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Iran-Iraq War

Iran-Iraq War


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The protracted war between these neighboring Middle Eastern countries resulted in at least half a million casualties and several billion dollars’ worth of damages, but no real gains by other side. Started by Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein in September 1980, the war was marked by indiscriminate ballistic-missile attacks, extensive use of chemical weapons and attacks on third-country oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Although Iraq was forced on the strategic defensive, Iran was unable to reconstitute effective armored formations for its air force and could not penetrate Iraq’s borders deeply enough to achieve decisive results. The end came in July 1988 with the acceptance UN Resolution 598.

During the eight years between Iraq’s formal declaration of war on September 22, 1980, and Iran’s acceptance of a cease-fire with effect on July 20, 1988, at the very least half a million and possibly twice as many troops were killed on both sides, at least half a million became permanent invalids, some 228 billion dollars were directly expended, and more than 400 billion dollars of damage (mostly to oil facilities, but also to cities) was inflicted, mostly by artillery barrages. Aside from that, the war was inconsequential: having won Iranian recognition of exclusive Iraqi sovereignty over the Shatt-el-Arab River (into which the Tigris and Euphrates combine, forming Iraq’s best outlet to the sea), in 1988 Saddam Hussein surrendered that gain when in need of Iran’s neutrality in anticipation of the 1991 Gulf War.

Three things distinguish the Iran-Iraq War. First, it was inordinately protracted, lasting longer than either world war, essentially because Iran did not want to end it, while Iraq could not. Second, it was sharply asymmetrical in the means employed by each side, because though both sides exported oil and purchased military imports throughout, Iraq was further subsidized and supported by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, allowing it to acquire advanced weapons and expertise on a much larger scale than Iran. Third, it included three modes of warfare absent in all previous wars since 1945: indiscriminate ballistic-missile attacks on cities by both sides, but mostly by Iraq; the extensive use of chemical weapons (mostly by Iraq); and some 520 attacks on third-country oil tankers in the Persian Gulf-for which Iraq employed mostly manned aircraft with antishipping missiles against tankers lifting oil from Iran’s terminals, while Iran used mines, gunboats, shore-launched missiles, and helicopters against tankers lifting oil from the terminals of Iraq’s Arab backers.

When Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, quite deliberately started the war, he miscalculated on two counts: first, in attacking a country greatly disorganized by revolution but also greatly energized by it-and whose regime could be consolidated only by a long “patriotic” war, as with all revolutionary regimes; and second, at the level of theater strategy, in launching a surprise invasion against a very large country whose strategic depth he was not even trying to penetrate. Had Iran been given ample warning, it would have mobilized its forces to defend its borderlands; that would have made the Iraqi invasion much more difficult, but in the process the bulk of Iranian forces might have been defeated, possibly forcing Iran to accept a cease-fire on Iraqi terms. As it was, the initial Iraqi offensive thrusts landed in the void, encountering only weak border units before reaching their logistical limits. At that point, Iran had only just started to mobilize in earnest.

From then on, until the final months of the war eight years later, Iraq was forced on the strategic defensive, having to face periodic Iranian offensives on one sector or another, year after year. After losing most of his territorial gains by May 1982 (when Iran recaptured Khorramshahr), Saddam Hussein’s strategic response was to proclaim a unilateral cease-fire (June 10, 1982) while ordering Iraqi forces to withdraw to the border. But Iran rejected a cease-fire, demanding the removal of Saddam Hussein and compensation for war damage. Upon Iraq’s refusal, Iran launched an invasion into Iraqi territory (Operation Ramadan, on July 13, 1982) in the first of many attempts over the coming years to conquer Basra, Iraq’s second city and only real port.

But revolutionary Iran was very limited in its tactically offensive means. Cut off from U.S. supplies for its largely U.S.-equipped forces and deprived of the shah’s officer cadres who had been driven into exile, imprisoned, or killed, it never managed to reconstitute effective armored formations or its once large and modern air force. Iran’s army and Pasdaran revolutionary guards could mount only massed infantry attacks supported by increasingly strong artillery fire. They capitalized on Iran’s morale and population advantage (forty million versus Iraq’s thirteen million), but although foot infantry could breach Iraqi defense lines from time to time, if only by costly human-wave attacks, it could not penetrate deeply enough in the aftermath to achieve decisive results.

By 1988 Iran was demoralized by the persistent failure of its many “final” offensives over the years, by the prospect of unending casualties, by its declining ability to import civilian goods as well as military supplies, and by the Scud missile attacks on Teheran. But what finally ended the war was Iraq’s belated reversion to main-force offensive action on the ground. Having long conserved its forces and shifted to all-mechanized configurations to circumvent the reluctance of its troops to face enemy fire, Iraq attacked on a large scale in April 1988. The end came on July 18, when Iran accepted UN Resolution 598 calling for an immediate cease-fire, though minor Iraqi attacks continued for a few more days after the truce came into effect on July 20, 1988.

The Reader’s Companion to Military History. Edited by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker. Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Origins

Since the Ottoman–Persian Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, Iran (known as “Persia” prior to 1935) and the Ottomans fought over Iraq (then known as Mesopotamia) and full control of the Shatt al-Arab until the signing of the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, which established the final borders between the two countries. The Shatt al-Arab was considered an important channel for both states’ oil exports, and in 1937, Iran and the newly independent Iraq signed a treaty to settle the dispute. In the same year, Iran and Iraq both joined the Treaty of Saadabad, and relations between the two states remained good for decades afterwards.

In April 1969, Iran abrogated the 1937 treaty over the Shatt al-Arab river, and as such ceased paying tolls to Iraq when its ships used the waterway. The Shah justified his move by arguing that almost all river borders around the world ran along the thalweg and claiming that because most of the ships that used the waterway were Iranian, the 1937 treaty was unfair to Iran. Iraq threatened war over the Iranian move, but when on April 24 1969, an Iranian tanker escorted by Iranian warships sailed down the river, Iraq—the militarily weaker state—did nothing. Iran’s abrogation of the treaty marked the beginning of a period of acute Iraqi-Iranian tension that was to last until the 1975 Algiers Agreement.

In the 1975 Algiers Agreement, Iraq made territorial concessions—including the Shatt al-Arab waterway—in exchange for normalized relations. In return for Iraq recognizing that the frontier on the waterway ran along the entire thalweg, Iran ended its support of Iraq’s Kurdish guerrillas. Iraqis viewed the Algiers Agreement as humiliating.

Tensions between Iraq and Iran were fueled by Iran’s Islamic revolution and its appearance of being a Pan-Islamic force in contrast to Iraq’s Arab nationalism. Despite Iraq’s goals of regaining the Shatt al-Arab, the Iraqi government seemed to initially welcome Iran’s Revolution, which overthrew Iran’s Shah, seen as a common enemy. It is difficult to pinpoint when tensions began to build.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Iraqis to overthrow the Ba’ath government, which was received with considerable anger in Baghdad. On July 17, 1979, despite Khomeini’s call, Saddam gave a speech praising the Iranian Revolution and called for an Iraqi-Iranian friendship based on non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. When Khomeini rejected Saddam’s overture by calling for Islamic revolution in Iraq, Saddam was alarmed. Iran’s new Islamic administration was regarded in Baghdad as an irrational, existential threat to the Ba’ath government, especially because the secular Ba’ath party discriminated against and posed a threat to the Shia movement in Iraq, whose clerics were Iran’s allies within Iraq and whom Khomeini saw as oppressed.

Saddam’s primary interest in war may have also stemmed from his desire to right the supposed “wrong” of the Algiers Agreement, in addition to finally achieving his desire of annexing Khuzestan and becoming the regional superpower. Saddam’s goal was to replace Egypt as the “leader of the Arab world” and achieve hegemony over the Persian Gulf. He saw Iran’s increased weakness due to revolution, sanctions, and international isolation.

A successful invasion of Iran would enlarge its petroleum reserves and make it the region’s dominant power. With Iran engulfed in chaos, an opportunity for Iraq to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province materialized. In addition, Khuzestan’s large ethnic Arab population would allow Saddam to pose as a liberator for Arabs from Persian rule. Fellow Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (despite being hostile to Iraq) encouraged Iraq to attack, as they feared that an Islamic revolution would take place within their own borders.


Postwar policies

Articles 47 to 56 of the interim Iraqi constitution provided for a legislative assembly, and—in an effort to garner popular support during the war—elections (the first in postrevolutionary Iraq) were held in June 1980. The new National Assembly convened 10 days later, and subsequent elections were held in 1984 and 1989. Regardless, the Assembly was vested with little power. Only those supporting the Baʿath revolution were allowed to stand for office, and in disputes between the Assembly and the RCC, the latter’s decisions were final. Moreover, after Saddam’s rise to the presidency, the RCC itself had become increasingly irrelevant and eventually served as little more than a rubber stamp for the president’s decisions. Within the Baʿath Party meaningful political debate did continue, but only on topics selected by the president, and all presidential decisions were final.

After the cease-fire, Iraq began a program of reconstruction, concentrating on the areas that had suffered most during the war, but the country had little ready cash. Iraq, now deeply in debt, continued to spend large sums on armaments, and inflation and unemployment soared. To relieve social pressures, the government made it easier for people to travel abroad, but few were able to take advantage of this policy. In addition, the government promised to open the political process by allowing multiparty elections and greater press freedoms. The draft constitution prepared in late 1989 was scrutinized by the RCC before it reached the National Assembly for approval and was about to be submitted to a public plebiscite when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Thereafter, the entire democratic plan was shelved.

To enhance Iraq’s position in the Arab world, Saddam had begun to negotiate a set of bilateral agreements with his neighbours. Early in 1989 he had concluded nonaggression pacts with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He also had established the Arab Cooperation Council with Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen to promote economic and cultural development.

Peace negotiations with Iran had not brought about a settlement, and Saddam—despite Iraq’s overwhelming military edge over Iran—continued to purchase weapons. Iraq’s rearmament program included expensive programs to develop missiles and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Criticism in the West of Iraq’s record on human rights and the county’s acquisition of sensitive military technology prompted Saddam to make highly inflammatory speeches about the hostile Western attitude. In April 1990 he warned that if Israel ever again attacked Iraq (as that country had attacked and destroyed Iraq’s Osiraq-Tammuz nuclear plant in 1981), he would retaliate with chemical weapons. This threat was later extended to include an attack by Israel on any Arab state, and Saddam soon began to suggest that Iraq’s eventual goal was to defeat Israel and capture Jerusalem. These declarations were the first indications that the Iraqi regime had wider territorial aspirations and portended the invasion of Kuwait less than a year later.


