Historical Timeline, Pre-History - 1989

98000 - 9000 BC

PRE-HISTORY Early Paleolithic Period, Neolithic Period

3100 - 539 BC

ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA Mesopotamia: Sumerians and Akkadians, Babylonia: Hittites and Kassites, Assyrians, Chaldeans

539 BC - 636 AD

GREEK AND PERSIAN INVASIONS Persians, Greeks, Arsacids and Sassanids

632 - 1508

ARAB CONQUESTS Arab Muslims and Shia-Sunni Split, Islamic Caliphate, Umayyads, Abbasids, Mongols and Turks

1509 - 1911

THE OTTOMAN PERIOD Ottomans and Safavids, Mamluks, European Influence, Oil Exploration

1912 - 1932

WORLD WAR I AND THE BRITISH MANDATE Sykes-Picot Agreement, Kurdish Autonomy, King Faisal I, Independence and Iraqi Statehood

1933 - 1957

WORLD WAR II AND THE MONARCHY Military Coups d'État, League of Arab States and United Nations, Iraqi Ba'ath Party, Baghdad Pact

1958 - 1962

END OF MONARCHY AND A NEW REPUBLIC 1958 Revolution, Free Officers and Communism, Kurd Rebellion

1963 - 1979

PRESIDENT SADDAM HUSSEIN Tikriti Rule, March Manifesto, Algiers Agreement, President Saddam Hussein

1980 - 1989

THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR Iran-Iraq War, US Involvement, US Dual-Use Licenses, Chemical Warfare
For events occurring after 1989, please see our Timeline, 1990-2008.
PRE-HISTORY 98000 - 9000 BC
Early Paleolithic Period, Neolithic Period

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98000 BC

Early Paleolithic Period

"The light of civilization first dawned in the Middle East along what is known by historians as the fertile cresent - a cresent-shaped region stretching from just south of modern-day Jerusalem then northward along the Mediterranean coast to present-day Syria and eastward through present-day Iraq then southward along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf."
Arif Babul "The Fertile Crescent," http://visav.phys.uvic.ca, Apr. 11, 2007

View a map of the Fertile Crescent

"Iraq played a unique role in the evolution of human civilization, with the oldest known communities of human settlement having been located on the banks of its twin rivers [Tigris and Euphrates]...Mesopotamia witnessed the dawn of human civilization over 100,000 years ago [~98000 BC] when Paleolithic age man gathered in the fertile Mesopotamian plain."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. xlv, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004
9000 BC

Neolithic Period

"The Neolithic in Mesopotamia is characterized by the change in location, distribution and size of human settlements: from scattered campsites in areas where game is present (mountains slopes, in general very differentiated terrain), via repeatedly occupied campsites near valleys to larger but still isolated settlements, never located in the middle of the alluvial plains.

The first proofs for domestication of plants and animals come from such temporary campsites and are sporadically already seen from 9000 BCE."
John Heise "Prehistory in Mesopotamia," www.sron.nl, Apr. 17, 2007

Mesopotamia: Sumerians and Akkadians, Babylonia: Hittites and Kassites, Assyrians, Chaldeans


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3100 - 2800 BC

Mesopotamia: Sumerians and Akkadians

"The word 'Mesopotamia' is in origin a Greek name (mesos 'middle' and potamos 'river', so 'land between the rivers'). The name is used for the area watered by the Euphrates and Tigris and its tributaries, roughly comprising modern Irak and part of Syria. South of modern Bagdad, the alluvial plains of the rivers were called the land of Sumer and Akkad in the third millennium. Sumer is the most southern part, while the land of Akkad is the area around modern Bagdad, where the Euphrates and Tigris are close to each other...

Two cultural groups form the principle elements in the population of Mesopotamia before the beginning of history and in the millennium thereafter (the 3rd millennium BCE). These are the Sumerians and the Akkadians...

The people responsible for the first monumental temples and palaces, for the founding of the first city states and most likely for the invention of writing (all in the period of 3100-3000 BCE) are the Sumerians...

Akkadians, speaking a Semitic language, may have been present in Mesopotamia since the time the Sumerians arrived, or they may have diffused into the region later. Their culture intermingled and they must have been living peacefully together. On Sumerian clay tablets dated around 2900-2800 BCE found in Fara, Semitic (Akkadian) names are attested for the first time."
John Heise "Prehistory in Mesopotamia," www.sron.nl, Apr. 17, 2007

2000 - 1600 BC

Babylonia: Hittites and Kassites

"A new and powerful state, Babylonia, arose in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC The Babylonians were a Semitic people from the Syrian Desert who, under the leadership of Hamurabi (1792-1750 BC), unified all of Mesopotamia.

In addition to being a great conqueror, Hamurabi is recognized as an important lawgiver...Hamurabi's Code of Law entails over 300 paragraphs and imposed a uniform social order over a diverse area...

