History of Iraq







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10000 BCE - 2023

History of Iraq

Iraq, historically known as Mesopotamia, is one of the oldest civilizations, dating back to 6000-5000 BCE during the Neolithic Ubaid period. It was the center of several ancient empires including Sumer, Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian, Babylonian, Neo-Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian. Mesopotamia was a cradle of early writing, literature, sciences, mathematics, laws, and philosophies. The Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BCE.

Iraq then experienced Greek, Parthian, and Roman rule. The region saw significant Arab migration and the formation of the Lakhmid Kingdom around 300 CE. The Arabic name al-ʿIrāq emerged during this period. The Sassanid Empire, ruling the area, was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century. Baghdad, founded in 762, became a central Abbasid capital and a cultural hub during the Islamic Golden Age.

Post the Mongol invasion in 1258, Iraq's prominence declined under various rulers until becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Post-World War I, Iraq was under British mandate and then became a kingdom in 1932. A republic was established in 1958. Saddam Hussein's rule from 1968 to 2003 included the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War, ending with the 2003 U.S. invasion.

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2000000 BCE - 5500 BCE
Palaeolithic Period of Mesopotamia
Palaeolithic Period of Mesopotamia ©HistoryMaps
999999 BCE Jan 1 - 10000 BCE

Palaeolithic Period of Mesopotamia

Shanidar Cave, Goratu, Iraq

The prehistory of Mesopotamia, spanning from the Paleolithic to the advent of writing in the Fertile Crescent region, encompasses the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Zagros foothills, southeastern Anatolia, and northwestern Syria. This period is not well-documented, especially in southern Mesopotamia before the 4th millennium BCE, due to geological conditions burying remains under alluvium or submerging them in the Persian Gulf.

In the Middle Paleolithic, hunter-gatherers inhabited the Zagros caves and open-air sites, producing Mousterian lithic tools. Notably, Shanidar Cave's funerary remains reveal practices of solidarity and healing within these groups.

The Upper Paleolithic era saw modern humans in the Zagros region, using bone and antler tools, identified as part of the local Aurignacian culture, known as "Baradostian".

The late Epipaleolithic period, around 17,000-12,000 BCE, is marked by the Zarzian culture and the emergence of temporary villages with circular structures. The use of fixed objects like millstones and pestles indicates the beginning of sedentarization.

Between the 11th and 10th millennia BCE, the first villages of sedentary hunter-gatherers appeared in northern Iraq. These settlements featured houses built around a central "hearth", suggesting a form of family property. Evidence of skull preservation and artistic depictions of birds of prey has been found, highlighting cultural practices of this era.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic period of Mesopotamia
Pre-Pottery Neolithic period of Mesopotamia ©HistoryMaps
10000 BCE Jan 1 - 6500 BCE

Pre-Pottery Neolithic period of Mesopotamia

Dağeteği, Göbekli Tepe, Halili

The early Neolithic human occupation of Mesopotamia is, like the previous Epipaleolithic period, confined to the foothill zones of the Taurus and Zagros Mountains and the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period (10,000–8,700 BCE) saw the introduction of agriculture, while the oldest evidence for animal domestication dates to the transition from the PPNA to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB, 8700–6800 BCE) at the end of the 9th millennium BCE. This period, primarily focused on the Mesopotamian region — the cradle of civilization — witnessed the rise of agriculture, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.[1]

Agriculture was the cornerstone of Pre-Pottery Neolithic Mesopotamia. The domestication of plants like wheat and barley, coupled with the cultivation of various crops, led to the establishment of permanent settlements. This transition has been documented at sites like Abu Hureyra and Mureybet, which continued to be occupied from the Natufian well into the PPNB.[2] The so-far earliest monumental sculptures and circular stone buildings from Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey date to the PPNA/Early PPNB and represent, according to the excavator, the communal efforts of a large community of hunter-gatherers.[3]

Jericho, one of the most significant settlements of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period, is considered the world's first town around 9,000 BCE.[4] It housed a population of 2,000 to 3,000 people, safeguarded by a large stone wall and tower. The purpose of the wall is debated, as there is no clear evidence of significant warfare during this period.[5] Some theories suggest the wall was built to protect the valuable salt resources of Jericho.[6] Another theory posits that the tower aligned with the shadow of the nearby mountain on the summer solstice, symbolizing power and supporting the town's ruling hierarchy.[7]

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6500 BCE Jan 1

Pottery Neolithic period of Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, Iraq

The subsequent millennia, the 7th and 6th millennia BCE, witnessed the rise of important "ceramic" cultures, notably the Hassuna, Samarra, and Halaf. These cultures were distinguished by the definitive introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry, revolutionizing the economic landscape. Architecturally, there was a move towards more complex structures, including large communal dwellings centered around collective granaries. The introduction of irrigation systems marked a significant technological advancement, essential for sustaining agricultural practices. Cultural dynamics varied, with the Samarra culture exhibiting signs of social inequality, in contrast to the Halaf culture, which seemed to consist of smaller, less hierarchical communities.

Concurrently, the Ubaid culture emerged in southern Mesopotamia around the end of the 7th millennium BCE. The oldest known site of this culture is Tell el-'Oueili. Ubaid culture is recognized for its sophisticated architecture and the implementation of irrigation, a critical innovation in a region where agriculture relied heavily on artificial water sources. The Ubaid culture expanded significantly, possibly assimilating the Halaf culture, spreading its influence peacefully across northern Mesopotamia, southeastern Anatolia, and northeastern Syria.

This era witnessed a transformation from relatively non-hierarchical village societies to more complex urban centers. By the end of the 4th millennium BCE, these evolving social structures saw the emergence of a dominant elite class. Uruk and Tepe Gawra, two of the most influential centers in Mesopotamia, played pivotal roles in these societal changes. They were instrumental in the gradual development of writing and the concept of the state. This transition from prehistoric cultures to the cusp of recorded history marks a significant epoch in human civilization, laying the foundations for the historical periods that followed.

5500 BCE - 539 BCE
Ancient Mesopotamia
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5500 BCE Jan 1 - 1800 BCE Jan


Eridu, Sumeria, Iraq

The settlement of Sumer, beginning around 5500-3300 BCE, was by West Asian people speaking Sumerian, a unique non-Semitic and non-Indo-European language. Evidence includes names of cities and rivers.[8] Sumerian civilization developed during the Uruk period (4th millennium BCE), evolving into the Jemdet Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. Eridu, a significant Sumerian city, emerged as a cultural fusion point of Ubaidian farmers, nomadic Semitic pastoralists, and marshland fisher folk, potentially the Sumerians' ancestors.[9]

The preceding Ubaid period is noted for its distinctive pottery, spread across Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. Ubaid culture, possibly derived from northern Mesopotamia's Samarran culture, is characterized by large settlements, mud-brick houses, and the first public architecture temples in Mesopotamia.[10] This period saw the beginning of urbanization, with developments in agriculture, animal domestication, and the use of ploughs introduced from the north.[11]

The transition to the Uruk period involved a shift to mass-produced unpainted pottery.[12] This period marked significant urban growth, the use of slave labor, and widespread trade, influencing surrounding regions. Sumerian cities were likely theocratic, led by priest-kings and councils, including women. The Uruk period saw limited organized warfare, with cities generally unwalled.[13] The end of the Uruk period, around 3200-2900 BCE, coincided with the Piora oscillation, a climatic shift marking the end of the Holocene climatic optimum.[14]

The subsequent dynastic period, is generally dated to c. 2900 – c. 2350 BCE, saw a shift from temple-centered to more secular leadership and the emergence of historical figures like Gilgamesh.[15] It saw the development of writing and the formation of the first cities and states. The ED itself was characterized by the existence of multiple city-states: small states with a relatively simple structure that developed and solidified over time. This development ultimately led to the unification of much of Mesopotamia under the rule of Sargon, the first monarch of the Akkadian Empire. Despite this political fragmentation, the ED city-states shared a relatively homogeneous material culture. Sumerian cities such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Umma, and Nippur located in Lower Mesopotamia were very powerful and influential. To the north and west stretched states centered on cities such as Kish, Mari, Nagar, and Ebla.

Eannatum of Lagash briefly established one of history's first empires, encompassing much of Sumer and extending his influence beyond.[16] The Early Dynastic period was marked by multiple city-states, like Uruk and Ur, leading to eventual unification under Sargon of the Akkadian Empire. Despite political fragmentation, these city-states shared a common material culture.

Early Assyrian period
Early Assyrian Period. ©HistoryMaps
2600 BCE Jan 1 - 2025 BCE

Early Assyrian period

Ashur, Al-Shirqat،, Iraq

The Early Assyrian period[34] (before 2025 BCE) marks the beginning of Assyrian history, preceding the Old Assyrian period. It focuses on Assur's history, its people, and culture before it became an independent city-state under Puzur-Ashur I around 2025 BCE. Limited evidence exists from this era. Archaeological findings at Assur date back to c. 2600 BCE, during the Early Dynastic Period, but the city's foundation might be older, as the region had long been inhabited and nearby cities like Nineveh are much older.

Initially, Hurrians likely inhabited Assur, and it was a center for a fertility cult dedicated to goddess Ishtar.[35] The name "Assur" is first recorded in the Akkadian Empire era (24th century BCE). Previously, the city might have been known as Baltil.[36] Before the Akkadian Empire's rise, Semitic-speaking ancestors of the Assyrians settled in Assur, possibly displacing or assimilating the original population. Assur gradually became a deified city and later personified as the god Ashur, the Assyrian national deity by Puzur-Ashur I's time.

Throughout the Early Assyrian period, Assur wasn't independent but was controlled by various states and empires from southern Mesopotamia. During the Early Dynastic Period, it was under significant Sumerian influence and even fell under Kish's hegemony. Between the 24th and 22nd centuries BCE, it was part of the Akkadian Empire, serving as a northern administrative outpost. This era was later viewed by Assyrian kings as a golden age. Before gaining independence, Assur was a peripheral city within the Third Dynasty of Ur's Sumerian empire (c. 2112–2004 BCE).

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2500 BCE Jan 1 - 1600 BCE


Mesopotamia, Iraq

The Amorites, an influential ancient people, are referenced in two Sumerian literary compositions from the Old Babylonian period, "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta" and "Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird." These texts mention "the land of the mar.tu" and are linked to the Early Dynastic ruler of Uruk, Enmerkar, although the extent to which these reflect historical facts is uncertain.[21]

During the decline of the Third Dynasty of Ur, the Amorites became a formidable force, compelling kings like Shu-Sin to construct a lengthy wall for defense. The Amorites are depicted in contemporary records as nomadic tribes under chiefs, who forced themselves into lands they needed to graze their herds. Akkadian literature from this era often depicts the Amorites negatively, highlighting their nomadic and primitive lifestyle. The Sumerian myth "Marriage of Martu" exemplifies this disparaging view.[22 ]

They established several prominent city-states in existing locations, such as Isin, Larsa, Mari and Ebla and later founded Babylon and the Old Babylonian Empire in the south. In the east, the Amorite kingdom of Mari arose, later to be destroyed by Hammurabi. Key figures included Shamshi-Adad I, who conquered Assur and established the Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia, and Hammurabi of Babylon. The Amorites also played a role in the Hyksos' establishment of the Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt around 1650 BCE.[23 ]

By the 16th century BCE, the Amorite era in Mesopotamia concluded with the decline of Babylon and the rise of the Kassites and Mitanni. The term Amurru, from the 15th century BCE onwards, referred to a region extending north of Canaan to northern Syria. Eventually, the Syrian Amorites came under Hittite and Middle Assyrian domination, and by around 1200 BCE, they were absorbed by or displaced by other West Semitic-speaking peoples, notably the Arameans, and disappeared from history, though their name persisted in the Hebrew Bible.[24]

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2334 BCE Jan 1 - 2154 BCE

Akkadian Empire

Mesopotamia, Iraq

The Akkadian Empire, founded by Sargon of Akkad around 2334-2279 BCE, stands as a monumental chapter in ancient Mesopotamian history. As the world's first empire, it set precedents in governance, culture, and military conquest. This essay delves into the origins, expansion, achievements, and eventual decline of the Akkadian Empire, offering insights into its enduring legacy in the annals of history.