The Iran–Iraq War

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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Online publication date: September 2014
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online ISBN: 9781107449794
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107449794
  • Subjects: Middle East Studies, Area Studies, Military History, History, Middle East History

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Book description

The Iran-Iraq War is one of the largest, yet least documented conflicts in the history of the Middle East. Drawing from an extensive cache of captured Iraqi government records, this book is the first comprehensive military and strategic account of the war through the lens of the Iraqi regime and its senior military commanders. It explores the rationale and decision-making processes that drove the Iraqis as they grappled with challenges that, at times, threatened their existence. Beginning with the bizarre lack of planning by the Iraqis in their invasion of Iran, the authors reveal Saddam's desperate attempts to improve the competence of an officer corps that he had purged to safeguard its loyalty to his tyranny, and then to weather the storm of suicidal attacks by Iranian religious revolutionaries. This is a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the history of war and the contemporary Middle East.

Reviews

'This is a fascinating and revealing history of the Iran-Iraq War which draws on a wealth of captured Iraqi sources to provide a unique picture of Saddam Hussein’s decision-making.'

Nigel Ashton - London School of Economics and Political Science

'Murray and Woods shed new light on the war and its conduct at the highest levels mainly from the Iraqi, but also from the Iranian point of view. The book serves as a valuable contribution to our understanding of the war that has important ramifications to contemporary military thinking. The authors deserve much praise for these new insights.'

Amatzia Baram - University of Haifa, Israel

'With unique access to vital source materials, Williamson Murray and Kevin Woods plumb the depths of the ruthlessness, fanaticism, operational incapacity and incompetence that shaped the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. There are lessons here on success and failure for us all to learn.'

John Gooch - University of Leeds

'This book provides a rich seam of material for anyone studying the period or subsequent Middle Eastern history and provides valuable insights into Saddam’s attitudes his enthusiasm for chemical weapons makes for particularly chilling reading … this is one of the most important studies to date on the strategic history and military aspects of the Iran-Iraq War … [It] will appeal not only to those interested in the conflict itself but should be essential reading for those studying its aftermath.'

E. R. Hooton Source: The British Journal of Military History

'This is an excellent book. Murray and Woods do not drown readers in the jargon of the subject, and they meticulously explain everything in their well-researched and enormously interesting work. They develop their themes rapidly and cleanly. Fully explained are the incompetence, factors of fear and coercion, useless battles, countless dead, and wholesale destruction, all driven by the leaders' egos on both sides and regardless of the treasures destroyed … a superb book, well written without biases and a breath of fresh air on a difficult subject, without the mist, fog, and haze that usually come with the literature in this field. Mandatory for graduate students. Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.'

N. E. Bou-Nacklie Source: Choice

'Williamson Murray and Kevin M. Woods have produced an exceptionally detailed and valuable book on the military dimensions of the Iran-Iraq War. This work has many positive aspects, but its most unique feature is the extensive use of previously unavailable captured Iraq documents … In sum, this book emerges as the definitive work on the Iraqi perspective of the Iran-Iraq war, and is probably the best study on military aspects of the conflict as a whole.'


List of wars involving Iran

This is a list of wars involving the Islamic Republic of Iran and its predecessor states. It is an unfinished historical overview.

  • End of Assyrian rule in Media
  • Formation of an independent Median kingdom
  • Median invasion of Assyria repelled
  • Conquest of Media by Scythians
  • End of Scythian rule in Media in 597 BC, during reign of Cyaxares

• Ottoman Empire

Victory Persian (Nader) reconquest of the entire Caucasus.

  • Tactical Russian victory
  • Strategic Persian victory
  • Russian withdrawal after the death of Catherine II

Tens of thousands of political executions in the aftermath (7,900 from 1981 to 1985, 3,800 to 33,000 in 1988, unknown in 1986–1987 or 1979–1980).

Return to status quo, observed by UNIIMOG.

Most of Syria now controlled by Syrian Government, which is supported by Iran.


Summary

The eight-year war ended in a stalemate. It brought economic devastation, decreased morale, lack of international sympathy, and increased military tension in both regions. Many scholars have compared the Iran-Iraq war to World War I because of the tactics used, including trench warfare, manned machine guns, human wave attacks, and chemical weapons.

When the war ended, it didn’t bring reparations or changes in borders. Neither nation was victorious, and both armies ended in the same position from the beginning. Overall, it was a bitter conflict that resulted in human lives and economic disruption.


Contents

Paleolithic Edit

The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran were found in the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites that are thought to date back to 10,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic. [14] Mousterian stone tools made by Neandertals have also been found. [15] There are more cultural remains of Neandertals dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period, which mainly have been found in the Zagros region and fewer in central Iran at sites such as Kobeh, Kunji, Bisitun Cave, Tamtama, Warwasi, and Yafteh Cave. [16] In 1949, a Neanderthal radius was discovered by Carleton S. Coon in Bisitun Cave. [17] Evidence for Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods are known mainly from the Zagros Mountains in the caves of Kermanshah and Khorramabad and a few number of sites in the Alborz and Central Iran. During this time, people began creating rock art.

Neolithic to Chalcolithic Edit

Early agricultural communities such as Chogha Golan in 10,000 BC [18] [19] along with settlements such as Chogha Bonut (the earliest village in Elam) in 8000 BC, [20] [21] began to flourish in and around the Zagros Mountains region in western Iran. [22] Around about the same time, the earliest-known clay vessels and modelled human and animal terracotta figurines were produced at Ganj Dareh, also in western Iran. [22] There are also 10,000-year-old human and animal figurines from Tepe Sarab in Kermanshah Province among many other ancient artefacts. [15]

The south-western part of Iran was part of the Fertile Crescent where most of humanity's first major crops were grown, in villages such as Susa (where a settlement was first founded possibly as early as 4395 cal BC) [23] and settlements such as Chogha Mish, dating back to 6800 BC [24] [25] there are 7,000-year-old jars of wine excavated in the Zagros Mountains [26] (now on display at the University of Pennsylvania) and ruins of 7000-year-old settlements such as Tepe Sialk are further testament to that. The two main Neolithic Iranian settlements were the Zayandeh River Culture and Ganj Dareh.

Bronze Age Edit

Parts of what is modern-day northwestern Iran was part of the Kura–Araxes culture (circa 3400 BC—ca. 2000 BC), that stretched up into the neighbouring regions of the Caucasus and Anatolia. [27] [28]

Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of Iran and the world. Based on C14 dating, the time of the foundation of the city is as early as 4395 BC, [29] a time right after the establishment of the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk in 4500 BC. The general perception among archaeologists is that Susa was an extension of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, hence incorporating many aspects of Mesopotamian culture. [30] [31] In its later history, Susa became the capital of Elam, which emerged as a state founded 4000 BC. [29] There are also dozens of prehistoric sites across the Iranian plateau pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC, [24] One of the earliest civilizations in Iranian plateau was the Jiroft culture in southeastern Iran in the province of Kerman.

It is one of the most artefact-rich archaeological sites in the Middle East. Archaeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the 4th millennium BC. [32] There is a large quantity of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures, and architectural motifs. The objects and their iconography are unlike anything ever seen before by archaeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a grey-green soft stone others are in copper, bronze, terracotta, and even lapis lazuli. Recent excavations at the sites have produced the world's earliest inscription which pre-dates Mesopotamian inscriptions. [33] [34]

There are records of numerous other ancient civilizations on the Iranian Plateau before the emergence of Iranian peoples during the Early Iron Age. The Early Bronze Age saw the rise of urbanization into organized city-states and the invention of writing (the Uruk period) in the Near East. While Bronze Age Elam made use of writing from an early time, the Proto-Elamite script remains undeciphered, and records from Sumer pertaining to Elam are scarce.

Early Iron Age Edit

Records become more tangible with the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and its records of incursions from the Iranian plateau. As early as the 20th century BC, tribes came to the Iranian Plateau from the Pontic–Caspian steppe. The arrival of Iranians on the Iranian plateau forced the Elamites to relinquish one area of their empire after another and to take refuge in Elam, Khuzestan and the nearby area, which only then became coterminous with Elam. [35] Bahman Firuzmandi say that the southern Iranians might be intermixed with the Elamite peoples living in the plateau. [36] By the mid-first millennium BC, Medes, Persians, and Parthians populated the Iranian plateau. Until the rise of the Medes, they all remained under Assyrian domination, like the rest of the Near East. In the first half of the first millennium BC, parts of what is now Iranian Azerbaijan were incorporated into Urartu.

Median and Achaemenid Empire (650–330 BC) Edit

Depiction of united Medes and Persians at the Apadana, Persepolis

In 646 BC, Assyrian king Ashurbanipal sacked Susa, which ended Elamite supremacy in the region. [37] For over 150 years Assyrian kings of nearby Northern Mesopotamia had been wanting to conquer Median tribes of Western Iran. [38] Under pressure from Assyria, the small kingdoms of the western Iranian plateau coalesced into increasingly larger and more centralized states. [37]

In the second half of the seventh century BC, the Medes gained their independence and were united by Deioces. In 612 BC, Cyaxares, Deioces' grandson, and the Babylonian king Nabopolassar invaded Assyria and laid siege to and eventually destroyed Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which led to the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. [39] Urartu was later on conquered and dissolved as well by the Medes. [40] [41] The Medes are credited with founding Iran as a nation and empire, and established the first Iranian empire, the largest of its day until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians, leading to the Achaemenid Empire (c.550–330 BC).

Cyrus the Great overthrew, in turn, the Median, Lydian, and Neo-Babylonian Empires, creating an empire far larger than Assyria. He was better able, through more benign policies, to reconcile his subjects to Persian rule the longevity of his empire was one result. The Persian king, like the Assyrian, was also "King of Kings", xšāyaθiya xšāyaθiyānām (shāhanshāh in modern Persian) – "great king", Megas Basileus, as known by the Greeks.

Cyrus's son, Cambyses II, conquered the last major power of the region, ancient Egypt, causing the collapse of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt. Since he became ill and died before, or while, leaving Egypt, stories developed, as related by Herodotus, that he was struck down for impiety against the ancient Egyptian deities. The winner, Darius I, based his claim on membership in a collateral line of the Achaemenid Empire.

