Iraq History

By | March 8, 2021

Iraq is a country located in the Middle East, bordered by Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. According to homosociety, it has a population of over 39 million people and an area of 438 thousand square kilometers. The capital city is Baghdad while other major cities include Mosul, Basra and Erbil. The official language is Arabic but many other languages such as Kurdish and Turkmen are also spoken. The currency used in Iraq is the Iraqi Dinar (IQD) which is pegged to the US Dollar at a rate of 1 IQD: 0.00084 USD. Iraq has a rich culture with influences from both Islamic and Mesopotamian cultures, from traditional music such as maqam to unique art forms like calligraphy. It also boasts stunning natural landscapes such as Qarachogh Mountains National Park and Azmar Mountains National Park which are home to an abundance of wildlife species.


The oldest finds of human activity in Iraq derive from the mountainous regions on the Iranian border. The most significant of these cave finds are the Neanderthal tombs of Shanidar, dating to the Middle Palaeolithic (about 80,000 BC).

The climatic conditions that condone human adaptation have not undergone any radical change in Iraq over the past twelve thousand years: already from the early Mesolithic period (after 10,000 BC), settlements in the precipitous north-eastern part of the country, including. in Zawi Chemi Shanidar, attempts at livestock management and agriculture. In the nearby Shanidar cave, a contemporary burial ground was found. Primitive forms of bread seed, such as unicorn and bucket wheat, were used early in Iraq, and from the Neolithic period, after about 9000 BC, inhabited agricultural cultures in the northeast (compare Jarmo). See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Iraq. From about 7000 BC ceramics production also began to be a significant feature of Neolithic and subsequent cultures.

Meanwhile around 7000-5400 BC settlements were founded down in the plain of northern Iraq. This period is often divided into three cultures, named after finds for different types of decorated pottery: Hassuna, Samarra and Halaf. In the Samara culture, irrigation brought opportunities for better returns on agriculture.

From the early Ubaid period (after about 5900 BC), settlements on the plains also occurred in southern Iraq; the descent from the mountains may have been affected by a period of more humid climates. All settlements in the south required irrigation from Euphrates or Tigris. From the actual Ubaid period about 5400-4300 BC are the temples found in the settlements of Eridu and Uruk in the south and Tepe Gawra in the north.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Iraq. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.

During the Uruk period (c. 4300-3200 BC), settlements became more and more the character of cities, with centrally located temples and later also palaces. Uruk became a major center in the irrigated southern Iraq, where it grew up in a variety of cities with temples, among others. in Ur, Nippur, Lagash and Kish. Uruc culture came to affect both northern Syria and (after the local Gawra period) northern Iraq and, for a more limited period, southwestern Iran (cf. Elam). The increasingly complicated structure of society led, via precursors, to the invention of scripture about 3200 BC, first used as an aid in the administration of the great temples.

Iraq Life Expectancy 2021


The knowledge of Iraq’s oldest history rests on the findings of archaeological excavations, which since the mid-1800s have exposed a large number of cities, often including lots of wedge writing boards. The time leading up to the Muslim conquest 637 AD only a brief description is given here: for more detailed depictions see Assyria, Babylonia, Hurrites, Cassites, and Sumer. For these older periods, the name Mesopotamia is also often used to describe the area.

The Sumerian era (c. 3200-2000 BC)

From the end of the Uruk period, the oldest texts, written on clay tablets with picture writing, are derived. This developed after a century into a wedge writing, which became the predominant writing system in Iraq and neighboring areas until the 400s BC. During the same period, cylinder seals were used to seal, among other things. tablets. The Jemdet-Nasr period (c. 3100-2900 BC) was a transitional period to the subsequent early dynastic period. During the early dynastic period (ca. 2900-2300 BC), the Sumerians ruled over a large number of urban states in the south. The middle part of Iraq was inhabited by the Semitic Akkadians (compare Akkad); In the far north there were probably other people. During the Old Lacadian Empire(c. 2300-2100 BC) the whole of Iraq was dominated by the Akkadians, but the Sumerians regained power for the last time during the Third Dynasty of Ur 2100-2000 BC.

Assyrians and Babylonians (c. 2000-539 BC).

During the following 1500 years, Iraq was ruled largely by the Semitic Babylonians and Assyrians. During ancient Babylonian times (c. 2000-1600 BC), the south was first divided into several states, which during Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) and his immediate successors merged into a larger kingdom with the capital of Babylon. At the same time, in the north, Assyria conducted extensive trade with Asia Minor. During the period around 1500-1100 BC Babylonia was ruled by the eastern Cassite immigrants, then re-established by domestic dynasties. Northern Iraq was included around 1550-1350 BC in the hurricane state of Mitanni, whose center was in present-day northeastern Syria, then followed the native medieval Syrian kingdom. The Neo-Assyrian Empire(c. 900-609 BC) had its heyday in the century before the capital Nineveh was conquered by a coalition of Babylonians and the Middle Ages 612 BC It included not only the real Assyria in northern Iraq, but occasionally most of the Ancient Orient. During the New Babylonian or Chaldean Empire, 625-539 BC, the center of the area lay in Babylon.