The Akkadian Empire emerged in Mesopotamia, primarily present-day Iraq. Sargon, originally a cupbearer to King Ur-Zababa of Kish, rose to power through military prowess and strategic alliances. By overthrowing the Sumerian city-states, he unified northern and southern Mesopotamia under one rule, forming the Akkadian Empire.

Under Sargon and his successors, notably Naram-Sin and Shar-Kali-Sharri, the empire expanded significantly. It extended from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, including parts of modern-day Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Akkadians innovated in administration, dividing the empire into regions overseen by loyal governors, a system that influenced subsequent empires.

The Akkadian Empire was a melting pot of Sumerian and Semitic cultures, which enriched art, literature, and religion. The Akkadian language became the lingua franca of the empire, used in official documents and diplomatic correspondence. Advances in technology and architecture, including the development of the ziggurat, were notable achievements of this era.

The Akkadian army, known for its discipline and organization, was crucial in the empire's expansion. The use of composite bows and improved weaponry gave them a significant advantage over their enemies. Military campaigns, documented in royal inscriptions and reliefs, showcase the empire's might and strategic capabilities.

The Akkadian Empire's decline began around 2154 BCE, attributed to internal rebellions, economic hardship, and invasions by the Gutians, a nomadic group. The weakening of central authority led to the empire's fragmentation, paving the way for the rise of new powers like the Third Dynasty of Ur.

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2212 BCE Jan 1 - 2004 BCE

Neo-Sumerian Empire

Ur, Iraq

The Third Dynasty of Ur, succeeding the Akkad Dynasty, marked a significant period in Mesopotamian history. After the fall of the Akkad Dynasty, a period of obscurity ensued, characterized by a lack of documentation and artifacts, aside from one for Dudu of Akkad. This era saw the rise of the Gutian invaders, whose rule lasted between 25 to 124 years, depending on sources, leading to a decline in agriculture and record-keeping, and culminating in famine and high grain prices.

Utu-hengal of Uruk ended the Gutian rule and was succeeded by Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Ur III dynasty, likely after serving as Utu-hengal's governor. Ur-Nammu gained prominence by defeating the ruler of Lagash and was known for creating the Code of Ur-Nammu, an early Mesopotamian law code.

Significant advancements occurred under King Shulgi, who centralized administration, standardized processes, and expanded the empire's territory, including capturing Susa and subduing the Elamite king Kutik-Inshushinak.[17] The Ur III dynasty expanded its territory significantly, stretching from southeastern Anatolia to the Persian Gulf, with the spoils of war primarily benefiting the kings and temples of Ur.[18]

The Ur III dynasty frequently clashed with the highland tribes of the Zagros Mountains, such as the Simurrum and Lullubi, and also with Elam.[19] Simultaneously, in the Mari region, Semitic military rulers known as Shakkanakkus, such as Puzur-Ishtar, coexisted with or slightly preceded the Ur III dynasty.[20]

The dynasty's decline began under Ibbi-Sin, who failed in his military campaigns against Elam. In 2004/1940 BCE, Elamites, allied with Susa and led by Kindattu of the Shimashki dynasty, captured Ur and Ibbi-Sin, marking the end of the Ur III dynasty. The Elamites then occupied the kingdom for 21 years.

Post-Ur III, the region fell under the influence of the Amorites, leading to the Isin-Larsa period. The Amorites, originally nomadic tribes from the northern Levant, gradually adopted agriculture and established independent dynasties in various Mesopotamian cities, including Isin, Larsa, and later Babylon.

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2025 BCE Jan 1 - 1763 BCE

Isin-Larsa period of Mesapotamia

Larsa, Iraq

The Isin-Larsa period, spanning from approximately 2025 to 1763 BCE, represents a dynamic era in Mesopotamian history following the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur. This period is characterized by the political dominance of the city-states Isin and Larsa in southern Mesopotamia.

Isin emerged as a significant power under the rule of Ishbi-Erra, who founded its dynasty around 2025 BCE. He successfully liberated Isin from the control of the declining Ur III dynasty. Isin's prominence was marked by its leadership in restoring cultural and religious traditions, notably reviving the veneration of the moon god Nanna/Sin, an important deity in Sumerian religion.

The rulers of Isin, such as Lipit-Ishtar (1934-1924 BCE), are particularly noted for their contributions to the legal and administrative practices of the time. Lipit-Ishtar is credited with creating one of the earliest law codes, predating the famous Code of Hammurabi. These laws were instrumental in maintaining social order and justice in the rapidly evolving political landscape.

Parallel to Isin's rise, Larsa, another city-state, began to gain prominence under the Amorite dynasty. Larsa's ascendency is largely attributed to King Naplanum, who established its independent rule. However, it was under King Gungunum of Larsa (c. 1932-1906 BCE) that Larsa truly flourished, overtaking Isin in influence. Gungunum's reign was marked by significant territorial expansion and economic prosperity, largely due to the control of trade routes and agricultural resources.

The competition between Isin and Larsa for regional dominance defined much of the Isin-Larsa period. This rivalry manifested in frequent conflicts and shifting alliances with other Mesopotamian city-states and external powers like Elam.

In the latter part of the Isin-Larsa period, the balance of power shifted decisively in favor of Larsa under the rule of King Rim-Sin I (c. 1822-1763 BCE). His reign represented the zenith of Larsa's power. Rim-Sin I's military campaigns successfully subdued several neighboring city-states, including Isin itself, effectively bringing an end to the Isin dynasty.

Culturally, the Isin-Larsa period was marked by significant developments in art, literature, and architecture. There was a revival of Sumerian language and literature, as well as advancements in astronomical and mathematical knowledge. Temples and ziggurats constructed during this time reflect the architectural ingenuity of the era.

The end of the Isin-Larsa period was precipitated by the rise of Babylon under King Hammurabi. In 1763 BCE, Hammurabi conquered Larsa, thereby unifying southern Mesopotamia under his rule and marking the beginning of the Old Babylonian period. The fall of Larsa to Babylon represented not just a political shift but also a cultural and administrative transition, setting the stage for the further development of Mesopotamian civilization under the Babylonian Empire.

Old Assyrian period of Mesopotamia
Old Assyrian Empire ©HistoryMaps
2025 BCE Jan 1 - 1363 BCE

Old Assyrian period of Mesopotamia

Ashur, Al Shirqat, Iraq

The Old Assyrian period (2025 - 1363 BCE) was a pivotal stage in Assyrian history, marking the development of a distinct Assyrian culture, separate from southern Mesopotamia. This era began with the rise of Assur as an independent city-state under Puzur-Ashur I and ended with the foundation of a larger Assyrian territorial state under Ashur-uballit I, transitioning into the Middle Assyrian period.

During most of this period, Assur was a minor city-state, lacking significant political and military influence. The rulers, known as Išši'ak Aššur ("governor of Ashur") instead of šar ("king"), were part of the city's administrative body, the Ālum. Despite its limited political power, Assur was an important economic hub, especially from Erishum I's reign (c. 1974-1935 BCE), known for its extensive trading network extending from the Zagros Mountains to central Anatolia.

The first Assyrian royal dynasty, established by Puzur-Ashur I, ended with the capture of Assur by Amorite conqueror Shamshi-Adad I around 1808 BCE. Shamshi-Adad established the short-lived Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia, which collapsed after his death in 1776 BCE. Following this, Assur experienced decades of conflict, involving the Old Babylonian Empire, Mari, Eshnunna, and various Assyrian factions. Eventually, under the Adaside dynasty around 1700 BCE, Assur reemerged as an independent city-state. It became a vassal to the Mitanni kingdom around 1430 BCE but later gained independence, transitioning into a larger territorial state under warrior-kings.

Over 22,000 clay tablets from the Old Assyrian trading colony at Kültepe provide insights into the culture, language, and society of this period. The Assyrians practiced slavery, although some 'slaves' might have been free servants due to confusing terminology in texts. Both men and women had similar legal rights, including property inheritance and participation in trade. The chief deity was Ashur, a personification of the city of Assur itself.

Fall of Ur
Elamite Warrior during the fall of Ur. ©HistoryMaps
2004 BCE Jan 1

Fall of Ur

Ur, Iraq

The fall of Ur to the Elamites, a pivotal event in Mesopotamian history, occurred around 2004 BCE (middle chronology) or 1940 BCE (short chronology). This event marked the end of the Ur III dynasty and significantly altered the political landscape of ancient Mesopotamia.

The Ur III dynasty, under the rule of King Ibbi-Sin, faced numerous challenges leading to its downfall. The dynasty, which had once controlled a vast empire, was weakened by internal strife, economic troubles, and external threats. A key factor contributing to Ur's vulnerability was the severe famine that plagued the region, compounded by administrative and economic difficulties.

The Elamites, led by King Kindattu of the Shimashki dynasty, capitalized on Ur's weakened state. They launched a military campaign against Ur, successfully besieging the city. The fall of Ur was both dramatic and significant, marked by the sacking of the city and the capture of Ibbi-Sin, who was taken to Elam as a prisoner.

The Elamite conquest of Ur was not just a military victory but also a symbolic one, representing a shift in power from the Sumerians to the Elamites. The Elamites established control over large parts of southern Mesopotamia, imposing their rule and influencing the region's culture and politics.

The aftermath of Ur's fall saw the fragmentation of the region into smaller city-states and kingdoms, such as Isin, Larsa, and Eshnunna, each vying for power and influence in the power vacuum left by the Ur III dynasty's collapse. This period, known as the Isin-Larsa period, was characterized by political instability and frequent conflicts among these states.

The fall of Ur to the Elamites also had significant cultural and societal impacts. It marked the end of the Sumerian city-state model of governance and led to the rise of Amorite influence in the region. The Amorites, a Semitic people, began to establish their own dynasties in various Mesopotamian city-states.

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1894 BCE Jan 1 - 1595 BCE

Old Babylonian Empire

Babylon, Iraq

The Old Babylonian Empire, flourishing from around 1894 to 1595 BCE, marks a transformative era in Mesopotamian history. This period is notably defined by the rise and reign of Hammurabi, one of history's most legendary rulers, who ascended the throne in 1792 BCE (or 1728 BCE in short chronology). Hammurabi's reign, lasting until 1750 BCE (or 1686 BCE), was a time of significant expansion and cultural flourishing for Babylon.

One of Hammurabi's earliest and most impactful actions was the liberation of Babylon from Elamite dominance. This victory was not just a military triumph but also a crucial step in consolidating Babylon's independence and setting the stage for its rise as a regional power. Under his rule, Babylon underwent extensive urban development, transforming from a small town into a significant city, indicative of its growing importance and influence in the region.

Hammurabi's military campaigns were pivotal in shaping the Old Babylonian Empire. His conquests extended across southern Mesopotamia, incorporating key cities like Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Kish, Lagash, Nippur, Borsippa, Ur, Uruk, Umma, Adab, Sippar, Rapiqum, and Eridu. These victories not only expanded Babylon's territory but also brought stability to a region previously fragmented into a patchwork of small states.

Beyond military conquests, Hammurabi is renowned for his legal code, the Code of Hammurabi, a groundbreaking compilation of laws that influenced future legal systems. Discovered in 1901 at Susa and now housed in the Louvre, this code is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. It showcased advanced legal thought and the emphasis on justice and fairness in Babylonian society.

The Old Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi also saw significant cultural and religious developments. Hammurabi played a key role in elevating the god Marduk, making him supreme in the pantheon of southern Mesopotamia. This religious shift further cemented Babylon's status as a cultural and spiritual center in the ancient world.

However, the empire's prosperity waned following Hammurabi's death. His successor, Samsu-iluna (1749–1712 BCE), faced considerable challenges, including the loss of southern Mesopotamia to the native Akkadian-speaking Sealand Dynasty. The subsequent rulers struggled to maintain the empire's integrity and influence.

The decline of the Old Babylonian Empire culminated with the Hittite sack of Babylon in 1595 BCE, led by King Mursili I. This event not only marked the end of the Amorite dynasty in Babylon but also significantly altered the geopolitical landscape of the ancient Near East. The Hittites, however, did not establish long-term control over Babylon, and their withdrawal allowed the Kassite dynasty to rise to power, thus signaling the end of the Old Babylonian period and the beginning of a new chapter in Mesopotamian history.