The Babylonian Empire dissolved within 150 years of Hamurabi's death; the Hittites sacked Babylon in 1595."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. xlvii, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"Beginning in approximately 1600 BC, Indo-European-speaking tribes invaded India; other tribes settled in Iran and Europe. One of these groups, the Hittites, allied itself with the Kassites, a people of unknown origins. Together, they conquered and destroyed Babylon.

...in the twelfth century BC, the Hittites were destroyed, and no great military power occupied Mesopotamia until the ninth century BC"
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 10, US Government, 1990

1300 - 612 BC


"The Assyrians ('children of Ashur') were a Semitic race, at first colonists form Babylonia and its subjects. Later, around 1300 BC, they rose up and conquered Babylon...The Assyrian kings were first based in Ashur, but then built Nineveh as a more secure retreat from the invading Babylonians...

Ashurbanipal (669-626 BC)...was the last of the great Assyrian kings...In 626 BC Ashurbanipal died, though it is not known how. Fourteen years later the Babylonian king Nabopolassar...launched an effective onslaught on the Assyrian cities of the north...Nabopolassar ended the Assyrian control of Babylonia and created the Chaldean empire. When he died he bequeathed the liberated empire to his son Nebuchadnezzar II..."
Geoff Simons Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, p. 146, St. Martin's Press, 1994

605 - 539 BC


"Nabopolassar, who created the Chaldean dynasty and participated in the Mede and Babylonian invasion of Assyria, forced the Assyrians into northwestern Mesopotamia. His son, Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC), assumed military control in Assyria and continued the removal of the Assyrians and their Egyptian supporters. Before Nebuchadnezzar could invade Egypt itself he learned that Nabopolassar had died, so he returned directly to Babylon, the Babylonian capital. There, he assumed the position of king. However, by 539 BC, Babylon had been conquered by Cyrus, ruler of Persia, and Mesopotamia was merged with the Persian empire.

Nebuchadnezzar is perhaps best known for his elaborate Babylonian building projects. This king created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a terraced garden supposedly built to remind Nebuchadnezzar's wife of her mountainous homeland. The Ishtar Gate was another of Nebuchadnezzar's great accomplishments. It was located near the Hanging Gardens and decorated with reliefs of various creatures, including dragons and bulls."
EMuseum Minnesota State University, Mankato, "The Chaldeans," www.mnsu.edu, Apr. 17, 2007

Persians, Greeks, Arsacids and Sassanids


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539 - 486 BC


"During the hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, numerous Indo-European speaking tribes, known collectively as the Persians, were scattered throughout most of southwestern Iran. Prior to 550 BC, the Persians were under the control of the Medes. In that year, the Persians, under the direction of their powerful leader Cyrus, conquered the Medes and took over all territory formerly under Median control...By 539, the Persians had also captured the land of the Chaldeans.

In 530, Cyrus died and was succeed by his son Cambyses (530-522). Cambyses expanded the borders of the Persian empire to include Egypt...Cambyses' successor was Darius I (522-486), who seized control after a period of civil unrest."
EMuseum Minnesota State University, Mankato, "The Chaldeans," www.mnsu.edu, Apr. 17, 2007

336 - 331 BC


"Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great...in 336 BC...inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom. He quickly dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.

Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC. The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became Great King of Persia at the age of 25."
BBC "Historic Figures: Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC)," ww.bbc.co.uk, Apr. 19, 2007

126 BC - 636 AD

Arsacids and Sassanids

"In 126 BC, the Parthians (or Arsacids), an intelligent, nomadic people who had migrated from the steppes of Turkestan to north-eastern Iran, captured the Tigris-Euphrates river valley...

With the exception of the Roman occupation under Trajan (98-117 AD) and Septimius Severus (193-221 AD), the Arsacids ruled until a new force of native Iranian rulers, the Sassanids, conquered the region in 227 AD Little information is available on the Sassanid occupation, which lasted until 636 AD"
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 14, US Government, 1990

Arab Muslims and Sunni-Shia Split, Islamic Caliphate, Umayyads, Abbasids, Mongols and Turks

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Arab Muslims and Shia-Sunni Split

"Events in Arabia changed rapidly and dramatically in the sixth century AD when Muhammad, a member of the Hashimite clan of the powerful Quraysh tribe of Mecca, claimed prophethood and began gathering adherents for the monotheistic faith of Islam that had been revealed to him.

The conversion of Arabia proved to be the most difficult of the Islamic conquests because of entrenched tribalism. Within one year of Muhammad's death in 632, however, Arabia was secure enough for the Prophet's secular successor, Abu Bakr (632-634), the first caliph and the father-in-law of Muhammad, to begin the campaign against the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire...

Arabic replaced Persian as the official language, and it slowly filtered into common usage..."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 16, US Government, 1990

"The original split between Sunnis and Shia occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 632. There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession...Most of the Prophet Muhammad's followers wanted the community of Muslims to determine who would succeed him. A smaller group thought that someone from his family should take up his mantle. They favored Ali [Ali ibn Abu Talib], who was married to Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah.

