Early and prehistory
The historical landscape of Mesopotamia, which today forms part of Iraqi territory, was probably already from the 8th millennium BC. settled. From around 3000 BC The high culture of the Sumerians, the earliest in the world, was born here. In the south of the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Sumerians founded numerous hostile city-states (eg Lagash, Kish, Uruk, Ur, Nippur) with a sophisticated agriculture and irrigation system. Evidence of their high culture was, among other things, a font based on pictorial symbols, from which the cuneiform script developed.
- COUNTRYAAH: See current national flag of Iraq. Download high definition image, and learn flag meanings as well as the history of Iraq flags.
From Babylonia and Assyria to the 20th Century
From around 2000 BC Two new competing power centers emerged in the area of today’s Iraq, the Babylonian Empire in the south and the Assyrian Empire in the north.
After the Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar II (until 562) reached its economic and cultural high point, the country was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid king Cyrus II (until 528). After the Macedonian Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire, what is now Iraq became part of the Seleucid Empire (after Seleucus, one of the successors of Alexander the Great).
From about 200 BC The Parthian Empire became an important power in the region of what is now Iran and conquered the Seleucid Empire. From the 1st century the Parthians fought several wars with the advancing Roman troops, AD 113/114. the Roman emperor Trajan subjugated Mesopotamia to the Parthian Empire and expanded the Roman Empire to the Persian Gulf. In the 3rd century AD the Persian Sassanian dynasty ruled the area of what is now eastern Iraq, while the Romans controlled the western part. In the following centuries, the areas on the Euphrates and Tigris alternately fell into the hands of the second Persian empire and the Romans (or the Eastern Roman / Byzantine empire after the division of the empire in 395 AD).
After the triumphal march of the Arabs under the Caliph (successor of Muhammad) Abu Bakr or later Omar I against the Sassanids, the area of what is now Iraq also became part of the Arab Empire, the center of which was the city of Damascus in what is now Syria from 661. Due to the division of Islam into Sunnis and Shiites, the Shiites were in the majority in Persia and Mesopotamia. The Sunni Omajiden dynasty was overthrown by the Shiite Abbasids, whose caliph Marwan II founded the city of Baghdad on the course of the Tigris in 762. Over the next two centuries, Baghdad became the political and cultural center of the Islamic Arab Empire.
From 1055 the area of what is now Iraq came under the rule of the Sunni Seljuks, a Turkic-speaking people. In 1258, the Mongol horsemen conquered almost all of Central and Western Asia and established the Ilkhan Empire (which existed until 1355). According to AbbreviationFinder, after a transition period in which numerous individual dynasties ruled, the Mongolian Timur Leng conquered the city of Baghdad and the area of today’s Iraq in 1401. His successors ruled the area until they were ousted by the Shia Safavids. In 1535 the Sunni troops of the Ottoman Empire conquered the area and pushed the Safavids back to Iran. Iraq was to be dominated by the Turks until 1918. The thrust of the Ottoman expansion shifted towards Europe as a result, so that Iraq as a province was at times relatively independent.
During the First World War, the Ottoman Empire participated alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary and was one of the losers. British troops invaded Iraq in 1917, and in 1920 Britain received the League of Nations mandate over the area. The Hashemite Faisal I, former monarch of Greater Syria, was installed as the monarch of the Kingdom of Iraq. There have been repeated revolts against the British troops in the country. In June 1926, the oil-rich Kurdish area around Mosul in the north, controlled by the British, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Iraq. The Anatolian part of Kurdistan had already been declared Turkish territory in 1923 (Kurdistan was a settlement area on the territories of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Iran and Iraq, which was promised to the Kurdish people as a separate country by the allied victorious powers after the First World War).
Independence and World War II
Even after independence was officially achieved in 1932, Iraq remained heavily dependent on Great Britain. British troops were stationed in the country (until 1959), and the oil exploration and production concessions had been in the hands of the Iraq Petroleum Company (which belonged to Britain, the United States, and France) since 1927. Internally, the country had to deal with the social tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and the independence demands of the Kurds in the north.
During the Second World War, a nationalist Arab movement tried to gain power through a union with Nazi Germany, but was unsuccessful. In 1945 Iraq was one of the founding members of the “Arab League” (together with Egypt, South Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria), which aimed to improve economic, political and military cooperation. In 1948/49 Iraqi troops alongside the Arab states took part in the war against Israel. Nevertheless, the close ties to the West were initially maintained, which was evident, for example, in the Baghdad Pact concluded in 1955, an alliance against the Soviet Union from Iraq, Turkey, Great Britain, Iran and Pakistan. In February 1958, Iraq joined forces with Jordan to “Arab Federation” together.
The situation changed when there was a bloody military coup against the government and royalty in July 1958. Both the unification with Jordan and the monarchy were declared ended, the Baghdad Pact void and the republic declared. General Abd Al Karim Kasim (until 1963), who was now in office, initiated a reversal in Iraqi foreign policy towards a close link to the USSR.
In 1960, Iraq was one of the founding members of the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela). The aim of the organization was a common oil policy towards the consumer countries in order to ensure stable and regular income for the producing countries. In 1961 the Kurdish conflict in the north of the country escalated to open war when the Kurdish leader Mustafa Barsani proclaimed an independent Kurdish state. In the same year, Iraq made claims to neighboring Kuwait, which had been given independence by Great Britain.