Sack of Babylon
Death of Priam. ©Jules Joseph Lefebvre
1595 BCE Jan 1

Sack of Babylon

Babylon, Iraq

Before 1595 BCE, Southern Mesopotamia, during the Old Babylonian period, experienced a phase of decline and political instability. This downturn was primarily due to the inability of Hammurabi's successors to maintain control over the kingdom. A key factor in this decline was the loss of control over vital trade routes between the northern and southern regions of Babylonia to the First Sealand Dynasty. This loss had significant economic consequences for the region.

In circa 1595 BCE, the Hittite king Mursili I invaded Southern Mesopotamia. Prior to this, he had defeated Aleppo, a strong neighboring kingdom. The Hittites then sacked Babylon, effectively ending the Hammurabi dynasty and the Old Babylonian period. This military action marked a significant turning point in Mesopotamian history.

The Hittites, after their conquest, did not establish rule over Babylon or its surrounding areas. Instead, they chose to withdraw, returning along the Euphrates River to their homeland, known as "Hatti-land". The rationale behind the Hittite invasion and the sacking of Babylon has been a subject of debate among historians. It is speculated that Hammurabi's successors might have been allied with Aleppo, drawing the Hittites' attention. Alternatively, the Hittites' motives might have included seeking control over land, manpower, trade routes, and access to valuable ore deposits, indicating broader strategic objectives behind their expansion.

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1595 BCE Jan 1 - 1155 BCE

Middle Babylonian Period

Babylon, Iraq

The Middle Babylonian period, also known as the Kassite period, in southern Mesopotamia is dated from c. 1595 – c. 1155 BCE and began after the Hittites sacked the city of Babylon. The Kassite Dynasty, established by Gandash of Mari, marked a significant era in Mesopotamian history, lasting for 576 years from around 1595 BCE. This period is notable for being the longest dynasty in Babylonian history, with the Kassites renaming Babylon as Karduniaš. Originating from the Zagros Mountains in northwestern Iran, the Kassites were not native to Mesopotamia. Their language, distinct from Semitic or Indo-European languages, possibly related to the Hurro-Urartian family, remains largely unknown due to scarce textual evidence. Interestingly, some Kassite leaders had Indo-European names, suggesting an Indo-European elite, while others bore Semitic names.[25] Under Kassite rule, most divine titles attributed to former Amorite kings were abandoned, and the title "god" was never ascribed to a Kassite sovereign. Despite these changes, Babylon continued as a major religious and cultural center.[26]

Babylonia, during this period, experienced fluctuations in power, often under Assyrian and Elamite influence. The early Kassite rulers, including Agum II, who ascended in 1595 BCE, maintained peaceful relations with neighboring regions like Assyria and fought against the Hittite Empire.

The Kassite rulers engaged in various diplomatic and military activities. For instance, Burnaburiash I made peace with Assyria, and Ulamburiash conquered parts of the Sealand Dynasty around 1450 BCE. This era also saw the construction of significant architectural works, such as a bas-relief temple in Uruk by Karaindash and the establishment of a new capital, Dur-Kurigalzu, by Kurigalzu I.

The dynasty faced challenges from external powers, including Elam. Kings like Kadašman-Ḫarbe I and Kurigalzu I struggled against Elamite invasions and internal threats from groups like the Suteans.[27]

The latter part of the Kassite Dynasty saw continued conflicts with Assyria and Elam. Notable rulers like Burna-Buriash II maintained diplomatic relations with Egypt and the Hittite Empire. However, the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire brought new challenges, leading to the eventual end of the Kassite Dynasty.

The Kassite period concluded with the conquest of Babylonia by Elam under Shutruk-Nakhunte and later by Nebuchadnezzar I, aligning with the broader Late Bronze Age collapse. Despite military and cultural challenges, the Kassite Dynasty's long reign remains a testament to its resilience and adaptability in the ever-changing landscape of ancient Mesopotamia.

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1365 BCE Jan 1 - 912 BCE

Middle Assyrian Empire

Ashur, Al Shirqat, Iraq

The Middle Assyrian Empire, spanning from the accession of Ashur-uballit I around 1365 BCE to the death of Ashur-dan II in 912 BCE, represents a significant phase in Assyrian history. This era marked Assyria's emergence as a major empire, building on its earlier presence as a city-state with trading colonies in Anatolia and influence in Southern Mesopotamia since the 21st century BCE.

Under Ashur-uballit I, Assyria gained independence from the Mitanni kingdom and began to expand. Key figures in Assyria's rise to power included Adad-nirari I (circa 1305–1274 BCE), Shalmaneser I (circa 1273–1244 BCE), and Tukulti-Ninurta I (circa 1243–1207 BCE). These kings propelled Assyria to a dominant position in Mesopotamia and the Near East, surpassing rivals like the Hittites, Egyptians, Hurrians, Mitanni, Elamites, and Babylonians.

Tukulti-Ninurta I's reign represented the peak of the Middle Assyrian Empire, witnessing the subjugation of Babylonia and the establishment of the new capital, Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta. However, following his assassination around 1207 BCE, Assyria experienced inter-dynastic conflict and a decline in power, although it was relatively unaffected by the Late Bronze Age collapse.

Even during its decline, Middle Assyrian rulers like Ashur-dan I (circa 1178–1133 BCE) and Ashur-resh-ishi I (circa 1132–1115 BCE) remained active in military campaigns, particularly against Babylonia. A resurgence occurred under Tiglath-Pileser I (circa 1114–1076 BCE), who expanded Assyrian influence to the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, and the Arabian Peninsula. However, post-Tiglath-Pileser's son, Ashur-bel-kala (circa 1073–1056 BCE), the empire faced a more severe decline, losing most territories outside its core regions due to Aramean invasions.

Ashur-dan II's reign (circa 934–912 BCE) marked the beginning of a reversal in Assyrian fortunes. His extensive campaigns laid the groundwork for the transition to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, expanding beyond the empire's former boundaries.

Theologically, the Middle Assyrian period was crucial in the evolution of the deity Ashur. Initially a personification of the city of Assur, Ashur became equated with the Sumerian god Enlil, transitioning into a military deity due to Assyrian expansion and warfare.

Politically and administratively, the Middle Assyrian Empire saw significant changes. The transition from a city-state to an empire led to the development of sophisticated systems for administration, communication, and governance. Assyrian kings, previously titled iššiak ("governor") and ruling alongside a city assembly, became autocratic rulers with the title šar ("king"), reflecting their elevated status akin to other empire monarchs.

Late Bronze Age collapse
Sea Peoples. ©HistoryMaps
1200 BCE Jan 1 - 1150 BCE

Late Bronze Age collapse

Babylon, Iraq

The Late Bronze Age collapse, occurring around 1200-1150 BCE, was a period of widespread societal disruption in the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Southeast Europe, and the Near East. This collapse, characterized by environmental changes, mass migrations, and city destructions, significantly impacted regions including Egypt, eastern Libya, the Balkans, the Aegean, Anatolia, and the Caucasus. It led to a violent, sudden, and culturally disruptive end for many Bronze Age civilizations and marked a notable economic decline, notably initiating the Greek Dark Ages.

During this time, record-keeping was sparse in Babylonia, which saw an influx of new Semitic settlers like the Arameans, Chaldeans, and Sutu. In contrast, Assyria maintained its strength and continued producing written records. The 10th century BCE saw an even greater dearth of inscriptions in Babylonia. The obscurity in historical records was not unique to Mesopotamia; the Hittite Empire collapsed at this period's onset, and few records survive from Egypt and Elam. This era was marked by invasions and upheavals involving numerous new groups across the Near East, North Africa, the Caucasus, the Mediterranean, and the Balkan regions.

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1155 BCE Jan 1 - 1026 BCE

Second Dynasty of Isin

Babylon, Iraq

After the Elamite occupation of Babylonia, the region saw significant political shifts, starting with Marduk-kabit-ahheshu founding the Dynasty IV of Babylon around 1155 BCE. This dynasty, originating from Isin, was notable for being the first native Akkadian-speaking South Mesopotamian dynasty to rule Babylonia. Marduk-kabit-ahheshu, only the second native Mesopotamian after the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I to rule Babylon, successfully expelled the Elamites and prevented a Kassite revival. His reign also saw conflict with Assyria, capturing Ekallatum before being defeated by Ashur-Dan I.

Itti-Marduk-balatu, succeeding his father in 1138 BCE, fended off Elamite attacks during his 8-year reign. His attempts to assault Assyria, however, ended in failure against the still reigning Ashur-Dan I. Ninurta-nadin-shumi, ascending the throne in 1127 BCE, also embarked on military campaigns against Assyria. His ambitious assault on the Assyrian city of Arbela ended in defeat by Ashur-resh-ishi I, who then imposed a treaty favorable to Assyria.

Nebuchadnezzar I (1124–1103 BCE), the most renowned ruler of this dynasty, achieved significant victories against Elam, reclaiming territories and the sacred statue of Marduk. Despite his success against Elam, he faced multiple defeats by Ashur-resh-ishi I in attempts to expand into territories formerly controlled by the Hittites. Nebuchadnezzar I's later years were focused on construction and fortifying Babylon's borders.

Nebuchadnezzar I was followed by Enlil-nadin-apli (1103–1100 BCE) and Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1098–1081 BCE), both of whom engaged in conflicts with Assyria. Marduk-nadin-ahhe's initial successes were overshadowed by crushing defeats by Tiglath-Pileser I, leading to substantial territorial losses and famine in Babylon.

Marduk-shapik-zeri (circa 1072 BCE) managed to sign a peace treaty with Assyria, but his successor, Kadašman-Buriaš, faced Assyrian hostility, resulting in Assyrian domination until around 1050 BCE. Subsequent Babylonian rulers like Marduk-ahhe-eriba and Marduk-zer-X were essentially vassals of Assyria.

The decline of the Middle Assyrian Empire around 1050 BCE, due to internal strife and external conflicts, allowed Babylonia some respite from Assyrian control. However, this period also saw the incursion of West Semitic nomadic peoples, particularly Arameans and Suteans, who settled in large parts of Babylonian territory, indicating the region's political and military vulnerabilities.

Period of Chaos in Babylon
Assyrian incursion during the period of chaos. ©HistoryMaps
1026 BCE Jan 1 - 911 BCE

Period of Chaos in Babylon

Babylon, Iraq

The period around 1026 BCE in Babylonia was marked by significant turmoil and political fragmentation. The Babylonian dynasty of Nabu-shum-libur was overthrown by Aramean incursions, leading to a state of anarchy in the heart of Babylonia, including its capital. This period of chaos lasted for over two decades, during which Babylon was without a ruler.

Simultaneously, in southern Mesopotamia, which corresponded to the old Sealand Dynasty region, a separate state emerged under Dynasty V (1025–1004 BCE). This dynasty, led by Simbar-shipak, a leader of a Kassite clan, functioned independently from the central Babylonian authority. The disarray in Babylon provided an opportunity for Assyrian intervention. Ashur-nirari IV (1019–1013 BCE), the Assyrian ruler, seized this chance and invaded Babylonia in 1018 BCE, capturing the city of Atlila and some south-central Mesopotamian regions.

Following Dynasty V, another Kassite Dynasty (Dynasty VI; 1003–984 BCE) came to power, which appears to have reasserted control over Babylon itself. However, this revival was short-lived, as the Elamites, under king Mar-biti-apla-usur, overthrew this dynasty to establish Dynasty VII (984–977 BCE). This dynasty, too, was unable to sustain itself, falling victim to further Aramean incursions.

Babylonian sovereignty was reestablished by Nabû-mukin-apli in 977 BCE, leading to the formation of Dynasty VIII. Dynasty IX began with Ninurta-kudurri-usur II, who ascended the throne in 941 BCE. During this era, Babylonia remained relatively weak, with large areas under the control of Aramean and Sutean populations. The Babylonian rulers of this period often found themselves under the influence of, or in conflict with, the more dominant regional powers of Assyria and Elam, both of which had annexed parts of Babylonian territory.

