|Early History through British Influence|
Iraq is a veritable
treasure house of antiquities, and recent archaeological excavations have greatly expanded the knowledge of ancient history.
Prior to the Arab conquest in the 7th cent. AD, Iraq had been the site of a number of flourishing civilizations, including
, which developed one of the earliest known writing systems, Akkad
, and Assyria
. The capital of the Abbasid
caliphate was established at Baghdad in the 8th cent. and the city became a famous center for learning and the arts.
Despite fierce resistance, Mesopotamia fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th cent. and passed under direct Ottoman administration
in the 19th cent. (see Ottoman Empire
, when it came to constitute the three Turkish provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. At this time the area became of great
interest to the European powers, especially the Germans, who wanted to extend the Berlin-Baghdad railroad all the way to the
port of Kuwait.
In World War I the British invaded Iraq in their war against the Ottoman Empire;
Britain declared then that it intended to return to Iraq some control of its own affairs. Nationalist elements, impatient
over delay in gaining independence, revolted in 1920 but were suppressed by the British. Late that year the Treaty of Sèvres
established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 the country was made a kingdom
headed by Faisal I
. With strong reluctance an elected Iraqi assembly agreed in 1924 to a treaty with Great Britain providing for the maintenance
of British military bases and for a British right of veto over legislation. By 1926 an Iraqi parliament and administration
were governing the country. The treaty of 1930 provided for a 25-year alliance with Britain. The British mandate was terminated
in 1932, and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations.
In 1933 the small Christian Assyrian community
revolted, culminating in a governmental military crackdown and loss of life and setting a precedent for internal minority
uprisings in Iraq. Meanwhile, the first oil concession had been granted in 1925, and in 1934 the export of oil began. Domestic
politics were turbulent, with many factions contending for power. Late in 1936, the country experienced the first of seven
military coups that were to take place in the next five years.
In Apr., 1941, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani,
leader of an anti-British and pro-Axis military group, seized power and ousted Emir Abd al-Ilah, the pro-British regent for
the child king, Faisal II
(who had succeeded his father, Ghazi, ruler from Faisal I's death in 1933 to his own death in 1939). The British reinforced
their garrisons by landing troops at Basra, and in May, al-Gaylani, with some German and Italian support, opened hostilities.
He was utterly defeated by June, and Emir Abd al-Ilah was recalled. On Jan. 16, 1943, Iraq declared war on the Axis countries.
Anti-British sentiment was reasserted after the war, and in 1948 a British-sponsored modification of the treaty of 1930 was
defeated by the Iraqi parliament because of animosity arising over the Palestine problem.
Iraq, with other members of the Arab League
, participated in 1948 in the unsuccessful war against Israel. Premier Nuri al-Said dissolved all political parties in 1954,
and a new parliament was elected. A national development program, financed mostly by oil royalties, was undertaken; the United
States extended technical aid, and after 1956, military assistance. In external affairs, Iraq continued adamant opposition
to Israel and pledged loyalty to the Arab League. The USSR's support of Kurdish nationalism caused a break in relations in
1955. Later that year Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and Britain formed the Baghdad Pact. In Feb., 1958, following announcement
of the merger of Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic, Iraq and Jordan announced the federation of their countries
into the Arab Union.
In a swift coup on July 14, 1958, the army led by Gen. Abd al-Karim Kassem
seized control of Baghdad and proclaimed a republic, with Islam declared the national religion. King Faisal, Crown Prince
Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Said were killed, and the Arab Union was dissolved. Iraq's activity in the Baghdad Pact ceased, and
the country formally withdrew in 1959. Diplomatic relations were restored with the USSR, but Iraq pursued a policy of nonalignment
in the cold war. Relations with neighbors became antagonistic when Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait and over Iranian territory
along the Shatt al Arab. In 1962 the chronic Kurdish problem flared up when tribes led by Mustafa al-Barzani revolted, demanded
an autonomous Kurdistan, and gained control of much of N Iraq; fighting continued throughout the 1960s and 70s.
In Feb., 1963, Col. Abd al-Salam Aref
led a coup that overthrew the Kassem regime. The new regime was dominated by members of the Iraqi Ba'ath party
, a socialist group whose overall goal was Arab unity. In Nov., 1963, however, the party's members in the governing council
were expelled by an army coup engineered by President Aref. In 1966, the president and two cabinet members died in a helicopter
crash. Aref's brother, Gen. Abd al-Rahman Aref, assumed office; he was overthrown by a bloodless coup in 1968. Maj. Gen. Ahmad
Hasan al- Bakr
of the Ba'ath party became president and began a purge of opponents. Espionage trials in 1969 led to the execution of more
than 50 persons.
