were discovered dating from 60–80,000 years BP. A tenth individual was recently discovered by M. Zeder during examination of a faunal assemblage from the site at the Smithsonian Institution. The remains seemed to Zeder to suggest that Neandertals had funeral ceremonies, burying their dead with flowers (although the flowers are now thought to be a modern contaminant), and that they took care of injured and elderly individuals.

Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, Mathematics, Astronomy and Agriculture."[3]

Ancient Mesopotamia

Bronze Age

Sumer emerged as the civilization of Lower Mesopotamia out of the prehistoric Ubaid period (mid-6th millennium BC) in the Early Bronze Age (Uruk period) Classical Sumer ends with the rise of the Akkadian Empire in the 24th century BC. Following the Gutian period, there is a brief Sumerian renaissance in the 21st century, cut short in the 20th century BC by Amorite invasion. The Amorite dynasty of Isin persisted until c. 1600 BC, when southern Mesopotamia was united under Kassite Babylonian rule.

The north of Mesopotamia had become the [4]

[5] During the 3rd millennium BCE, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism.[6]

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Mesopotamia somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC,[7] but Sumerian continued to be used as a written or ceremonial language in Mesopotamia well into the period of classical antiquity.

Babylonia emerged from the Amorite dynasties (c. 1900 BC) when Hammurabi (c. 1792–1750 BC), unified the territories of the former kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad. During the early centuries of what is called the "Amorite period", the most powerful city states were Isin and Larsa, although Shamshi-Adad I came close to uniting the more northern regions around Assur and Mari. One of these Amorite dynasties was established in the city-state of Babylon, which would ultimately take over the others and form the first Babylonian empire, during what is also called the Old Babylonian Period.

Assyria was an Akkadian (East Semitic) kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur (Akkadian Aššūrāyu).

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria, little is positively known. In the Assyrian King List, the earliest king recorded was Tudiya. He was a contemporary of Ibrium of Ebla who appears to have lived in the late 25th or early 24th century BC, according to the king list. The foundation of the first true urbanised Assyrian monarchy was traditionally ascribed to Ushpia a contemporary of Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Naplanum of Larsa.[8] c. 2030 BC.

Assyria had a period of empire from the 19th to 18th centuries BC. From the 14th to 11th centuries BC Assyria once more became a major power with the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

Iron Age

The Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC) was the dominant political force in the Ancient Near East during the Iron Age, eclipsing Babylonia, Egypt, Urartu[9] and Elam. During this period, Aramaic was also made an official language of the empire, alongside the Akkadian language.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire (626 BC–539 BC) marks the final period of the history of the Ancient Near East preceding Persian conquest. A year after the death of the last strong Assyrian ruler, Assurbanipal, in 627 BC, the Assyrian empire spiralled into a series of brutal civil wars. Babylonia rebelled under Nabopolassar, a member of the Chaldean tribe which had migrated from the Levant to south eastern Babylonia in the early 9th century BC. In alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, they sacked the city of Nineveh in 612 BC, and the seat of empire was transferred to Babylonia for the first time since the death of Hammurabi in the mid 18th century BC. This period witnessed a general improvement in economic life and agricultural production, and a great flourishing of architectural projects, the arts and science. The Neo-Babylonian period ended with the reign of Nabonidus in 539 BC. To the east, the Persians had been growing in strength, and eventually Cyrus the Great established his dominion over Babylon.

Classical Antiquity

Achaemenid and Seleucid rule

Mesopotamia was conquered by the Achaemenid Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 BC, and remained under Persian rule for two centuries.

The Persian Empire fell to Alexander of Macedon in 331 BC and came under Greek rule as part of the Seleucid Empire. Babylon declined after the founding of Seleucia on the Tigris, the new Seleucid Empire capital. The Seleucid Empire at the height of its power stretched from the Aegean in the west to India in the east. It was a major center of Hellenistic culture that maintained the preeminence of Greek customs where a Greek political elite dominated, mostly in the urban areas.[10] The Greek population of the cities who formed the dominant elite were reinforced by immigration from Greece.[11][10] Much of the eastern part of the empire was conquered by the Parthians under Mithridates I of Parthia in the mid-2nd century BC.