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911 BCE Jan 1 - 605 BCE

Neo-Assyrian Empire

Nineveh Governorate, Iraq

The Neo-Assyrian Empire, spanning from the accession of Adad-nirari II in 911 BCE to the late 7th century BCE, represents the fourth and penultimate stage of ancient Assyrian history. It is often regarded as the first true world empire due to its unprecedented geopolitical dominance and ideology of world domination.[29] This empire significantly influenced the ancient world, including the Babylonians, Achaemenids, and Seleucids, and was the strongest military power of its time, extending its rule over Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt, parts of Anatolia, Arabia, Iran, and Armenia.[30]

Early Neo-Assyrian kings focused on restoring control over northern Mesopotamia and Syria. Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BCE) reestablished Assyria as the dominant power in the Near East. His reign was marked by military campaigns reaching the Mediterranean and relocating the imperial capital from Assur to Nimrud. Shalmaneser III (859–824 BCE) further expanded the empire, though it faced a period of stagnation after his death, known as the "age of the magnates".

The empire regained its vigor under Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727 BCE), who significantly expanded its territory, including the conquest of Babylonia and parts of the Levant. The Sargonid dynasty (722 BCE to the empire's fall) saw Assyria reach its zenith. Key achievements included Sennacherib (705–681 BCE) transferring the capital to Nineveh, and Esarhaddon (681–669 BCE) conquering Egypt. Despite its peak, the empire fell rapidly in the late 7th century BCE due to a Babylonian uprising and a Median invasion. The reasons for this swift collapse remain a topic of scholarly debate.

The success of the Neo-Assyrian Empire was attributed to its expansionist and administrative efficiency. Military innovations included the large-scale use of cavalry and new siege techniques, influencing warfare for millennia.[30] The empire established a sophisticated communication system with relay stations and well-maintained roads, unparalleled in speed in the Middle East until the 19th century.[31] Additionally, its resettlement policy helped integrate conquered lands and promote Assyrian agricultural techniques, leading to a diluted cultural diversity and the rise of Aramaic as the lingua franca.[32]

The empire's legacy profoundly influenced later empires and cultural traditions. Its political structures became models for successors, and its concept of universal rule inspired future empires' ideologies. The Neo-Assyrian impact was significant in shaping early Jewish theology, influencing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The empire's folklore and literary traditions continued to resonate in northern Mesopotamia post-empire. Contrary to the perception of excessive brutality, the Assyrian military's actions were not uniquely brutal compared to other historical civilizations.[33]

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626 BCE Jan 1 - 539 BCE

Neo-Babylonian Empire

Babylon, Iraq

The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Second Babylonian Empire[37] or the Chaldean Empire,[38] was the last Mesopotamian empire ruled by native monarchs.[39] It began with Nabopolassar's coronation in 626 BCE and was firmly established after the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 612 BCE. However, it fell to the Achaemenid Persian Empire in 539 BCE, marking the end of the Chaldean dynasty less than a century after its inception.

This empire signified the first resurgence of Babylon, and southern Mesopotamia overall, as a dominant force in the ancient Near East since the collapse of the Old Babylonian Empire (under Hammurabi) nearly a thousand years prior. The Neo-Babylonian period experienced significant economic and population growth, and a cultural renaissance. Kings of this era undertook extensive building projects, reviving elements from 2,000 years of Sumero-Akkadian culture, especially in Babylon.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire is particularly remembered due to its depiction in the Bible, especially regarding Nebuchadnezzar II. The Bible focuses on Nebuchadnezzar's military actions against Judah and the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, leading to the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the Babylonian captivity. Babylonian records, however, portray Nebuchadnezzar's reign as a golden age, elevating Babylonia to unprecedented heights.

The empire's downfall was partly due to religious policies of the last king, Nabonidus, who preferred the moon god Sîn over Marduk, Babylon's patron deity. This provided Cyrus the Great of Persia a pretext for invasion in 539 BCE, positioning himself as a restorer of Marduk's worship. Babylon retained its cultural identity for centuries, evident in references to Babylonian names and religion up to the 1st century BCE during the Parthian Empire. Despite several revolts, Babylon never regained its independence.

539 BCE - 632
Classical Mesopotamia
Achaemenid Assyria
Achaemenid Persians fighting Greeks. ©Anonymous
539 BCE Jan 1 - 330 BCE

Achaemenid Assyria


Mesopotamia was conquered by the Achaemenid Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, and remained under Persian rule for two centuries. For two centuries of Achaemenid rule both Assyria and Babylonia flourished, Achaemenid Assyria in particular becoming a major source of manpower for the army and a breadbasket for the economy. Mesopotamian Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the Achaemenid Empire, much as it had done in Assyrian times. The Achaemenid Persians, unlike the Neo-Assyrians, minimally interfered in the internal affairs of their territories, focusing instead on the consistent flow of tribute and taxes.[40]

Athura, known as Assyria in the Achaemenid Empire, was a region in Upper Mesopotamia from 539 to 330 BCE. It functioned as a military protectorate rather than a traditional satrapy. Achaemenid inscriptions describe Athura as a 'dahyu,' interpreted as a group of people or a country and its people, without administrative implications.[41] Athura encompassed most of the former Neo-Assyrian Empire territories, now parts of northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria, and southeast Anatolia, but excluded Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.[42] Assyrian soldiers were prominent in the Achaemenid military as heavy infantry.[43] Despite initial devastations, Athura was a prosperous region, especially in agriculture, contradicting earlier beliefs of it being a wasteland.[42]

Seleucid Mesopotamia
Seleucid army ©Angus McBride
312 BCE Jan 1 - 63 BCE

Seleucid Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, Iraq

In 331 BCE, the Persian Empire fell to Alexander of Macedon and became part of the Hellenistic world under the Seleucid Empire. Babylon's significance declined with the establishment of Seleucia on the Tigris as the new Seleucid capital. The Seleucid Empire, at its peak, extended from the Aegean Sea to India, embodying a significant center for Hellenistic culture. This era was marked by the dominance of Greek customs and a political elite of Greek origin, particularly in urban areas.[44] The Greek elite in the cities was bolstered by immigrants from Greece.[44] By the mid-2nd century BCE, the Parthians, under Mithridates I of Parthia, had conquered much of the empire's eastern territories.

Parthian & Roman Rule in Mesopotamia
Parthian and Romans during the Battle of Carrhae, 53 BCE. ©Angus McBride
141 BCE Jan 1 - 224

Parthian & Roman Rule in Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, Iraq

The Parthian Empire's control over Mesopotamia, a key region in the ancient Near East, began in the mid-2nd century BCE with Mithridates I of Parthia's conquests. This period marked a significant shift in the political and cultural landscape of Mesopotamia, transitioning from Hellenistic to Parthian influence. Mithridates I, who reigned from 171-138 BCE, is credited with expanding Parthian territory into Mesopotamia. He captured Seleucia in 141 BCE, a pivotal moment that signaled the decline of Seleucid power and the rise of Parthian dominance in the region. This victory was more than a military success; it represented the shifting balance of power from the Greeks to the Parthians in the Near East.

Under Parthian rule, Mesopotamia became a crucial region for trade and cultural exchange. The Parthian Empire, known for its tolerance and cultural diversity, allowed various religions and cultures to flourish within its borders. Mesopotamia, with its rich history and strategic location, played a significant role in this cultural melting pot.

Mesopotamia under Parthian rule saw a fusion of Greek and Persian cultural elements, evident in art, architecture, and coinage. This cultural synthesis was a testament to the Parthian Empire's ability to integrate diverse influences while maintaining its identity.

In the early 2nd century CE, Emperor Trajan of Rome led an invasion into Parthia, successfully conquering Mesopotamia and converting it into a Roman imperial province. However, this Roman control was short-lived, as Trajan's successor, Hadrian, returned Mesopotamia to the Parthians soon after.

During this period, Christianity began to spread in Mesopotamia, having reached the region in the 1st century CE. Roman Syria, in particular, emerged as a focal point for Eastern Rite Christianity and the Syriac literary tradition, indicating a significant shift in the religious landscape of the area.

Meanwhile, the traditional Sumerian-Akkadian religious practices began to fade, marking the end of an era. The use of cuneiform, the ancient writing system, also saw its decline. Despite these cultural shifts, the Assyrian national god Ashur continued to be venerated in his home city, with temples dedicated to him as late as the 4th century CE.[45] This suggests a continued reverence for some aspects of the region's ancient religious traditions amidst the rise of newer belief systems.

Sassanid Mesopotamia
Sassanian Mesapotamia. ©Angus McBride
224 Jan 1 - 651

Sassanid Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, Iraq

In the 3rd century CE, the Parthians were in turn succeeded by the Sassanid dynasty, which ruled Mesopotamia until the 7th-century Islamic invasion. The Sassanids conquered the independent states of Adiabene, Osroene, Hatra and finally Assur during the 3rd century. In the mid-6th century the Persian Empire under the Sassanid dynasty was divided by Khosrow I into four quarters, of which the western one, called Khvārvarān, included most of modern Iraq, and subdivided to provinces of Mishān, Asoristān (Assyria), Adiabene and Lower Media.

Asōristān, Middle Persian "land of Assyria", was the capital province of the Sasanian Empire and was called Dil-ī Ērānshahr, meaning "Heart of Iran".[46] The city of Ctesiphon served as the capital of both the Parthian and Sasanian Empire, and was for some time the largest city in the world.[47] The main language spoken by the Assyrian people was Eastern Aramaic which still survives among the Assyrians, with the local Syriac language becoming an important vehicle for Syriac Christianity. Asōristān was largely identical with ancient Mesopotamia.[48]

There was a substantial influx of Arabs in the Sassanid period. Upper Mesopotamia came to be known as Al-Jazirah in Arabic (meaning "The Island" in reference to the "island" between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), and Lower Mesopotamia came to be known as ʿIrāq-i ʿArab, meaning "the escarpment of the Arabs". The term Iraq is widely used in the medieval Arabic sources for the area in the center and south of the modern republic as a geographic rather than a political term.

Until 602, the desert frontier of the Persian Empire had been guarded by the Arab Lakhmid kings of Al-Hirah. In that year, Shahanshah Khosrow II Aparviz abolished the Lakhmid kingdom and laid the frontier open to nomad incursions. Farther north, the western quarter was bounded by the Byzantine Empire. The frontier more or less followed the modern Syria-Iraq border and continued northward, passing between Nisibis (modern Nusaybin) as the Sassanian frontier fortress and Dara and Amida (modern Diyarbakır) held by the Byzantines.

632 - 1533
Medieval Iraq
Muslim Conquest of Mesopotamia
Muslim Conquest of Mesopotamia ©HistoryMaps
632 Jan 1 - 654

Muslim Conquest of Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, Iraq

The first major conflict between Arab invaders and Persian forces in Mesopotamia occurred in 634 CE at the Battle of the Bridge. Here, a Muslim force of about 5,000, led by Abū ʿUbayd ath-Thaqafī, suffered defeat at the hands of the Persians. This setback was followed by Khalid ibn al-Walid's successful campaign, which resulted in the Arab conquest of almost all of Iraq within a year, except for Ctesiphon, the Persian capital.

A pivotal moment came around 636 CE, when a larger Arab Muslim force under Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqās defeated the main Persian army at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. This victory paved the way for the capture of Ctesiphon. By the end of 638 CE, the Muslims had conquered all Western Sassanid provinces, including modern-day Iraq. The last Sassanid Emperor, Yazdegerd III, fled first to central and then northern Persia, where he was killed in 651 CE.

The Islamic conquests marked the most extensive Semitic expansions in history. The Arab conquerors established new garrison cities, notably al-Kūfah near ancient Babylon and Basrah in the south. However, the north of Iraq remained predominantly Assyrian and Arab Christian in character.

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762 Jan 1

Abbasid Caliphate & Founding of Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq

Baghdad, founded in the 8th century, rapidly evolved into the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and the central cultural hub of the Muslim world. Asōristān became the capital province of the Abbasid Caliphate and the center of the Islamic Golden Age for five hundred years. After the Muslim conquest, Asōristān saw a gradual but large influx of Muslim peoples; at first Arabs arriving in the south, but later also including Iranian (Kurdish) and Turkic peoples during the mid to late Middle Ages.