General Abd Al Karim Kasim was overthrown by an officer coup in 1963, and his successor was Abd As Salim Aref (until 1966). In 1968, the Ba’ath party, founded in 1942 (in which ideas of socialism combined with pan-Arab goals) took power in Iraq. A year earlier, Iraq and other Arab countries had suffered a crushing defeat in the 3rd Israeli-Arab war. The leader of the Baath party, Ahmad Hassan Al Bakr, took over the leadership of the newly founded Revolutionary Command Council (RKR), and his deputy was Saddam Hussein, who was instrumental in the coup. In terms of foreign policy, the Iraqi leadership took an extremely anti-Israel course and tried to establish good contacts with the USSR, internally it tried to balance the Kurds in the north of the country,who were granted limited self-government and a stake in the all-Iraqi government in 1975. Nevertheless, there were repeated fights between government troops and Kurds.
In 1972, the oil companies, which until then had been largely in foreign hands, were nationalized. The Iraqi leadership invested the enormous profits from the oil business in armaments (from the USSR) on the one hand, and in the expansion of industry and agriculture and an education and health system on the other. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became the leading leader in Iraq as the chairman of the Revolutionary Command and Ba’ath Party, as president and later as prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Since the First Gulf War
In September 1980, the invasion of Iraqi troops into Iran triggered the First Gulf War, which was primarily about economic interests (oil fields). The West supported Saddam Hussein in his struggle against Iran, in which fundamentalism had been in power since 1979 (under Ayatolla Khomeini). In 1988 the regime launched the so-called Anfal operation, which is estimated to have killed up to 180,000 Iraqi Kurds. In the same year, the war, which claimed the lives of around 500,000 people, ended through the United Nations.
Two years later, Iraqi troops occupied the neighboring Emirates of Kuwait, which was declared an Iraqi province, and triggered the Second Gulf War. In February 1991, a large coalition of 24 European and Arab states, led by the United States, liberated Kuwait after the UN withdrawal date had passed. As a result, a comprehensive trade embargo was imposed on Iraq and arms controls, which repeatedly gave rise to disputes in the years that followed. Despite bans and international agreements, it was known that Iraq had been producing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction since the 1980s. For the region, a permanent US military presence was decided by the victorious powers.Iraqi troops were repeatedly attacked in the Kurdish and Shiite protection zones, renewed attacks on Kuwaiti territory and violations of the no-fly zones,
Despite domestic tensions (with the Iraqi opposition largely fragmented and largely operating from abroad) and the ongoing Kurdish problem, Saddam Hussein was able to assert himself as the leader of Iraq. The UN trade embargo led to dramatic food shortages for the population, but Hussein repeatedly refused UN offers to export oil and to buy food and medicine for the population with part of the proceeds. It was only in May 1996 that a lengthy negotiation led to an initial agreement (“Oil for Food Resolution”). The rest of the Iraqi oil sales profits that were not spent on food and medicine went to Kuwait as reparations, Relief supplies to the Kurdish regions and used to finance the UN inspection team in Iraq. In June 2001, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria agreed to establish a free trade area to improve their economic cooperation.
Tensions between Iraq and the United States also remained. Iraq announced in September 2000 that it would return UN weapons inspectors to the country for the first time in four years. This was probably a response to President George W. Bush’s threat to attack Iraq on his own to end the alleged production of weapons of mass destruction there. In spring 2003, the United States and its allies attacked Iraq (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”) and overthrown Saddam Hussein, who only fell into the hands of the occupiers in December and was executed in late 2006 by an Iraqi court ruling. The was was justified with the military danger emanating from Iraq. Even after US President Bush declared that the fighting had largely ended in early May, There were fights, acts of sabotage and attacks, in which there were many victims both on the British-American side and among the Iraqi citizens. After Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim, the most important Shiite cleric in Iraq, was the victim of a bomb attack in August 2003, acts of terrorism claimed new lives almost every day.
In order to enable the country to govern itself, the United States set up an Iraqi government council. His duties included the appointment of a government cabinet consisting of 25 ministers from all ethnic groups and the adoption of a transitional constitution that remained in force until 2005. After the President of the Iraqi government, Issaddin al-Salim, was killed in an attack, the Sunnit Ghasi Adschil al-Jawar became his successor. On June 28, 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council, with the consent of the UN and the United States, established the new interim government and then dissolved itself. The Sunnit Ghasi al Jawar became the new President (he was the tribe leader of the Shammar who was widespread in Iraq), the Shiit Ijad Allawi Prime Minister.
The Iraqi people adopted the new Iraqi constitution in a referendum on October 15, 2005. The constitution stipulates that Iraq is a democratic, federal, and parliamentary-republican state. It contains a comprehensive catalog of human rights. The Kurdistan-Iraq region is generally recognized. The first parliamentary elections were held on December 15, 2005. Jalal Talabani became state president and Nuri al-Maliki became prime minister in 2006.
From 2006, the situation in Iraq was increasingly shaped by clashes between Shiites and Sunnis, which escalated after the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February 2006. The number of attacks has decreased since 2007, but the security situation remains very poor.
In January 2008, the Iraqi parliament passed the “Law on Law and Transparency”, which ended the ban on members of the Baath Party. The predominantly Sunni members of the former ruling party, Saddam Hussein, are allowed to work again in the civil service, but only if they have not committed any crimes or occupied management positions during the old regime. This step, which the USA has long been calling for, should not only promote reconciliation in the country, but also strengthen the administrative apparatus.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” ended with the withdrawal of the last US combat brigade in August 2010. In December 2011, the last US soldiers were withdrawn from Iraq. The war cost the lives of over 100,000 Iraqis and 4,500 Americans. The first free general election since the withdrawal of US troops took place in April 2014.