Parthian and Roman rule

At the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the Romans, led by emperor Trajan, invaded Parthia and conquered Mesopotamia, making it an imperial province. It was returned to the Parthians shortly after by Trajan's successor, Hadrian.


Sassanid Empire

In the 3rd century AD, the Parthians were in turn succeeded by the Sassanid dynasty, which ruled Mesopotamia until the 7th century Islamic invasion. The Sassanids conquered the independent Neo-Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osroene, Hatra and finally Assur during the 3rd century. In the mid-6th century the Persian Empire under the Sassanid dynasty was divided by Khosrow I into four quarters, of which the western one, called Khvārvarān, included most of modern Iraq, and subdivided to provinces of Mishān, Asuristān (Assyria), Adiabene (which was for a time an independent Assyrian state) and Lower Media. The term Iraq is widely used in the medieval Arabic sources for the area in the center and south of the modern republic as a geographic rather than a political term, implying no greater precision of boundaries than the term "Mesopotamia" or, indeed, many of the names of modern states before the 20th century.

There was a substantial influx of Arabs in the Sassanid period. Upper Mesopotamia came to be known as Al-Jazirah in Arabic (meaning "The Island" in reference to the "island" between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), and Lower Mesopotamia came to be known as ʿIrāq-i ʿArab, meaning "the escarpment of the Arabs" (viz. to the south and east of "the island".[12]

Until 602, the desert frontier of the Persian Empire had been guarded by the Arab Lakhmid kings of Al-Hirah. In that year, Shahanshah Khosrow II Aparviz (Persian خسرو پرويز) abolished the Lakhmid kingdom and laid the frontier open to nomad incursions. Farther north, the western quarter was bounded by the Byzantine Empire. The frontier more or less followed the modern Syria-Iraq border and continued northward, passing between Nisibis (modern Nusaybin) as the Sassanian frontier fortress and Dara and Amida (modern Diyarbakır) held by the Byzantines.

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest

The Age of the Caliphs
  Prophet Mohammad, 622-632
  Rashidun Caliphate, 632-661
  Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750
This earthenware dish was made in 9th century Iraq. It is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The first organised conflict between local Arab tribes and Persian forces seems to have been in 634, when the Arabs were defeated at the Battle of the Bridge. There was a force of some 5,000 Muslims under Abū `Ubayd ath-Thaqafī, which was routed by the Persians. This was followed by Khalid ibn al-Walid's successful campaign which saw all of Iraq come under Arab rule within a year, with the exception of the Persian Empire's capital, Ctesiphon. Around 636, a larger Arab Muslim force under Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās defeated the main Persian army at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah and moved on to capture the Persian capital of Ctesiphon. By the end of 638, the Muslims had conquered all of the Western Sassanid provinces (including modern Iraq), and the last Sassanid Emperor, Yazdegerd III, had fled to central and then northern Persia, where he was killed in 651.

The Islamic expansions constituted the largest of the Semitic expansions in history. These new arrivals did not disperse and settle throughout the country; instead they established two new garrison cities, at al-Kūfah, near ancient Babylon, and at Basrah in the south, while the north remained largely Assyrian and Christian in character.

Abbasid Caliphate

Iraq thus became a province of the Muslim caliphate. The city of Baghdad was built in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Baghdad soon became the primary cultural center of the Muslim world during the centuries of the "Islamic Golden Age".

Mongol invasion

The center of the Islamic caliphate in the 12th century was still Baghdad, albeit weakened by internal divisions and external threats from the to the [14]

Turco-Mongol rule

Iraq now became a province on the southwestern fringes of the Ilkhanate and Baghdad would never regain its former importance.

The Jalayirids were a Mongol Jalayir dynasty[15] which ruled over Iraq and western Persia [16] after the breakup of the Ilkhanate in the 1330s. The Jalayirid sultanate lasted about fifty years, until disrupted by Tamerlane's conquests and the revolts of the "Black Sheep Turks" or Qara Qoyunlu Turkmen. After Tamerlane's death in 1405, there was a brief attempt to re-establish the sultanate in southern Iraq and Khuzistan. The Jalayirids were finally eliminated by Kara Koyunlu in 1432.