The Islamic Golden Age, a time of remarkable scientific, economic, and cultural progress in Islamic history, is traditionally dated from the 8th to the 13th century.[49] This era is often considered to have commenced with the reign of Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809) and the establishment of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. This institution became a center of learning, attracting scholars from across the Muslim world to translate classical knowledge into Arabic and Persian. Baghdad, then the world's largest city, was a hub of intellectual and cultural activity during this period.[50]

By the 9th century, however, the Abbasid Caliphate began to decline. During the late 9th to early 11th centuries, a phase termed the "Iranian Intermezzo," various minor Iranian emirates, including the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, Buyids, and Sallarids, governed parts of what is now Iraq. In 1055, Tughril of the Seljuk Empire captured Baghdad, although the Abbasid caliphs continued to hold a ceremonial role. Despite losing political power, the Abbasid court in Baghdad remained highly influential, especially in religious matters. The Abbasids played a key role in maintaining the orthodoxy of the Sunni sect, in contrast to the Ismaili and Shia sects of Islam.

The Assyrian people continued to endure, rejecting Arabization, Turkification and Islamization, and continued to form the majority population of the north as late as the 14th century, until the massacres of Timur drastically reduced their numbers and led to the city of Assur being finally abandoned. After this period, the indigenous Assyrians became the ethnic, linguistic and religious minority in their homeland that they are to this day.

Turco-Mongol Rule of Mesapotamia
Turco-Mongol Rule in Iraq. ©HistoryMaps
1258 Jan 1 - 1466

Turco-Mongol Rule of Mesapotamia


Following the Mongol conquests, Iraq became a province on the periphery of the Ilkhanate, with Baghdad losing its preeminent status. The Mongols administered Iraq, the Caucasus, and western and southern Iran directly with the exception of Georgia, the Artuqid sultan of Mardin, and Kufa and Luristan. The Qara'unas Mongols ruled Khorasan as an autonomous realm and did not pay taxes. Herat's local Kart dynasty also remained autonomous. Anatolia was the richest province of the Ilkhanate, supplying a quarter of its revenue while Iraq and Diyarbakir together supplied about 35 percent of its revenue.[52] The Jalayirids, a Mongol Jalayir dynasty,[53] ruled over Iraq and western Persia after the Ilkhanate fragmented in the 1330s. The Jalayirid sultanate endured for approximately fifty years. Its decline was precipitated by the conquests of Tamerlane and uprisings by the Qara Qoyunlu Turkmen, also known as the "Black Sheep Turks."

After Tamerlane's death in 1405, there was an ephemeral effort to revive the Jalayirid sultanate in southern Iraq and Khuzistan. However, this resurgence was short-lived. The Jalayirids ultimately fell to the Kara Koyunlu, another Turkmen group, in 1432, marking the end of their rule in the region.

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1258 Jan 1

Mongol Invasion of Mesopotamia

Baghdad, Iraq

In the late 11th century, the Khwarazmian dynasty assumed control over Iraq. This period of Turkic secular rule and the Abbasid caliphate concluded with the Mongol invasions in the 13th century.[51] The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, had conquered Khwarezmia by 1221. However, Iraq experienced a temporary reprieve due to Genghis Khan's death in 1227 and subsequent power struggles within the Mongol Empire. Möngke Khan, from 1251, reignited Mongol expansion, and when Caliph al-Mustasim refused Mongol demands, Baghdad faced a siege led by Hulagu Khan in 1258.

The Siege of Baghdad, a crucial event in the Mongol conquests, spanned 13 days from 29 January to 10 February 1258. The Ilkhanate Mongol forces, along with their allies, besieged, captured, and ultimately sacked Baghdad, the Abbasid Caliphate's capital at the time. This siege resulted in the massacre of most of the city's inhabitants, potentially numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The extent of the destruction of the city's libraries and their valuable contents remains a topic of debate among historians. The Mongol forces executed Al-Musta'sim and inflicted severe depopulation and devastation on Baghdad. This siege symbolically marked the end of the Islamic Golden Age, a period during which the caliphs had extended their dominion from the Iberian Peninsula to Sindh.

Safavid Mesopotamia
Safavid Persian. ©HistoryMaps
1508 Jan 1 - 1622

Safavid Mesopotamia


In 1466, the Aq Qoyunlu, or White Sheep Turkmen, overpowered the Qara Qoyunlu, or Black Sheep Turkmen, gaining control of the region. This shift in power was followed by the rise of the Safavids, who eventually defeated the White Sheep Turkmen and assumed control over Mesopotamia. The Safavid dynasty, ruling from 1501 to 1736, was one of Iran's most significant dynasties. They governed from 1501 to 1722, with a brief restoration between 1729 to 1736 and from 1750 to 1773.

At the height of their power, the Safavid Empire encompassed not only modern-day Iran but also extended to Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Armenia, eastern Georgia, parts of the North Caucasus (including regions within Russia), Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and sections of Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This expansive control made the Safavid dynasty a major power in the region, influencing the cultural and political landscape of a vast territory.

1533 - 1918
Ottoman Iraq
Ottoman Iraq
For almost 4 centuries, Iraq was under Ottoman Rule. Hagia Sophia. ©HistoryMaps
1533 Jan 1 00:01 - 1918

Ottoman Iraq


The Ottoman rule in Iraq, spanning from 1534 to 1918, marked a significant era in the region's history. In 1534, the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, first captured Baghdad, bringing Iraq under Ottoman control. This conquest was part of Suleiman's broader strategy to expand the empire's influence in the Middle East.

During the early years of Ottoman rule, Iraq was divided into four provinces or vilayets: Mosul, Baghdad, Shahrizor, and Basra. Each vilayet was governed by a Pasha, who reported directly to the Ottoman Sultan. The administrative structure imposed by the Ottomans sought to integrate Iraq more closely into the empire, while also maintaining a degree of local autonomy.

One significant development in this period was the continual conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire of Persia. The Ottoman-Safavid Wars, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries, had Iraq as one of the main battlegrounds due to its strategic location. The Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, which ended one of these conflicts, resulted in the delineation of borders that are still recognized in modern times between Iraq and Iran.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw a decline in Ottoman control over Iraq. Local rulers, such as the Mamluks in Baghdad, often exercised significant autonomy. The Mamluk rule in Iraq (1704-1831), initially established by Hasan Pasha, was a period of relative stability and prosperity. Under leaders like Sulayman Abu Layla Pasha, the Mamluk governors implemented reforms and maintained a degree of independence from the Ottoman Sultan.

In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire initiated the Tanzimat reforms, aiming to modernize the empire and centralize control. These reforms had significant impacts in Iraq, including the introduction of new administrative divisions, modernization of the legal system, and efforts to curb the autonomy of local rulers.

The construction of the Baghdad Railway in the early 20th century, connecting Baghdad with the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, was a major development. This project, backed by German interests, aimed to consolidate Ottoman authority and improve economic and political ties.

The end of Ottoman rule in Iraq came after World War I, with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The Armistice of Mudros in 1918 and the subsequent Treaty of Sèvres led to the partitioning of the Ottoman territories. Iraq fell under British control, marking the beginning of the British mandate and the end of the Ottoman period in Iraqi history.

Ottoman-Safavid Wars
Safavid Persian in front of a town in Iraq. ©HistoryMaps
1534 Jan 1 - 1639

Ottoman-Safavid Wars


The struggle between the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia over Iraq, culminating in the pivotal Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, is a critical chapter in the region's history, marked by fierce battles, shifting allegiances, and significant cultural and political impacts. This period reflects the intense rivalry between two of the most powerful empires of the 16th and 17th centuries, underscored by both geopolitical interests and sectarian differences, with the Sunni Ottomans clashing against Shia Persians.

In the early 16th century, with the rise of the Safavid dynasty in Persia, led by Shah Ismail I, the stage was set for prolonged conflict. The Safavids, embracing Shia Islam, positioned themselves in direct opposition to the Sunni Ottomans. This sectarian divide added a religious fervor to the ensuing conflicts. The year 1501 marks the establishment of the Safavid Empire, and with it, the beginning of the Persian campaign to spread Shia Islam, directly challenging the Ottoman Sunni hegemony.

The first significant military encounter between the two empires occurred at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. The Ottoman Sultan Selim I led his forces against Shah Ismail, resulting in a decisive Ottoman victory. This battle not only established Ottoman supremacy in the region but also set the tone for future conflicts. Despite this early setback, the Safavids were undeterred, and their influence continued to grow, particularly in eastern parts of the Ottoman Empire.

Iraq, with its religious significance to both Sunni and Shia Muslims and its strategic location, became a primary battleground. In 1534, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Sultan, captured Baghdad, bringing Iraq under Ottoman control. This conquest was significant, as Baghdad was not only a key trade center but also held religious importance. However, the control of Iraq oscillated between the two empires throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, as each side managed to gain and lose territories in various military campaigns.

The Safavids, under Shah Abbas I, made significant gains in the early 17th century. Abbas I, known for his military prowess and administrative reforms, recaptured Baghdad in 1623. This capture was part of a broader strategy by the Safavids to regain territories lost to the Ottomans. The fall of Baghdad was a substantial blow to the Ottomans, symbolizing the shifting power dynamics in the region.

The fluctuating control over Baghdad and other Iraqi cities continued until the signing of the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639. This treaty, a landmark agreement between Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire and Shah Safi of Persia, finally brought an end to the protracted conflict. The Treaty of Zuhab not only established a new border between the Ottoman and Safavid empires but also had significant implications for the region's demographic and cultural landscape. It effectively recognized Ottoman control over Iraq, with the boundary drawn along the Zagros Mountains, which came to define the modern-day border between Turkey and Iran.

Mamluk Iraq
Mamluk ©HistoryMaps
1704 Jan 1 - 1831

Mamluk Iraq


The Mamluk rule in Iraq, lasting from 1704 to 1831, represents a unique period in the region's history, characterized by relative stability and autonomous governance within the Ottoman Empire. The Mamluk regime, initially established by Hasan Pasha, a Georgian Mamluk, marked a shift from the direct control of the Ottoman Turks to a more locally governed system.

Hasan Pasha's rule (1704-1723) set the foundation for the Mamluk era in Iraq. He established a semi-autonomous state, maintaining nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan while exercising real control over the region. His policies focused on stabilizing the region, reviving the economy, and implementing administrative reforms. 

One of Hasan Pasha's significant achievements was the restoration of order and security along the trade routes, which revitalized the Iraqi economy. His son, Ahmad Pasha, succeeded him and continued these policies. Under Ahmad Pasha's rule (1723-1747), Iraq witnessed further economic growth and urban development, particularly in Baghdad.

The Mamluk rulers were known for their military prowess and were instrumental in defending Iraq against external threats, particularly from Persia. They maintained a strong military presence and utilized their strategic location to assert power in the region.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Mamluk rulers, such as Sulayman Abu Layla Pasha, continued to govern Iraq effectively. They implemented various reforms, including modernizing the army, establishing new administrative structures, and encouraging agricultural development. These reforms enhanced Iraq's prosperity and stability, making it one of the more successful provinces under the Ottoman Empire.

However, the Mamluk rule was not without challenges. Internal power struggles, tribal conflicts, and tensions with the Ottoman central authority were recurrent issues. The decline of the Mamluk regime began in the early 19th century, culminating in the Ottoman reconquest of Iraq in 1831 under Sultan Mahmud II. This military campaign, led by Ali Rıza Pasha, effectively ended the Mamluk rule, reasserting direct Ottoman control over Iraq.

Centralization and Reform in 19th Century Iraq
The 19th century marked the Ottoman Empire's attempts at centralizing control over its provinces. This included administrative reforms known as the Tanzimat, which aimed at modernizing the empire and reducing the power of local rulers. ©HistoryMaps
1831 Jan 1 - 1914

Centralization and Reform in 19th Century Iraq


Following the end of Mamluk rule in Iraq, a period marked by significant transformations unfolded, profoundly impacting the region's political, social, and economic landscape. This era, extending from the early 19th century into the 20th century, was characterized by Ottoman centralization efforts, the rise of nationalism, and the eventual involvement of European powers, particularly during World War I.

The conclusion of Mamluk rule in 1831, initiated by the Ottomans to reassert direct control over Iraq, marked the beginning of a new administrative phase. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, in his pursuit of modernizing the empire and consolidating power, abolished the Mamluk system that had effectively governed Iraq for over a century. This move was part of the broader Tanzimat reforms, aimed at centralizing administrative control and modernizing various aspects of the empire. In Iraq, these reforms included reorganizing the provincial structure and introducing new legal and educational systems, aiming to integrate the region more closely with the rest of the Ottoman Empire.