'Shia believed that leadership should stay within the family of the Prophet' notes Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont. 'And thus they were the partisans of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis believed that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally that political division that began the Sunni-Shia split.' The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph."
Mike Shuster "The Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split," NPR, www.npr.org, Apr. 2, 2007

[Note: See more of the differences between Sunni-Shia in our question What are the different religious groups in Iraq?]
632 - 661

Islamic Caliphate

"The Islamic state expanded very rapidly after the death of Muhammad through remarkable successes both at converting unbelievers to Islam and by military conquests of the Islamic community's opponents...Immediately after the Prophet's death in 632, Abu Bakr, as the first Caliph, continued the effort to abolish paganism among the Arab tribes, and also to incorporate Arabia into a region controlled by the political power of Medina...

During the reigns of the first four caliphs [Abu Bakr (632-634), Umar (634-644), Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), Ali abn Abu Talib (656-661)], Islam spread rapidly...

The Muslim triumphs in the Near East can be partly accounted for by the long series of wars between the Byzantine and Persian empires...In 636, Arab armies conquered Syria. The Muslims then won Iraq from the Persians and, within ten years after Muhammad's death, subdued Persia itself. The greater part of Egypt fell with little resistance in 640 and the rest shortly afterward. By the end of the reigns of the first four caliphs, Islam had vastly increased its territory in the Near East and Africa."
International World History Project "Islam From The Beginning To 1300," history-world.org, Apr. 17, 2007

View a map of the Islamic Caliphate
661 - 750


"After the death of Muhammad in 632, a series of four caliphs (Arabic: khalifa, "successor") [Abu Bakr (632-634), Umar (634-644), Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), Ali abn Abu Talib (656-661)], known as the Rightly Guided, succeeded. Under their command, the Arab armies carried the new faith from Arabia to the shores of the Mediterranean and to the eastern reaches of Iran.

However, following the assassination of Ali ibn Abi Talib-Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law, and fourth caliph (r. 656-61)-in 661, Mu'awiya, the governor of Syria under the Rightly Guided Caliphs, seized power and established the Umayyad caliphate, the first Islamic dynasty (661-750). During Mu'awiya's reign (661-80), the seat of Islamic power was transferred from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria."
Suzan Yalman "The Art of the Umayyad Period (661-750 AD)," www.metmuseum.org, Apr. 17, 2007

749 -1258


"Abbaside, [is an] Arab family descended from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids held the caliphate from 749 to 1258...Under the Umayyad caliphs the Abbasids lived quietly until they became involved in numerous disputes, beginning early in the 8th cent. The family then joined with the Shiite faction in opposing the Umayyads, and in 747 the gifted Abu Muslim united most of the empire in revolt against the Umayyads. The head of the Abbasid family became caliph as Abu al-Abbas as-Saffah late in 749."
Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition, 2001-2005, "Iraq," www.bartleby.com, Apr. 17, 2007

"The city of Baghdad was founded in AD762 by Abu Jafar al-Mansur, the second Abbasid caliph, on the west bank of the Tigris River. The capital was surrounded by a circular wall, and became known as the "Round City". Baghdad was at the height of its commercial prosperity during the 8th and 9th centuries AD, and between the 8th and 12th centuries, Baghdad was a flourishing center of Arab civilization.

The stories of Scheherazade as told in the Arabian Nights give an idea of life about 800 AD in the court of one of the most famous Abbasid rulers, Caliph Harun ar-Rashid. Baghdad became a famous center of learning in the Middle Ages, and by the tenth century was regarded as the intellectual center of the world. As capital of the caliphate, Baghdad was also to become the cultural capital of the Islamic world."
GlobalSecurity.org "Baghdad," www.globalsecurity.org, Apr. 19, 2007

1258 - 1508

Mongols and Turks

"The Abbasid caliphs' power subsequently weakened, and in 1258, Baghdad was overrun by Mongolian conquerers under Hulagu Khan, who killed the last Caliph, massacred Baghdad's population and destroyed the city and countryside.

In 1401 the Mongol leader Tamerlane (Timur the Lame) sacked Baghdad and massacred many of its inhabitants. By the beginning of the 16th century Baghdad's irrigation systen was in dis-repair and the population was reduced to 150,000. Iraq became a land of small kingdoms."
GlobalSecurity.org "Baghdad," www.globalsecurity.org, Apr. 19, 2007

"1401 Timur (Tamerlane; r. 1370-1405), the Turko-Mongolian ruler established in Central Asia, sacks the city of Baghdad...