Darius' first capital was at Susa, and he started the building program at Persepolis. He rebuilt a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, a forerunner of the modern Suez Canal. He improved the extensive road system, and it is during his reign that mentions is first made of the Royal Road (shown on map), a great highway stretching all the way from Susa to Sardis with posting stations at regular intervals. Major reforms took place under Darius. Coinage, in the form of the daric (gold coin) and the shekel (silver coin) was standardized (coinage had already been invented over a century before in Lydia c. 660 BC but not standardized), [42] and administrative efficiency increased.

The Old Persian language appears in royal inscriptions, written in a specially adapted version of the cuneiform script. Under Cyrus the Great and Darius I, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest empire in human history up until that point, ruling and administrating over most of the then known world, [43] as well as spanning the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The greatest achievement was the empire itself. The Persian Empire represented the world's first superpower [44] [45] that was based on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions. [46]

In the late sixth century BC, Darius launched his European campaign, in which he defeated the Paeonians, conquered Thrace, and subdued all coastal Greek cities, as well as defeating the European Scythians around the Danube river. [47] In 512/511, Macedon became a vassal kingdom of Persia. [47]

In 499 BC, Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus, which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against mainland Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars, which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC, and is known as one of the most important wars in European history. In the First Persian invasion of Greece, the Persian general Mardonius re-subjugated Thrace and made Macedon a full part of Persia. [47] The war eventually turned out in defeat, however. Darius' successor Xerxes I launched the Second Persian invasion of Greece. At a crucial moment in the war, about half of mainland Greece was overrun by the Persians, including all territories to the north of the Isthmus of Corinth, [48] [49] however, this was also turned out in a Greek victory, following the battles of Plataea and Salamis, by which Persia lost its footholds in Europe, and eventually withdrew from it. [50] During the Greco-Persian wars Persia gained major territorial advantages capture and razed Athens in 480 BC. However, after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw thus losing control of Macedonia, Thrace and Ionia. Fighting continued for several decades after the successful Greek repelling of the Second Invasion with numerous Greek city-states under the Athens' newly formed Delian League, which eventually ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC, ending the Greco-Persian Wars. In 404 BC, following the death of Darius II, Egypt rebelled under Amyrtaeus. Later pharaohs successfully resisted Persian attempts to reconquer Egypt until 343 BC, when Egypt was reconquered by Artaxerxes III.

Greek conquest and Seleucid Empire (312 BCE–248 BCE) Edit

From 334 BCE to 331 BCE, Alexander the Great, also known in Avestan as Arda Wiraz Nâmag ("the accursed Alexander"), defeated Darius III in the battles of Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela, swiftly conquering the Persian Empire by 331 BCE. Alexander's empire broke up shortly after his death, and Alexander's general, Seleucus I Nicator, tried to take control of Iran, Mesopotamia, and later Syria and Anatolia. His empire was the Seleucid Empire. He was killed in 281 BCE by Ptolemy Keraunos.

Greek language, philosophy, and art came with the colonists. During the Seleucid era, Greek became the common tongue of diplomacy and literature throughout the empire.

Parthian Empire (248 BC–224 AD) Edit

The Parthian Empire, ruled by the Parthians, a group of northwestern Iranian people, was the realm of the Arsacid dynasty, who reunited and governed the Iranian plateau after the Parni conquest of Parthia and defeating the Seleucid Empire in the later third century BC, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between ca 150 BC and 224 AD. The Parthian Empire quickly included Eastern Arabia.

Parthia was the eastern arch-enemy of the Roman Empire and it limited Rome's expansion beyond Cappadocia (central Anatolia). The Parthian armies included two types of cavalry: the heavily armed and armored cataphracts and the lightly-armed but highly-mobile mounted archers.

For the Romans, who relied on heavy infantry, the Parthians were too hard to defeat, as both types of cavalry were much faster and more mobile than foot soldiers. The Parthian shot used by the Parthian cavalry was most notably feared by the Roman soldiers, which proved pivotal in the crushing Roman defeat at the Battle of Carrhae. On the other hand, the Parthians found it difficult to occupy conquered areas as they were unskilled in siege warfare. Because of these weaknesses, neither the Romans nor the Parthians were able completely to annex each other's territory.

The Parthian empire subsisted for five centuries, longer than most Eastern Empires. The end of this empire came at last in 224 AD, when the empire's organization had loosened and the last king was defeated by one of the empire's vassal peoples, the Persians under the Sasanians. However, the Arsacid dynasty continued to exist for centuries onwards in Armenia, the Iberia, and the Caucasian Albania, which were all eponymous branches of the dynasty.

Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD) Edit

The first shah of the Sasanian Empire, Ardashir I, started reforming the country economically and militarily. For a period of more than 400 years, Iran was once again one of the leading powers in the world, alongside its neighbouring rival, the Roman and then Byzantine Empires. [51] [52] The empire's territory, at its height, encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Dagestan, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, parts of Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, parts of Pakistan, Central Asia, Eastern Arabia, and parts of Egypt.

Most of the Sassanian Empire's lifespan was overshadowed by the frequent Byzantine–Sasanian wars, a continuation of the Roman–Parthian Wars and the all-comprising Roman–Persian Wars the last was the longest-lasting conflict in human history. Started in the first century BC by their predecessors, the Parthians, and Romans, the last Roman–Persian War was fought in the seventh century. The Persians defeated the Romans at the Battle of Edessa in 260 and took emperor Valerian prisoner for the remainder of his life.

Eastern Arabia was conquered early on. During Khosrow II's rule in 590–628, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon were also annexed to the Empire. The Sassanians called their empire Erânshahr ("Dominion of the Aryans", i.e., of Iranians). [53]

A chapter of Iran's history followed after roughly six hundred years of conflict with the Roman Empire. During this time, the Sassanian and Romano-Byzantine armies clashed for influence in Anatolia, the western Caucasus (mainly Lazica and the Kingdom of Iberia modern-day Georgia and Abkhazia), Mesopotamia, Armenia and the Levant. Under Justinian I, the war came to an uneasy peace with payment of tribute to the Sassanians.

However, the Sasanians used the deposition of the Byzantine emperor Maurice as a casus belli to attack the Empire. After many gains, the Sassanians were defeated at Issus, Constantinople, and finally Nineveh, resulting in peace. With the conclusion of the over 700 years lasting Roman–Persian Wars through the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, which included the very siege of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, the war-exhausted Persians lost the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah (632) in Hilla (present-day Iraq) to the invading Muslim forces.

The Sasanian era, encompassing the length of Late Antiquity, is considered to be one of the most important and influential historical periods in Iran, and had a major impact on the world. In many ways, the Sassanian period witnessed the highest achievement of Persian civilization and constitutes the last great Iranian Empire before the adoption of Islam. Persia influenced Roman civilization considerably during Sassanian times, [54] their cultural influence extending far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, [55] Africa, [56] China and India [57] and also playing a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asiatic medieval art. [58]

This influence carried forward to the Muslim world. The dynasty's unique and aristocratic culture transformed the Islamic conquest and destruction of Iran into a Persian Renaissance. [55] Much of what later became known as Islamic culture, architecture, writing, and other contributions to civilization, were taken from the Sassanian Persians into the broader Muslim world. [59]

Early Islamic period Edit

Islamic conquest of Persia (633–651) Edit

In 633, when the Sasanian king Yazdegerd III was ruling over Iran, the Muslims under Umar invaded the country right after it had been in a bloody civil war. Several Iranian nobles and families such as king Dinar of the House of Karen, and later Kanarangiyans of Khorasan, mutinied against their Sasanian overlords. Although the House of Mihran had claimed the Sasanian throne under the two prominent generals Bahrām Chōbin and Shahrbaraz, it remained loyal to the Sasanians during their struggle against the Arabs, but the Mihrans were eventually betrayed and defeated by their own kinsmen, the House of Ispahbudhan, under their leader Farrukhzad, who had mutinied against Yazdegerd III.

Yazdegerd III, fled from one district to another until a local miller killed him for his purse at Merv in 651. [60] By 674, Muslims had conquered Greater Khorasan (which included modern Iranian Khorasan province and modern Afghanistan and parts of Transoxiana).

The Muslim conquest of Persia ended the Sasanian Empire and led to the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia. Over time, the majority of Iranians converted to Islam. Most of the aspects of the previous Persian civilizations were not discarded but were absorbed by the new Islamic polity. As Bernard Lewis has commented:

These events have been variously seen in Iran: by some as a blessing, the advent of the true faith, the end of the age of ignorance and heathenism by others as a humiliating national defeat, the conquest and subjugation of the country by foreign invaders. Both perceptions are of course valid, depending on one's angle of vision. [61]

Umayyad era and Muslim incursions into the Caspian coast Edit

After the fall of the Sasanian Empire in 651, the Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate adopted many Persian customs, especially the administrative and the court mannerisms. Arab provincial governors were undoubtedly either Persianized Arameans or ethnic Persians certainly Persian remained the language of official business of the caliphate until the adoption of Arabic toward the end of the seventh century, [62] when in 692 minting began at the capital, Damascus. The new Islamic coins evolved from imitations of Sasanian coins (as well as Byzantine), and the Pahlavi script on the coinage was replaced with Arabic alphabet.

During the Umayyad Caliphate, the Arab conquerors imposed Arabic as the primary language of the subject peoples throughout their empire. Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who was not happy with the prevalence of the Persian language in the divan, ordered the official language of the conquered lands to be replaced by Arabic, sometimes by force. [63] In al-Biruni's From The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries for example it is written:

When Qutaibah bin Muslim under the command of Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef was sent to Khwarazmia with a military expedition and conquered it for the second time, he swiftly killed whoever wrote the Khwarazmian native language that knew of the Khwarazmian heritage, history, and culture. He then killed all their Zoroastrian priests and burned and wasted their books, until gradually the illiterate only remained, who knew nothing of writing, and hence their history was mostly forgotten." [64]

There are a number of historians who see the rule of the Umayyads as setting up the "dhimmah" to increase taxes from the dhimmis to benefit the Muslim Arab community financially and by discouraging conversion. [65] Governors lodged complaints with the caliph when he enacted laws that made conversion easier, depriving the provinces of revenues.