The mid-19th century saw the emergence of new challenges for the Ottoman administration in Iraq. The region experienced significant social and economic changes, partly due to increasing European commercial interests. Cities like Baghdad and Basra became important centers for trade, with European powers establishing commercial ties and exerting economic influence. This period also witnessed the construction of railroads and telegraph lines, further integrating Iraq into global economic networks.

The onset of World War I in 1914 marked a turning point for Iraq. The Ottoman Empire, having joined the Central Powers, found its Iraqi territories becoming battlegrounds between Ottoman and British forces. The British aimed to secure control over the region, partly due to its strategic location and the discovery of oil. The Mesopotamian campaign, as it was known, saw significant battles, including the Siege of Kut (1915-1916) and the Fall of Baghdad in 1917. These military engagements had devastating effects on the local population, leading to widespread suffering and casualties.

Arab Nationalism in Ottoman Iraq
Rising literacy and the circulation of Arabic literature and poetry awakened a shared cultural identity played a role in Arab nationalism in 19th century Ottoman Iraq. ©HistoryMaps
1850 Jan 1 - 1900

Arab Nationalism in Ottoman Iraq


Towards the end of the 19th century, the rise of Arab nationalism began to take shape in Iraq, as it did in other parts of the Ottoman Empire. This nationalist movement was fueled by various factors, including dissatisfaction with Ottoman rule, the influence of European ideas, and a growing sense of Arab identity. Intellectuals and political leaders in Iraq and neighboring regions started advocating for greater autonomy, and in some cases, complete independence. The Al-Nahda movement, a cultural renaissance, played a crucial role in shaping Arab intellectual thought during this period.

The Tanzimat reforms, aimed at modernizing the Ottoman state, inadvertently opened a window to European thought. Arab intellectuals like Rashid Rida and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani devoured these ideas, particularly the heady notion of self-determination, and shared them through burgeoning Arabic newspapers like Al-Jawaa'ib. These printed seeds took root in fertile minds, fostering a newfound awareness of shared Arab heritage and history.

Discontent with Ottoman rule provided fertile ground for these seeds to sprout. The empire, increasingly creaky and centralized, struggled to respond to the needs of its diverse subjects. In Iraq, economic marginalization gnawed at Arab communities, who felt excluded from the empire's wealth despite their fertile land. Religious tensions simmered, with the majority Shia population experiencing discrimination and limited political sway. The whispers of pan-Arabism, promising unity and empowerment, resonated deeply among these disenfranchised communities.

Events throughout the empire fanned the flames of Arab consciousness. Rebellions like the Nayef Pasha uprising in 1827 and the Dhia Pasha al-Shahir revolt in 1843, though not explicitly nationalist, demonstrated a simmering defiance against Ottoman rule. In Iraq itself, figures like the scholar Mirza Kazem Beg and the Ottoman officer of Iraqi origin, Mahmoud Shawkat Pasha, advocated for local autonomy and modernization, planting the seeds for future calls for self-determination.

Social and cultural changes also played a role. Rising literacy and the circulation of Arabic literature and poetry awakened a shared cultural identity. Tribal networks, though traditionally focused on local loyalties, inadvertently provided a framework for broader Arab solidarity, particularly in rural areas. Even Islam, with its emphasis on community and unity, contributed to the burgeoning Arab consciousness.

Arab nationalism in 19th-century Iraq was a complex and evolving phenomenon, not a unified monolith. While pan-Arabism offered a compelling vision of unity, distinct Iraqi nationalist currents would later gain momentum in the 20th century. But these early stirrings, nurtured by intellectual awakenings, economic anxieties, and religious tensions, were crucial in laying the groundwork for the future struggles for Arab identity and self-determination within the Ottoman Empire, and later, the independent nation of Iraq.

World War I in Iraq
By the end of 1918 the British had deployed 112,000 combat troops in the Mesopotamia theatre. The vast majority of the 'British' forces in this campaign were recruited from India. ©Anonymous
1914 Nov 6 - 1918 Nov 14

World War I in Iraq

Mesopotamia, Iraq

The Mesopotamian campaign, part of the Middle Eastern theatre in World War I, was a conflict between the Allies (mainly the British Empire with troops from Britain, Australia, and predominantly the British Raj) and the Central Powers, predominantly the Ottoman Empire.[54] Initiated in 1914, the campaign aimed to protect Anglo-Persian oil fields in Khuzestan and the Shatt al-Arab, eventually escalating to a broader objective of capturing Baghdad and diverting Ottoman forces from other fronts. The campaign concluded with the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, leading to Iraq's cession and further partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.

The conflict commenced with an Anglo-Indian division's amphibious landing at Al-Faw, swiftly moving to secure Basra and the nearby British oil fields in Persia (now Iran). The Allies achieved several victories along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, including defending Basra at the Battle of Shaiba against an Ottoman counter-offensive. However, the Allied advance was halted at Kut, south of Baghdad, in December 1916. The subsequent Siege of Kut ended disastrously for the Allies, leading to a devastating defeat.[55]

After reorganizing, the Allies launched a new offensive to capture Baghdad. Despite strong Ottoman resistance, Baghdad fell in March 1917, followed by further Ottoman defeats until the Armistice at Mudros.

The end of World War I and the subsequent defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 led to a radical reconfiguration of the Middle East. The Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 and the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 dismantled the Ottoman Empire. In Iraq, this ushered in a period of British mandate, as per the decisions of the League of Nations. The mandate period saw the establishment of the modern state of Iraq, with its borders drawn by the British, encompassing diverse ethnic and religious groups. The British mandate faced challenges, notably the 1920 Iraqi revolt against British administration. This led to the 1921 Cairo Conference, where it was decided to establish a Hashemite kingdom under Faisal, heavily influenced by Britain, in the region.

Contemporary Iraq
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1920 May 1 - Oct

Iraqi Revolt


The Iraqi Revolt of 1920 began in Baghdad during the summer, marked by mass demonstrations against British rule. The immediate catalyst for these protests was the introduction of new land ownership laws and burial taxes at Najaf by the British. The revolt quickly gained momentum as it spread to the predominantly tribal Shia regions along the middle and lower Euphrates. A key Shia leader in the revolt was Sheikh Mehdi Al-Khalissi.[56]

Remarkably, the revolt saw cooperation between Sunni and Shia religious communities, tribal groups, urban masses, and many Iraqi officers who were in Syria.[57] The primary goals of the revolution were to achieve independence from British rule and establish an Arab government.[57] While the revolt initially made some headway, by the end of October 1920, the British had largely suppressed it, although elements of the uprising continued sporadically until 1922.

In addition to the uprisings in the south, the 1920s in Iraq were also marked by revolts in the northern regions, particularly by the Kurds. These revolts were driven by Kurdish aspirations for independence. One of the prominent Kurdish leaders was Sheikh Mahmoud Barzanji, who played a significant role in the Kurdish struggle during this period. These revolts underscored the challenges faced by the new state of Iraq in managing diverse ethnic and sectarian groups within its borders.

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1921 Jan 1 - 1932

Mandatory Iraq


Mandatory Iraq, established in 1921 under British control, represented a pivotal phase in Iraq's modern history. The mandate was a consequence of the Ottoman Empire's dissolution post-World War I and the subsequent division of its territories as per the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 and the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

In 1921, the British installed Faisal I as the King of Iraq, following his involvement in the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans and the Cairo Conference. Faisal I's reign marked the beginning of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, which lasted until 1958. The British mandate, while establishing a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, maintained significant control over Iraq's administration, military, and foreign affairs.

The period saw significant developments in Iraq's infrastructure, including the establishment of modern educational institutions, the building of railways, and the development of the oil industry. The discovery of oil in Mosul in 1927 by the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company significantly impacted the region's economic and political landscape.

However, the mandate period was also marked by widespread discontent and rebellion against British rule. Notable was the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, a large-scale uprising that significantly influenced the formation of the Iraqi state. This revolt prompted the British to install a more compliant monarch and ultimately led to Iraq's independence.

In 1932, Iraq gained formal independence from Britain, though British influence remained significant. This transition was marked by the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930, which allowed for a degree of Iraqi self-governance while ensuring British interests, particularly in military and foreign affairs.

Mandatory Iraq laid the foundation for the modern Iraqi state, but it also sowed seeds of future conflicts, particularly concerning ethnic and religious divisions. The British mandate's policies often exacerbated sectarian tensions, laying the groundwork for later political and social strife in the region.

Independent Kingdom of Iraq
The spread of British forces in Al-Rashid Street during Bakr Sidqi coup (the first military coup in Iraq and in the Arab countries) in 1936. ©Anonymous
1932 Jan 1 - 1958

Independent Kingdom of Iraq


The establishment of Arab Sunni domination in Iraq led to significant unrest among Assyrian, Yazidi, and Shi'a communities, which were met with harsh suppression. In 1936, Iraq experienced its first military coup, led by Bakr Sidqi, who replaced the acting Prime Minister with an associate. This event initiated a period of political instability characterized by multiple coups, culminating in 1941.

World War II saw further turmoil in Iraq. In 1941, the regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah was overthrown by the Golden Square officers, led by Rashid Ali. This pro-Nazi government was short-lived, defeated in May 1941 by Allied forces, with assistance from local Assyrian and Kurdish groups, in the Anglo-Iraqi War. Post-war, Iraq served as a strategic base for Allied operations against the Vichy-French in Syria and supported the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.

Iraq became a member of the United Nations and a founding member of the Arab League in 1945. That same year, Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani initiated a rebellion against Baghdad's central government, leading to his eventual exile in the Soviet Union after the uprising's failure.

In 1948, Iraq witnessed the Al-Wathbah uprising, a series of violent protests in Baghdad with partial communist backing, against the government's treaty with Britain. The uprising, continuing into spring, was halted by the imposition of martial law as Iraq joined the unsuccessful Arab-Israeli War.

The Arab-Hāshimite Union was proposed in 1958 by King Hussein of Jordan and 'Abd al-Ilāh, a response to the Egyptian-Syrian union. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri as-Said envisioned including Kuwait in this union. However, discussions with Kuwait's ruler Shaykh 'Abd-Allāh as-Salīm led to a conflict with Britain, which opposed Kuwaiti independence. The Iraqi monarchy, increasingly isolated, relied on heightened political oppression under Nuri as-Said to quell rising discontent.

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1941 May 2 - May 31

Anglo-Iraqi War


The Anglo-Iraqi War, a significant conflict during the Second World War, was a British-led Allied military campaign against the Kingdom of Iraq under the leadership of Rashid Gaylani. Gaylani had come to power in the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état with support from Germany and Italy. The outcome of this campaign was the fall of Gaylani's government, the re-occupation of Iraq by British forces, and the reinstatement of Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, a pro-British Regent, to power.

Since 1921, Mandatory Iraq had been under British governance. The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930, established prior to Iraq's nominal independence in 1932, faced opposition from Iraqi nationalists, including Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. Despite being a neutral power under Regent Abd al-Ilah, Iraq's government leaned towards Britain. In April 1941, Iraqi nationalists, backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, orchestrated the Golden Square coup, toppling Abd al-Ilah and appointing al-Gaylani as Prime Minister. Al-Gaylani's establishment of ties with the Axis powers prompted Allied intervention, as Iraq was strategically located as a land bridge connecting British forces in Egypt and India.

The conflict escalated with Allied airstrikes launched against Iraq on 2 May. These military actions led to the collapse of al-Gaylani's regime and the restoration of Abd al-Ilah as Regent, significantly bolstering Allied influence in the Middle East.

Iraqi Republic
Soldier in the ruins of the Ministry of Defence in the aftermath of the Ramadan Revolution ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1958 Jan 1 - 1968

Iraqi Republic


The Iraqi Republic period, from 1958 to 1968, was a transformative era in Iraq's history. It began with the 14 July Revolution in 1958, when a military coup led by Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qasim and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif overthrew the Hashemite monarchy. This revolution ended the monarchy established by King Faisal I in 1921 under the British mandate, transitioning Iraq into a republic.