1469-1508 The Aq Quyunlu dynasty (Turk. "White Sheep"; 1396-1508) ends Qara Quyunlu rule in Iraq."
Metropolitan Museum of Art "Timeline of Art History: Iraq, 1400-1600 AD," www.metmuseum.org, Apr. 27, 2007

Ottomans and Safavids, Mamluks, European Influence, Oil Exploration

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Ottomans and Safavids

"From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the course of Iraqi history was affected by the continuing conflicts between the Safavid Empire in Iran and the Ottoman Turks. The Safavids...sought to control Iraq both because of the Shia holy places at An Najaf and Karbala and because Baghdad, the seat of the old Abbasid Empire, had great symbolic value.

The Ottomans, fearing that Shia Islam would spread to Anatolia (Asia Minor), sought to maintain Iraq as a Sunni-controlled buffer state...In 1509 the Safavids...conquered Iraq, thereby initiating a series of protracted battles with the Ottomans.

The major impact of the Safavid-Ottoman conflict on Iraqi history was the deepening of the Shia-Sunni rift...Iraq's Sunni population suffered immeasurably during the brief Safavid reign (1623-1638), while Iraq's Shias were excluded from power altogether during the longer period of Ottoman supremacy (1638-1916)."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 25, US Government, 1990

View a map of the Ottoman Empire
1704 - 1800


"In Baghdad, Hasan Pasa (1704-24), the Ottoman governor of Georgian origin sent from Istanbul, and his son Ahmed Pasa (1724-47) established a Georgian mamluk (slave) household, through which they exercised authority and administered the province. The mamluks...were mostly Christian slaves from the Caucasus who converted to Islam, were trained in a special school, and were then assigned to military and administrative duties...

When Ahmed Pasa died in 1747...his mamluks constituted a powerful, self-perpetuating elite corps of some 2,000 men. After attempts to prevent these mamluks from assuming power failed, the Ottomans were obliged to accept their rule. By 1750 S-leyman Abu Layla, son-in-law of Ahmed Pasa and already governor of Al-Basrah, had reentered Baghdad and been recognized as the first Mamluk pasha of Iraq.

In the second half of the 18th century, Iraqi political history is largely the story of the autonomous Georgian Mamluk regime."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: The 18th-century Mamluk Regime," www.britannica.com, Apr. 18, 2007
1831 - 1908

European Influence

"Ottoman rule was unstable; Baghdad, for example, had more than ten governors between 1831 and 1869. In 1869, however, the Ottomans regained authority when the reform-minded Midhat Pasa was appointed governor of Baghdad. Midhat immediately set out to modernize Iraq on the Western model. The primary objectives of Mihat's reforms, called tanzimat, were to reorganize the army, to create codes of criminal and commercial law, to secularize the school system, and to improve provincial administration."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 27, US Government, 1990

"Because of Iraq's strategic location astride the land routes to India and Britain's other Asian colonies, the British became more and more interested in Iraqi affairs. English, French, and Italian agencies and consulates opened offices in Basra, while a British steamship company established a near monopoly on Tigris River boat traffic between Basra and Baghdad."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lv, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"In spite of the European commercial and consular presence in Iraq, it remained more isolated from European influences than the Arab lands adjacent to the Mediterranean...

In Syria, Arab nationalist and separatist organizations appeared after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908. In Iraq, however, there was scant nationalist opposition to Ottoman rule...

Thus, it is hardly surprising that Arab nationalism had made little impact on Iraq before World War I...It was the British, whose interests in the Persian Gulf and the Tigris-Euphrates region had grown steadily since the late 18th century, who ultimately brought an end to the Ottoman presence in Iraq."
Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition, 2001-2005, "Iraq," www.bartleby.com, Apr. 19, 2007

1908 - 1911

Oil Exploration

"Discovery of oil in 1908 at Masjid-i Suleiman in Iran...gave impetus to quest for oil in Mesopotamia. Oil pursuits in Mesopotamia were concentrated in Mosul, one of three provinces or 'vilayets' constituting Iraq under the Ottoman rule. Mosul was the northern province, the other two being Baghdad (in the middle) and Basra (in the south) provinces. Foreign geologists visited the area under the disguise of archeologists...

Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), [was] founded in 1911...Notwithstanding its name, TPC did not have Turkish participation."
Ferruh Demirmen "Oil in Iraq: The Byzantine Beginnings," Global Policy Forum, Apr. 25, 2003

Sykes-Picot Agreement, Kurdish Autonomy, King Faisal I, Independence and Iraqi Statehood

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British Control

"In 1912 a group representing British, German, and Dutch interests formed the Turkish Petroleum Company, which, on the eve of the war [World War I], was given a concession to explore for oil in the vilayets [provinces] of Mosul and Baghdad...

After war was declared, a British expeditionary force soon landed at the head of the gulf and on Nov. 22, 1914, entered Al-Basrah. In a campaign aimed at taking Baghdad, the British suffered a defeat at Al-Kut (Kut al-'Amarah) in Apr. 1916, but a reinforced British army Mar.ed into Baghdad on Mar. 11, 1917.