Iran’s domination (539 BC – 637 AD)

During the period 539-331 BC Babylonia was an important part of the kingdom of the Persian great king, until it was conquered by Alexander the Great. During Hellenism, Iraq was part of the Seleucid Empire, whose capital was Seleukia at Tigris, southeast of present-day Baghdad. From around 140 BC the country constituted the western part of the Parthian Empire. The Parthians had a new capital, Ktesiphon, built near Seleukia. Through the Parthians’ conflict with the Roman Empire, the border between empires occasionally ran through Iraq (compare Mesopotamia). From around 225 AD to the Arab conquest Iraq formed the western part of the kingdom of the Sasanids, which had its center in Iran.

The Arab conquest of Iraq

Within a year of the death of Prophet Muhammad 632, his deputy, the first Caliph Abu Bakr, began a campaign against the Byzantine and Sasanid empires. Before that, contacts had developed between the prophet and representatives of Arab Bedouins in southern Mesopotamia. The conquests during the years 633-634 were led by the famous general Khalid ibn Walid. During the second caliph, Umars, epoch (634-644), two garrison cities were established, Basra and Kufa. Nineveh and Mosul were conquered. The power of the Sasanids was broken by the defeat of Nehavand 642. By then, the Arabs had gained control of western and central Iran in addition to Mesopotamia.

The relations between the Arab-Muslim conquerors and the local population, who were largely Christian (mainly Nestorians), developed positively. The Christians, as well as the local Jewish population, paid taxes for protection in accordance with Islamic norms, and were otherwise given great freedom and an important role in society, among other things. within the administration.

The origin of the Umayyad dynasty in Iraq

After the murder of 656 on the third caliph, Uthman, decisive settlements took place within the inner circle of the Prophet’s successors. A military confrontation took place in Basra in late 656, where the fourth Caliph Ali defeated the rebels, led by one of the Prophet’s widows, Aisha, in the so-called Camel Battle. Ali was assassinated in 661. Some time afterwards, the Arab governor of Syria, Muawiya, made an announcement to the caliph. He became the first Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty and had Damascus as its capital.

Muawiya was succeeded at his death in 680 by his son Yazid. This was met by resistance from several groups, and Ali’s second son Husayn was at the head of a rebel movement. In Karbala, Husayn and his approximately 200 followers were defeated 680.

Iraq during the Abbasid Caliphate (749-1258)

During the Umayyad caliphate, several insurgency attempts took place in Iraq. A descendant of the Prophet’s uncle, al-Abbas, Abu Muslim, received wide support from Iraqis and not least from the Shiites. In 747, Abu Muslim’s army clashed with the Umayyads, and the former defeated and conquered Iraq. In 749, Abu al-Abbas as-Saffah became the first Caliph in the Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad. During the first seven Abbasid caliphs, Baghdad became a center of power, where Arab, Persian and Hellenistic culture, philosophy and science flourished, as did trade.

The Abbasid caliphate, which during its heyday besides Iraq included Spain, North Africa, Greater Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and areas of Central Asia and India, gradually dissolved, and various local dynasties took power. From time to time, there were deep conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites. In Iraq, there were also contradictions between Arabs, Iranians and Turks. The Abbasid caliphs recruited more and more soldiers (mamluks) to their slave armies from the Turkish-speaking nomad tribes. After a while, several mamluks had risen to the degrees of their military careers, and their influence resulted in the Abbasid caliphs becoming in an addictive relationship.

In 945, Baghdad was occupied by the Shiites, who were Shiites but allowed the Sunni Caliph to remain. Just over a century later, in 1055, the buyids were defeated by a Turkish clan, the Seljuks, who were Sunnis. Their leader Toghril Beg was awarded the title “King of the East” by the Abbasid Caliph. During the Seljuq Malik Shah, the empire extended to the eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. At the same time, Iraq experienced a renaissance period culturally and scientifically. After Malik’s death in 1092 the empire was dissolved.

The conquest wave of the Mongols

By the year 1258, the wave of conquest of the Mongols had reached Baghdad, where the Genghis grandson of Henglegu, the Genghis Khan, executed the last Abbasid caliph along with scientists, artists, poets and religious representatives and destroyed their articles. Iraq, which came to rule from Tabriz in Iran, became a neglected border province during this era. After the death of Mongol ruler Abu Said in 1335, a local dynasty, the Jalayids, came to rule Iraq until a new Mongol leader, Timur Lenk, invaded Baghdad in 1401 and executed many of its residents. During the remainder of the 15th century, Iraq was characterized by political chaos, economic decline and social disintegration.

