In ancient times the land area now known as modern Iraq was almost equivalent to Mesapotamia, the land between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates (in Arabic, the Dijla and Furat, respectively), the Mesopotamian plain was called the Fertile Crescent. This region is known as the Cradle of Civilization; was the birthplace of the varied civilizations that moved us from prehistory to history. An advanced civilization flourished in this region long before that of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, for it was here in about 4000BC that the Sumerian culture flourished. The civilized life that emerged at Sumer was shaped by two conflicting factors: the unpredictability of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which at any time could unleash devastating floods that wiped out entire peoples, and the extreme richness of the river valleys, caused by centuries-old deposits of soil. Thus, while the river valleys of southern Mesopotamia attracted migrations of neighboring peoples and made possible, for the first time in history, the growing of surplus food, the volatility of the rivers necessitated a form of collective management to protect the marshy, low-lying land from flooding. As surplus production increased and as collective management became more advanced, a process of urbanization evolved and Sumerian civilization took root. The people of the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, the ancient Sumerians, using the fertile land and the abundant water supply of the area, developed sophisticated irrigation systems and created what was probably the first cereal agriculture as well as the earliest writing, cuneiform – a way of arranging impression stamped on clay by the wedge-like section of chopped-off reed stylus into wet clay. Through writing, the Sumerians were able to pass on complex agricultural techniques to successive generations; this led to marked improvements in agricultural production.
Writing evolved to keep track of property. Clay envelopes marked with the owner_s rolled seal were used to hold tokens for goods, the tokens within recording a specific transaction. Later on, the envelope and tokens were discarded and symbols scratched into clay recorded transactions such as 2 bunches of wheat or 7 cows. As writing evolved, pictures gave way to lines pressed into clay with a wedge tip; this allowed a scribe to make many different types of strokes without changing his grip. By 3,000 BC, the script evolved into a full syllabic alphabet. The commerce of the times is recorded in great depth. Double entry accounting practices were found to be a part of the records. This remarkable innovation has been used to this day, as a standard for record keeping. It was the custom for all to pay for what they needed at a fair price. Royalty was not exception. The king may have had an edge on getting a “better deal”, but it wasn_t the law as it was in Egypt where the Pharaoh was the “living god” and as such, owned all things. It seems that everyone had the right to bargain fairly for his or her goods. Unlike their Egyptian neighbors, these people were believers in private property, and the kings were very much answerable to the citizens. In Egypt, all things, including the people and property, were owned by the pharaoh. Sumerians invented the wheel and the first plow in 3700 BC. Sumerians developed a math system based on the numeral 60, which is the basis of time in the modern world. Sumerian society was “Matriarchal” and women had a highly respected place in society. Banking originated in Mesopotamia (Babylonia) out of the activities of temples and palaces, which provided safe places for the storage of valuables. Initially deposits of grain were accepted and later other goods including cattle, agricultural implements, and precious metals. Another important Sumerian legacy was the recording of literature. Poetry and epic literature were produced. The most famous Sumerian epic and the one that has survived in the most nearly complete form is the epic of Gilgamesh. The story of Gilgamesh, who actually was king of the city-state of Uruk in approximately 2700 BC, is a moving story of the ruler_s deep sorrow at the death of his friend Enkidu, and of his consequent search for immortality. Other central themes of the story are a devastating flood and the tenuous nature of man_s existence, and ended by meeting a wise and ancient man who had survived a great flood by building an ark.
Land was cultivated for the first time, early calendars were used and the first written alphabet was invented here. Its bountiful land, fresh waters, and varying climate contributed to the creation of deep-rooted civilization that had fostered humanity from its affluent fountain since thousand of years. Sumerian states were believed to be under the rule of a local god or goddess, and a bureaucratic system of the priesthood arose to oversee the ritualistic and complex religion. High Priests represented the gods on earth, one of their jobs being to discern the divine will. A favorite method of divination was reading sheep or goat entrails. The priests ruled from their ziggurats, high rising temples of sunbaked brick with outside staircases leading to the shrine on top. The Sumerian gods personified local elements and natural forces. The Sumerians worshiped anu, the supreme god of heaven, Enlil, god of water, and Ea, god of magic and creator of man. The Sumerians held the belief that a sacred ritual marriage between the ruler and Inanna, goddess of love and fertility brought rich harvests.
Eventually, the Sumerians would have to battle another peoples, the Akkadians, who migrated up from the Arabian Peninsula. The Akkadians were a Semitic people, that is, they spoke a language drawn from a family of languages called Semitic languages; a Semitic languages include Hebrew, Arabic, Assyrian, and Babylonian (the term “Semite” is a modern designation taken from the Hebrew Scriptures; Shem was a son of Noah and the nations descended from Shem are the Semites). When the two peoples clashed, the Sumerians gradually lost control over the city-states they had so brilliantly created and fell under the hegemony of the Akkadian kingdom, which was based in Akkad (Sumerian Agade). This great capital of the largest empire humans had ever seen up until that point that was later to become Babylon, which was the commercial and cultural center of the Middle East for almost two thousand years.
In 2340 BC, the great Akkadian military leader, Sargon, conquered Sumer and built an Akkadian empire stretching over most of the Sumerian city-states and extending as far away as Lebanon. Sargon based his empire in the city of Akkad, which became the basis of the name of his people.
But Sargon_s ambitious empire lasted for only a blink of an eye in the long time spans of Mesopotamian history. In 2125 BC, the Sumerian city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia rose up in revolt, and the Akkadian empire fell before a renewal of Sumerian city-states.
Mesopotamia is the suspected spot known as the “Garden of Eden.” Ur of the Chaldees, and that_s where Abraham came from, (that_s just north of the traditional site of the Garden of Eden, about twenty-five miles northeast of Eridu, at present Mughair), was a great and famous Sumerian city, dating from this time. Predating the Babylonian by about 2,000 years, was Noah, who lived in Fara, 100 miles southeast of Babylon (from Bab-ili, meaning “Gate of God”). The early Assyrians, some of the earliest people there, were known to be warriors, so the first wars were fought there, and the land has been full of wars ever since. The Assyrians were in the northern part of Mesopotamia and the Babylonians more in the middle and southern part.