An administration staffed largely by British and Indian officials replaced the Ottoman provincial government in occupied Iraq, but Mosul remained in Ottoman hands until after the Armistice of Mudros (Oct. 30, 1918), which brought an end to the war in the Middle East. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), Turkey (the successor to the Ottoman Empire) gave up all claims to its former Arab provinces, including Iraq."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: The End of Ottoman Rule," www.britannica.com, Apr. 18, 2007

1916 - 1920

Sykes-Picot Agreement

"As early as the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, Britain had obtained tacit consent from its wartime allies to occupy Iraq. British control was formalized in Apr. 1920 at the San Remo conference of Allied powers, which granted Britain a mandate to establish a civil administration for the governing of Iraq, which had been under a British military occupation and administration since the end of 1918."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lv, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"The [Sykes-Picot] agreement was superceded by another which established a mandate system of French and British control, sanctioned by the new League of Nations.

Under the mandate system, Syria and Lebanon went to the French. The British took over Palestine and three Ottoman provinces of Mesopotamia and created modern-day Iraq."
Mike Shuster "The Middle East and the West: WWI and Beyond," NPR, www.npr.org, Apr. 2, 2007

View a map of European colonial control of the region.

"In a supplemental oil agreement in San Remo, France was granted 25 percent share in Mesopotamian oil (effectively pre-war German share in TPC). It was stipulated that any company formed to develop Mesopotamian oil fields would be under permanent British control.

A 'native company' would have the right to 20 percent participation in such company. The agreement called for close cooperation between Britain and France on oil exploitation in Persia and Mesopotamia."
Ferruh Demirmen "Oil in Iraq: The Byzantine Beginnings," Global Policy Forum, Apr. 25, 2003



"By July 1920, Mosul was in rebellion against British rule, and the insurrection moved south down the Euphrates River vally...

Ath Thawra al Iraqiyya al Kubra, or The Great Iraqi Revolution (as the 1920 rebellion is called), was a watershed event in contemporary Iraqi history. For the first time, Sunnis and Shias, tribes and cities, were brought together in a common effort...

The 1920 rebellion brought these groups together, if only briefly; this constituted an important first step in the long and arduous process of forging a nation-state out of Iraq's conflict-ridden social structure."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 34-35, US Government, 1990


Kurdish Autonomy

"1920 - Treaty of Sevres, signed by the defeated Ottoman government, provides for a Kurdish state, subject to the agreement of the League of Nations. Article 64 of the Treaty gives Kurds living in the Mosul vilayet [province] the option of joining a future independent Kurdistan."
BBC "Timeline: Iraqi Kurds," http://news.bbc.co.uk, Apr. 20, 2007

King Faisal

"...[The British] were faced with the dilemma of finding a ruler for Iraq who would be acceptable to the local population but who would also be willing to allow them to preserve an influential role in the affairs of the country, especially in its foreign relations. At the Mar. 1921 Cairo Conference, their choice fell on the Hashimite Amir Faysal...His Hashimite lineage made him acceptable to both Sunni and Shi'i Muslims..."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lvi, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"Many of the conservative notables came from Sunni sayyid families, and the political elite of Feisal's Iraq came to have a strongly Sunni orientation. Over the period of 1921-1936 seventy-one per cent of cabinet posts were occupied by Sunnis and only twenty-four per cent by Shias."
Geoff Simons Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, p. 195, St. Martin's Press, 1994
1924 - 1932

Independence and Iraqi Statehood

"The establishment of the monarchy was the first step in setting up a national regime. Two other steps followed immediately: the signing of a treaty of alliance with Great Britain and the drafting of a constitution. It was deemed necessary that a treaty precede the constitution and define relations between Iraq and Britain. The treaty was signed on Oct. 10, 1922...

In deference to public opinion in both Britain and Iraq, a protocol to the treaty was signed in Apr. 1923, reducing the period of the treaty from 20 to 4 years. Despite the shortening of British tutelage, the Constituent Assembly demanded complete independence when the treaty was put before it for approval. Ratification of the treaty was accomplished in June 1924, after Britain's warning that nonapproval would lead to the referral of the matter to the League of Nations.

The Constituent Assembly then considered a draft constitution drawn up by a constitutional committee...Discussion on the draft constitution by the Constituent Assembly lasted a month, and after minor modifications it was adopted in July 1924. The Organic Law, as the constitution was called, went into effect right after it was signed by the king in Mar. 1925."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: British Occupation and the Mandatory Regime," www.britannica.com, Apr. 18, 2007

"A significant gain for Iraqi nationalists came in 1930, when the British signed a new treaty of alliance with Iraq that agreed to end the mandate as soon as Iraq was accepted into the League of Nations...