In the 7th century, when many non-Arabs such as Persians entered Islam, they were recognized as mawali ("clients") and treated as second-class citizens by the ruling Arab elite until the end of the Umayyad Caliphate. During this era, Islam was initially associated with the ethnic identity of the Arab and required formal association with an Arab tribe and the adoption of the client status of mawali. [65] The half-hearted policies of the late Umayyads to tolerate non-Arab Muslims and Shias had failed to quell unrest among these minorities.

However, all of Iran was still not under Arab control, and the region of Daylam was under the control of the Daylamites, while Tabaristan was under Dabuyid and Paduspanid control, and the Mount Damavand region under Masmughans of Damavand. The Arabs had invaded these regions several times but achieved no decisive result because of the inaccessible terrain of the regions. The most prominent ruler of the Dabuyids, known as Farrukhan the Great (r. 712–728), managed to hold his domains during his long struggle against the Arab general Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, who was defeated by a combined Dailamite-Dabuyid army, and was forced to retreat from Tabaristan. [66]

With the death of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in 743, the Islamic world was launched into civil war. Abu Muslim was sent to Khorasan by the Abbasid Caliphate initially as a propagandist and then to revolt on their behalf. He took Merv defeating the Umayyad governor there Nasr ibn Sayyar. He became the de facto Abbasid governor of Khurasan. During the same period, the Dabuyid ruler Khurshid declared independence from the Umayyads but was shortly forced to recognize Abbasid authority. In 750, Abu Muslim became the leader of the Abbasid army and defeated the Umayyads at the Battle of the Zab. Abu Muslim stormed Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, later that year.

Abbasid period and autonomous Iranian dynasties Edit

The Abbasid army consisted primarily of Khorasanians and was led by an Iranian general, Abu Muslim Khorasani. It contained both Iranian and Arab elements, and the Abbasids enjoyed both Iranian and Arab support. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750. [67] According to Amir Arjomand, the Abbasid Revolution essentially marked the end of the Arab empire and the beginning of a more inclusive, multi-ethnic state in the Middle East. [68]

One of the first changes the Abbasids made after taking power from the Umayyads was to move the empire's capital from Damascus, in the Levant, to Iraq. The latter region was influenced by Persian history and culture, and moving the capital was part of the Persian mawali demand for Arab influence in the empire. The city of Baghdad was constructed on the Tigris River, in 762, to serve as the new Abbasid capital. [69]

The Abbasids established the position of vizier like Barmakids in their administration, which was the equivalent of a "vice-caliph", or second-in-command. Eventually, this change meant that many caliphs under the Abbasids ended up in a much more ceremonial role than ever before, with the vizier in real power. A new Persian bureaucracy began to replace the old Arab aristocracy, and the entire administration reflected these changes, demonstrating that the new dynasty was different in many ways from the Umayyads. [69]

By the 9th century, Abbasid control began to wane as regional leaders sprang up in the far corners of the empire to challenge the central authority of the Abbasid caliphate. [69] The Abbasid caliphs began enlisting mamluks, Turkic-speaking warriors, who had been moving out of Central Asia into Transoxiana as slave warriors as early as the 9th century. Shortly thereafter the real power of the Abbasid caliphs began to wane eventually, they became religious figureheads while the warrior slaves ruled. [67]

The 9th century also saw the revolt by native Zoroastrians, known as the Khurramites, against oppressive Arab rule. The movement was led by a Persian freedom fighter Babak Khorramdin. Babak's Iranianizing [70] rebellion, from its base in Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran, [71] called for a return of the political glories of the Iranian [72] past. The Khorramdin rebellion of Babak spread to the Western and Central parts of Iran and lasted more than twenty years before it was defeated when Babak was betrayed by Afshin, a senior general of the Abbasid Caliphate.

As the power of the Abbasid caliphs diminished, a series of dynasties rose in various parts of Iran, some with considerable influence and power. Among the most important of these overlapping dynasties were the Tahirids in Khorasan (821–873) the Saffarids in Sistan (861–1003, their rule lasted as maliks of Sistan until 1537) and the Samanids (819–1005), originally at Bukhara. The Samanids eventually ruled an area from central Iran to Pakistan. [67]

By the early 10th century, the Abbasids almost lost control to the growing Persian faction known as the Buyid dynasty (934–1062). Since much of the Abbasid administration had been Persian anyway, the Buyids were quietly able to assume real power in Baghdad. The Buyids were defeated in the mid-11th century by the Seljuq Turks, who continued to exert influence over the Abbasids, while publicly pledging allegiance to them. The balance of power in Baghdad remained as such – with the Abbasids in power in name only – until the Mongol invasion of 1258 sacked the city and definitively ended the Abbasid dynasty. [69]

During the Abbassid period an enfranchisement was experienced by the mawali and a shift was made in political conception from that of a primarily Arab empire to one of a Muslim empire [73] and c. 930 a requirement was enacted that required all bureaucrats of the empire be Muslim. [65]

Islamic golden age, Shu'ubiyya movement and Persianization process Edit

Islamization was a long process by which Islam was gradually adopted by the majority population of Iran. Richard Bulliet's "conversion curve" indicates that only about 10% of Iran converted to Islam during the relatively Arab-centric Umayyad period. Beginning in the Abbasid period, with its mix of Persian as well as Arab rulers, the Muslim percentage of the population rose. As Persian Muslims consolidated their rule of the country, the Muslim population rose from approximately 40% in the mid-9th century to close to 100% by the end of the 11th century. [73] Seyyed Hossein Nasr suggests that the rapid increase in conversion was aided by the Persian nationality of the rulers. [74]

Although Persians adopted the religion of their conquerors, over the centuries they worked to protect and revive their distinctive language and culture, a process known as Persianization. Arabs and Turks participated in this attempt. [75] [76] [77]

In the 9th and 10th centuries, non-Arab subjects of the Ummah created a movement called Shu'ubiyyah in response to the privileged status of Arabs. Most of those behind the movement were Persian, but references to Egyptians, Berbers and Aramaeans are attested. [78] Citing as its basis Islamic notions of equality of races and nations, the movement was primarily concerned with preserving Persian culture and protecting Persian identity, though within a Muslim context.

The Samanid dynasty led the revival of Persian culture and the first important Persian poet after the arrival of Islam, Rudaki, was born during this era and was praised by Samanid kings. The Samanids also revived many ancient Persian festivals. Their successor, the Ghaznawids, who were of non-Iranian Turkic origin, also became instrumental in the revival of Persian culture. [79]

The culmination of the Persianization movement was the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran, written almost entirely in Persian. This voluminous work, reflects Iran's ancient history, its unique cultural values, its pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion, and its sense of nationhood. According to Bernard Lewis: [61]

"Iran was indeed Islamized, but it was not Arabized. Persians remained Persians. And after an interval of silence, Iran re-emerged as a separate, different and distinctive element within Islam, eventually adding a new element even to Islam itself. Culturally, politically, and most remarkable of all even religiously, the Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense importance. The work of Iranians can be seen in every field of cultural endeavour, including Arabic poetry, to which poets of Iranian origin composing their poems in Arabic made a very significant contribution. In a sense, Iranian Islam is a second advent of Islam itself, a new Islam sometimes referred to as Islam-i Ajam. It was this Persian Islam, rather than the original Arab Islam, that was brought to new areas and new peoples: to the Turks, first in Central Asia and then in the Middle East in the country which came to be called Turkey, and of course to India. The Ottoman Turks brought a form of Iranian civilization to the walls of Vienna. "

The Islamization of Iran was to yield deep transformations within the cultural, scientific, and political structure of Iran's society: The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine and art became major elements of the newly forming Muslim civilization. Inheriting a heritage of thousands of years of civilization, and being at the "crossroads of the major cultural highways", [80] contributed to Persia emerging as what culminated into the "Islamic Golden Age". During this period, hundreds of scholars and scientists vastly contributed to technology, science and medicine, later influencing the rise of European science during the Renaissance. [81]

The most important scholars of almost all of the Islamic sects and schools of thought were Persian or lived in Iran, including the most notable and reliable Hadith collectors of Shia and Sunni like Shaikh Saduq, Shaikh Kulainy, Hakim al-Nishaburi, Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari, the greatest theologians of Shia and Sunni like Shaykh Tusi, Imam Ghazali, Imam Fakhr al-Razi and Al-Zamakhshari, the greatest physicians, astronomers, logicians, mathematicians, metaphysicians, philosophers and scientists like Avicenna, and Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, the greatest Shaykh of Sufism like Rumi, Abdul-Qadir Gilani.

Persianate states and dynasties (977–1219) Edit

In 977, a Turkic governor of the Samanids, Sabuktigin, conquered Ghazna (in present-day Afghanistan) and established a dynasty, the Ghaznavids, that lasted to 1186. [67] The Ghaznavid empire grew by taking all of the Samanid territories south of the Amu Darya in the last decade of the 10th century, and eventually occupied parts of Eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India. [69]

The Ghaznavids are generally credited with launching Islam into a mainly Hindu India. The invasion of India was undertaken in 1000 by the Ghaznavid ruler, Mahmud, and continued for several years. They were unable to hold power for long, however, particularly after the death of Mahmud in 1030. By 1040 the Seljuqs had taken over the Ghaznavid lands in Iran. [69]

The Seljuqs, who like the Ghaznavids were Persianate in nature and of Turkic origin, slowly conquered Iran over the course of the 11th century. [67] The dynasty had its origins in the Turcoman tribal confederations of Central Asia and marked the beginning of Turkic power in the Middle East. They established a Sunni Muslim rule over parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries. They set up an empire known as Great Seljuq Empire that stretched from Anatolia in the west to western Afghanistan in the east and the western borders of (modern-day) China in the north-east and was the target of the First Crusade. Today they are regarded as the cultural ancestors of the Western Turks, the present-day inhabitants of Turkey and Turkmenistan, and they are remembered as great patrons of Persian culture, art, literature, and language. [82] [83] [84]

The founder of the dynasty, Tughril Beg, turned his army against the Ghaznavids in Khorasan. He moved south and then west, conquering but not wasting the cities in his path. In 1055 the caliph in Baghdad gave Tughril Beg robes, gifts, and the title King of the East. Under Tughril Beg's successor, Malik Shah (1072–1092), Iran enjoyed a cultural and scientific renaissance, largely attributed to his brilliant Iranian vizier, Nizam al Mulk. These leaders established the observatory where Omar Khayyám did much of his experimentation for a new calendar, and they built religious schools in all the major towns. They brought Abu Hamid Ghazali, one of the greatest Islamic theologians, and other eminent scholars to the Seljuq capital at Baghdad and encouraged and supported their work. [67]

When Malik Shah I died in 1092, the empire split as his brother and four sons quarreled over the apportioning of the empire among themselves. In Anatolia, Malik Shah I was succeeded by Kilij Arslan I who founded the Sultanate of Rûm and in Syria by his brother Tutush I. In Persia he was succeeded by his son Mahmud I whose reign was contested by his other three brothers Barkiyaruq in Iraq, Muhammad I in Baghdad and Ahmad Sanjar in Khorasan. As Seljuq power in Iran weakened, other dynasties began to step up in its place, including a resurgent Abbasid caliphate and the Khwarezmshahs. The Khwarezmid Empire was a Sunni Muslim Persianate dynasty, of East Turkic origin, that ruled in Central Asia. Originally vassals of the Seljuqs, they took advantage of the decline of the Seljuqs to expand into Iran. [85] In 1194 the Khwarezmshah Ala ad-Din Tekish defeated the Seljuq sultan Toghrul III in battle and the Seljuq empire in Iran collapsed. Of the former Seljuq Empire, only the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia remained.