Ottoman and Mamluk rule

During the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the Black Sheep Turkmen ruled the area now known as Iraq. In 1466, the White Sheep Turkmen defeated the Black Sheep and took control. In the 16th century, most of the territory of present-day Iraq came under the control of Ottoman Empire as the pashalik of Baghdad. Throughout most of the period of Ottoman rule (1533-1918) the territory of present-day Iraq was a battle zone between the rival regional empires and tribal alliances. Iraq was divided into three vilayets:

The Ottoman Empire, suppressed tribal revolts, curbed the power of the Janissaries, restored order and introduced a program of modernization of economy and military. In 1831, the Ottomans managed to overthrow the Mamluk regime and again imposed their direct control over Iraq.[17]

20th century

British mandate

Iraqi market in Mosul, 1932

Ottoman rule over Iraq lasted until World War I, when the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. In the Mesopotamian campaign against the Central Powers, British forces invaded the country and suffered a defeat at the hands of the Turkish army during the Siege of Kut (1915–16). However the British finally won in the Mesopotamian Campaign with the capture of Baghdad in March 1917. During the war the British employed the help of a number of Assyrian, Armenian and Arab tribes against the Ottomans, who in turn employed the Kurds as allies. After the war the Ottoman Empire was divided up, and the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was established by League of Nations mandate. Britain imposed a Hāshimite monarchy on Iraq and defined the territorial limits of Iraq without taking into account the politics of the different ethnic and religious groups in the country, in particular those of the Kurds and the Christian Assyrians to the north. During the British occupation, the Shi'ites and Kurds fought for independence, and the British employed Assyrian Levies to help quell these insurrections. Iraq also became an oligarchy government at this time.

Although the monarch Faisal I of Iraq was legitimized and proclaimed King by a plebiscite in 1921, independence was achieved in 1932, when the British Mandate officially ended.

Independent Kingdom of Iraq

Establishment of Arab Sunni domination in Iraq was followed by Assyrian, Yazidi and Shi'a unrests, which were all brutally suppressed. In 1936, the first military coup took place in the Kingdom of Iraq, as Bakr Sidqi succeeded in replacing the acting Prime Minister with his associate. Multiple coups followed in a period of political instability, peaking in 1941.

During World War II, Iraqi regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah was overthrown in 1941 by the Golden Square officers, headed by Rashid Ali. The short lived pro-Nazi government of Iraq was defeated in May 1941 by the allied forces (with local Assyrian and Kurdish help) in Anglo-Iraqi War. Iraq was later used as a base for allied attacks on Vichy-French held Mandate of Syria and support for the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.[18]

In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League. At the same time, the Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani led a rebellion against the central government in Baghdad. After the failure of the uprising, Barzani and his followers fled to the Soviet Union.

In 1948, massive violent protests known as the Al-Wathbah uprising broke out across Baghdad with partial communist support, having demands against the government's treaty with Britain. Protests continued into spring and were interrupted in May when martial law was enforced as Iraq entered the failed 1948 Arab-Israeli War along with other Arab League members.

In February 1958, King Hussein of Jordan and `Abd al-Ilāh proposed a union of Hāshimite monarchies to counter the recently formed Egyptian-Syrian union. The prime minister Nuri as-Said wanted Kuwait to be part of the proposed Arab-Hāshimite Union. Shaykh `Abd-Allāh as-Salīm, the ruler of Kuwait, was invited to Baghdad to discuss Kuwait's future. This policy brought the government of Iraq into direct conflict with Britain, which did not want to grant independence to Kuwait. At that point, the monarchy found itself completely isolated. Nuri as-Said was able to contain the rising discontent only by resorting to even greater political oppression.

Republic of Iraq

Inspired by Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, officers from the Nineteenth Brigade, 3rd Division known as "The Four Colonials", under the leadership of Brigadier Abd al-Karīm Qāsim (known as "az-Za`īm", 'the leader') and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif overthrew the Hashimite monarchy on July 14, 1958. The new government proclaimed Iraq to be a republic and rejected the idea of a union with Jordan. Iraq's activity in the Baghdad Pact ceased.