After the collapse of the Sumerian civilization, the people were reunited in 1700BC by King Hammurabi of Babylon (1792-1750 BC), and the country flourished under the name of Babylonia. Babylonian rule encompassed a huge area covering most of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley from Sumer and the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf). He extended his empire northward through the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys and westward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. After consolidating his gains under a central government at Babylon, he devoted his energies to protecting his frontiers and fostering the internal prosperity of the Empire. Hammurabi_s dynasty, otherwise referred to as the First Dynasty of Babylon, ruled for about 200 years, until 1530 BC. Under the reign of this dynasty, Babylonia entered into a period of extreme prosperity and relative peace. Throughout his long reign he personally supervised navigation, irrigation, agriculture, tax collection, and the erection of many temples and other buildings. Although he was a successful military leader and administrator, Hammurabi is primarily remembered for his codification of the laws governing Babylonian life. Under Hammurabi the two cultures which compose Mesopotamian civilization [the Assyrians and the Babylonians] achieve complete and harmonious fusion.
Hammurabi was a king and a great lawgiver of the Old Babylonian (Amorite) Dynasty. His law code was produced in the second year of his reign. Many new legal concepts were introduced by the Babylonians, and many have been adopted by other civilizations. These concepts include: Legal protection should be provided to lower classes; The state is the authority responsible for enforcing the law; Social justice should be guaranteed; The punishment should fit the crime. Hammurabi Code, (“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”) is still quoted today attests to its importance, is a collection of the laws and edicts of the Babylonian king Hammurabi, and is considered the earliest legal comprehensive code known in history. A copy of the code is engraved on a block of black diorite nearly 2.4 m (8 ft) high. A team of French archaeologists at Susa, Iraq, formerly ancient Elam unearthed this block, during the winter of 1901-2. The block, broken in three pieces, has been restored and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
On Hammurabi_s death, however, a tribe known as the Cassites (Kassites) began to attack Babylonia as early as the period when Hammurabi_s son ruled the empire. Over the centuries, Babylonia was weakened by the Cassites. Finally, around 1530 BC (given in some sources as 1570 or 1595 BC), a Cassite Dynasty was set up in Babylonia.
The Mitanni, another culture, were meanwhile building their own powerful empire. They were having a “considerable, if temporary importance”–they were very powerful but were around for only about 150 years. Still, the Mitanni were one of the major empires of this area in this time period, and they came to almost completely control and subjugate the Assyrians (who were located directly to the east of Mitanni and to the northwest of Cassite Babylonia).
The Assyrians, after they finally broke free of the Mitanni (who were having political troubles of their own), were the next major power to assert themselves on Babylonia. After defeating and virtually annexing Mitanni, the Assyrians, reasserted themselves on Babylonia. They weakened Babylonia so much that the Cassite Dynasty fell from power; the Assyrians virtually came to control Babylonia, until revolts in turn deposed them and set up a new dynasty, known as the Second Dynasty of Isin. Nebuchadnezzar the First, of this Dynasty, added a good deal of land to Babylonia and eventually came to attack Assyria. the land was under Assyrian rule for about two centuries. The Assyrian culture showed a dramatic growth in science and mathematics, among the great mathematical inventions of the Assyrians was the division of the circle into 360 degrees and were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation. They also developed a sophisticated medical science, which greatly influenced medical science as far away as Greece.
In the 6th century BC (586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea (Judah), destroyed Jerusalem; Solomon_s Temple was also destroyed; Nebuchadnezzar carried away an estimated 15,000 captives, and sent most of its population into exile in Babylonia. It was not until the reign of Naboplashar (625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that the Mesopotamian civilization reached its ultimate distinction. His son, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is said that the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his wife or concubine, Amyitis, who had been “brought up in Media and had a passion for mountain surroundings”. He did this because his wife had lived in the mountains and she was homesick on the flat plains of Babylon. He planted a large amount of brightly colored tropical plants on the roof of the palace. The gardens were completed around 600 BC. The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 meters above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. It was Nebuchadnezzar II who restored Mesopotamia to its former Babylonian glory and made Babylon the most famous city of the ancient world.
The Hanging Gardens on the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50-km south of Baghdad, Iraq, used to be considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. “Has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns… Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels… These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches… This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators.”
In 626 BC, the Chaldeans helped Nabopolassar to take power in Babylonia. At that time, Assyria was under considerable pressure from an Iranian people, the Medes (from Media). Nabo-polassar allied Babylonia with the Medes. Assyria could not withstand this added pressure, and in 612 BC, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell. The entire city, once a great capital of a great empire, was burned and sacked.
The Arab conquest and the coming of Islam
Various invaders conquered the land after Nebuchadnezzar_s death, including Cyrus the Great in 539BC and Alexander the Great in 331BC, who died there in 323 BC, Babylon declined after the founding of Seleucia, the New Greek capital. In the second century BC, it became part of the Persian Empire, remaining thus until the 7th century AD, when Arab Muslims captured it. In 634AD, an army of 18,000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khalid ibn al Walied, reached the perimeter of the Euphrates delta. Although the occupying Persian force was vastly superior in techniques and numbers, its soldiers were exhausted from their unremitting campaigns against the Byzantines. The Sassanid troops fought ineffectually, lacking sufficient reinforcement to do more.
The first battle of the Muslims campaign became known as Dhat Al-Salasil (the battle of the Chains) because Persian soldiers were reputedly chained together so that they could not flee. Muslims offered the inhabitants of Iraq an ultimatum: “Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame. A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life”. Most of the Iraqi tribes were Christian at the time of the Islamic conquest. They decided to pay the “jizya”, the tax required of non-Muslims living in Muslim-ruled areas, and not further disturbed. The Persian rallied briefly under their hero, Rustum, and attacked the Muslims at Al-Hirah, west of the Euphrates. There, the Muslims soundly defeated them. The next year, in 635AD, the Muslims defeated the Persians at the Battle of Buwayb. Finally, in May 636AD at Al-Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates, Rustum was killed. The Persians, who outnumbered the Muslims six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Muslims pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon (Madain). Because the Muslim warriors were fighting a Jihad (Jihad fi Sabeel lillah), they were regulated by religious law that strictly
prohibited rape and the killing of women, children, religious leaders, or anyone who had not actually engaged in warfare. Further, the Muslim warriors had come to conquer and settle a land under Islamic law. It was not in their economic interest to destroy or pillage unnecessarily and indiscriminately. The second caliph Omar Ben Al-Khattab (634-44 AD) ordered the founding of two garrisoned cities to protect the newly conquered territory: Kufah, named as the capital of Iraq, and later the capital of Imam Ali, and the founding of Basrah, which was also to be a port.
The Muslims continued the Sassanid office of the divan (Arabic form diwan). Essentially an institution to control income and expenditure through record keeping and the centralization of administration, the divan would be used henceforth throughout the lands of the Islamic conquest. Arabic replaced Persian as the official language and it slowly filtered into common language usage. Iraqis intermarried with Arabs and converted to Islam.