Ottoman victory over the Safavids

In the early 16th century, Iraq was conquered by a new Turkish and Shiite dynasty, the Safavids. Already in 1534 Iraq was conquered by the Sunni Muslim Ottomans, who had Istanbul as their capital. Iraq was divided into three provinces, Baghdad, Mosul and Basra, which were governed by each pastor directly under the Sultan of Istanbul. But the Ottomans’ penetration of Iraq was incomplete and their control inadequate, which enabled a Safavidian recapture of Iraq. 1623. In 1638, the Ottoman Empire again expanded eastward under Sultan Murad IV, and the three Iraqi provinces were resumed.

The Ottoman era in Iraq lasted formally until 1918, but for long periods extensive local self-government existed. The Kurdish Baba dynasty took control of the areas in the north during the late 17th century, and local Sheikhs controlled the Basra area during much of the 17th century. In Baghdad, Hasan Pasha in 1704 laid the foundation for a local leadership, which lasted until 1831. After that, one from Istanbul’s centrally governed period. Major reforms and development programs characterized the Midhat Pascha reign in 1869-72. Roads, schools and hospitals were built, and postal services and councils were set up in the cities.

During the late 1890s and early 1900s, British and German interests competed in Iraq. The Germans had been granted permission by the Sultan of Istanbul to build a railway line to Baghdad, which from a British point of view appeared to be a long-term threat to its dominance in India and Afghanistan. Among other things, the Russian-British agreement of 1907 on shared influence over Iran aimed to curb further German penetration.

Iraq as British mandate

During the First World War, the British gradually occupied Iraq. At the Paris 1919 Peace Conference, Iraq was made a British mandate in accordance with Article 22 of the NF’s statutes, and the decision was adopted at the San Remo Conference in 1920. The British decided to establish a monarchy in Iraq, and King Faysal, one of the sons, was appointed to Husayn ibn Ali in Mecca, who during the war cooperated with the British against the Turks. The Mosul province’s affiliation became a matter of dispute between Turkey and Iraq, which the NF decided in favor of Iraq in 1925. It was stipulated that the UK-Iraq agreement concluded in 1923 and comprising four years should be extended to twenty-five years and provide protection to the Kurdish population in Iraq.

The political power in Iraq came mainly into the hands of the Sunni minority. King Faysal I was sunned, and his legitimacy was tied to his family, the Hashemite family, a straight-descended relationship with Prophet Muhammad. The Shiite Arab majority became socially and economically disadvantaged, while the Kurdish Sunni Muslim minority was politically marginalized. During the first decade of the monarchy, Iraq had several Christian ministers and a Jewish finance minister.

The evolution of the monarchy after independence

In 1932, Iraq gained formal independence. Faysal died in 1933 and was succeeded by his son Ghazi, who faced increasing problems in coping with the differences between different religious and ethnic groups, as well as between different families/clans. Ghazi died in a car accident in 1939, and a deputy regent for his minor son Faysal  II was appointed a cousin, Emir Abd al-Ilah. As a constant reporter at the Prime Minister’s post, King Faysal’s friend Nuri as-Said took a special position throughout the monarchy era.

Iraq’s strategic location and oil resources meant that the country came to play an important role during the Second World War. Britain had a significant number of soldiers in Iraq, but a British request in May 1941 to place even more troops in Iraq was dismissed by the Iraqis. Instead, Iraqi troops took strategic points, and fighting in connection with them grew into a regular war. The Iraqi troops received no significant help from the Axis forces, but received support from Vichy-dominated Syria. However, the Iraqi troops could not resist the gradually reinforced British troops, which had effective air support. Iraq continued to stand on Britain’s side in the war and issued war declarations against Germany, Italy and Japan in January 1943.

Iraq was one of the founders of the Arab League in 1945 and became a member of the UN that year. In the UN, Iraq opposed the Palestine division plan and participated in troops in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The oil sector developed, and two new oil lines were built in Lebanon and Syria in 1949-52, which significantly improved the country’s economy. Opposition forces, however, began to grow rapidly as a result of the Iraqi regime’s participation in the Baghdad Pact in 1955. Furthermore, the Nuri-led regime was accused of widespread corruption and political repression. In 1958, a coup d’谷tat was carried out, the so-called July 14 revolution, in which King Faysal  II and Abd al-Ilah were murdered, and Nuri was killed in connection with an escape attempt.

Iraq as a Republic

The Republic of Iraq was proclaimed in 1958, and Abd al-Karim Qasim took over the leadership in the context of a leftist government. Iraq was declared free of alliance and left the Baghdad Pact in 1959. Qasim invited Kurdish guerrilla leader al-Barzani to return to Iraq from his exile in the Soviet Union. Initially, Qasim had support from both pan-Arab and communist groups as well as the Kurdish tribes that Barzani and his Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) came to control. Laws that improved the situation of disadvantaged groups were introduced; this included strengthening the Iraqi women’s civil status. However, the coordination was short-lived, and the Pan-Arab parties came to distance themselves from Qasim. A schism also arose between Qasim and Barzani because of the latter’s self-imposed exercise of power in Iraqi Kurdistan. Relations with the Communist Party were also complicated, and eventually Qasim was overthrown and killed by a military coup in 1963. A new government under Colonel Abd as-Salim Arif’s leadership improved relations with Egypt. Exception laws introduced in Iraq in 1958 remained in effect until 1965. President Arif was killed in an air crash in 1966 and was succeeded by his brother, Major General Abd ar-Rahman Arif, who was in turn deposed in a coup d’谷tat in 1968.