In 1961, Kuwait gained independence from Britain and Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait. A period of considerable instability followed. The same year, Mustafa Barzani, who had been invited to return to Iraq by Qasim three years earlier, began engaging Iraqi government forces and establishing Kurdish control in the north in what was the beginning of the First Kurdish Iraqi War.

Ba'athist Iraq

Qāsim was assassinated in February 1963, when the Ba'ath Party took power under the leadership of General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (prime minister) and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif (president). In June 1963, Syria, which meanwhile had also fell under Ba'athist rule, took part in the Iraqi military campaign against the Kurds by providing aircraft, armoured vehicles and a force of 6,000 soldiers. Several months later, `Abd as-Salam Muhammad `Arif led a successful coup against the Ba'ath government. Arif declared a ceasefire in February 1964 which provoked a split among Kurdish urban radicals on one hand and Peshmerga (Freedom fighters) forces led by Barzani on the other.

On April 13, 1966, President Abdul Salam Arif died in a helicopter crash and was succeeded by his brother, General Abdul Rahman Arif. Following this unexpected death, the Iraqi government launched a last-ditch effort to defeat the Kurds. This campaign failed in May 1966, when Barzani forces thoroughly defeated the Iraqi Army at the Battle of Mount Handrin, near Rawanduz. Following the Six Day War of 1967, the Ba'ath Party felt strong enough to retake power in 1968. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The Ba'ath government started a campaign to end the Kurdish insurrection, which stalled in 1969. This can be partly attributed to the internal power struggle in Baghdad and also tensions with Iran. Moreover, the Soviet Union pressured the Iraqis to come to terms with Barzani. The war ended with more than 100,000 mortal casualties, with little achievements to both Kurdish rebels and the Iraqi government.

In the aftermath of the First Kurdish Iraqi War, a peace plan was announced in March 1970 and provided for broader Kurdish autonomy. The plan also gave Kurds representation in government bodies, to be implemented in four years.[19] Despite this, the Iraqi government embarked on an Arabization program in the oil rich regions of Kirkuk and Khanaqin in the same period.[20] In the following years, Baghdad government overcame its internal divisions and concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in April 1972 and ended its isolation within the Arab world. On the other hand, Kurds remained dependent on the Iranian military support and could do little to strengthen their forces. By 1974 the situation in the north escalated again into the Second Kurdish Iraqi War, to last until 1975.

Under Saddam Hussein

Promoting women's education in the 1970s.

In July 1979, President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr was forced to resign by Saddam Hussein, who assumed the offices of both President and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council.

Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war, the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988, termed Qādisiyyat-Saddām – 'Saddam's Qādisiyyah'), which devastated the economy. Iraq declared victory in 1988 but actually achieved a weary return to the status quo ante bellum, meaning both sides retained their original borders.

The war began when Iraq invaded Iran, launching a simultaneous invasion by air and land into Iranian territory on 22 September 1980, following a long history of border disputes, and fears of Shia insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq was also aiming to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. The United States supported Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran.[21] Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of the revolutionary chaos in Iran and attacked without formal warning, they made only limited progress into Iran and within several months were repelled by the Iranians who regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive.[22] Despite calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations Security Council, hostilities continued until 20 August 1988. The war finally ended with a United Nations brokered ceasefire in the form of United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, which was accepted by both sides. It took several weeks for the Iranian armed forces to evacuate Iraqi territory to honor pre-war international borders between the two nations (see 1975 Algiers Agreement). The last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003.[22][23]

Saddam Hussain during Iran-Iraq War, which cost an estimated 1 million casualties

The war came at a great cost in lives and economic damage—half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers as well as civilians are believed to have died in the war with many more injured—but it brought neither reparations nor change in borders. The conflict is often compared to World War I,[24] in that the tactics used closely mirrored those of that conflict, including large scale trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches, human wave attacks across no-man's land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas by the Iraqi government against Iranian troops and civilians as well as Iraqi Kurds. At the time, the UN Security Council issued statements that "chemical weapons had been used in the war." However, in these UN statements it was never made clear that it was only Iraq that was using chemical weapons, so it has been said that "the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds" and it is believed.