Empires – The Abbasid Caliphate
In 750AD, Abo al Abbas was established in Baghdad as the first caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. The Abbacies, whose line was called “the blessed dynasty” by it supporters, presented themselves to the people as divine-right rulers who would initiate a new era of justice and prosperity. Their political policies were, however, remarkably similar to those of the Umayyads. And in 762AD, the capital city of Baghdad was founded. In the eighth century, the Abbasid caliphate established its capital at Baghdad, which became an important commercial, cultural, and a famous center of learning in the Middle Ages, and was regarded in the tenth century, the intellectual center of the world. As capital of the caliphate, Baghdad was also to become the cultural capital of the Islamic world. Baghdad became a center of power in the world, where Arab and Persian cultures mingled to produce a blaze of philosophical, scientific, and literary glory. This era is remembered throughout the Arab world, and by the Iraqis in particular, as the pinnacle of the Islamic past.
It was the second Abbasid caliph, Abu Jafar Al-Mansur (754-75 AD), who was known to be an excellent orator, knowledgeable in language and an excellent administrator, who decided to build a new capital, surrounded by round walls, near the site of the Sassanid village of Baghdad. Within fifty years the population outgrew the city walls as people thronged to the capital to become part of the Abbacies_ enormous bureaucracy or to engage in trade. Baghdad became a vast emporium of trade linking Asia and the Mediterranean. By the reign of Mansur_s grandson, Harun ar Rashid (786-806 AD), Baghdad was second in size only to Constantinople. Baghdad was able to feed its enormous population and to export large quantities of grain because the political administration had realized the importance of controlling the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The Abbacies reconstructed the city_s canals, dikes, and reservoirs, and drained the swamps around Baghdad, freeing the city of malaria. Harun ar Rashid, the caliph of the Arabian nights, actively supported intellectual pursuits, but the great flowering of Arabic culture that is credited to the Abbacies reached its apogee during the reign of his son, al-Ma`mun (813-833 AD).
By the 9th century, al-Ma`mun was the caliph who was largely responsible for cultural expansion. The caliph al-Ma`mun was responsible for the translation of Greek works into Arabic. He founded in Baghdad “bait al-hikma” the Academy of Wisdom, which took over from the Persian University of Jundaisapur and soon became an active scientific center. The Academy_s large library was enriched by the translations that had been undertaken. Scholars of all races and religions were invited to work there. They were concerned with preserving a universal heritage, which was not specifically Moslem and was Arabic only in language. Its first director Hunayn ibn Ishaq translated the complete medical and philosophical works of Galen, the physics of Aristotle, and the Greek Old Testament, before his death in 873. Hunayn_s many students completed the translation of Plato, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Euclid, and Pythagoras into Arabic, and made great original discoveries in mathematics, particularly in integral calculus and spherical astronomy.
The most notable mathemtician of the period, Abu Ja’far Muhammad jbn Musa al-Khawarizmi (680-750 AD), discovered algebraic equations, and some credit him with the invention of zero. Al-Khawarizmi wrote ten math textbooks, which have survived. His “Kitab hisab al_adad al-hindi” was an arithmetic textbook, which introduced Hindu numbers to the Arab world. Now generally known as Arabic numbers. Mediaeval Christian Europeans were not keen on the Hindu-Arabic numbers and declared them the work of Satan! His major work is entitled “Kitab al-jabr w_al-muqabalah” (restoration and balancing) whose title gives us the word Algebra. Courtesy of an Arabic book collector in Muslim Spain and the adventurer El Cid, the books were translated into Latin, and hit renaissance Italy like tactical nuclear culture shock. They couldn_t speak Arabic, of course, so his name came out as “Algorismus”. His name (misspelled again!) has gone into mathematics and computerspeak as Algorithm; for a step by step process for performing computations.
The study of medicine also progressed rapidly, and a number of hospitals were soon established in Baghdad, including a teaching hospital.
Baghdad had grown to be almost one million people and part of the predominately Muslim Empire of Abu Jafar al-Mansur born 95H (716 AD). His empire stretched from western China to northern Africa. In the 13th century, during the reign of the 37th Abbasid caliph, Mustansir Billah, al-Madrasa al-Mustansiriyah (Mustansiriyah School) was built, this was once a highly esteemed university. A new Abbasid Palace was also built in the same era and in the same architectural style as the Mustansiriyah School, the palace overlooks the Tigris.
The first truly Arab philosopher, al-Kindi, worked to reconcile the ideas of neo-Platonism with Islamic revelation. He was one of the thinkers called the Mu`tazilites, who sought to employ reason in preference to tradition in interpreting scripture and formulating theology. Al-Ma`mun favoured this group, removing from office any judge or religious scholar who did not profess the new doctrines. One traditionalist who refused to recant was Ahmed ibn Hanbal, the fourth of the chief Sunni jurists.
The polarization which occurred between these two factions was extremely unfortunate for Islam, because both points of view were – and are – necessary for the Muslim community to be whole. The Mu`tazilites ultimately lost the power struggle after the death of al-Ma`mun, and consequently their sympathizers down to the present day have lacked a voice and legitimacy within the Islamic discourse. The Hanbalites went on to become the ideological forerunners of the present regime of Saudi Arabia.
After the reign of al-Ma`mun the Abbasid caliphate was increasingly weakened by internal strife, and eventually fell under the control of the Persians and then the Turks. During the reign of the last independent caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908-932), a number of very notable men died in Baghdad. There was the outstanding scientist and physician al-Razi, who compiled a thorough medical encyclopedia from Sanskrit, Greek, and Aramaic sources synthesized with his own clinical insights.
One cannot leave the subject of Baghdad and its learning without speaking of Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, a professor at the Madrasa al-Nizamiya, Baghdad_s first great school of religious law founded in 1067. Al-Ghazzali abandoned his post to become a wandering mystic, then wrote many deeply original religious books synthesizing the mystical and orthodox points of view. Muslims still regard him as their greatest reformer. The centre of intellectual life was by then shifting from Baghdad to the new city of Cairo (where the Fatimid dynasty had won all of North Africa away from the Abbasids in 969), and to Cordoba and Toledo in Spain, where all of the amazing achievements of Muslim scientists and thinkers would pass into the heritage of Europe.
