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History

Ancient history and the British mandate

Iraq has traditionally been known as the 'Mesopotamia', because of the two great rivers that flow through it: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The current form of the state and territory is a recent creation: it emerged from the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. On 25 April 1920 Iraq, consisting of the former Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, came under British mandate. On 23 August 1921, Faisal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sherif of Mecca, became king of Iraq with the support of Great Britain. This reign was ended by a military coup in 1958. After this, the Iraqi Republic was proclaimed by General Abd al-Karim Qasim.

Baath Party comes to power

In 1963, the Baath Party first came to power and successive governments and armed forces were dominated by the Sunni Arab minority. Under Baath rule, Iraq became a symbol of Arab nationalism and a prosperous country due to the abundance of oil. In 1979, Saddam Hussein of the Arab Socialist Baath Party came to power. A year later, war broke out between Iraq and Iran, which only ended in 1988 with the signing of a ceasefire. The war cost one million lives.

Gulf war

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) announced sanctions against Iraq. In response, Iraq annexed Kuwait. UNSCR 678 gave the green light under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to use all means necessary to support the implementation of Resolution 660. This led to the 1991 Gulf War ('Operation Desert Storm'), in which the Iraqi army was defeated in six weeks and a cease-fire agreed upon.

The Republic of Iraq de facto fell in two in 1991, with northern Iraq removed from central authority in Baghdad. The Iraqi army had previously been deployed to suppress rebellion among the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south of Iraq. To support the Kurds and Shi'ites, 'no-fly' zones were established in 1991. This led to a relatively safe zone in a large part of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Period Saddam Hussein

In the meantime, Iraq had fallen from the level of a prosperous country to that of a developing country, where people lived on the minimum subsistence level. The sanctions regime established by the UNSC was eased in 1995 and 1999 in order to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population. By means of the so-called "oil for food" programme, Iraq was in principle able to export oil without restrictions. The proceeds were controlled by the UN. Iraq was allowed to use these funds to conclude contracts - under strict UN control - with foreign companies for the import of humanitarian goods, including medicines.

The sanctions regime against Iraq would not be lifted until it was proven that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. To this end, the Iraqi regime had to allow UN weapons inspections. In 1998, Iraq refused further cooperation with the UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (UNSCOM). The inspections were resumed by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in 2002 under great international pressure.

Coalition Provisional Authority

Saddam Hussein's highly repressive regime was brought to an end in the spring of 2003 by military action led by the US and the UK, based on years of Iraqi non-compliance with Security Council resolutions calling on the country to disarm.

After twenty-four years of absolute Baath dictatorship, a vacuum developed in Iraq, both in terms of the structured exercise of political power and the maintenance of public order and security. Consequently, in May 2003, the administrative responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq, the reform of the state institutions and the creation of stability and security was handed over to the 'Coalition Provisional Authority' (CPA) under the leadership of US envoy Paul Bremer. The establishment of the US-led administration was laid down in UNSCR 1483 on 22 May 2003. The existing economic sanctions were also lifted.

The CPA worked to encourage a political process among the Iraqis which in July 2003 led to the establishment of an Iraqi Governing Council consisting of 25 representatives of the main political parties and other leading Iraqis.

On 8 June 2004, the UNSC adopted Resolution 1546, setting out a political timetable that should lead to the establishment of a democratically elected government by the end of 2005. This resolution came about in part through the active efforts of the Netherlands. On 28 June 2004, the CPA transferred power to the Iraqi interim government and Iraq's sovereignty was restored.

Interim government and death of Saddam Hussein

The establishment of the interim government in June 2004 under Prime Minister Allawi marked a new phase in the transition process in Iraq. Under a second interim government, elected after elections in January 2005, a new Iraqi constitution is to be established, followed by a national referendum to ratify it, and new elections at the end of 2005.

On 13 December 2003, the American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced that Saddam Hussein had been arrested after a manhunt. He was found in a crawl space under a house in the town of ad-Dawar, 15 kilometres south of Tikrit.

The Americans handed him over to the Iraqi authorities, and a trial began. Eventually, after all appeals, the former dictator was sentenced to death for the mass murder of 148 men in the village of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam Hussein was hanged on 30 December 2006 at 4:00 a.m. Dutch time. The execution took place in the capital Baghdad, just before the formal start of the Islamic sacrifice festival.

Recent history

At the beginning of 2007, there is great unrest in Iraq and there are numerous bombings and fights, especially between American troops and al-Qaeda fighters. President Bush sends more troops to Iraq. In December Turkish troops attack positions of the Kurdish PKK in Iraq. In March 2008 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran pays an unexpected visit. In July 2008, Prime Minister Maliki indicates for the first time that American troops might eventually withdraw from Iraq. The Sunnis return to the Shiite-dominated government. In November 2008, the Iraqi parliament agreed to the security treaty with the United States, which means that all US troops have to leave the country by the end of 2011.

In February 2009, Maliki won the provincial elections. In May 2009, it was decided to hold the parliamentary elections on 30 January 2010. These elections were eventually held in March 2010 and did not produce a clear coalition. At the end of 2010, a broad coalition was formed; Maliki was again prime minister and Talabani president. In December 2011, the United States completed the withdrawal of its forces. In 2012 and 2013, unrest continues in Iraq. Many people are killed in attacks. Especially the month of October 2013 is bloody.
In April 2014, Al-Maliki's coalition wins the parliamentary elections. The Sunni rebels of ISIS gain a foothold in the summer of 2014. In September 2014, Al-Malaki gives way to Shiite politician Haydar Al-Abadi who forms a broad coalition. In 2015, the government tries to fight IS with varying degrees of success. In 2016, the battle focuses on the regions of Ramadi and Fallujah. In November 2017, IS was defeated in almost all parts of Iraq with the help of the Kurds and Shiite militias. n October 2019, the parliament elects the well-known Kurdish politician Barham Salih as president. He appoints Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister, with the support of the Shiite majority of MPs. Since May 2020, Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been prime minister.


Sources

Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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