When the League of Nations admitted Iraq as a member state in Oct. 1932, the mandate was formally ended, and Iraq officially became an independent state..."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lvii, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"The arbitrary borders that divided Iraq and the other Arab lands of the old Ottoman Empire caused severe economic dislocations, frequent border disputes, and a debilitating ideological conflict."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 40, US Government, 1990
Military Coups d'État, League of Arab States and United Nations, Iraqi Ba'ath Party, Baghdad Pact

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Assyrian Uprising and Death of King Faisal

"The Assyrians, a small Christian community living in Mosul province, were given assurances of security by both Britain and Iraq. When the mandate was ended, the Assyrians began to feel insecure and demanded new assurances. Matters came to a head in the summer of 1933 when King Faysal was in Europe. The opposition, now in power, wanted to impress the public through a high-handed policy toward a minority group. In clashes with the Iraqi troops, several hundred Assyrians were brutally killed."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: Independence, 1932-39," www.britannica.com, Apr. 18, 2007

"1933 - King Faisal dies. His 21-year-old son Ghazi takes the throne, continuing the Hashemite monarchy."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 18, 2007

Military Coups d'État

"1936 - In the first of seven military coups over the next six years, Gen. Bakr Sidqi overthrows the parliamentary government with backing from disgruntled political leaders. Other coups involve similar coalitions of military and political leaders."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 18, 2007

"One of the main consequences of this first coup was that the army officer corps became accustomed to the regular use of military force to bring about changes in government policies and personnel. The other parallel trend was the splintering of Iraq's civilian politicans into a pro-British bloc headed by Nuri al-Sa'id and an anti-British group whose leading spokesman later became Rashid 'Ali al-Kaylani. Because it was anti-British, in the years immediately preceding World War II and during the 1941 Iraqi revolt, this latter group received covert and overt support from Nazi Germany."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lvii, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

The Death of King Ghazi and King Faisal II

"1939 - King Ghazi dies in car accident, leaving his 3-year-old son Faisal II as heir to the throne. His reign is overseen by the regency of Abd al-Ilah, a prince of a prominent Hashemite family and ally of Nuri al-Said, the Iraqi prime minister."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 18, 2007


"In June 1941, following the flight of the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali and just before British forces re-entered Baghdad, the city's Jews were brutally attacked by Iraqi nationalists. The assault, known as the farhud [violent dispossession], left some 250-300 people, mostly Jews, dead or injured."
Yehouda Shenhav "The Jews of Iraq, Zionist Ideology, and the Property of the Palestinian Refugees of 1948: An Anomaly of National Accounting," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 1999
1943 - 1945

League of Arab States and United Nations

"In Jan. 1943, under the terms of the 1930 treaty with Britain, Iraq declared war on the Axis powers...Iraq became a base for the military occupation of Iran and of the Levant [countries along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean].

In Mar. 1945, Iraq became a founding member of the British-supported League of Arab States (Arab League), which included Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen...

In Dec. 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations (UN)."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 46, US Government, 1990

1948 - 1952

Uprisings, Protests, and the Iraqi Ba'ath Party

"1948 - The 'Wathbah' uprising. This was a protest against the Portsmouth Treaty-s (Jan. 1948) article establishing a board of Iraqis and British to decide on defense matters of mutual interest, especially on control over air bases. The treaty enraged Iraqi nationalists, who were still bitter over British interference in Iraqi affairs and possible complicity in the coup of 1941 that deposed Rashid Ali and what became the second British occupation of Iraq.

Students demonstrated and clashed with police, killing at least seventy-seven protesters, and this led the regent to renounce the treaty with Britain he had earlier agreed to signing."
James Fearon and David Laitin "Iraq," Stanford University, June 5, 2006

"The Iraqi Baath party was founded in 1951 and had 500 members three years later."
BBC "The Iraqi Baath Party," http://news.bbc.co.uk, Apr. 18, 2007

"1952 - Large-scale anti-regime protests in Baghdad and elsewhere, triggered by bad harvests and the government-s intransigence in the face of demands for direct elections. The government responded resolutely but not violently: martial law, the banning of political parties, the suspension of several newspapers, and imposition of a curfew. Violence ensued, but there were no reported deaths from this incident."
James Fearon and David Laitin "Iraq," Stanford University, June 5, 2006

Baghdad Pact

"1955 - Iraq adopts the Baghdad Pact, also known as the Central Treaty Organization, binding the country with the United Kingdom, Turkey and Pakistan under the auspices of protecting the region from the encroaching Soviet Union."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 18, 2007

Eisenhower Doctrine

"...[I]n Jan. 1957, the United States announced the 'Eisenhower Doctrine': a policy whereby the US would dispense economic and military aid to Arab countries willing to take a stand against Communism. Most Arab countries, except Lebanon and Iraq, did not welcome the initiative."
Ted Thornton "History of the Middle East Database: The Arab-Israeli Wars 1948 - 1973," www.nmhschool.org, Apr. 27, 2007
1958 Revolution, Free Officers and Communism, Kurd Rebellion