A serious internal threat to the Seljuqs during their reign came from the Nizari Ismailis, a secret sect with headquarters at Alamut Castle between Rasht and Tehran. They controlled the immediate area for more than 150 years and sporadically sent out adherents to strengthen their rule by murdering important officials. Several of the various theories on the etymology of the word assassin derive from these killers. [67]

Parts of northwestern Iran were conquered in the early 13th century AD by the Kingdom of Georgia, led by Tamar the Great. [86]

Mongol conquest and rule (1219–1370) Edit

Mongol invasion (1219–1221) Edit

The Khwarazmian dynasty only lasted for a few decades, until the arrival of the Mongols. Genghis Khan had unified the Mongols, and under him the Mongol Empire quickly expanded in several directions. In 1218, it bordered Khwarezm. At that time, the Khwarazmian Empire was ruled by Ala ad-Din Muhammad (1200–1220). Muhammad, like Genghis, was intent on expanding his lands and had gained the submission of most of Iran. He declared himself shah and demanded formal recognition from the Abbasid caliph Al-Nasir. When the caliph rejected his claim, Ala ad-Din Muhammad proclaimed one of his nobles caliph and unsuccessfully tried to depose an-Nasir.

The Mongol invasion of Iran began in 1219, after two diplomatic missions to Khwarezm sent by Genghis Khan had been massacred. During 1220–21 Bukhara, Samarkand, Herat, Tus and Nishapur were razed, and the whole populations were slaughtered. The Khwarezm-Shah fled, to die on an island off the Caspian coast. [87] During the invasion of Transoxiana in 1219, along with the main Mongol force, Genghis Khan used a Chinese specialist catapult unit in battle, they were used again in 1220 in Transoxania. The Chinese may have used the catapults to hurl gunpowder bombs, since they already had them by this time. [88]

While Genghis Khan was conquering Transoxania and Persia, several Chinese who were familiar with gunpowder were serving in Genghis's army. [89] "Whole regiments" entirely made out of Chinese were used by the Mongols to command bomb hurling trebuchets during the invasion of Iran. [90] Historians have suggested that the Mongol invasion had brought Chinese gunpowder weapons to Central Asia. One of these was the huochong, a Chinese mortar. [91] Books written around the area afterward depicted gunpowder weapons which resembled those of China. [92]

Destruction under the Mongols Edit

Before his death in 1227, Genghis had reached western Azerbaijan, pillaging and burning cities along the way.

The Mongol invasion was disastrous to the Iranians. Although the Mongol invaders were eventually converted to Islam and accepted the culture of Iran, the Mongol destruction of the Islamic heartland marked a major change of direction for the region. Much of the six centuries of Islamic scholarship, culture, and infrastructure was destroyed as the invaders leveled cities, burned libraries, and replaced mosques with Buddhist temples. [93] [94]

The Mongols killed many Iranian civilians. Destruction of qanat irrigation systems destroyed the pattern of relatively continuous settlement, producing numerous isolated oasis cities in a land where they had previously been rare. [95]

Ilkhanate (1256–1335) Edit

After Genghis's death, Iran was ruled by several Mongol commanders. Genghis' grandson, Hulagu Khan, was tasked with the westward expansion of Mongol dominion. However, by time he ascended to power, the Mongol Empire had already dissolved, dividing into different factions. Arriving with an army, he established himself in the region and founded the Ilkhanate, a breakaway state of the Mongol Empire, which would rule Iran for the next eighty years and become Persian in the process.

Hulagu Khan seized Baghdad in 1258 and put the last Abbasid caliph to death. The westward advance of his forces was stopped by the Mamelukes, however, at the Battle of Ain Jalut in Palestine in 1260. Hulagu's campaigns against the Muslims also enraged Berke, khan of the Golden Horde and a convert to Islam. Hulagu and Berke fought against each other, demonstrating the weakening unity of the Mongol empire.

The rule of Hulagu's great-grandson, Ghazan (1295–1304) saw the establishment of Islam as the state religion of the Ilkhanate. Ghazan and his famous Iranian vizier, Rashid al-Din, brought Iran a partial and brief economic revival. The Mongols lowered taxes for artisans, encouraged agriculture, rebuilt and extended irrigation works, and improved the safety of the trade routes. As a result, commerce increased dramatically.

Items from India, China, and Iran passed easily across the Asian steppes, and these contacts culturally enriched Iran. For example, Iranians developed a new style of painting based on a unique fusion of solid, two-dimensional Mesopotamian painting with the feathery, light brush strokes and other motifs characteristic of China. After Ghazan's nephew Abu Said died in 1335, however, the Ilkhanate lapsed into civil war and was divided between several petty dynasties – most prominently the Jalayirids, Muzaffarids, Sarbadars and Kartids.

The mid-14th-century Black Death killed about 30% of the country's population. [96]

Sunnism and Shiism in pre-Safavid Iran Edit

Prior to the rise of the Safavid Empire, Sunni Islam was the dominant religion, accounting for around 90% of the population at the time. According to Mortaza Motahhari the majority of Iranian scholars and masses remained Sunni until the time of the Safavids. [97] The domination of Sunnis did not mean Shia were rootless in Iran. The writers of The Four Books of Shia were Iranian, as well as many other great Shia scholars.

The domination of the Sunni creed during the first nine Islamic centuries characterized the religious history of Iran during this period. There were however some exceptions to this general domination which emerged in the form of the Zaydīs of Tabaristan (see Alid dynasties of northern Iran), the Buyids, the Kakuyids, the rule of Sultan Muhammad Khudabandah (r. Shawwal 703-Shawwal 716/1304-1316) and the Sarbedaran. [98]

Apart from this domination there existed, firstly, throughout these nine centuries, Shia inclinations among many Sunnis of this land and, secondly, original Imami Shiism as well as Zaydī Shiism had prevalence in some parts of Iran. During this period, Shia in Iran were nourished from Kufah, Baghdad and later from Najaf and Hillah. [98] Shiism was the dominant sect in Tabaristan, Qom, Kashan, Avaj and Sabzevar. In many other areas merged population of Shia and Sunni lived together.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, Fatimids sent Ismailis Da'i (missioners) to Iran as well as other Muslim lands. When Ismailis divided into two sects, Nizaris established their base in Iran. Hassan-i Sabbah conquered fortresses and captured Alamut in 1090 AD. Nizaris used this fortress until a Mongol raid in 1256.

After the Mongol raid and fall of the Abbasids, Sunni hierarchies faltered. Not only did they lose the caliphate but also the status of official madhhab. Their loss was the gain of Shia, whose centre wasn't in Iran at that time. Several local Shia dynasties like Sarbadars were established during this time.

The main change occurred in the beginning of the 16th century, when Ismail I founded the Safavid dynasty and initiated a religious policy to recognize Shi'a Islam as the official religion of the Safavid Empire, and the fact that modern Iran remains an officially Shi'ite state is a direct result of Ismail's actions.

Timurid Empire (1370–1507) Edit

Iran remained divided until the arrival of Timur, an Iranified Turco-Mongol [99] belonging to the Timurid dynasty. Like its predecessors, the Timurid Empire was also part of the Persianate world. After establishing a power base in Transoxiana, Timur invaded Iran in 1381 and eventually conquered most of it. Timur's campaigns were known for their brutality many people were slaughtered and several cities were destroyed. [100]

His regime was characterized by tyranny and bloodshed, but also by its inclusion of Iranians in administrative roles and its promotion of architecture and poetry. His successors, the Timurids, maintained a hold on most of Iran until 1452, when they lost the bulk of it to Black Sheep Turkmen. The Black Sheep Turkmen were conquered by the White Sheep Turkmen under Uzun Hasan in 1468 Uzun Hasan and his successors were the masters of Iran until the rise of the Safavids. [100]

Sufi poet Hafez's popularity became firmly established in the Timurid era that saw the compilation and widespread copying of his divan. Sufis were often persecuted by orthodox Muslims who considered their teachings blasphemous. Sufism developed a symbolic language rich with metaphors to obscure poetic references to provocative philosophical teachings. Hafez concealed his own Sufi faith, even as he employed the secret language of Sufism (developed over hundreds of years) in his own work, and he is sometimes credited with having "brought it to perfection". [101] His work was imitated by Jami, whose own popularity grew to spread across the full breadth of the Persianate world. [102]

Kara Koyunlu Edit

The Kara Koyunlu were Turkmen [103] [104] [105] [106] tribal federation that ruled over northwestern Iran and surrounding areas from 1374 to 1468 CE. The Kara Koyunlu expanded their conquest to Baghdad, however, internal fighting, defeats by the Timurids, rebellions by the Armenians in response to their persecution, [107] and failed struggles with the Ag Qoyunlu led to their eventual demise. [108]

Ak Koyunlu Edit

Aq Qoyunlu were Turkmen [109] [110] under the leadership of the Bayandur tribe, [111] tribal federation of Sunni Muslims who ruled over most of Iran and large parts of surrounding areas from 1378 to 1501 CE. Aq Qoyunlu emerged when Timur granted them all of Diyar Bakr in present-day Turkey. Afterward, they struggled with their rival Oghuz Turks, the Kara Koyunlu. While the Aq Qoyunlu were successful in defeating Kara Koyunlu, their struggle with the emerging Safavid dynasty led to their downfall. [112]

Persia underwent a revival under the Safavid dynasty (1502–1736), the most prominent figure of which was Shah Abbas I. Some historians credit the Safavid dynasty for founding the modern nation-state of Iran. Iran's contemporary Shia character, and significant segments of Iran's current borders take their origin from this era (e.g. Treaty of Zuhab).