In an initial phase after Qasim’s fall, there was a positive contact with Barzani, but soon new contradictions came in the day and the KDP again took up arms against the Baghdad regime. The Arab Bath Party took power after the 1968 coup, and Major General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr became president. He was succeeded in 1979 by Saddam Hussein, who in reality had already been the country’s strong man for a number of years.

Since the Bath Party took power in 1968, the real power came to rest with the Revolutionary leadership. In the same year, Iraq was given a new provisional constitution, which was based on socialist principles. Among the party leadership’s stated ambitions included a solution of the armed conflict with Barzani and his KDP. Through the so-called Mars Manifesto, the Kurds’ special linguistic and cultural rights were guaranteed as well as the right to a regulated autonomy. In 1970, the Provisional Constitution was supplemented by the National Charter, which established formal Kurdish regional rights. Together, these documents formed the basis of the 1971 Constitution, according to which a national assembly of 250 delegates would be elected. The Mars manifesto did not get the desired peaceful results, but the KDP again took up its armed struggle. The uprising collapsed following the Iraqi-Iranian settlement in Alger in 1974, when the border line in Shatt al-Arab was moved from the Iranian shoreline to the center line in Shatt al-Arab. It was not until June 1979 that the first election for the new National Assembly was held. The same year in September elections were held for the 50 seats of the Kurdish Legislative Council.

After the oil crisis in 1973, Iraq’s income increased significantly, and prosperity began to develop. The positive economic development was interrupted as a result of the protracted war on Iran. Iraq started the war in 1980 mainly to regain control of Shatt al-Arab and thereby restore the border to what was in force before 1974. Another reason for the war was the Iraqi regime’s concern over increased religious politicization among Iraqi Shi’ites. (See also Iraq-Iran War.) During the war, Western Europe, Japan, and the Arab Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, came to assist Iraq with extensive credit, about $ 80 billion. The United States resumed diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1984, and in August 1987, the countries signed an agreement to strengthen their economic relations. After a settlement agreement was signed with Iran in 1988, Western European lenders wanted to start a debt negotiation, which Iraq rejected. Instead, the United States became an increasingly important economic partner through new credit and food assistance. Furthermore, US oil companies bought most of the country’s oil exports.

During the Iraq-Iran war, the KDP and the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK) again revolted in Iraqi Kurdistan and took control of northern Iraq. The Kurdish resistance movements cooperated with Iran at various stages. From a Baghdad perspective, this was a treachery, and the Iraqi regime progressed hard in Kurdistan, destroying villages in the border areas and forcibly displacing the population to other parts of the country. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Kurds were punished and executed during a violent campaign called al-Anfal. One of the most brutal attacks on the Kurdish population was a revenge campaign in 1988 aimed at the PUK when the city of Halabja was attacked with chemical weapons of mass destruction and at least 5,000 were killed. At the same time as the Baghdad regime tried by all means to defeat the Kurdish uprising, the same regime was the only one in the region that granted the Kurds national (linguistic and cultural) rights and formally – albeit limited – autonomy. (See alsokurd.)

All Iraqi regimes have tried to find solutions to avoid crossing Kuwaiti territorial waters to enter the Persian Gulf, and Iraq has repeatedly claimed legitimate claims on Kuwait. On August 2, 1990, Iraq attacked Kuwait. The triggering factors were partly an economic dispute and partly Iraq’s claims that Kuwait exceeded the country’s oil production quota set in OPEC and that Kuwait extracted oil from the Iraqi oil field Rumayla through horizontal oil drilling from Kuwait territory into Iraq. The invasion was condemned by the UN, and sanctions were imposed on Iraq. Economic cooperation with the US was also broken. The same year Iraq invaded Kuwait, a peace agreement was signed between Iran and Iraq.

Initially, most Arab states felt that it was the Arab League’s task to resolve the conflict, similar to 1961 and 1977, and believed that it supported this from the United States and the rest of the world. Once Iraqi troops began their occupation of Kuwait, it was clear that the United States had a different view. It was also the United States that came to lead the so-called UN Alliance for the Liberation of Kuwait, which began on January 17, 1991. On February 28 of that year, Iraqi troops in Kuwait were defeated and left Kuwait territory. (See further Kuwait War.) The issue of the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border line was decided by the UN Security Council in 1993. The decision meant that the disputed oil-rich border area which included the eleven oil wells at Ratqa was granted to Kuwait. The ratqa oil sources are in fact the southern part of the giant Rumayla oil field. In November 1994, the Baghdad regime officially recognized this border demarcation.