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"1958 - Brigadier Abdul Karim Qasim overthrows the Hashemite monarchy in a bloody military coup. King Faisal II, Prince Abd Al-Ilah and Nuri al-Said are all killed. Qasim withdraws Iraq from the Baghdad Pact and begins diplomatic relations with the USSR. Qasim also seeks Kurdish political support by guaranteeing national Kurdish rights and arranging for the release of Kurdish leader Mustafa al-Barzani from the Soviet Union."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 19, 2007

Free Officers and Communism

"In Mar. 1959, a group of disgruntled Free Officers, who came from conservative, well-known, Arab Sunni families and who opposed [Abdul Karim] Qasim's increasing links with communists, attempted a coup. Aware of the planned coup, Qasim had his communist allies mobilize 250,000 of their supporters in Mosul. The ill-planned coup attempt never really materialized and, in its aftermath, the communists massacred nationalists and some well-to-do Mosul families..."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 50, US Government, 1990

"The Kurds and the commuists also participated in the anti-Turkuman, Kirkuk massacres in July 1959. The negative ramifications of these events led Qasim to denounce communist activities and to encourage splits within the ICP [Iraqi Communist Party]."
Edmund A. Ghareeb Historical Dictionary of Iraq, p. lxi, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004

"Following the events at Mosul and at Kirkuk, the Baath and its leader, Fuad Rikabi, decided that the only way to dislodge the Qasim regime would be to kill Qasim. The future president, Saddam Hussein, carried out the attempted assassination, which injured Qasim but failed to kill him."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 51, US Government, 1990
1961 - 1962

Kurd Rebellion

"1961 - After Kurds supported the 1958 revolution, in which the new constitution stipulated that the Kurds would have equal status as the Arabs, exiled Kurd leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani, was allowed to return. But things soured, and Kurdish deserters from the army started attacking the regular units. This is the beginning of a long series of armed confrontations between Kurdish forces and the Iraqi state."
James Fearon and David Laitin "Iraq," Stanford University, June 5, 2006

"Sept 1961 - After [Abdul Karim] Qasim rejects Mustafa Barzani's [Kurdish] autonomy plan, he launches a major offensive against Kurds in Iraq; escalates through into early 1962..."
MidEast Web for Coexistence "The Iraq Crisis - Timeline Chronology of Modern Iraqi History," www.mideastweb.org, Apr. 27, 2007
Tikriti Rule, March Manifesto, Algiers Agreement, President Saddam Hussein

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1963 - 1968

Ba'ath Takeover

"1963 8 Feb. - Qasim is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP). Arif [Abd as Salaam Arif] becomes president.

1963 18 Nov. - The Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.

1966 17 Apr. - After Arif is killed in a helicopter crash on 13 Apr., his elder brother, Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.

1968 17 July - A Baathist led-coup ousts Arif and Gen Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr becomes president."
BBC "Timeline: Iraqi Kurds," http://news.bbc.co.uk, Apr. 19, 2007


Tikriti Rule

"...[B]y 1968 close family and tribal ties bound the Baath's ruling clique. Most notable in this regard was the emergence of Tikritis- Sunni Arabs from the northwest town of Tikrit- relate to Ahmad Hasan al Bakr. Three of the five members of the Baath's Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) were Tikrities...

Saddam Hussein, a key leader behind the scenes, also was a Tikriti and a relative of Bakr...

Less than two months after the formation of the Bakr government, a coaltion of pro-Nasser elements, Arif supporters, and conservatives from the military attempted another coup. This event provided the rationale for numerous purges directed by Bakr and Saddam Hussein."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 58-59, US Government, 1990


Oil Nationalization

"The early 1970s was an important time for the Iraqi economy and the government's role in it. In 1972 the government nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), which had been owned by foreign oil companies."
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Boston Public Library, "The Role of Oil," http://maps.bpl.org, Apr. 19, 2007

March Manifesto

"The government agreed to officially recognize the Kurds as a 'national' group entitled to a form of autonomous status called self-rule. This would eventually lead to the establishment of a provincial administrative council and an assembly to deal with Kurdish affairs.

The agreement was proclaimed in the Manifesto of Mar. 1970, to go into effect in Mar. 1974, following a census to determine the frontiers of the area in which the Kurds formed the majority of the population."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: The Revolution of 1968," www.britannica.com, Apr. 19, 2007

1974 - 1975

Algiers Agreement

"Beginning in 1974-75, under the direction of Saddam, Iraq's relations with its neighbours started to improve. The young vice president realized that the country's near total isolation was threatening the regime's hold on power. The crucial turnaround took place in 1975 when Iraq and Iran signed the Algiers Agreement, in which Iraq agreed to move the maritime boundary between the two countries to the thalweg [a line in a river]-conditioned on Iran's withdrawal of support for the Iraqi Kurds."
Encyclopedia Britannica "Iraq: Foreign policy 1968-80," www.britannica.com, Apr. 19, 2007

President Saddam Hussein

"In July 1979, Saddam succeeds [Ahmad Hasan] al-Bakr as head of the Baath Party, holding the titles of president of Iraq, secretary general of the party, chairman of the RCC, and commander-in-chief of the Iraqi army. The Shah of Iran is overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini and tensions between Iran and Iraq re-emerge."
PBS "Iraq in Transition," www.pbs.org, Apr. 19, 2007
THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR 1980 - 1989
Iran-Iraq War, US Involvement, US Dual-Use Licenses, Chemical Warfare


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Ad Dawah

"In Apr. [1980] the Iranian supported Ad Dawah [a leading Iraqi Shi'a opposition group] attempted to assassinate Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz...In response, the Iraqis immediately rounded up members and supporters of Ad Dawah and deported to Iran thousands of Shias of Iranian origin.