Relations with Syria soured in 1970 when a younger generation of Ba'ath party
members took control there, creating a rivalry between Syrian and Iraqi Ba'athists. Relations with the USSR improved, however,
and in 1972 a 15-year friendship treaty was signed. The Communist party in Iraq was also legalized. In 1973, another coup
was foiled; the internal security chief was blamed, and he and 35 others were executed. Iraq took an active part in the 1973
Arab-Israeli War; it also participated in the oil boycott against nations supporting Israel. In early 1974, years of border
conflicts with Iran culminated in heavy armed clashes along the entire length of their border. A year later some agreement
between Iraq and Iran over the Shatt al Arab waterway was reached. At this time, Iraq's acquired wealth from its oil revenues
enabled the establishment of modernization programs and improved public services throughout the country.
In 1975 the Kurds once again fought for their independence in N Iraq, but they suffered heavily when Iran withdrew support.
Fighting led to the Iraqi bombing of Kurdish villages in parts of Iran, which again exacerbated tensions between the two countries.
Opposition within Iraq grew among the Shiites, who were the majority of the population yet were excluded from political power.
As the Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran grew in the late 1970s, Iraqi leaders recognized its threat.
|The Presidency of Saddam Hussein|
In 1979, President Bakr
resigned, and Saddam Hussein
Takriti assumed control of the government. He immediately purged the Ba'ath party after an unsuccessful coup, killing leftist
members. War between Iran and Iraq, primarily over the Shatt al Arab waterway, erupted full-scale in 1980 (see Iran-Iraq War
). The eight-year war became a series of mutual attacks and stalemates, as both countries' oil production fell drastically,
the death toll rose, and great mutual destruction was inflicted. Poison gas was reportedly used by both sides, and by Iraq
on Kurdish villages as the Kurdish rebellion continued. Eventually, a cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations
led to the war's end in 1988. Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic relations in 1990.
and into 1990, Hussein's repressive policies and continued arms buildup caused international criticism, particularly in the
United States, which had favored Iraq during the war with Iran. Hostility against Israel increased, particularly after Israel's
bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Hussein accused neighboring Kuwait in July, 1990, with flooding world
oil markets, causing oil prices to decrease and threatening Iraq's attempts to boost its war-torn economy. On Aug. 2, 1990,
some 120,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, and Hussein declared its annexation (see Persian Gulf War
). Foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait were held hostage but released after a few months.
Nations established international trade sanctions against Iraq, but Hussein did not withdraw his troops. U.S.-led coalition
forces began air attacks on Iraq on Jan. 16, 1991, which led to a ground invasion to retake Kuwait. During this time, Iraq
launched Scud missiles against both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iraqi forces quickly succumbed to coalition troops and were forced
out of Kuwait. While suffering heavy casualties, Iraq retained its elite Republican Guard, and Hussein remained in power.
UN inspections imposed as part of the conditions for ending the war found evidence of chemical warheads and of a program to
produce materials for nuclear weapons; Iraq destroyed some chemical weapons under UN supervision.
The war left huge amounts of wreckage in the country's major cities and ports and created hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees,
who fled to Turkey, Iran, and Jordan. Iraq's major problems were feeding its population and rebuilding its war-torn country.
These problems were aggravated by crippling trade sanctions. The Kurds again rose in revolt despite heavy-handed Iraqi military
attacks, and in S Iraq, Shiites also lashed out against the government. In 1992 the Kurds established an “autonomous
region” in N Iraq. Two rival factions, the Kurdistan Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, engaged
in sporadic warfare during the 1990s; in 1999 the two groups agreed to end hostilities.
with the United Nations and former coalition members, especially the United States, continued to flare. In 1993, after Hussein
had repeatedly violated terms of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire, bombers from the United States and other coalition members
twice struck Iraqi targets. In Oct., 1994, Iraq massed troops on the Kuwaiti border; the United States and other coalition
members increased their forces in the area, and Iraq withdrew the troops.