The Mongol Invasion & The Ottoman Period
In the early years of the thirteenth century, a powerful Mongol leader named Temujin brought together a majority of the Mongol tribes, whome were nomadic people, and led them on a devastating sweep through China. At about this time, he changed his name to Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, meaning “World Conqueror.” In 1219 he turned his force of 700,000 west and quickly devastated Bokhara, Samarkand (in Uzbekistan), Balkh (in Afghanistan), Merv capital of the great Seljuk Empire (in Turkmenistan), and Neyshabur (in present-day Iran), where he slaughtered every living thing. Before his death in 1227, Chinnggis Khan, pillaging and burning cities along the way, had reached western Azarbaijan in Iran. After Chinggis_s death, the area enjoyed a brief respite that ended with the arrival of Hulagu Khan (1217-65), Chinggis_s grandson. The Mongols under the leadership of Hulagu, the Mongol ruler, from the far east swept west and gained control of the land, he marched on Baghdad with two hundred thousand Tartars. al-Musta`sim Billah_s army and the people of Baghdad jointly faced them, but it was not in their power to stop this torrent of calamity. The result was that the Tartars entered Baghdad on the day of `Ashura_ in AD1258 carrying with them bloodshed and ruin. They remained busy in killing for forty days. Rivers of blood flowed in the streets and all the alleys were filled with dead bodies. Hundred of thousands of people were put to the sword while al-Musta`sim Billah, the last Abbasid caliph, was murdered, trampled to death under foot. The Mongol (Tartar) left the countryside the way they left many other countryside_s, totally ruined. While in Baghdad, Hulagu deliberately destroyed what remained of Iraq_s canal headworks. The material and artistic production of centuries was swept away. Iraq became a neglected frontier province ruled from the Mongol capital of Tabriz in Iran.
After the death in 1335 of the last great Mongol khan, Abu Said (also known as Bahadur the Brave), a period of political confusion ensued in Iraq until a local petty dynasty, the Jalayirids, seized power. The Jalayirids ruled until the beginning of the fifteenth century. Jalayirid rule was abruptly checked by the rising power of a Mongol, Tamerlane (or Timur the Lame, 1336-1405), who had been atabeg of the reigning prince of the capital Samarkand (Uzbekistan). In 1401 he sacked Baghdad and massacred many of its inhabitants. Tamerlane killed thousands of Iraqis and devastated hundreds of towns.
In Iraq, political chaos, severe economic depression, and social disintegration followed in the wake of the Mongol invasions. Baghdad, long a center of trade, rapidly lost its commercial importance. Basrah, which had been a key transit point for seaborne commerce, was circumvented after the Portuguese discovered a shorter route around the Cape of Good Hope. In agriculture, Iraq_s once-extensive irrigation system fell into disrepair, creating swamps and marshes at the edge of the delta and dry, uncultivated steppes farther out. The rapid deterioration of settled agriculture led to the growth of tribally based pastoral nomadism. By the end of the Mongol period, the focus of Iraqi history had shifted from the urbanbased Abbasid culture to the tribes of the river valleys, where it would remain until well into the twentieth century.
From the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, the course of Iraqi history was affected by the continuing conflicts between the Safavid Empire in Iran and the Ottoman Turks. The Safavids, who were the first to declare Shi_a Islam the official religion of Iran, sought to control Iraq both because of the Shi_a 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 Shi_a Islam would spread to Anatolia (Asia Minor), sought to maintain Iraq as a Sunni-controlled buffer state. In 1509 the Safavids, led by Ismail Shah (1502-24), conquered Iraq, thereby initiating a series of protracted battles with the Ottomans. In 1514 Sultan Selim the Grim attacked Ismail_s forces and in 1535 the Ottomans, led by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-66), conquered Baghdad from the Safavids. The Safavids reconquered Baghdad in 1623 under the leadership of Shah Abbas (1587-1629), but they were expelled in 1638 after a series of brilliant military maneuvers by the dynamic Ottoman sultan, Murad IV, and became part of the Ottoman Empire. It had become a frontier outpost of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans conquered much of eastern Europe and nearly the whole of the Arab world, only Morocco and Mauritania in the West and Yemen, Hadramaut and parts of the Arabian peninsula remaining beyond their control. The Ottomans brought the Arab Middle East under strong central rule.
By the seventeenth century, the frequent conflicts with the Safavids had sapped the strength of the Ottoman Empire and had weakened its control over its provinces. Between 1625 and 1668, and from 1694 to 1701, local sheikhs ruled Al Basrah and the marshlands, home of the Madan (Marsh Arabs). The powerful sheikhs basically ignored the Ottoman governor of Baghdad.
The cycle of tribal warfare and of deteriorating urban life that began in the thirteenth century with the Mongol invasions was temporarily reversed with the reemergence of the Mamluks. In the early eighteenth century, the Mamluks began asserting authority apart from the Ottomans. Extending their rule first over Basrah, the Mamluks eventually controlled the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys from the Arabian (Persian) Gulf to the foothills of Kurdistan. For the most part, the Mamluks were able administrators, and their rule was marked by political stability and by economic revival. The greatest of the Mamluk leaders, Suleyman the II (1780-1802), made great strides in imposing the rule of law. The last Mamluk leader, Daud (1816-31), initiated important modernization programs that included clearing canals, establishing industries, training a 20,000-man army, and starting a printing press.
The Mamluk period ended in 1831, when a severe flood and plague devastated Baghdad, enabling the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, to reassert Ottoman sovereignty over Iraq. 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 Pasha was appointed governor of Baghdad. Midhat immediately set out to modernize Iraq on the Western model. The primary objectives of Midhat_s reforms, called the tanzimat, were to reorganize the army, to create codes of criminal and commercial law, to secularize the school system, and to improve provincial administration. He created provincial representative assemblies to assist the governor, and he set up elected municipal councils in the major cities. In 1858 TAPU land law (named after the initials of the government office issuing it) was introduced. The new land reform replaced the feudal system of land holdings and tax farms with legally sanctioned property rights. The emergence of private property, and the tying of Iraq to the world capitalist market severely altered Iraq_s social structure. Tribal shaikhs traditionally had provided both spiritual leadership and tribal security. Land reform and increasing links with the West transformed many shaikhs into profit-seeking landlords, whose tribesmen became impoverished sharecroppers.
In 1908 a new ruling clique, the Young Turks (Turkia Al-Fata), took power in Istanbul. The Young Turks aimed at making the Ottoman Empire a unified nation-state based on Western models. They stressed secular politics and patriotism over the pan-Islamic ideology preached by Sultan abd al Hamid.