In connection with the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991, US President George Bush called on all Iraqis to rebel against the Baghdad regime. This was heard in early March of the same year both by the Kurds in the north and by parts of the Shiite Carabian population in the south. Iraqi government troops went to counter-attack and defeated the uprising in the south. By then 50,000 Iraqis had moved into Saudi Arabia and thousands more to Iran. In Kurdistan, the uprising reached its peak when Kirkuk was captured by Kurdish opponents, so-called peshmer gas, on March 19, but within ten days the Iraqi army came to recapture the city.

With the Baghdad regime’s previous punitive actions in fresh memory, 2 million Kurds soon fled to Iraqi Kurdistan and border areas to Turkey and Iran, respectively. In this chaotic situation, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 688 requiring the Iraqi regime to cease its repression against its population. The United States and the United Kingdom (based on their own and further interpretation of the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council) decided to impose a flight ban on the Baghdad regime north of the 36th latitude (just south of Mosul and Irbil). In practice, the Kurdish areas were given the protection of the Allies to develop their self-government.

In May 1992 elections were held in Iraqi Kurdistan, but this did not result in a joint government but came to divide the area between them and create two administrative zones controlled by KDP and PUK respectively. A flight ban was also introduced for southern Iraq, but this had no corresponding effect as the resistance groups had already surrendered. When the KDP leader, in 1996, helped the Baghdad regime to push PUK out of Irbil to take control of himself, the United States came to intensify its constantly ongoing bomb attacks on other parts of Iraq. At the same time, the United States decided to extend the southern Iraqi military flight ban zone to the 33rd Latitude.

The rivalry between the KDP and the PUK continued, leading to open battles from 1994 to 1998, when the US forced the parties to stop the bloody clashes. Overall, KDP and PUK’s autonomy was strengthened, and living conditions for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan improved even more than for other Iraqis.

In 1996, Iraq accepted the terms of the so-called food program for the oil program, based on Security Council Resolution 986, and the following year a regulated oil export under the auspices of the United Nations could begin. This led to clearly improved livelihoods for the people of Iraq, and the state of health also improved. The Iraqi regime’s power over and control of the population outside Iraqi Kurdistan was strengthened through food for the oil program. The regime had to decide what was to be imported within the strict guidelines allowed by the sanctions, and to decide how these goods would be distributed in the country. About 80% of the population depended on food rations from the state.

In the view of the Security Council, sanctions would not be lifted until the control and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been completed. A UN Special Commission on Disarmament (UNSCOM) was set up to monitor the process. The Iraqi regime accused the US delegates of espionage, and at the end of October 1998, Iraq’s cooperation with UNSCOM ceased. In mid-December 1998 an extensive bomb wave was carried out, the so-called Operation Desert Fox with the aim of destroying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. In December 1999, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution establishing the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which would replace UNSCOM. UNMOVIC was led by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix. Initially, Iraq did not accept the resolution in question. The demand for broad military action against Iraq grew on the American and British side. In an attempt to avoid a military offensive, Iraq accepted a new resolution that UNMOVIC should carry out its inspections. These began in November 2002. Iraq’s regime firmly claimed that there were no weapons of mass destruction left in the country. Nor could Blix confirm that any such weapons existed. UNMOVIC was forced to cancel its work prematurely when the US and the UK decided to invade Iraq, which happened in March 2003 without the approval of the UN Security Council. Iraq’s regime firmly claimed that there were no weapons of mass destruction left in the country. Nor could Blix confirm that any such weapons existed. UNMOVIC was forced to cancel its work prematurely when the US and the UK decided to invade Iraq, which happened in March 2003 without the approval of the UN Security Council.

After the Iraq War

Operation Iraqi Freedom, led by General Tommy Franks, formally started on March 20, 2003 with an attack on Baghdad. In March and April 2003, the US-British led invasion resulted in the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government. British troops took control of southern Iraq, and on April 3 US troops began to invade Baghdad. On April 5, central parts of the city were taken, and during the following days Kurdish troops took control of Kirkuk. (See Iraq War.)

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared that the main war phase was over. During the short-lived war, the United States bombed government buildings and palaces, but also bridges, waterworks, telecommunications centers and power plants, creating enormous problems for the civilian population. The only area that was almost completely spared from the war and its destruction was the northern part of the country, which is linked to the Kurdish leaders’ cooperation with the United States.

In the spring of 2003, more and more Iraqi exile politicians returned to Iraq, including Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, a prominent Shiite religious representative, who was expected to take a leading role but was assassinated at the Alimos in Najaf shortly after his return. In Basra, the British government appointed a local tribal leader, Shaykh Muzahim Mustafa al-Kanan, as governor and chairman of the city council in hopes of a quieter transition, which partially worked. On the other hand, opposition to the occupying power and its allies came to be increased and brutalized mainly in central Iraq, often referred to as the Sunni triangle.

Suicide attacks happened daily, and the occupation forces carried out raids against various alleged or proven resistance nests and cells. In 2003, UN and Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad were bombed. This led to the UN temporarily withdrawing from the country. In other notable attacks in 2003, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim was killed and at least another 75 people just after leading Friday prayers at the Najaf mosque, and some 50 Kurds in Irbil.