Safavid Empire (1501–1736) Edit

The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Persia (modern Iran), and "is often considered the beginning of modern Persian history". [113] They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires after the Muslim conquest of Persia [114] [115] [116] [117] and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam [8] as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in Muslim history. The Safavids ruled from 1501 to 1722 (experiencing a brief restoration from 1729 to 1736) and at their height, they controlled all of modern Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia, most of Georgia, the North Caucasus, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Safavid Iran was one of the Islamic "gunpowder empires", along with its neighbours, its archrival and principal enemy the Ottoman Empire, as well as the Mughal Empire.

The Safavid ruling dynasty was founded by Ismāil, who styled himself Shāh Ismāil I. [118] Practically worshipped by his Qizilbāsh followers, Ismāil invaded Shirvan to avenge the death of his father, Shaykh Haydar, who had been killed during his siege of Derbent, in Dagestan. Afterwards he went on a campaign of conquest, and following the capture of Tabriz in July 1501, he enthroned himself as the Shāh of Iran, [119] [120] [121] minted coins in this name, and proclaimed Shi'ism the official religion of his domain. [8]

Although initially the masters of Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan only, the Safavids had, in fact, won the struggle for power in Persia which had been going on for nearly a century between various dynasties and political forces following the fragmentation of the Kara Koyunlu and the Aq Qoyunlu. A year after his victory in Tabriz, Ismāil proclaimed most of Persia as his domain, and [8] quickly conquered and unified Iran under his rule. Soon afterwards, the new Safavid Empire rapidly conquered regions, nations, and peoples in all directions, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, parts of Georgia, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Kuwait, Syria, Dagestan, large parts of what is now Afghanistan, parts of Turkmenistan, and large chunks of Anatolia, laying the foundation of its multi-ethnic character which would heavily influence the empire itself (most notably the Caucasus and its peoples).

Tahmasp I, the son and successor of Ismail I, carried out multiple invasions in the Caucasus which had been incorporated in the Safavid empire since Shah Ismail I and for many centuries afterwards, and started with the trend of deporting and moving hundreds of thousands of Circassians, Georgians, and Armenians to Iran's heartlands. Initially only solely put in the royal harems, royal guards, and minor other sections of the Empire, Tahmasp believed he could eventually reduce the power of the Qizilbash, by creating and fully integrating a new layer in Iranian society. As Encyclopædia Iranica states, for Tahmasp, the problem circled around the military tribal elite of the empire, the Qizilbash, who believed that physical proximity to and control of a member of the immediate Safavid family guaranteed spiritual advantages, political fortune, and material advancement. [122] With this new Caucasian layer in Iranian society, the undisputed might of the Qizilbash (who functioned much like the ghazis of the neighbouring Ottoman Empire) would be questioned and fully diminished as society would become fully meritocratic.

Shah Abbas I and his successors would significantly expand this policy and plan initiated by Tahmasp, deporting during his reign alone around some 200,000 Georgians, 300,000 Armenians and 100,000–150,000 Circassians to Iran, completing the foundation of a new layer in Iranian society. With this, and the complete systematic disorganisation of the Qizilbash by his personal orders, he eventually fully succeeded in replacing the power of the Qizilbash, with that of the Caucasian ghulams. These new Caucasian elements (the so-called ghilman / غِلْمَان / "servants"), almost always after conversion to Shi'ism depending on given function would be, were unlike the Qizilbash, fully loyal only to the Shah. The other masses of Caucasians were deployed in all other possible functions and positions available in the empire, as well as in the harem, regular military, craftsmen, farmers, etc. This system of mass usage of Caucasian subjects remained to exist until the fall of the Qajar Dynasty.

The greatest of the Safavid monarchs, Shah Abbas I the Great (1587–1629) came to power in 1587 aged 16. Abbas I first fought the Uzbeks, recapturing Herat and Mashhad in 1598, which had been lost by his predecessor Mohammad Khodabanda by the Ottoman–Safavid War (1578–1590). Then he turned against the Ottomans, the archrivals of the Safavids, recapturing Baghdad, eastern Iraq and the Caucasian provinces and beyond by 1618. Between 1616 and 1618, following the disobedience of his most loyal Georgian subjects Teimuraz I and Luarsab II, Abbas carried out a punitive campaign in his territories of Georgia, devastating Kakheti and Tbilisi and carrying away 130,000 [123] – 200,000 [124] [125] Georgian captives towards mainland Iran. His new army, which had dramatically been improved with the advent of Robert Shirley and his brothers following the first diplomatic mission to Europe, pitted the first crushing victory over the Safavids' archrivals, the Ottomans in the above-mentioned 1603–1618 war and would surpass the Ottomans in military strength. He also used his new force to dislodge the Portuguese from Bahrain (1602) and Hormuz (1622) with aid of the English navy, in the Persian Gulf.

He expanded commercial links with the Dutch East India Company and established firm links with the European royal houses, which had been initiated by Ismail I earlier on by the Habsburg–Persian alliance. Thus Abbas I was able to break the dependence on the Qizilbash for military might and therefore was able to centralize control. The Safavid dynasty had already established itself during Shah Ismail I, but under Abbas I it really became a major power in the world along with its archrival the Ottoman Empire, against whom it became able to compete with on equal foot. It also started the promotion of tourism in Iran. Under their rule Persian Architecture flourished again and saw many new monuments in various Iranian cities, of which Isfahan is the most notable example.

Except for Shah Abbas the Great, Shah Ismail I, Shah Tahmasp I, and Shah Abbas II, many of the Safavid rulers were ineffectual, often being more interested in their women, alcohol and other leisure activities. The end of Abbas II's reign in 1666, marked the beginning of the end of the Safavid dynasty. Despite falling revenues and military threats, many of the later shahs had lavish lifestyles. Shah Soltan Hosain (1694–1722) in particular was known for his love of wine and disinterest in governance. [126]

The declining country was repeatedly raided on its frontiers. Finally, Ghilzai Pashtun chieftain named Mir Wais Khan began a rebellion in Kandahar and defeated the Safavid army under the Iranian Georgian governor over the region, Gurgin Khan. In 1722, Peter the Great of neighbouring Imperial Russia launched the Russo-Persian War (1722–1723), capturing many of Iran's Caucasian territories, including Derbent, Shaki, Baku, but also Gilan, Mazandaran and Astrabad. At the mids of all chaos, in the same year of 1722, an Afghan army led by Mir Wais' son Mahmud marched across eastern Iran, besieged and took Isfahan. Mahmud proclaimed himself 'Shah' of Persia. Meanwhile, Persia's imperial rivals, the Ottomans and the Russians, took advantage of the chaos in the country to seize more territory for themselves. [127] By these events, the Safavid dynasty had effectively ended. In 1724, conform the Treaty of Constantinople, the Ottomans and the Russians agreed to divide the newly conquered territories of Iran amongst themselves. [128]

Nader Shah and his successors Edit

Iran's territorial integrity was restored by a native Iranian Turkic Afshar warlord from Khorasan, Nader Shah. He defeated and banished the Afghans, defeated the Ottomans, reinstalled the Safavids on the throne, and negotiated Russian withdrawal from Iran's Caucasian territories, with the Treaty of Resht and Treaty of Ganja. By 1736, Nader had become so powerful he was able to depose the Safavids and have himself crowned shah. Nader was one of the last great conquerors of Asia and briefly presided over what was probably the most powerful empire in the world. To financially support his wars against Persia's arch-rival, the Ottoman Empire, he fixed his sights on the weak but rich Mughal Empire to the east. In 1739, accompanied by his loyal Caucasian subjects including Erekle II, [129] [130] he invaded Mughal India, defeated a numerically superior Mughal army in less than three hours, and completely sacked and looted Delhi, bringing back immense wealth to Persia. On his way back, he also conquered all the Uzbek khanates – except for Kokand – and made the Uzbeks his vassals. He also firmly re-established Persian rule over the entire Caucasus, Bahrain, as well as large parts of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Undefeated for years, his defeat in Dagestan, following guerrilla rebellions by the Lezgins and the assassination attempt on him near Mazandaran is often considered the turning point in Nader's impressive career. To his frustration, the Dagestanis resorted to guerrilla warfare, and Nader with his conventional army could make little headway against them. [131] At the Battle of Andalal and the Battle of Avaria, Nader's army was crushingly defeated and he lost half of his entire force, as well forcing him to flee for the mountains. [132] Though Nader managed to take most of Dagestan during his campaign, the effective guerrilla warfare as deployed by the Lezgins, but also the Avars and Laks made the Iranian re-conquest of the particular North Caucasian region this time a short lived one several years later, Nader was forced to withdraw. Around the same time, the assassination attempt was made on him near Mazandaran which accelerated the course of history he slowly grew ill and megalomaniac, blinding his sons whom he suspected of the assassination attempts, and showing increasing cruelty against his subjects and officers. In his later years this eventually provoked multiple revolts and, ultimately, Nader's assassination in 1747. [133]

Nader's death was followed by a period of anarchy in Iran as rival army commanders fought for power. Nader's own family, the Afsharids, were soon reduced to holding on to a small domain in Khorasan. Many of the Caucasian territories broke away in various Caucasian khanates. Ottomans regained lost territories in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Oman and the Uzbek khanates of Bukhara and Khiva regained independence. Ahmad Shah Durrani, one of Nader's officers, founded an independent state which eventually became modern Afghanistan. Erekle II and Teimuraz II, who, in 1744, had been made the kings of Kakheti and Kartli respectively by Nader himself for their loyal service, [134] capitalized on the eruption of instability, and declared de facto independence. Erekle II assumed control over Kartli after Teimuraz II's death, thus unifying the two as the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti, becoming the first Georgian ruler in three centuries to preside over a politically unified eastern Georgia, [135] and due to the frantic turn of events in mainland Iran he would be able to remain de facto autonomous through the Zand period. [136] From his capital Shiraz, Karim Khan of the Zand dynasty ruled "an island of relative calm and peace in an otherwise bloody and destructive period," [137] however the extent of Zand power was confined to contemporary Iran and parts of the Caucasus. Karim Khan's death in 1779 led to yet another civil war in which the Qajar dynasty eventually triumphed and became kings of Iran. During the civil war, Iran permanently lost Basra in 1779 to the Ottomans, which had been captured during the Ottoman–Persian War (1775–76), [138] and Bahrain to Al Khalifa family after Bani Utbah invasion in 1783. [ citation needed ]

Qajar dynasty (1796–1925) Edit

Qajar era currency bill with depiction of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar.