Most important to the history of Iraq, the Young Turks aggressively pursued a “Turkification” policy that alienated the nascent Iraqi intelligentsia and set in motion a fledgling Arab nationalist movement. Encouraged by the Young Turks_ Revolution of 1908, nationalists in Iraq stepped up their political activity. Iraqi natiolists met in Cairo with the Ottoman Decentralization Party, and some Iraqis joined the Young Arab Society, which moved to Beirut in 1913. Because of its greater exposure to Westerners who encouraged the nationalists, Basrah became the center from which Iraqi nationalists began to demand a measure of autonomy. After nearly 400 years under Ottoman rule, Iraq was ill prepared to form a nation-state. The Ottomans had failed to control Iraq_s rebellious tribal domains, and even in the cities their authority was tenuous. The Ottomans_ inability to provide security led to the growth of autonomous, self- contained communities. As a result, Iraq entered the twentieth century beset by a complex web of social conflicts that seriously impeded the process of building a modern state.
The final Ottoman legacy in Iraq is related to the policies of the Young Turks and to the creation of a small but vocal Iraqi intelligentsia. Faced with the rapidly encroaching West, the Young Turks attempted to centralize the empire by imposing upon it the Turkish language and culture and by clamping down on newly won political freedoms. These Turkification policies alienated many of the Ottoman-trained intellectuals who had originally aligned themselves with the Young Turks in the hope of obtaining greater Arab autonomy.
Turkish rule continued unchecked, and with very little development, until the end of the 19th century, on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.
During the First World War, which broke out in 1914, Turkey became a German ally along with Austria in a global conflict against Britain and France. Just before that time Arab independence movements were picking momentum. Arab leaders in many parts of the Arab world -including the Hashemite family of Hussein ibn-Ali promised to aid Britain by revolting against the Ottoman Turks. Arab cooperation came about when Britain agreed to recognize Arab independence after the war. The Ottoman empire collapsed when British forces invaded Mesopotamia in 1917 and occupied Baghdad. An armistice was signed with Turkey in 1918.
Arab leaders expected to work out the details of Arab independence. But in 1920 the international League of Nations assigned pieces of the Ottoman empire to the victors, putting Mesopotamia under a British administration. This arrangement, called a mandate, meant that Britain would establish a responsible Arab government in the territory according to a league-approved timetable. The failure of the British to fulfill their promises of independence encouraged Arab nationalism. Now the country became a British Mandate – due, in no small part, to the British interest in Iraqi oil fields, and because they wanted to build a transcontinental railroad from Europe, across Turkey, and down through Iraq to Kuwait on the Persian Gulf. This railroad would allow a direct trade route with India without having to skirt Africa. Local unrest (Thawrah), however, resulted in an Iraqi uprising in 1920, and after costly attempts to quell this, the British government decided to draw up a new plan for the state of Iraq.
The British government had laid out the institutional framework for Iraqi government and politics; the Iraqi political system suffered from a severe legitimacy crisis; Britain imposed a Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) monarchy, defined the territorial limits of Iraq with little correspondence to natural frontiers or traditional tribal and ethnic settlements, and influenced the writing of a constitution and the structure of parliament. The British also supported narrowly based groups–such as the tribal shaykhs–over the growing, urban-based nationalist movement, and resorted to military force when British interests were threatened, as in the 1941 Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani coup.
Iraq was to be a kingdom, under the rule of Emir Faisal jbn Hussain, brother of the new ruler of neighboring Jordan, Abdallah, a member of the Hashemite family, and although the monarch was elected and proclaimed King by plebiscite in 1921, full independence was not achieved until 1932, when the British Mandate was officially terminated. In 1927, discovery of huge oil fields near Karkuk brought many improvements to Iraq. The Iraqis granted oil rights to the Iraqi Petroleum Company -a British dominated, multinational firm.
Iraq joined the League of Nations in the October of that year, and was officially recognized as an independent sovereign state. On Faisal’s death in 1933, he was succeeded by his son, King Ghazi I. In March 1945, Iraq became a founding member of the League of Arab States (Arab League), which included Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. And in December 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations (UN).
The growing state
In 1936 King Ghazi I formed an alliance with other Arab nations, known as the Pan-Arab movement. This was, in effect, a non-aggression treaty, and promising kinship between Arab countries. Also in 1936 Iraq experienced its first military coup d_etat–the first coup d_etat in the modern Arab world, led by General Bakr Sidqi. The Sidqi coup (29th of October, 1936) marked a major turning point in Iraqi history; it made a crucial breach in the constitution, and it opened the door to further military involvement in politics. Ghazi sanctioned Sulayman_s government (Hikmat Sulayman was one of the agents of the coup along with General Bakr Sidqi) even though it had achieved power unconstitutionally, overthrowing Yasin al-Hashimi_s government, killing Ja_afar al-Askari its Minister of Defense. Eventually, Sidqi_s excesses alienated both his civilian and his military supporters, and he was murdered by a military group in August 1937.
In 1938 King Ghazi decided to attempt to realize his ambition of annexing Kuwait, part of his dream to lead the Fertile Crescent movement [King Ghazi announced from Qasr al-Zohour radio station that he was looking forward to the day when Syria, Palestine, and Kuwait were united to Iraq]. With a combination of propaganda (Qasr al-Zohour radio station), and military intimidation, he began to foment dissent in Kuwait, exploiting the aspirations of sections of the Kuwaiti middle class, which sought greater participation in government. But, at a critical moment, when Iraqi troops had massed near Kuwait_s northern border, Ghazi_s obsession with fast motor cars proved his undoing. The king drove his car into a lamppost and died instantly on the 3rd of April 1939.
King Ghazi was succeeded by his three-year-old son, Faisal II, under a regency. Ghazi_s first cousin, Amir Abd al IIah, was made regent. Faisal, the cousin of Jordan_s late King Hussein bin Tatal, did not assume the throne formally until his eighteenth birthday, in May 1953. Whereas Faisal and Ghazi had been strong Arab nationalists and had opposed the British-supported tribal shaykhs, Abd al Ilah and Nuri as-Said were Iraqi nationalists who relied on the tribal shaykhs as a counterforce against the growing urban nationalist movement. By the end of the 1930s, Pan-Arabism had become a powerful ideological force in the Iraqi military, especially among younger officers who hailed from the northern provinces and who had suffered economically from the partition of the Ottoman Empire. The British role in quelling the Palestine revolt of 1936 to 1939 further intensified anti-British sentiments in the military and led a group of disgruntled officers to form the Free Officers_ Movement, which aimed at overthrowing the monarchy.