In May, 1996, Iraq reached
an accord with the United Nations allowing it to sell $1 billion worth of oil every 90 days, with the money set aside for
food and medicine, compensation to Kuwaitis, and other purposes. The program was subsequently renewed (it ended only in Nov.,
2003), and many restrictions on civilian trade were removed. In Oct., 1997, the UN disarmament commission concluded that Iraq
was continuing to hide information on biological arms and was withholding data on chemical weapons and missiles. U.S. weapons
inspectors were expelled from Iraq in Nov., 1997, and a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf ensued. As Iraq ceased cooperating
with UN inspectors, the United States and Britain began a series of air raids against Iraqi military targets and oil refineries
in Dec., 1998; raids against military targets continued until the 2003 war. In Jan., 1999, the United States admitted that
American spies had worked undercover on the inspection teams while in Iraq, gathering intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs.
A new UN arms inspection plan that could have led to a suspension of the sanctions in place since
the end of the war was devised by the Security Council in Dec., 1999, but Iraq rejected that plan and subsequent attempts
to restore inspections. Efforts in 2001 to ease the sanctions on civilian trade further (in exchange for tighter controls
on oil smuggling and a ban on weapons purchases) proved unsuccessful when Russia, which had close ties with Iraq, objected.
Iraq continued to insist on an end to all sanctions, but in May, 2002, the UN Security Council agreed on revised sanctions
that focused on military goods and goods with potential military applications, greatly expanding the range of consumer goods
that could be readily imported into Iraq.
Suggestions by U.S. government officials that the “war
on terrorism” might be expanded to include operations against Iraq as well as in Afghanistan were publicly rejected
by Arab League nations in Mar., 2002, but increasing threats of a U.S. invasion to end what Americans asserted was Iraq's
development of weapons of mass destruction led Iraq to announce in September that UN inspectors could return. Iraqi slowness
to agree on the terms under which inspections could take place and U.S. insistence on new, stricter conditions for Iraqi compliance
stalled the inspectors' return.
In October, President Hussein won a referendum on a seven-year
extension of his presidency, receiving 100% of the vote according to Iraqi officials. The same month the U.S. Congress approved
the use of force against Iraq, and in November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a “final opportunity”
to cooperate on arms inspections. A strict timetable was established for the return of the inspectors and resumption of inspections,
and active Iraqi compliance was insisted on. The Iraqi parliament rejected the terms of the resolution, but inspectors were
permitted to return, and inspections resumed in late November.
An official Iraqi declaration (December)
that it had no weapons of mass destruction was generally regarded as incomplete and uninformative. By Jan., 2003, UN inspectors
had found no evidence of forbidden weapons programs, but they also indicated that Iraq was not actively cooperating with their
efforts to determine if previously known or suspected weapons had been destroyed and weapons programs had been ended. Meanwhile,
the United States and Britain continued preparations for possible military action against Iraq.
Continued U.S.-British insistence on complete Iraqi cooperation with the UN inspections, and continued Iraqi resistance to
doing so, led the United States and Britain to demand (Mar., 2003) that Hussein step down or face an invasion. On Mar. 19,
2003, the Anglo-American attack began with an airstrike aimed at Hussein personally. Sizable ground forces began invading
the following day, surging primarily toward Baghdad, the southern oil fields, and port facilities; a northern front was opened
by Kurdish and Anglo-American forces late in March. After less than a month of fighting, Hussein's rule had collapsed, and
U.S. and British forces had established a controlling presence in the major urban areas.
survived the war and went into hiding, and guerrilla attacks by what were believed to be Ba'ath loyalists and Islamic militants
became an ongoing problem in the following months, largely in Sunni-dominated central Iraq. The Kurdish-dominated north and
Shiite-dominated south were generally calmer. L. Paul Bremer
3d was appointed as civilian head of the occupation. UN economic sanctions were lifted in May, 2003, and in mid-July an interim
Governing Council consisting of representatives of Iraqi opposition groups was established. Nonetheless, civil order and the
economy appeared to be being restored at a slow pace that threatened to create animosity toward the occupying forces. The
cost for rebuilding Iraq was estimated by Bremer in late 2003 to be as much as $100 billion over three years. Meanwhile, U.S.-British
failure to find biological or chemical weapons led to charges that Anglo-American leaders had exaggerated the Iraqi threat
to international security.
In Oct., 2003, the UN Security Council passed a British-American resolution
calling for a timetable for democratic self-rule in Iraq to be established by mid-December. Events, however, led the United
States to speed up the process, and in November the Governing Council endorsed a U.S.-proposed plan that called for self-rule
in mid-2004 under a transitional assembly, which would be elected by a system of caucuses. However, many Shiites objected
to this because it would not involve elections; they feared a diminished voice in the government and greater U.S. influence
if caucuses were used to choose the assembly. Hussein was finally captured by U.S. forces in Dec., 2003.