Abdul Karim Qasim became the first Prime Minister and de facto leader of the new republic. His rule (1958–1963) was marked by significant socio-political changes, including land reforms and the promotion of social welfare. Qasim also withdrew Iraq from the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, sought to balance relations between the Soviet Union and the West, and played a pivotal role in the nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry in 1961.

The period was characterized by political instability and conflict, with tensions between communists and nationalists, as well as between different Arab nationalist groups. In 1963, a coup by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, supported by the military, overthrew Qasim's government. Abdul Salam Arif became president, steering the country towards Arab nationalism. However, Arif's rule was short-lived; he died in a helicopter crash in 1966.

Following Arif's death, his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency. His tenure (1966–1968) continued the trend of political instability, with Iraq facing economic challenges and increased societal tensions. The Arif brothers' rule was less ideologically driven than Qasim's, focusing more on maintaining stability and less on socio-economic reforms.

The Iraqi Republic period ended with another Ba'athist coup in 1968, led by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who became the president. This coup marked the beginning of the Ba'ath Party's extended period of control in Iraq, which lasted until 2003. The 1958–1968 decade of the Iraqi Republic laid the groundwork for significant changes in Iraqi politics, society, and its position in the international arena.

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1958 Jul 14

14 July Revolution


The 14 July Revolution, also known as the 1958 Iraqi military coup, occurred on 14 July 1958 in Iraq, leading to the overthrow of King Faisal II and the Hashemite-led Kingdom of Iraq. This event marked the establishment of the Iraqi Republic and ended the brief Hashemite Arab Federation between Iraq and Jordan, formed just six months prior.

Post-World War II, the Kingdom of Iraq became a center of Arab nationalism. Economic difficulties and strong opposition to Western influence, exacerbated by Iraq's participation in the Baghdad Pact in 1955 and King Faisal's support for the British-led invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis, fueled unrest. Prime Minister Nuri al-Said's policies, particularly unpopular among military personnel, sparked covert opposition organizing, inspired by Egypt's Free Officers Movement that had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. Pan-Arab sentiment in Iraq was further strengthened by the formation of the United Arab Republic in February 1958 under Gamal Abdel Nasser.

In July 1958, as Iraqi army units were sent to support King Hussein of Jordan, Iraqi Free Officers, led by Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim and Colonel Abdul Salam Arif, capitalized on this moment to advance on Baghdad. On 14 July, these revolutionary forces took control of the capital, declaring a new republic and forming a Revolutionary Council. The coup resulted in the execution of King Faisal and Crown Prince Abd al-Ilah at the royal palace, ending the Hashemite dynasty in Iraq. Prime Minister al-Said, attempting escape, was captured and killed the following day.

Following the coup, Qasim became Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, with Arif as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. A provisional constitution was established in late July. By March 1959, the new Iraqi government had distanced itself from the Baghdad Pact and began aligning with the Soviet Union.

First Iraqi–Kurdish War
Iraqi Senior officers in the North Movements, Khaleel Jassim the founder of the light regiments 'Jash' and commando units, first from the right and Ibrahim Faisal Al-Ansari the commander of the second division the third from the right in northern Iraq 1966 ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1961 Sep 11 - 1970 Mar

First Iraqi–Kurdish War

Kurdistān, Iraq

The First Iraqi-Kurdish War, a significant conflict in Iraqi history, occurred between 1961 and 1970. It began when the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Mustafa Barzani, initiated an insurrection in northern Iraq in September 1961. The war was primarily a struggle by the Kurdish population for autonomy against the Iraqi government.

During the early stages of the conflict, the Iraqi government, led by Abdul Karim Qasim and later by the Ba'ath Party, faced challenges in suppressing Kurdish resistance. The Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga, employed guerrilla tactics, capitalizing on their familiarity with the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq.

One of the pivotal moments in the war was the 1963 change in Iraqi leadership, when the Ba'ath Party overthrew Qasim. The Ba'ath regime, initially more aggressive towards the Kurds, eventually sought a diplomatic solution. The conflict saw foreign interventions, with countries like Iran and the United States providing support to the Kurds to weaken the Iraqi government, which had close ties with the Soviet Union.

The war was marked by intermittent ceasefires and negotiations. The Algiers Agreement in 1970, brokered by Algeria's President Houari Boumediene, was a key event that temporarily ended hostilities. This agreement granted the Kurds autonomy in the region, official recognition of the Kurdish language, and representation in the government.

However, the agreement was not fully implemented, leading to future conflicts. The First Iraqi-Kurdish War set the stage for the complex relationship between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish population, with issues of autonomy and representation remaining central to subsequent Kurdish struggles in Iraq.

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1963 Feb 8 - Feb 10

Ramadan Revolution


The Ramadan Revolution, occurring on February 8, 1963, was a pivotal event in Iraqi history, marking the overthrow of the then-ruling Qasim government by the Ba'ath Party. The revolution took place during the holy month of Ramadan, hence its name.

Abdul Karim Qasim, who had been Prime Minister since the 1958 coup, was overthrown by a coalition of Ba'athists, Nasserists, and other pan-Arab groups. This coalition was dissatisfied with Qasim's leadership, particularly his non-alignment policy and failure to join the United Arab Republic, a political union between Egypt and Syria.

The Ba'ath Party, along with its allies, orchestrated the coup. Key figures included Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Abdul Salam Arif. The coup was marked by considerable violence, with a significant number of casualties, including Qasim himself, who was captured and executed shortly after.

Following the coup, the Ba'ath Party established a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) to govern Iraq. Abdul Salam Arif was appointed President, while al-Bakr became Prime Minister. However, internal power struggles soon emerged within the new government, leading to a further coup in November 1963. This coup ousted the Ba'ath Party from power, although they would return to power in 1968.

The Ramadan Revolution significantly impacted Iraq's political landscape. It marked the first time the Ba'ath Party gained power in Iraq, setting the stage for their future dominance, including the rise of Saddam Hussein. It also intensified Iraq's participation in pan-Arab politics and was a precursor to the series of coups and internal conflicts that would characterize Iraqi politics for decades.

17 July Revolution
Hassan al-Bakr, the main coup organizer ascends to the Presidency in 1968. ©Anonymous
1968 Jul 17

17 July Revolution


The 17 July Revolution, a pivotal event in Iraqi history, occurred on 17 July 1968. This bloodless coup was orchestrated by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Abd ar-Razzaq an-Naif, and Abd ar-Rahman al-Dawud. It resulted in the overthrow of President Abdul Rahman Arif and Prime Minister Tahir Yahya, paving the way for the Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to assume power.

Key Ba'athist figures in the coup and the subsequent political purges included Hardan al-Tikriti, Salih Mahdi Ammash, and Saddam Hussein, who later became the President of Iraq. The coup mainly targeted Prime Minister Yahya, a Nasserist who had capitalized on the political crisis following the June 1967 Six-Day War. Yahya had pushed for the nationalization of the Western-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) to use Iraq's oil as leverage against Israel. However, the full nationalization of the IPC was only realized in 1972 under the Ba'athist regime.

In the aftermath of the coup, the new Ba'athist government in Iraq focused on consolidating its power. It denounced perceived American and Israeli interference, executed 14 people, including 9 Iraqi Jews on false espionage charges, and pursued a purge of political opponents. The regime also sought to strengthen Iraq's traditional ties with the Soviet Union.

The Ba'ath Party maintained its rule from the 17 July Revolution until 2003 when it was ousted by an invasion led by American and British forces. It is essential to distinguish the 17 July Revolution from the 14 July Revolution of 1958, which ended the Hashemite dynasty and established the Republic of Iraq, and the 8 February 1963 Ramadan Revolution, which first brought the Iraqi Ba'ath Party to power as part of a short-lived coalition government.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein
President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, in military uniform ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1979 Jan 1

Iraq under Saddam Hussein


Saddam Hussein's ascent to power in Iraq was marked by a strategic consolidation of influence and control. By 1976, he had become a general in the Iraqi armed forces, quickly emerging as the government's key figure. With President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr's health declining, Saddam increasingly became the face of the Iraqi government, both domestically and in international affairs. He effectively became Iraq's foreign policy architect, representing the nation in diplomatic engagements and gradually becoming the de facto leader years before his official rise to power in 1979.

During this time, Saddam focused on strengthening his position within the Ba'ath party. He meticulously built relationships with key party members, forming a loyal and influential support base. His maneuvers were not only about gaining allies but also about ensuring his dominance within the party and the government.

In 1979, a significant development occurred when al-Bakr initiated treaties with Syria, also led by a Ba'athist regime, aimed at unifying the two countries. Under this plan, Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad would become the deputy leader of the union, a move that potentially threatened Saddam's political future. Sensing the risk of being sidelined, Saddam acted decisively to secure his power. He compelled the ailing al-Bakr to resign on 16 July 1979, and subsequently assumed the Iraqi presidency, solidifying his control over the country and its political direction.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime, from 1979 to 2003, was a period marked by authoritarian rule and regional conflicts. Saddam, who rose to power as the President of Iraq in 1979, quickly established a totalitarian government, centralizing power and suppressing political opposition.

One of the early defining events of Saddam's rule was the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988. This conflict, initiated by Iraq in an attempt to seize control of oil-rich Iranian territories and counter Iranian Islamic revolution influences, resulted in significant casualties and economic turmoil for both countries. The war ended in a stalemate, with no clear victor and a heavy toll on Iraq's economy and society.

In the late 1980s, Saddam's regime was notorious for the Al-Anfal Campaign against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. This campaign involved widespread human rights abuses, including the use of chemical weapons in places like Halabja in 1988, leading to large numbers of civilian casualties and displacements.

The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 marked another critical point in Saddam's rule. This act of aggression led to the Gulf War in 1991, as a coalition of forces led by the United States intervened to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The war resulted in a severe defeat for Iraq and led to the imposition of strict economic sanctions by the United Nations.

Throughout the 1990s, Saddam's regime faced international isolation due to these sanctions, which had a devastating impact on Iraq's economy and the welfare of its people. The regime was also subject to inspections for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), although none were conclusively found.

The final chapter of Saddam's rule came with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, under the pretext of eliminating Iraq's alleged possession of WMDs and ending Saddam's oppressive regime. This invasion led to the swift collapse of Saddam's government and his eventual capture in December 2003. Saddam Hussein was later tried by an Iraqi tribunal and executed in 2006 for crimes against humanity, marking the end of one of the most controversial periods in Iraq's modern history.

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1980 Sep 22 - 1988 Aug 20

Iran-Iraq War


Iraq's territorial ambitions towards its neighbors can be traced back to post-World War I plans by the Entente countries. In 1919-1920, when the Ottoman Empire was partitioned, there were proposals for a larger Arab state comprising parts of eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, all of Kuwait, and border areas of Iran. This vision is depicted in an English map from 1920.

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), also known as Qādisiyyat-Saddām, was a direct outcome of these territorial disputes. The war was costly and inconclusive, devastating Iraq's economy. Despite Iraq's declaration of victory in 1988, the outcome was essentially a return to pre-war boundaries.

The conflict began with Iraq's invasion of Iran on 22 September 1980. This move was influenced by a history of border disputes and concerns over Shia insurgency among Iraq's Shia majority, inspired by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq aimed to assert dominance over the Persian Gulf, replacing Iran, and received support from the United States.[58]

However, the initial Iraqi offensive achieved limited success. By June 1982, Iran had regained almost all lost territory, and for the next six years, Iran mostly held the offensive position. Despite UN Security Council calls for a ceasefire, the war persisted until 20 August 1988. It concluded with a UN-brokered ceasefire under Resolution 598, which both sides accepted. It took several weeks for Iranian forces to withdraw from Iraqi territory and respect the pre-war international borders as outlined in the 1975 Algiers Agreement. The last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003.[59]

The war had a massive human and economic toll, with estimated half a million soldiers and civilians from both sides dying. Despite this, the war resulted in neither territorial changes nor reparations. The conflict mirrored World War I tactics, including trench warfare, use of chemical weapons like mustard gas by Iraq against both Iranian forces and civilians, as well as Iraqi Kurds. The UN acknowledged the use of chemical weapons but did not specify Iraq as the sole user. This led to criticism that the international community remained passive while Iraq used weapons of mass destruction.[60]

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1990 Aug 2 - 1991 Feb 28

Iraqi invasion of Kuwait & Gulf War


The Gulf War, a conflict between Iraq and a 42-nation coalition led by the United States, unfolded in two main phases: Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Operation Desert Shield began in August 1990 as a military buildup and transitioned to Operation Desert Storm with an aerial bombing campaign on 17 January 1991. The war culminated in the Liberation of Kuwait on 28 February 1991.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, resulting in its complete occupation within two days, initiated the conflict. Iraq initially established a puppet government, the "Republic of Kuwait," before annexing Kuwait. The annexation divided Kuwait into two parts: the "Saddamiyat al-Mitla' District" and the "Kuwait Governorate." The invasion was primarily driven by Iraq's economic struggles, particularly its inability to repay a $14 billion debt to Kuwait from the Iran–Iraq War. Kuwait's increased oil production, exceeding OPEC quotas, further strained Iraq's economy by lowering global oil prices. Iraq viewed Kuwait's actions as economic warfare, precipitating the invasion.