In 2004, many and extensive assaults occurred with a large number of people killed not only in Baghdad but everywhere in the country. A recurring target for car bombers and suicide bombers is police stations and recruitment offices for police and security officers. Thousands of people have been killed in connection with such attacks. In the autumn of 2003, a Shiite uprising was also led by Muqtada as-Sadr.

The militia came to be known as the Mahdi Army. At the same time, other prominent Shiite representatives such as al-Baghdadi and al-Khalisi continued to criticize the presence of coalition troops. In addition to the aforementioned confrontations, more and more human robberies and kidnappings took place, usually linked to economic blackmail.

The violence intensified following the revelations that prisoners in Iraqi prisons, controlled by the US Occupation Force, were subjected to torture, sexual humiliation and other crimes in violation of the Geneva Convention. The governments of Washington DC and London abstained from the abuses and denied that they had given the go-ahead for such actions.

However, the scandal contributed to a reduction in support for the war among the American public. Shortly after the disclosures, an al-Qaeda-related Iraqi resistance group led by Jordanian Abu Musab az-Zarqawi began murdering citizens of the countries participating in the US side of the occupation. Abu Musab az-Zarqawi was also considered to be behind most of the attacks on the occupying power, against Iraqi political representatives as well as against police and recruitment offices.

The escalated violence led to the reconstruction of the country being delayed. The suffering of the civilian population, without water and electricity, with soaring unemployment and with a near collapsed health care, reduced confidence in the foreign troops. It also contributed to the fact that the occupation soldiers themselves – and some of the private American companies hired for, for example, security missions – were charged with assault against civilians.

The criticism of the war in the outside world, even in many of the warring countries, was also underpinned by the increasingly obvious fact that the invasion was based on false claims about the Baath regime’s access to weapons of mass destruction. UN inspectors had not found any, and in 2004 a US commission determined that there were no such weapons in Iraq at the time of the invasion.

Despite the violence, two general elections were held in 2005 and a referendum on a new constitution. The first election to a provisional parliament was boycotted by the Sunni Arabs, who have long dominated the country’s politics despite being a minority of residents. The elections came to give the Shiite majority a strong influence, which helped to further polarize the situation.

The Kurdish region in the north was given a position that in practice could almost be compared to an independent state, as confirmed by the new constitution, which made Iraq a federal state. Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was elected by the transition parliament to Iraq’s president and Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister. In the election to an ordinary parliament in December 2005, the dominance of the Shiites was confirmed. After a few months of tug of war on the Prime Minister’s post, the secular Shiite Nuri al-Maliki was elected with Kurdish support as leader of a new unity government.

Despite attempts at political cooperation between Shiites and Sunnis, violence between extremists from both sides increased. During a period of 2006, several hundred people were killed each day in blast attacks, often carried out by suicide bombers. The death of al-Qaeda leader Az-Zarqawi in May 2006 did not lead to a decline in violence. However, in some parts of the country, the situation was deemed to be so stable that the responsibility for security there could be transferred to the Iraqi authorities.

Saddam Hussein, who disappeared from Baghdad during the invasion, was arrested in December 2003 near his home town of Tikrit. He was prosecuted for, inter alia, genocide and crimes against humanity. After one year of trial, he was sentenced to death in November 2006 and executed by hanging on December 30. The trial involved a massacre of 148 Shiites in a village north of Baghdad in revenge for an attempted assault on Saddam. Other crimes he has been accused of, including mass murder of Kurds in the north and Shiites in southern Iraq, could never be tried in court. Several of Saddam’s closest associates were also sentenced to death and executed.

In 2007, some stabilization of the situation began to take place. The United States had sent an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq, and domestic forces were also expanded. In the countryside, local self-defense militia, paid by the United States, was created among Sunnis who are tired of al-Qaeda’s terror. In southern Iraq and Baghdad, Muqtada As-Sadr’s Shiite militia observed a ceasefire. Despite the decline in violence, the humanitarian situation was precarious. More than four million Iraqis were estimated to be homeless at the end of the year, most of them fleeing the country and around one million in mainly neighboring Syria and Jordan.

In November 2008, the government and the United States agreed on a plan for an American retreat step by step. This Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) meant that the US-led troops were no longer in the country under UN mandate but through an agreement with the sovereign state of Iraq. As a result, on June 30, 2009, the Iraqi authorities assumed responsibility for security in the country’s cities.

The start of the US retreat, and the recharge before the March 2010 parliamentary elections, led to a new increase in the number of terrorist attacks, but the violence continued to decline, however. On August 19, 2010, the last American combatants left Iraq. As of August 31, only 50,000 men remained as military advisers and to train the Iraqi army. The complete US withdrawal from Iraq was completed by the end of 2011. At most, the American force had reached about 165,000 men.