During the earlier part of World War II, Iraq_s government was strongly pro-British, however, the Iraqi nationalist, and ardent Anglophobe Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani succeeded Nuri as-Said as prime minister. The new prime minister sought close ties with Nazi Germany in hope to release Iraq from British domination. Rashid Ali proposed restrictions on British troops movements in Iraq. Abd al Ilah and Nuri as-Said both were proponents of close cooperation with Britain. They opposed Rashid Ali_s policies and pressed him to resign. In response, the army surrounded The Royal palace in Baghdad on April 1,1941. The regent and his entourage escaped to Habbaniyah, from there to Basrah and thence to Amman in Transjordan. Rashid Ali and four generals dubbed the “Golden Square”, led a military coup, on April 3, 1941, that ousted Nuri as-Said and the regent; and announced that the temporarily absent regent was deposed.
Backed by the German embassy in Baghdad headed by Dr F. Grobba, which generously supplied money, books and films, the sentiments against the Jews were fuelled. There were demonstrations against the British and Jews by hoodlums and students who had taken to the streets.
Shortly after seizing power in 1941, Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani appointed an ultranationalist civilian cabinet, which gave only conditional consent to British requests in April 1941 for troop landings in Iraq. The British quickly retaliated by landing forces at Basrah on April 19, justifying this second occupation of Iraq by citing Rashid Ali_s violation of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. Many Iraqis regarded the move as an attempt to restore British rule. Iraqi troops were then concentrated around the British air base at Habbaniyah, west of Baghdad; and on May 2 the British commander there opened hostilities, lest the Iraqis should attack first. Having won the upper hand at Habbaniyah and been reinforced from Palestine, the British troops from the air base marched on Baghdad. The ensuing war between Britain and Iraq lasted less than a month, as the British steadily advanced, and on May 30th Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani and his government fled the country.
On the same day an evil conspiracy carried out by Yunis Al Sabawi, head of Nazi groups, who declared himself governor of central southern Iraq. He ordered Jews through Hakham Sasson Khedouri, to remain in their homes from Saturday, May 31 until Monday, June 2 —Shabu_oth. with the intention of slaughtering the Jews that weekend using the Nazi youth organizations he was heading. However, miraculously, Sabawi was deported to the Iranian border that same day. On May 31,1941 it was announced that the Regent with his entourage would be returning to Baghdad next day. The Farhud took place Sunday and Monday, June 1st and 2nd 1941, the two days of Shabu_oth. The word Farhud denotes the breakdown of law and order, where life and property are in peril.
June 1, _41, the first day of Shabu_oth: A delegation of Jews went to the airport to welcome the Regent. On their way back they were attacked on Al Khurr Bridge by soldiers and civilians. One Jew was killed, and many injured who were taken to the hospital. Terror continued until 10 p.m.
June 2,1941: at 5 p.m., curfew was declared and anyone who showed himself in the streets was shot on the spot. Official Iraqi reports mention 187 killed in both days of the Farhud. During those difficult times, many Iraqi Moslems opened their homes and fed and protected the Jews.
Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani and his government fled to Iran on his way to Germany, as a guest of the Fuehrer, he spent the remainder of the war broadcasting to the Arab world and planning to regain power when German pincers from Egypt and the Caucasus finally met at the Persian Gulf. He survived the war and escaped to Saudi Arabia where he was granted asylum, returning to Iraq after the 1958 revolution. A new, pro-British government was established. Abd al Ilah was reinstated as regent; Nuri became prime minister; and the British military presence remained to uphold them. In the following year Iraq became an important Middle Eastern supply centre for American and British forces, particularly with regard to the trans-shipment of arms to the USSR.
Coups, wars & instability
War with Israel followed in 1948, in which Iraqi forces were allied with those of Transjordan, in accordance with a treaty signed by the two countries during the previous year. Fighting continued until the signing of a cease-fire agreement in May 1949. The war also had a negative impact on the Iraqi economy. The government allocated 40 percent of available funds for the army and for Palestinian refugees. Oil royalties paid to Iraq were halved when the pipeline to Haifa was cut off in 1948. The war and the hanging of a Jewish businessman led, moreover, to the departure of most of Iraq_s prosperous Jewish community. Although emigration was prohibited, many Jews made their way to Israel during this period with the aid of an underground movement. In 1950 the Iraqi parliament finally legalized emigration to Israel, and between May 1950 and August 1951, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government succeeded in airlifting approximately 110,000 Jews to Israel in Operations Ezra and Nehemiah; about 120,000 Iraqi Jews emigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1952.
In the mid-1950s, the monarchy was embroiled in a series of foreign policy blunders that ultimately contributed to its overthrow. Following a 1949 military coup in Syria that brought to power Adib Shishakli, a military strongman who opposed union with Iraq, a split developed between Abd al Ilah, who had called for a Syrian-Iraqi union, and Nuri as-Said, who opposed the union plan. Although Shishakli was overthrown with Iraqi help in 1954, the union plan never came to fruition. Instead, the schism between Nuri as-Said and the regent widened. Sensing the regime_s weakness, the opposition intensified its antiregime activity.
The monarchy_s major foreign policy mistake occurred in 1955, when Nuri as-Said announced that Iraq was joining a British supported mutual defense pact with Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. The Baghdad Pact constituted a direct challenge to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. In response, Nasser launched a vituperative media campaign that challenged the legitimacy of the Iraqi monarchy and called on the officer corps to overthrow it. The 1956 British-French-Israeli attack on Sinai further alienated Nuri as-Said_s regime from the growing ranks of the opposition. In February 1958 King Hussein of Jordan and Abd al Ilah proposed a union of Hashimite monarchies to counter the recently formed Egyptian-Syrian union. Opening its doors for any Arab state to join if they wish … Nuri as-Said concentrated on the participation of Kuwait as a third country in the proposed Arab-Hashimite Union, Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salim, ruler of Kuwait, was invited to Baghdad to discuss Kuwait liberation from the British protection, and on the subject of tri-unity. Britain opposed declaring Kuwait independent at that time. At this point, the monarchy found itself completely isolated. Nuri as-Said was able to contain the rising discontent only by resorting to even greater oppression and to tighter control over the political process.
Inspired by the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, the Hashimite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958, in a swift, predawn coup executed by officers of the Nineteenth Brigade known as “Free Officers”, under the leadership of Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassem (known as “il-Za`im”) and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. King Faisal II and Abd al Ilah were executed in al-Rihab Palace, and displaying the bodies in public, hanging them by their feet outside the palace; as were many others in the royal family. Nuri as-Said escaped capture for one day after attempting to escape disguised as a veiled woman, but was then caught and put to death, his body tied to the back of a car and dragged through the streets until there was nothing left but half a leg. Iraq was proclaimed a republic, and the Arab Union was dissolved. Iraq_s activity in the Baghdad Pact ceased.
Later the same year, on two occasions, Aref attempted to assassinate the new Prime Minister, Qassem, but failed.