A long-standing territorial dispute was the ostensible reason for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In November 1990, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678, permitting member states to use all necessary means, authorizing military action against the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait and demanded a complete withdrawal by January 15, 1991. When Saddam Hussein failed to comply with this demand, the Persian Gulf War (Operation "Desert Storm") ensued on January 17, 1991. Probably as many as 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and a few thousand civilians were killed.

In March 1991 revolts in the Shia-dominated southern Iraq started involving demoralized Iraqi Army troops and the anti-government Shia parties. Another wave of insurgency broke out shortly afterwards in the Kurdish populated northern Iraq (see 1991 uprisings in Iraq). Although they presented a serious threat to the Iraqi Ba'ath Party regime, Saddam Hussein managed to suppress the rebellions with massive and indiscriminate force and maintained power. They were ruthlessly crushed by the loyalist forces spearheaded by the Iraqi Republican Guard and the population was successfully terrorized. During the few weeks of unrest tens of thousands of people were killed. Many more died during the following months, while nearly two million Iraqis fled for their lives. In the aftermath, the government intensified the forced relocating of Marsh Arabs and the draining of the Iraqi marshlands, while the Coalition established the Iraqi no-fly zones.

On 6 August 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 661 which imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, providing for a full trade embargo, excluding medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity, these to be determined by the Security Council sanctions committee. After the end of the Gulf War and after the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, the sanctions were linked to removal of weapons of mass destruction by Resolution 687 [5]. From 1991 until 2003 Iraq underwent hyperinflation, increased poverty and malnutrition. To varying degrees, the effects of government policy, the aftermath of Gulf War and the sanctions regime have been blamed for these conditions.

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. It is also disputed whether any extra hardship was caused by the sanctions or whether this was the result of other factors.[25][26][27] However, an oil for food program was established in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions.

Iraqi cooperation with UN weapons inspection teams was questioned on several occasions during the 1990s. UNSCOM chief weapons inspector Richard Butler withdrew his team from Iraq in November 1998 because of Iraq's lack of cooperation. The team returned in December.[28] Butler prepared a report for the UN Security Council afterwards in which he expressed dissatisfaction with the level of compliance [6]. The same month, US President Bill Clinton authorized air strikes on government targets and military facilities. Air strikes against military facilities and alleged WMD sites continued into 2002.

Recent history (2003–present)

2003 invasion

After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in the United States in 2001 were linked to the group formed by the multi-millionaire Saudi Osama bin Laden, American foreign policy began to call for the removal of the Ba'ath government in Iraq. Conservative think-tanks in Washington had for years been urging regime change in Baghdad, but until the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, official US policy was to simply keep Iraq complying with UN sanctions. The Iraq Liberation Act, codified regime change in Iraq as the official policy of the United States government. It was passed 99-0 by the United States Senate in 1998.

The US urged the Hans Blix was admitted, into the country; their final report stated that Iraqis capability in producing "weapons of mass destruction" was not significantly different from 1992 when the country dismantled the bulk of their remaining arsenals under terms of the ceasefire agreement with U.N. forces, but did not completely rule out the possibility that Saddam still had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The United States and the United Kingdom charged that Iraq was hiding Weapons and opposed the team's requests for more time to further investigate the matter. Resolution 1441 was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 8, 2002, offering Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" that had been set out in several previous UN resolutions, threatening "serious consequences" if the obligations were not fulfilled. The UN Security Council did not issue a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

In March 2003 the United States and the United Kingdom, with military aid from other nations, invaded Iraq.

Occupation (2003–11)

Occupation zones in Iraq in September 2003
U.S. Army soldier searches an Iraqi boy, March 2011.

In 2003, after the American and British invasion, Iraq was occupied by Coalition forces. On May 23, 2003, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution lifting all economic sanctions against Iraq. As the country struggled to rebuild after three wars and a decade of sanctions, it was plagued by violence between a growing Iraqi insurgency and occupation forces. Saddam Hussein, who vanished in April, was captured on December 13, 2003.

Jay Garner was appointed Interim Civil Administrator with three deputies, including Tim Cross. Garner was replaced in May 2003 by L. Paul Bremer, who was himself replaced by John Negroponte on April 19, 2004. Negroponte was the last US interim administrator and left Iraq in 2005. A parliamentary election was held in January 2005, followed by the drafting and ratification of a constitution and a further parliamentary election in December 2005.