A map of Iran under the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century.

A map showing the 19th-century northwestern borders of Iran, comprising modern-day eastern Georgia, Dagestan, Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan, before being ceded to the neighboring Russian Empire by the Russo-Iranian wars.

Agha Mohammad Khan emerged victorious out of the civil war that commenced with the death of the last Zand king. His reign is noted for the reemergence of a centrally led and united Iran. After the death of Nader Shah and the last of the Zands, most of Iran's Caucasian territories had broken away into various Caucasian khanates. Agha Mohammad Khan, like the Safavid kings and Nader Shah before him, viewed the region as no different than the territories in mainland Iran. Therefore, his first objective after having secured mainland Iran, was to reincorpate the Caucasus region into Iran. [139] Georgia was seen as one of the most integral territories. [136] For Agha Mohammad Khan, the resubjugation and reintegration of Georgia into the Iranian Empire was part of the same process that had brought Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabriz under his rule. [136] As the Cambridge History of Iran states, its permanent secession was inconceivable and had to be resisted in the same way as one would resist an attempt at the separation of Fars or Gilan. [136] It was therefore natural for Agha Mohammad Khan to perform whatever necessary means in the Caucasus in order to subdue and reincorporate the recently lost regions following Nader Shah's death and the demise of the Zands, including putting down what in Iranian eyes was seen as treason on the part of the wali (viceroy) of Georgia, namely the Georgian king Erekle II (Heraclius II) who was appointed viceroy of Georgia by Nader Shah himself. [136]

Agha Mohammad Khan subsequently demanded that Heraclius II renounce its 1783 treaty with Russia, and to submit again to Persian suzerainty, [139] in return for peace and the security of his kingdom. The Ottomans, Iran's neighboring rival, recognized the latter's rights over Kartli and Kakheti for the first time in four centuries. [140] Heraclius appealed then to his theoretical protector, Empress Catherine II of Russia, pleading for at least 3,000 Russian troops, [140] but he was ignored, leaving Georgia to fend off the Persian threat alone. [141] Nevertheless, Heraclius II still rejected the Khan's ultimatum. [142] As a response, Agha Mohammad Khan invaded the Caucasus region after crossing the Aras river, and, while on his way to Georgia, he re-subjugated Iran's territories of the Erivan Khanate, Shirvan, Nakhchivan Khanate, Ganja khanate, Derbent Khanate, Baku khanate, Talysh Khanate, Shaki Khanate, Karabakh Khanate, which comprise modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and Igdir. Having reached Georgia with his large army, he prevailed in the Battle of Krtsanisi, which resulted in the capture and sack of Tbilisi, as well as the effective resubjugation of Georgia. [143] [144] Upon his return from his successful campaign in Tbilisi and in effective control over Georgia, together with some 15,000 Georgian captives that were moved back to mainland Iran, [141] Agha Mohammad was formally crowned Shah in 1796 in the Mughan plain, just as his predecessor Nader Shah was about sixty years earlier.

Agha Mohammad Shah was later assassinated while preparing a second expedition against Georgia in 1797 in Shusha [145] (now part of the Republic of Azerbaijan) and the seasoned king Heraclius died early in 1798. The reassertion of Iranian hegemony over Georgia did not last long in 1799 the Russians marched into Tbilisi. [146] The Russians were already actively occupied with an expansionist policy towards its neighboring empires to its south, namely the Ottoman Empire and the successive Iranian kingdoms since the late 17th/early 18th century. The next two years following Russia's entrance into Tbilisi were a time of confusion, and the weakened and devastated Georgian kingdom, with its capital half in ruins, was easily absorbed by Russia in 1801. [141] [142] As Iran could not permit or allow the cession of Transcaucasia and Dagestan, which had been an integral part of Iran for centuries, [12] this would lead directly to the wars of several years later, namely the Russo-Persian Wars of 1804-1813 and 1826-1828. The outcome of these two wars (in the Treaty of Gulistan and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, respectively) proved for the irrevocable forced cession and loss of what is now eastern Georgia, Dagestan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to Imperial Russia. [147] [143]

The area to the north of the river Aras, among which the territory of the contemporary republic of Azerbaijan, eastern Georgia, Dagestan, and Armenia were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia in the course of the 19th century. [148] [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154]

Battle of Elisabethpol (Ganja), 1828. Franz Roubaud. Part of the collection of the Museum for History, Baku.

Migration of Caucasian Muslims Edit

Following the official loss of vast territories in the Caucasus, major demographic shifts were bound to take place. Following the 1804-1814 War, but also per the 1826-1828 war which ceded the last territories, large migrations, so-called Caucasian Muhajirs, set off to migrate to mainland Iran. Some of these groups included the Ayrums, Qarapapaqs, Circassians, Shia Lezgins, and other Transcaucasian Muslims. [155]

After the Battle of Ganja of 1804 during the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), many thousands of Ayrums and Qarapapaqs were settled in Tabriz. During the remaining part of the 1804-1813 war, as well as through the 1826-1828 war, a large number of the Ayrums and Qarapapaqs that were still remaining in newly conquered Russian territories were settled in and migrated to Solduz (in modern-day Iran's West Azerbaijan province). [156] As the Cambridge History of Iran states "The steady encroachment of Russian troops along the frontier in the Caucasus, General Yermolov's brutal punitive expeditions and misgovernment, drove large numbers of Muslims, and even some Georgian Christians, into exile in Iran." [157]

From 1864 until the early 20th century, another mass expulsion took place of Caucasian Muslims as a result of the Russian victory in the Caucasian War. Others simply voluntarily refused to live under Christian Russian rule, and thus departed for Turkey or Iran. These migrations once again, towards Iran, included masses of Caucasian Azerbaijanis, other Transcaucasian Muslims, as well as many North Caucasian Muslims, such as Circassians, Shia Lezgins and Laks. [155] [158] Many of these migrants would prove to play a pivotal role in further Iranian history, as they formed most of the ranks of the Persian Cossack Brigade, which was established in the late 19th century. [159] The initial ranks of the brigade would be entirely composed of Circassians and other Caucasian Muhajirs. [159] This brigade would prove decisive in the following decades in Qajar history.

Furthermore, the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay included the official rights for the Russian Empire to encourage settling of Armenians from Iran in the newly conquered Russian territories. [160] [161] Until the mid-fourteenth century, Armenians had constituted a majority in Eastern Armenia. [162] At the close of the fourteenth century, after Timur's campaigns, the Timurid Renaissance flourished, and Islam had become the dominant faith, and Armenians became a minority in Eastern Armenia. [162] After centuries of constant warfare on the Armenian Plateau, many Armenians chose to emigrate and settle elsewhere. Following Shah Abbas I's massive relocation of Armenians and Muslims in 1604–05, [163] their numbers dwindled even further.

At the time of the Russian invasion of Iran, some 80% of the population of Iranian Armenia were Muslims (Persians, Turkics, and Kurds) whereas Christian Armenians constituted a minority of about 20%. [164] As a result of the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828), Iran was forced to cede Iranian Armenia (which also constituted the present-day Armenia), to the Russians. [165] [166] After the Russian administration took hold of Iranian Armenia, the ethnic make-up shifted, and thus for the first time in more than four centuries, ethnic Armenians started to form a majority once again in one part of historic Armenia. [167] The new Russian administration encouraged the settling of ethnic Armenians from Iran proper and Ottoman Turkey. As a result, by 1832, the number of ethnic Armenians had matched that of the Muslims. [164] It would be only after the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, which brought another influx of Turkish Armenians, that ethnic Armenians once again established a solid majority in Eastern Armenia. [168] Nevertheless, the city of Erivan retained a Muslim majority up to the twentieth century. [168] According to the traveller H. F. B. Lynch, the city was about 50% Armenian and 50% Muslim (Azerbaijanis and Persians) in the early 1890s. [169]

Fath Ali Shah's reign saw increased diplomatic contacts with the West and the beginning of intense European diplomatic rivalries over Iran. His grandson Mohammad Shah, who succeeded him in 1834, fell under the Russian influence and made two unsuccessful attempts to capture Herat. When Mohammad Shah died in 1848 the succession passed to his son Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, who proved to be the ablest and most successful of the Qajar sovereigns. He founded the first modern hospital in Iran. [170]

Constitutional Revolution and deposition Edit

The Great Persian Famine of 1870–1871 is believed to have caused the death of two million people. [171]

A new era in the history of Persia dawned with the Persian Constitutional Revolution against the Shah in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Shah managed to remain in power, granting a limited constitution in 1906 (making the country a constitutional monarchy). The first Majlis (parliament) was convened on October 7, 1906.

The discovery of petroleum in 1908 by the British in Khuzestan spawned intense renewed interest in Persia by the British Empire (see William Knox D'Arcy and Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP). Control of Persia remained contested between the United Kingdom and Russia, in what became known as The Great Game, and codified in the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which divided Persia into spheres of influence, regardless of her national sovereignty.

During World War I, the country was occupied by British, Ottoman and Russian forces but was essentially neutral (see Persian Campaign). In 1919, after the Russian revolution and their withdrawal, Britain attempted to establish a protectorate in Persia, which was unsuccessful.

Finally, the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan and the central power vacuum caused by the instability of the Qajar government resulted in the rise of Reza Khan, who was later to become Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the subsequent establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925. In 1921, a military coup established Reza Khan, an officer of the Persian Cossack Brigade, as the dominant figure for the next 20 years. Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabai was also a leader and important figure in the perpetration of the coup. The coup was not actually directed at the Qajar monarchy according to Encyclopædia Iranica, it was targeted at officials who were in power and actually had a role in controlling the government the cabinet and others who had a role in governing Persia. [172] In 1925, after being prime minister for two years, Reza Khan became the first shah of the Pahlavi dynasty.