In 1959, the Mosul garrison, disillusioned with the new government, organized a revolt against Qassem. The revolt was ruthlessly suppressed, with the massacre of many hundreds of disaffected Arab nationalists and Ba_athists.
Later in 1959, another assassination attempt against Qassem, this time organized by the Ba_ath Party, failed. Amongst the unsuccessful assassination squad was the young Saddam Hussein.
Qassem ended Iraq_s membership in the Baghdad Pact (later reconstituted as the Central Treaty Organization- CENTO) in 1959. Qassem remained in power for more than four years. The Nasserites and the Baathists both wished to join the UAR (United Arab Republic – Egypt), a means to control the communists, but Qassem, not wishing to be overshadowed by Nasser, allied himself with the left and refused their demands. This served to alienate himself from his strongest supporters.
In 1961, Kuwait gained its independence from Britain. Abdul-Karim Qassem immediately claimed sovereignty over it, claim to the Amirate as originally part of the Ottoman province of Basrah. Britain reacted strongly to this threat to its ex-protectorate, dispatching a brigade to the country to deter Iraq. Qassem backed down, and in October 1963, Iraq recognised the sovereignty and borders of Kuwait.
A period of considerable instability followed, with one military coup swiftly succeeding another, and leaders came and went throughout the 60s and early 70s. Qassem was assassinated in February 1963, when Ba_ath Arab Socialist Party members took power; under the leadership of Gen. Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr as prime minister and Col. Abdul Salam Arif as president. Nine months later, President Abdul Salam Mohammad Arif led a successful coup against the Ba_athists, ousting the Ba_ath government. In April 13 1966 President Abdul Salam Arif dies in a helicopter crash! and is followed by his brother Gen. Abdul Rahman Arif. Following the Six Day War of 1967, the Ba_ath Party felt strong enough. The Ba_athists overthrow Arif and regained power on 17th of July 1968 coup. Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) following the Ba_athists return to power.
Iraq_s general policy during these years was one of Arab National. Iraq was on the head of the other Arab troops during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and in the liberation war of 1973, gave material aid to Syria. Iraq was heavily opposed to the cease-fire, which ended the conflict.
Relations with Iran were fast deteriorating in the early 70s. Iranian arms supplies to the Kurd leader, Mustafa al-Barzani, now fueled the ongoing Kurdish situation, which had first emerged in a 1961 Kurdish rebellion. Problems were compounded by border disputes with Iran, but these were partially settled in 1975, In Algiers on March 6, 1975, Saddam Hussein signed an agreement with the Shah (Algiers Agreement), that recognized the thalweg as the boundary in the Shatt el-Arab, legalized the Shah_s abrogation of the 1937 treaty in 1969, and dropped all Iraqi claims to Khuzestan and to the islands at the foot of the Gulf. In return, the Shah agreed to prevent subversive elements from crossing the border, whereupon Iran withdrew aid from the Kurdish revolt and effectively halted it.
By the end of 1977, the Kurdish people had been granted greater autonomy and Kurdish was recognized as an official language. Politically, Iraq seemed to be stabilizing, and the oil boom of the late 70s contributed dramatically to an upsurge in the economy.
Saddam Hussein & the invasion of Kuwait
In July 1979 the president, Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakr, was replaced by Saddam Hussein, his vice president, chosen successor, and the true ruler of Iraq. Saddamthen assumed both of the vacated offices and purged political rivals in order to assure his position. Once more the political situation flared into hostilities with Iran. On September 17, 1980 Saddam declares the Iraqi/Iranian borders agreement (Algiers Agreement) null and void, claiming the whole of Shatt el-Arab back to Iraq. The Iran-Iraq War, which began 5 days later on September 22, 1980, lasted for eight years and had a crippling effect on the economy of both countries; in which after eight years of war no territory had been gained by either side but an estimated one million lives had been lost.
The Iran-Iraq War was then in its eighth year, when on Wednesday 16th March 1988, Saddam_s cousin Ali Hassan al-Maiid, who led the campaigns against the Iraqi Kurds in the late eighties, orchestrated a genocide, by attacking Halabja, a predominantly Iraqi Kurdish village in northeastern Iraq near the front lines with Iran, with mustard gas and nerve agents. Estimates vary, but according to Human Rights Watch up to 5,000 people were killed. The raid was over in minutes. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people. Halabja was in perpetual revolt against the regime of Saddam Hussein, and its inhabitants were mostly supporters of the peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters whose name means “those who face death.” Attempts by the United States Congress in 1988 to impose sanctions on Iraq were stifled by the Reagan and Bush Administrations.
In July 1988, Iran accepted the terms of UN Resolution 598, and the cease-fire came into force on 20th August 1988. Before Iraq had a chance to recover economically, it was once more plunged into war, this time with its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The invasion was the result of a long-standing territorial dispute. Iraq accused Kuwait of violating the Iraqi border to secure oil resources, (on July 17, 1990 Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of flooding the world oil market. In addition, he singled out Kuwait for the production of oil from a disputed supply, the Rumaila oil field), and demanded that its debt repayments should be waived. Direct negotiations were begun in July 1990, but they were destined soon to fail; along with reassurance from the United States making a claim that they would not get involved (the famous meeting of Saddam Hussein with April Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, on the 25th of July, 1990). This was the go ahead that Hussein needed. Arab mediators convinced Iraq and Kuwait to negotiate their differences in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 1, 1990, but that session resulted only in charges and countercharges. A second session was scheduled to take place in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, but Iraq invaded Kuwait the next day. Iraqi troops overran the country shortly after midnight on 2nd August 1990. The U.S. fell short on its claim to not get involved and instantly declared interest in keeping Saudi Arabia safe. The United Nations Security Council and the Arab League immediately condemned the Iraqi invasion. Four days later, the Security Council imposed an economic embargo on Iraq that prohibited nearly all trade with Iraq. Iraq responded to the sanctions by annexing Kuwait as the 19th Province of Iraq on August 8, and appointing Lt. Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid, one of Saddam_s closest advisers, as governor of occupied Kuwait, prompting the exiled Sabah family to call for a stronger international response. Over the ensuing months, the United Nations Security Council passed a series of resolutions condemned the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, implementing total mandatory economic sanctions against Iraq. Other countries subsequently provided support for “Operation Desert Shield”. In November 1990, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678, permitting member states to use all necessary means, authorizing military action against the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, and demanded a complete withdrawal by 15th of January 1991.