The international community, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), condemned Iraq's actions. UNSC Resolutions 660 and 661 imposed economic sanctions against Iraq. The U.S., under President George H. W. Bush, and the U.K., under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, deployed troops to Saudi Arabia, urging other countries to do the same. This led to the formation of a large military coalition, the largest since World War II, with significant contributions from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the U.K., and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the Kuwaiti government-in-exile funded a substantial portion of the coalition's costs.

UNSC Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990, gave Iraq a deadline until 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait, authorizing "all necessary means" post-deadline to force Iraq out. The coalition began an aerial and naval bombardment on 17 January 1991, which continued for five weeks. During this period, Iraq launched missile attacks on Israel, hoping to provoke an Israeli response that would fracture the coalition. However, Israel did not retaliate, and the coalition remained intact. Iraq also targeted coalition forces in Saudi Arabia with limited success.

On 24 February 1991, the coalition initiated a major ground assault into Kuwait, quickly liberating it and advancing into Iraqi territory. A ceasefire was declared a hundred hours after the ground offensive began. The Gulf War was notable for its live news broadcasts from the front lines, notably by CNN, earning it the nickname "Video Game War" due to the broadcasted images from cameras on American bombers. The war included some of the largest tank battles in American military history.

Occupation of Iraq
US Army soldiers provide security on foot patrol in Ramadi, 16 August 2006 ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
2003 Jan 1 - 2011

Occupation of Iraq


The Occupation of Iraq, from 2003 to 2011 began with the United States-led invasion in March 2003. The invasion aimed to dismantle the regime of Saddam Hussein, under the pretext of eliminating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which were never found. The swift military campaign led to the rapid collapse of the Ba'athist government.

Following Saddam Hussein's fall, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), led by the United States, was established to govern Iraq. Paul Bremer, as the head of the CPA, played a crucial role in the initial phases of the occupation, implementing policies like the disbandment of the Iraqi army and the de-Ba'athification of Iraqi society. These decisions had long-term impacts on Iraq's stability and security.

The occupation period saw the rise of insurgent groups, sectarian violence, and a prolonged conflict that significantly affected the Iraqi population. The insurgency was marked by a variety of groups, including former Ba'athists, Islamists, and foreign fighters, leading to a complex and volatile security situation.

In 2004, sovereignty was officially returned to the Iraqi Interim Government. However, the presence of foreign troops, predominantly American forces, continued. The period witnessed several key elections, including the Transitional National Assembly election in January 2005, the constitutional referendum in October 2005, and the first parliamentary election in December 2005, marking steps towards establishing a democratic framework in Iraq.

The situation in Iraq was further complicated by the presence and actions of various militia groups, often along sectarian lines. This era was marked by significant civilian casualties and displacement, raising humanitarian concerns.

The U.S. troop surge in 2007, under President George W. Bush and later continued by President Barack Obama, aimed to reduce violence and strengthen Iraqi government control. This strategy saw some success in reducing the level of insurgency and sectarian clashes.

The U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, signed in 2008, set the framework for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. By December 2011, the U.S. formally ended its military presence in Iraq, marking the conclusion of the occupation period. However, the ramifications of the invasion and occupation continued to influence Iraq's political, social, and economic landscapes, setting the stage for future challenges and conflicts in the region.

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2003 Mar 20 - May 1

2003 Invasion of Iraq


The United States-led invasion of Iraq, marking the beginning of the Iraq War, started on 19 March 2003 with an air campaign, followed by a ground invasion on 20 March. The initial invasion phase lasted just over a month,[61] concluding with U.S. President George W. Bush's declaration of the end of major combat operations on 1 May 2003. This phase involved troops from the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Poland, with the coalition capturing Baghdad on 9 April 2003 after a six-day Battle of Baghdad. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established as a transitional government leading to Iraq's first parliamentary election in January 2005. U.S. military forces remained in Iraq until 2011.[62]

The coalition deployed 160,000 troops during the initial invasion, predominantly American, with significant British, Australian, and Polish contingents. The operation was preceded by the assembly of 100,000 U.S. troops in Kuwait by 18 February. The coalition received support from the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The stated goals of the invasion were to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and free the Iraqi people. This was despite the UN inspection team, led by Hans Blix, finding no evidence of WMDs just before the invasion.[63] The invasion followed Iraq's failure to comply with a "final opportunity" to disarm, per U.S. and British officials.[64]

Public opinion in the U.S. was divided: a January 2003 CBS poll indicated majority support for military action against Iraq, but also a preference for a diplomatic solution and concerns about increased terrorism threats due to the war. The invasion faced opposition from several U.S. allies, including France, Germany, and New Zealand, who questioned the presence of WMDs and the justification for war. Post-war findings of chemical weapons, dating back to before the 1991 Gulf War, did not support the invasion rationale.[65] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later deemed the invasion illegal under international law.[66]

Global anti-war protests occurred before the invasion, with a record-setting rally in Rome and millions participating worldwide.[67] The invasion commenced with an airstrike on Baghdad's Presidential Palace on 20 March, followed by a ground incursion into Basra Governorate and air strikes across Iraq. Coalition forces quickly defeated the Iraqi military and occupied Baghdad on 9 April, with subsequent operations securing other regions. Saddam Hussein and his leadership went into hiding, and on 1 May, Bush announced the end of major combat operations, transitioning to a military occupation period.

Second Iraqi Insurgency
Two armed Iraqi insurgents from northern Iraq. ©Anonymous
2011 Dec 18 - 2013 Dec 30

Second Iraqi Insurgency


The Iraqi insurgency, reigniting in late 2011 after the end of the Iraq War and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, marked a period of intense conflict involving the central government and various sectarian groups within Iraq. This insurgency was a direct continuation of the instability following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Sunni militant groups intensified their attacks, particularly targeting the Shia majority, to undermine the Shia-led government's credibility and its ability to maintain security post-coalition withdrawal.[68] The Syrian Civil War, starting in 2011, further influenced the insurgency. Numerous Iraqi Sunni and Shia militants joined opposing sides in Syria, exacerbating sectarian tensions back in Iraq.[69]

The situation escalated in 2014 with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) capturing Mosul and significant territories in northern Iraq. ISIS, a Salafi jihadist militant group, adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam and aims to establish a caliphate. It gained global attention in 2014 during its offensive in Western Iraq and the subsequent capture of Mosul. The Sinjar massacre, carried out by ISIS, further highlighted the group's brutality.[70] The conflict in Iraq, thus, merged with the Syrian Civil War, creating a more extensive and deadly crisis.

War in Iraq
ISOF APC on the street of Mosul, Northern Iraq, Western Asia. 16 November, 2016. ©Mstyslav Chernov
2013 Dec 30 - 2017 Dec 9

War in Iraq


The War in Iraq from 2013 to 2017 was a critical phase in the country's recent history, characterized by the rise and fall of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the involvement of international coalitions. In early 2013, escalating tensions and growing dissatisfaction among the Sunni population led to widespread protests against the Shia-led government. These protests were often met with force, deepening sectarian divisions.

The turning point came in June 2014 when ISIS, a radical Islamist group, seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. This event marked a significant expansion of ISIS, which declared a caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria. The fall of Mosul was followed by the capture of other key cities, including Tikrit and Fallujah.

In response to ISIS's rapid territorial gains, the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, sought international assistance. The United States, forming an international coalition, initiated airstrikes against ISIS targets in August 2014. These efforts were complemented by ground operations from Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Shia militias, often supported by Iran.

A pivotal event in the conflict was the Battle of Ramadi (2015-2016), a major counteroffensive by Iraqi forces to recapture the city from ISIS. This victory was a turning point in weakening ISIS's grip on Iraq.

In 2016, the focus shifted to Mosul. The Battle of Mosul, which began in October 2016 and lasted until July 2017, was one of the largest and most significant military operations against ISIS. Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish fighters, faced fierce resistance but eventually succeeded in liberating the city.

Throughout the conflict, the humanitarian crisis escalated. Millions of Iraqis were displaced, and there were widespread reports of atrocities committed by ISIS, including mass executions and genocide against Yazidis and other minorities.

The war formally ended in December 2017, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS. However, despite losing territorial control, ISIS continued to pose a threat through insurgency tactics and terrorist attacks. The war's aftermath left Iraq facing immense reconstruction challenges, sectarian tensions, and political instability.

2017 ISIS Insurgency in Iraq
1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment of the US Army drill with the Battelle Drone Defender in Iraq, 30 October 2018. US troops anticipate ISIL units deploying drones during reconnaissance or attacks ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
2017 Dec 9

2017 ISIS Insurgency in Iraq


The Islamic State insurgency in Iraq, ongoing since 2017, follows the territorial defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq in late 2016. This phase represents a shift from ISIS's control over large swathes of territory to a guerrilla warfare strategy.

In 2017, Iraqi forces, with international support, recaptured major cities like Mosul, which had been an ISIS stronghold. The liberation of Mosul in July 2017 was a critical milestone, symbolizing the collapse of ISIS's self-proclaimed caliphate. However, this victory did not mark the end of ISIS activities in Iraq.

Post-2017, ISIS reverted to insurgency tactics, including hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, and suicide bombings. These attacks primarily targeted Iraqi security forces, local tribal figures, and civilians in both northern and western Iraq, areas with historical ISIS presence.

The insurgents capitalized on political instability, sectarian divides, and grievances among Sunni populations in Iraq. These factors, coupled with the challenging terrain of the region, facilitated the persistence of ISIS cells.

Significant events include the December 2017 declaration by then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of victory over ISIS, and the subsequent resurgence of ISIS attacks, particularly in rural areas of Iraq. The attacks underscored the group's continued capability to inflict damage despite losing territorial control.

Notable figures in this insurgency phase include Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS until his death in 2019, and subsequent leaders who continued to direct insurgency operations.

The Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, and various paramilitary groups, often with support from the international coalition, have been involved in counter-insurgency operations. Despite these efforts, the complex socio-political landscape in Iraq has impeded the complete eradication of ISIS influence.

As of 2023, the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq remains a significant security challenge, with sporadic attacks continuing to disrupt the country's stability and security. The situation reflects the enduring nature of insurgent warfare and the difficulty of addressing the underlying issues that give rise to such movements.



Iraq's Geography

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Ancient Mesopotamia 101

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Quick History of Bronze Age Languages of Ancient Mesopotamia

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The Middle East's cold war, explained

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Why Iraq is Dying

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Ali Al-Wardi

Ali Al-Wardi

Iraqi Social Scientist



Founder of the Ayyubid dynasty

Shalmaneser III

Shalmaneser III

King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Faisal I of Iraq

Faisal I of Iraq

King of Iraq



Sixth Amorite king of the Old Babylonian Empire

Ibn al-Haytham

Ibn al-Haytham




Seventh Abbasid caliph

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein

Fifth President of Iraq

Tiglath-Pileser III

Tiglath-Pileser III

King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire



Founded the Neo-Sumerian Empire



Arabic prose writer



Arab Polymath



King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Ashurnasirpal II

Ashurnasirpal II

King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Sargon of Akkad

Sargon of Akkad

First Ruler of the Akkadian Empire

Nebuchadnezzar II

Nebuchadnezzar II

Second Neo-Babylonian emperor



Arab Poet


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