In the summer of 1980, Saddam Hussein ordered executions of the presumed Ad Dawah leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqr as Sadr, and his sister."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 64, US Government, 1990

Sep. 1980

Iran-Iraq War Begins

"In Sep. 1980, border skirmishes [with Iran] erupted in the central sector near Qasr-e Shirin, with an exchange of artillery fire by both sides. A few weeks later, Saddam Husayn officially abrogated the 1975 treaty [Algiers Accord] between Iraq and Iran and announced that the Shatt al Arab was returning to Iraqi sovereignty...Finally, on Sep. 23, Iraqi troops Mar.ed into Iranian territory, beginning what was to be a protracted and extremely costly war."
National Security Archive, George Washington University "Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The US Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984," www.gwu.edu, Apr. 3, 2007
1981 - 1982

US Involvement

"When Ronald Reagan becomes president in 1981, he endorses a policy aiming for a stalemate in the war so that neither side emerges from the war with any additional power. But in 1982, fearing Iraq might lose the war, the US begins to help. Over the next six years, a string of CIA agents go to Baghdad. Hand-carrying the latest satellite intelligence about the Iranian front line, they pass the information to their Iraqi counterparts. The US gives Iraq enough help to avoid defeat, but not enough to secure victory."
PBS "The Long Road to War," www.pbs.org, Apr. 3, 2007

"The US, having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests, began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade US-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in Feb. 1982 the State Department removed Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism."
National Security Archive, George Washington University "Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The US Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984," www.gwu.edu, Apr. 16, 2007

US Dual-Use Licenses

"[T]he Department of Commerce approved the licenses for exporting $1.5 billion of dual-use [items that have both civilian and military uses] items to Iraq between 1985 and 1990... Commerce officials told us that because Iraq was removed from antiterrorism controls and because controls on missile technology and chemical and biological warfare were not in place until the late 1980s, few foreign policy controls were placed on exports to Iraq during the 1980s. They said that this, along with the lack of national security controls, resulted in a long list of high-technology items being sold to Iraq during the 1980s.

Commerce data showed that between 1985 and 1990, it approved 771 licenses, valued at $1.5 billion, for sales to Iraq, while only 39 applications were rejected."
US Government Accountability Office (GAO) "Iraq: US Military Items Exported or Transferred to Iraq in the 1980s" (GAO/NSIAD-94-98), Feb. 7, 1994

View the full Feb. 7, 1994 GAO report: Iraq: US Military Items Exported or Transferred to Iraq in the 1980s 1.3 MB.
View an example page of one of the approved licenses, dated 1985 42.5 KB

1986 - 1988

Chemical Warfare

"Citing the report of four chemical warfare experts whom the UN had sent to Iran in Feb. and Mar. 1986, the secretary general [Javier P-rez de Cuellar] called on Baghdad to end its violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons.

The UN report concluded that Iraqi forces had used chemical warfare against Iranian forces; the weapons used included both mustard gas and nerve gas. The report further stated that the use of chemical weapons appeared to be more extensive in 1981 than in 1984...

According to a British representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in July 1986, Iraqi chemical warfare was responsible for about 10,000 casualties.

In Mar. 1988, Iraq was again charged with a major use of chemical warfare while retaking Halabjah, a Kurdish town in northeastern Iraq, near the Iranian border."
US Library of Congress Iraq: A Country Study, p. 238, US Government, 1990

View the 1986 United Nations Security Council Resolution (UN Resolution) 582 153 KB and the 1988 UN Resolution 612 80 KB condemning the use of chemical weapons

Aug. 1988

Iran-Iraq War Ends

"After eight years of fierce and bloody fighting between Iran and Iraq which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire went into effect on 20 Aug. [1988]."
United Nations "Iran-Iraq ceasefire: UN Conducts Peace Talks in Geneva, New York," UN Chronicle, Dec. 1988

Missile Explosion

"Explosion in Iraqi missile production facility near Baghdad. A British Observer journalist, Farzad Bazoft, is caught investigating [the explosion] and is hanged."
MidEast Web for Coexistence "The Iraq Crisis - Timeline Chronology of Modern Iraqi History," www.mideastweb.org, Apr. 27, 2007
For events occurring after 1989, please see our Timeline, 1990-2008.