When Saddam Hussein failed to comply with this demand, the Gulf War (Operation “Desert Storm”) ensued on the 17th of January 1991 (3 a.m. Iraq time), with allied troops of 28 countries, led by the US launching an aerial bombardment on Baghdad. The war, which proved disastrous for Iraq, lasted only six weeks, one hundred and forty thousand tons of firearms had showered down on the country, the equivalent of 7 Hiroshima bombs. Probably as many as 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and tens of thousands of civilians. Allied air raids destroyed roads, bridges, factories, and oil industry facilities (shutting down the national refining and distribution system)_ and disrupted electric, telephone, and water service. Conference centers and shopping and residential areas were hit. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed in the attack on the Al-Amiriyah bomb shelter. Diseases spread through contaminated drinking water because water purification and sewage treatment facilities could not operate without electricity. A cease-fire was announced by the US on 28th February 1991. UN terms for a permanent cease-fire were agreed by Iraq in April of that year, and strict conditions were imposed, demanding the disclosure and destruction of all stockpiles of weapons.
A few days after the war had ended, popular insurrections broke out in southern Iraq and in Kurdistan in the north, where rebels took control of most of the region_s towns. The United States (President George Bush) again fell short of its commitments in protecting the uprising, let the people exposed. Units of the Republican Guard that had survived the conflict acted with extreme brutality and gained the upper hand in the Basrah, Najaf and Karbala regions. In the southern cities, rebels killed Baathist officials, members of the security service and other supporters of the regime.
Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, Iraqi helicopters and troops regained control of the cities taken by the rebels and there was a mass exodus of Kurds, fearing a repeat of the 1988 chemical attacks, to the Turkish and Iranian borders. By the end of April there were 2.5 million refugees. In late April 1991, it was announced that there had been an agreement to implement the Kurdish peace plan of 1970; however, again, negotiations were stalled on the delineation of the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region with the Kurds insisting on the inclusion of Karkuk.
The United States, in an attempt to prevent the genocide of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq and the Kurds to the north, declared air exclusion zones north of the 36th parallel and south of the 32nd parallel. The Clinton administration judged an alleged attempted assassination of former President George Bush while in Kuwait to be worthy of a military response on 27 June 1993. The Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters in Baghdad was targeted by 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from US warships in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. Three missiles were declared to have missed the target, causing some collateral damage to nearby residential housing and eight civilian deaths.
A military conflict was brewing between two Kurdish rival parties. Kurds had often disputed over land rights, and as their economic and political security deteriorated in the early 1990s, the conflicts became more extreme.
In May 1994 supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) clashed with supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), leaving 300 people dead. Over the next two years the PUK and KDP fought several more times, eventually devolving into a state of civil war. In August 1996, leaders of the KDP asked Saddam Hussein to intervene in the war. Hussein sent about 30,000 troops into the US-protected Kurdish region, capturing the PUK stronghold of Irbìl. The KDP was immediately installed in power. The United States responded with two missile strikes against southern Iraq, but in early September Iraq again helped KDP fighters, this time taking the PUK stronghold of As-Sulaymanìyah.
In October 1994, Iraq moved some Republican Guard units towards Kuwait, an act that provoked a large-scale US troop deployment to the Gulf to deter any Iraqi attack. The move was interpreted as a sign of Saddam_s frustration with the continuation of UN sanctions, but afterwards he took a more moderate line, agreeing to recognize the existence and borders of Kuwait. In the months that followed his position appeared to become more precarious as dissatisfaction with his rule spread in the army and among the tribes and clans at the core of his regime. In June clashes broke out with the Dulaimi tribe, which supplied many of his senior officers after one of them was secretly executed by the regime. These culminated in the brutal suppression of demonstrations in the town of Ramadi by troops under the control of Saddam son, Uday, and in a subsequent attack on Abu Grein prison by a dissident military unit dominated by members of the Dulaym tribe.
In May 1995 Saddam sacked his half-brother, Wathban, as Interior Minister and in July demoted his notorious and powerful Defense Minister, Ali Hassan al- Majid, known popularly as `Chemical Ali_ because of his role in gassing operations in Kurdistan. These personnel changes were the result of the growth in power of his two sons, Udai and Qusai, who were given effective vice-presidential authority in May 1995. They have been able to remove most of Saddam_s loyal followers and it is clear that Saddam feels more secure protected by his immediate family members. In August Major General Hussein Kamil Hassan al-Majid, his Minister of Military Industries and a key henchman, defected to Jordan, together with his wife (one of Saddam_s daughters) and his brother, Saddam, who was married to another of the president_s daughters, and called for the overthrow of the regime. In response, Saddam promised full co-operation with the UN commission disarming Iraq (UNSCOM) in order to pre-empt any revelations that the defector could make.
The weakening of the internal position of the regime occurred at a time when the external opposition forces were as weak as ever, too divided among themselves to take any effective action. At the same time, France and Russia have pushed for an easing of sanctions. US determination to keep up the pressure on Iraq has prevailed however. In any case, the apparent weakening of the regime was illusory, not least when the two defectors returned home and were killed, apparently by other clan members, under orders of Saddam Hussein, in an awful warning to other potential defectors. In fact, during 1996, the regime_s grip on power seemed to have significantly strengthened despite its inability to end the UN sanctions against it.
Attack on Iraq
In his first State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President Bush says that Iraq — as well as Iran and North Korea — are part of an “axis of evil.” The comments signal an increase in rhetoric from the White House against Saddam Hussein and in support of U.S. action in Iraq.
In frequent public appearances over the next several months, top officials in the Bush administration call for a “regime change” and threaten military action if Iraq does not allow unfettered weapons inspections and destroy its weapons of mass destruction arsenal and program. Iraq accuses the United States of lying in order to control Iraq_s oil and serve Israel_s interests.
In September 2002 President Bush urged the United Nations to encourage Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions or “actions will be unavoidable.” Bush said that Saddam has repeatedly violated 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions, which include a call for Iraq to “disarm its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs”. Iraqi officials rejected Bush_s assertions.
In November, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passes a new resolution (UNSC 1441) giving Iraq a 30 day to provide the Security Council a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its military programs, demanding that Baghdad allow U.N. arms inspectors unhindered access to any site suspected of producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, recalls, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.
Iraq agreed to the resolution and inspectors returned to Iraq on November 26. The resolution also requires Baghdad to provide a list of its weapons of mass destruction to the Security Council by December 8. Iraq denies having any weapons of mass destruction and says the resolution is the result of the desire of the United States and Britain to launch military attacks on Iraq.
On 17th of March 2003, President Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq, threatening that their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of his choosing.
Saddam has rejected President Bush_s ultimatum that he and his sons leave Iraq before early Thursday th