Islamic State

At the end of 2012, Sunni Muslim groups began to wage widespread protests against the growing marginalization experienced by Sunni Muslims, with violence increasing again. In 2013, the brutality had escalated to the same levels as in 2008. Several bombings took place in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil, something that has not happened since 2007. The Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization took the killing. It was the group’s retaliation for the active participation of Iraqi peshmerga in the fight against IS in Syria.

The situation was further aggravated in 2014 when Iraq ended up in an acute war and crisis situation, when the formation of the state itself seemed to be on the run. The situation in the country became even more serious when IS conquered large parts of northern Iraq in the spring and summer of 2014, including Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. Even the already war-ravaged Fallujah was infiltrated by the terrorist group.

Despite the uncertain situation, parliamentary elections were held on April 30. The election was the third since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 and the first since the US withdrew its military forces in 2011. The election results pointed to a third term for Nuri al-Maliki. At the same time, he was increasingly accused of being powerless and unilaterally favoring the Shi’a Muslims and shutting out above all the Sunni Arabs, which was believed to be a contributing cause of the rising violence.

IS gradually took control of large parts of the province of Nineveh. Soon, tens of thousands of people were on the run and the outside world was awed by images of massacres and beheadings. IS proclaimed a caliphate on June 30, a state based on an extreme interpretation of Islam. The caliphate consisted of areas controlled by IS in western Iraq and eastern Syria, an area large in half Sweden.

At the same time, the Kurdish militia took the opportunity to take the oil city of Kirkuk outside the recognized Kurdish-controlled areas in the northeast. The question of Kirkuk’s future has long been a matter of contention between the Baghdad regime and the Kurdish leadership in Iraqi Kurdistan. The contradictions started already during Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani’s time as leader and founder of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). Kirkuk has a mixed population, in addition to Arabs and Kurds, also a large element of Turkmen.

After the April 2014 elections, the newly elected parliament in Baghdad gathered for the first time in July 2014, but the meeting ended with boycott and total lockdown. Only at the third meeting did members succeed in electing a President. By agreement, the prime minister is supposed to be Shia, Sunni President and Kurdish President. In 2014, the Kurd Fuad Masum (born 1938) was elected president. He succeeded Jalal Talabani. Both Fuad Masum and Jalal Talabani have the same background as the founders of the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK), which together with the KDP constitute the two major and often rival political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The war against the extremist group IS raged the following year. Against IS, the government was fighting with the support of a US-led alliance of other states, which mainly carried out air strikes, as well as Iraqi Shi’ites and Iran-backed Shi’ilis, Kurdish peshmergas and some Sunni groups. The situation was complicated by a lot of hostility even between the groups. According to UN data, an average of around 1,000 people were killed per month, just over half civilians.

IS was accused of brutal abuses against civilians and of enslaving and ethnic cleansing of minority groups. When the city of Sinjar in the north was recaptured in November, several mass graves with remains were found after hundreds of Yazidis. Hundreds, perhaps several thousand, Yazid women were also held as sex slaves by IS. UNESCO accused IS of “cultural cleansing” because of the systematic destruction of ancient art treasures and ruins that are considered part of the world heritage.

In 2016, the Iraqi military pushed back IS from large parts of the territory occupied by the terrorist group in 2014-15. At the beginning of the year, after a long offensive, control of Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar in the west, was secured, as was the city of Falluja. The devastation of the cities was enormous, worse than anywhere else in Iraq until then. Much had been devastated during eight months by the US-led alliance’s aerial bombings and Iraqi artillery field, after which IS blasted and destabilized many remaining buildings during its retreat.

Iraq, since the beginning of the US-British invasion, has become one of the world’s most corrupt countries. This is regularly criticized by various groups in the country. In 2016, radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr (born 1973) launched a campaign against the regime and mobilized mass demonstrations against corruption but also against failed reforms. Supporters of al-Sadr stormed the parliament building in April 2016.

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban (born 1961) left the government in 2016, as did several ministers. In August, Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi, who was suspected of corruption, was deposed. The country thus stood without the regular chief of defense for the Mosul offensive (see below).

A month later, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari was allowed to go, also accused of bribery. It was considered to risk exacerbating the already strained economic situation, with war economy, continued low oil prices and a massive budget deficit. During the year, Zebari had successfully negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a billion loan in exchange for economic reform. The settlement was expected to release a total of $ 18 billion in aid over three years.

The long-awaited offensive to take back Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and IS’s last major stronghold in Iraq, began in October 2016. It was not until summer 2017 that the Iraqi army could proclaim victory over Mosul. In 2017, 3.8 million Iraqis were estimated to have been displaced from their homes since IS proclaimed its caliphate in 2014.

On September 25, 2017, one Kurdish-initiated referendum on Kurdish independence was held in Iraq. The referendum was conducted not only in the three recognized Kurdish provinces in Iraqi Kurdistan, but also in Kurdish-controlled areas outside these, including Kirkuk.