Terrorism emerged as a threat to Iraq's people not long after the invasion of 2003. Al Qaeda now had a presence in the country, in the form of several terrorist groups formerly led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian militant Islamist who ran a militant training camp in Afghanistan. He became known after going to Iraq and being responsible for a series of bombings, beheadings and attacks during the Iraq war. Al-zarqawi was killed on June 7, 2006. Many foreign fighters and former Ba'ath Party officials also joined the insurgency, which was mainly aimed at attacking American forces and Iraqis who worked with them. The most dangerous insurgent area was the Sunni Triangle, a mostly Sunni-Muslim area just north of Baghdad.

Reported acts of violence conducted by an uneasy tapestry of insurgents steadily increased by the end of 2006.[29] Sunni jihadist forces including Al Qaeda in Iraq continued to target Shia civilians, notably in the 23 February 2006 attack on the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites. Analysis of the attack suggested that the Mujahideen Shura Council and Al-Qaeda in Iraq were responsible, and that the motivation was to provoke further violence by outraging the Shia population.[30] In mid-October 2006, a statement was released stating that the Mujahideen Shura Council had been disbanded and was replaced by the "Islamic State of Iraq". It was formed to resist efforts by the U.S. and Iraqi authorities to win over Sunni supporters of the insurgency. Shia militias, some of whom were associated with elements in the Iraq government, reacted with reprisal acts against the Sunni minority. A cycle of violence thus ensued whereby Sunni insurgent attacks were followed reprisals by Shiite militias, often in the form of Shi'ite death squads that sought out and killed Sunnis. Following a surge in U.S. troops in 2007 and 2008, violence in Iraq began to decrease. The U.S. ended their main military presence in 2011, however, resulting in renewed escalation into civil war.[31]

Insurgency and civil war (2011–present)

The departure of US troops from Iraq in 2011 triggered a renewed insurgency and by a spillover of the Syrian civil war into Iraq. By 2013, the insurgency escalated into a state renewed civil war, the central government of Iraq being opposed by various factions, primarily radical Sunni forces. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant invaded Iraq in 2013–14 and seized the majority of Anbar province,[32] including the cities of Fallujah,[33] Al Qaim,[34] Abu Ghraib[35] and (in May 2015) Ramadi,[36] leaving them in control of 90% of Anbar.[37][38] Tikrit, Mosul and most of the Nineveh province, along with parts of Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces, were seized by insurgent forces in the June 2014 offensive.[39] ISIS also captured Sinjar and a number of other towns in the August 2014 offensive, but were halted by the Sinjar offensive launched in December 2014 by Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG forces.

See also


  1. ^ Hart, Ron Duncan (2007), A Phoenix Rising, World Arts Press, p. 33,  
  2. ^ Concise Encyclopedia Of World History. Carlos Ramirez-Faria. 2007. p. 33. 
  3. ^ Milton-Edwards, Beverley (May 2003). "Iraq, past, present and future: a thoroughly-modern mandate?". History & Policy.  
  4. ^ a b George Roux - Ancient Iraq
  5. ^ Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq
  6. ^  
  7. ^ [Woods C. 2006 “Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the Death of Sumerian”. In S.L. Sanders (ed) Margins of Writing, Origins of Culture: 91-120 Chicago [7]
  8. ^ According to the Assyrian King List and Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, p. 187.
  9. ^ "Black Obelisk, K. C. Hanson's Collection of Mesopotamian Documents". K.C. Hansen. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Steven C. Hause, William S. Maltby (2004). Western civilization: a history of European society. Thomson Wadsworth. p. 76.  
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Further reading

  • Kriwaczek, Paul. Babylon : Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization. Atlantic Books (2010). ISBN 978-1-84887-157-1
  • Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. Penguin Books (1992). ISBN 0-14-012523-X
  • Taurus,I.B. Three Kings in Baghdad: The Tragedy of Iraq's Monarchy, (2008). ISBN 978-1-84511-535-7

External links

  • Iraq: The Cradle of Civilization
  • Iraq History and Culture from the cradle of civilization and Noah to the present age and time
  • Historical Context of the Iran - Iraq War from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
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