The question of Kirkuk’s status had come into focus since Shiite and Kurdish representatives in 2005 approved the new constitution which states that the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq are autonomous. The dispute was brought to a head by the referendum, which resulted in just over 93 percent voting for independence. This triggered a counter-offensive from the Iraqi army, which regained control of Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields. The Kurdish regional government lost much of its territory and President Massud al-Barzani (born 1946), who took over power after his father Mustafa in 2005, resigned in November 2017. Prime Minister Nechirvan al-Barzani (born 1966), Massud’s nephew, thus became the leading Kurdish ruler. The question of Kurdistan’s formal independence was put on ice, but the area continued to be self-governing.

Iraqi parliamentary elections would have been held in 2017 but could only be held in May 2018 and government formation took time. After tough negotiations between the major blocs, with varying support from Kurdish parties and the Sunni lists and other smaller parties, a new government was able to take shape on October 3, 2018 when a new president and prime minister could be sworn in. The country’s new President Barham Salih received support from the Kurdish PUK and Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi represented the Shiite majority in the country. However, his rule was short-lived as widespread demonstrations against the regime’s lack of manpower spread across the country in the fall of 2019, forcing his resignation on November 30. On February 1, 2020, Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi was appointed new Prime Minister.

The US presence in Iraq has continued on a limited scale. It is disputed in the Iraqi parliament, but the governing bodies are trying to strike a balance between Iranian and American demands.

Iranian influence in Iraq has continued to increase, as US sanctions against Iran are strengthened. It is not just about uncontrolled import of Iranian goods into Iraq, but also the grip on the security apparatus and the role of the militia. In 2020, this came to a head when the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qasem Soleimani (1957-2020), was killed in a US drone attack shortly after landing at Baghdad airport on January 3. At the same time, the street demonstrations continued, which, in addition to the regime, also targeted the great Iranian influence in the country.

Iraq is the world’s fifth largest oil producer and exporter, but much of the revenue is not noticeable in the country, where infrastructure continues to decay. The lack of investment and the rebuilding of community service has eroded the future beliefs of large sections of the population.

Iraq has relatively good contacts with Turkey and has been drawn in various ways into Iran’s Syria policy, mainly through the participation of Iraqi Shia Muslims in militias under Iran’s leadership. Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have worked hard to create a platform for cooperation with independent Iraq. Saudi Arabia opened its embassy in Baghdad in 2016. One year later, the first Saudi ministerial visit since 2003 took place.

The United States repeatedly invokes its Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) from Iraq, which provides the United States with numerous rights and opportunities in the country. The agreement includes cooperation in a number of areas such as political relations, defense and security, trade and finance, energy and legal aspects, services, services, culture and science, as well as education and environmental issues. However, Iraq also has a number of agreements with Iran in similar areas.

There are plans to build an Iraqi oil pipeline to the Mediterranean via Syria. The idea of this project is primarily to circumvent US sanctions against Iran’s oil exports vis-角-vis the EU, by allowing Iran and Iraq to exchange oil. In doing so, Iran could finance its trade with the EU, which does not support the US sanctions.

Historical overview

about 80,000 BC Oldest traces of human activity in Iraq.
about 10,000 BC First signs of agriculture and livestock management.
about 4,300-3,200 BC Urukperioden. Settlements get the character of cities.
about 3,200 BC Writing begins to be used.
about 2,000-539 BC Successive dynasties in Babylon.
about 900-609 BC The Neo-Assyrian Empire.
539 BC – 637 AD Iraq is mostly dominated by Iranian dynasties.
633-642 Iraq is conquered by the Arabs.
749-1258 The Abbasid dynasty holds the Caliph dignity.
945 The Buyids take the secular power of the Caliphate.
1055 The Seljuks take the place of the Buyids.
1258 The Mongols conquer Baghdad. The downfall of the Abbasids.
1400s Political chaos and social dissolution.
1508 The Safavids conquer Iraq.
1534-1917 Ottoman rule over Iraq.
1919-32 Britain holds Iraq as its mandate, and monarchy is established.
1932 Formal independence is achieved.
1958 Bloody revolution in Iraq. The royal family is murdered. The Republic of Iraq is proclaimed with Qasim as its leader.
1963 Qasim is killed in a coup d’etat.
1968 New coup. The Bath Party comes to power.
1979 Saddam Hussein becomes president.
1980-88 War on Iran.
1990 Iraq invades Kuwait.
1991 In a brief war, Iraq is defeated by the United Nations Alliance.
1998 A UN Commission, UNSCOM, is set up to monitor the destruction of alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
1999 UNSCOM is replaced by UNMOVIC, led by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix.
2002 UNMOVIC is authorized to conduct inspections in Iraq.
2003 A coalition of states led by the United States invades Iraq and, after a brief war, overthrows the regime led by Saddam Hussein.
2005 General elections and a referendum on a new constitution are held.
2006 Saddam Hussein is executed.
2009 The Iraqi authorities assume responsibility for security in the country.
2010 The last combatants leave Iraq and most remaining sanctions against Iraq are lifted.
2014 IS conquers large parts of northern Iraq, including Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.
2017 Iraqi army retakes Mosul and expels IS.