Pahlavi era (1925–1979) Edit

Reza Shah (1925–1941) Edit

Reza Shah ruled for almost 16 years until September 16, 1941, when he was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. He established an authoritarian government that valued nationalism, militarism, secularism and anti-communism combined with strict censorship and state propaganda. [173] Reza Shah introduced many socio-economic reforms, reorganizing the army, government administration, and finances. [174]

To his supporters his reign brought "law and order, discipline, central authority, and modern amenities – schools, trains, buses, radios, cinemas, and telephones". [175] However, his attempts of modernisation have been criticised for being "too fast" [176] and "superficial", [177] and his reign a time of "oppression, corruption, taxation, lack of authenticity" with "security typical of police states." [175]

Many of the new laws and regulations created resentment among devout Muslims and the clergy. For example, mosques were required to use chairs most men were required to wear western clothing, including a hat with a brim women were encouraged to discard the hijab men and women were allowed to freely congregate, violating Islamic mixing of the sexes. Tensions boiled over in 1935, when bazaaris and villagers rose up in rebellion at the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, chanting slogans such as 'The Shah is a new Yezid.' Dozens were killed and hundreds were injured when troops finally quelled the unrest. [178]

World War II Edit

German interests held great influence within Iran in 1941, with the Germans staging a coup [ citation needed ] in an attempt to overthrow the Pahlavi dynasty. With German armies highly successful against the Soviet Union, the Iranian government expected Germany to win the war and establish a powerful force on its borders. It rejected British and Soviet demands to expel the Germans. In response, the two Allies invaded in August 1941 and easily overwhelmed the weak Iranian army in Operation Countenance. Iran became the major conduit of Allied Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union. The purpose was to secure Iranian oil fields and ensure Allied supply lines (see Persian Corridor) . Iran remained officially neutral. Its monarch Rezā Shāh was deposed during the subsequent occupation and replaced with his young son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. [179]

At the Tehran Conference of 1943, the Allies issued the Tehran Declaration guaranteed the post-war independence and boundaries of Iran. However, when the war actually ended, Soviet troops stationed in northwestern Iran not only refused to withdraw but backed revolts that established short-lived, pro-Soviet separatist national states in the northern regions of Azerbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan, the Azerbaijan People's Government and the Republic of Kurdistan respectively, in late 1945. Soviet troops did not withdraw from Iran proper until May 1946 after receiving a promise of oil concessions. The Soviet republics in the north were soon overthrown and the oil concessions were revoked. [180] [181]

Mohammad-Reza Shah (1941–1979) Edit

Initially there were hopes that post-occupation Iran could become a constitutional monarchy. The new, young Shah Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi initially took a very hands-off role in government, and allowed parliament to hold a lot of power. Some elections were held in the first shaky years, although they remained mired in corruption. Parliament became chronically unstable, and from the 1947 to 1951 period Iran saw the rise and fall of six different prime ministers. Pahlavi increased his political power by convening the Iran Constituent Assembly, 1949, which finally formed the Senate of Iran—a legislative upper house allowed for in the 1906 constitution but never brought into being. The new senators were largely supportive of Pahlavi, as he had intended.

In 1951 Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq received the vote required from the parliament to nationalize the British-owned oil industry, in a situation known as the Abadan Crisis. Despite British pressure, including an economic blockade, the nationalization continued. Mosaddeq was briefly removed from power in 1952 but was quickly re-appointed by the Shah, due to a popular uprising in support of the premier and he, in turn, forced the Shah into a brief exile in August 1953 after a failed military coup by Imperial Guard Colonel Nematollah Nassiri.

1953: U.S. organized coup removes Mosaddeq Edit

Shortly thereafter on August 19 a successful coup was headed by retired army general Fazlollah Zahedi, organized by the United States (CIA) [182] with the active support of the British (MI6) (known as Operation Ajax and Operation Boot to the respective agencies). [183] The coup—with a black propaganda campaign designed to turn the population against Mosaddeq [184] — forced Mosaddeq from office. Mosaddeq was arrested and tried for treason. Found guilty, his sentence reduced to house arrest on his family estate while his foreign minister, Hossein Fatemi, was executed. Zahedi succeeded him as prime minister, and suppressed opposition to the Shah, specifically the National Front and Communist Tudeh Party.

Iran was ruled as an autocracy under the Shah with American support from that time until the revolution. The Iranian government entered into agreement with an international consortium of foreign companies which ran the Iranian oil facilities for the next 25 years splitting profits fifty-fifty with Iran but not allowing Iran to audit their accounts or have members on their board of directors. In 1957 martial law was ended after 16 years and Iran became closer to the West, joining the Baghdad Pact and receiving military and economic aid from the US. In 1961, Iran initiated a series of economic, social, agrarian and administrative reforms to modernize the country that became known as the Shah's White Revolution.

The core of this program was land reform. Modernization and economic growth proceeded at an unprecedented rate, fueled by Iran's vast petroleum reserves, the third-largest in the world. However the reforms, including the White Revolution, did not greatly improve economic conditions and the liberal pro-Western policies alienated certain Islamic religious and political groups. In early June 1963 several days of massive rioting occurred in support of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini following the cleric's arrest for a speech attacking the Shah.

Two years later, premier Hassan Ali Mansur was assassinated and the internal security service, SAVAK, became more violently active. In the 1970s leftist guerilla groups such as Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK), emerged and attacked regime and foreign targets.

Nearly a hundred Iran political prisoners were killed by the SAVAK during the decade before the revolution and many more were arrested and tortured. [185] The Islamic clergy, headed by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (who had been exiled in 1964), were becoming increasingly vociferous.

Iran greatly increased its defense budget and by the early 1970s was the region's strongest military power. Bilateral relations with its neighbor Iraq were not good, mainly due to a dispute over the Shatt al-Arab waterway. In November 1971, Iranian forces seized control of three islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in response, Iraq expelled thousands of Iranian nationals. Following a number of clashes in April 1969, Iran abrogated the 1937 accord and demanded a renegotiation.

In mid-1973, the Shah returned the oil industry to national control. Following the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973, Iran did not join the Arab oil embargo against the West and Israel. Instead, it used the situation to raise oil prices, using the money gained for modernization and to increase defense spending.

A border dispute between Iraq and Iran was resolved with the signing of the Algiers Accord on March 6, 1975.

Revolution and the Islamic Republic (1979–present) Edit

The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution, [186] was the revolution that transformed Iran from an absolute monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, one of the leaders of the revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic. [11] Its time span can be said to have begun in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations, [187] and concluded with the approval of the new theocratic Constitution—whereby Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country—in December 1979. [188]

In between, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left the country for exile in January 1979 after strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country, and on February 1, 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran. [188] The final collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty occurred shortly after on February 11 when Iran's military declared itself "neutral" after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979, when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so. [189]

Ideology of the 1979 Iranian Revolution Edit

The ideology of revolutionary government was populist, nationalist and most of all Shi'a Islamic. Its unique constitution is based on the concept of velayat-e faqih the idea advanced by Khomeini that Muslims – in fact everyone – requires "guardianship", in the form of rule or supervision by the leading Islamic jurist or jurists. [190] Khomeini served as this ruling jurist, or supreme leader, until his death in 1989.

Iran's rapidly modernising, capitalist economy was replaced by populist and Islamic economic and cultural policies. Much industry was nationalized, laws and schools Islamicized, and Western influences banned.

The Islamic revolution also created great impact around the world. In the non-Muslim world it has changed the image of Islam, generating much interest in the politics and spirituality of Islam, [191] along with "fear and distrust towards Islam" and particularly the Islamic Republic and its founder. [192]

Khomeini (1979–1989) Edit

Khomeini served as leader of the revolution or as Supreme Leader of Iran from 1979 to his death on June 3, 1989. This era was dominated by the consolidation of the revolution into a theocratic republic under Khomeini, and by the costly and bloody war with Iraq.

The consolidation lasted until 1982–3, [193] [194] as Iran coped with the damage to its economy, military, and apparatus of government, and protests and uprisings by secularists, leftists, and more traditional Muslims—formerly ally revolutionaries but now rivals—were effectively suppressed. Many political opponents were executed by the new regimes. Following the events of the revolution, Marxist guerrillas and federalist parties revolted in some regions comprising Khuzistan, Kurdistan and Gonbad-e Qabus, which resulted in severe fighting between rebels and revolutionary forces. These revolts began in April 1979 and lasted between several months to over a year, depending on the region. The Kurdish uprising, led by the KDPI, was the most violent, lasting until 1983 and resulting in 10,000 casualties.

In the summer of 1979 a new constitution giving Khomeini a powerful post as guardian jurist Supreme Leader [195] and a clerical Council of Guardians power over legislation and elections, was drawn up by an Assembly of Experts for Constitution. The new constitution was approved by referendum in December 1979.

Iran hostage crisis (1979–1981) Edit

An early event in the history of the Islamic republic that had a long-term impact was the Iran hostage crisis. Following the admitting of the former Shah of Iran into the United States for cancer treatment, on November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized US embassy personnel, labeling the embassy a "den of spies." [196] Fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days until January 1981. [197] An American military attempt to rescue the hostages failed. [198]

The takeover was enormously popular in Iran, where thousands gathered in support of the hostage takers, and it is thought to have strengthened the prestige of the Ayatollah Khomeini and consolidated the hold of anti-Americanism. It was at this time that Khomeini began referring to America as the "Great Satan." In America, where it was considered a violation of the long-standing principle of international law that diplomats may be expelled but not held captive, it created a powerful anti-Iranian backlash. Relations between the two countries have remained deeply antagonistic and American international sanctions have hurt Iran's economy. [199]

Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) Edit

During this political and social crisis, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attempted to take advantage of the disorder of the Revolution, the weakness of the Iranian military and the revolution's antagonism with Western governments. The once-strong Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolution, and with the Shah ousted, Hussein had ambitions to position himself as the new strong man of the Middle East, and sought to expand Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah's rule.

Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan which not only boasted a substantial Arab population, but rich oil fields as well. On the unilateral behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs became objectives as well. With these ambitions in mind, Hussein planned a full-scale assault on Iran, boasting that his forces could reach the capital within three days. On September 22, 1980, the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran–Iraq War. The attack took revolutionary Iran completely by surprise.

Although Saddam Hussein's forces made several early advances, Iranian forces had pushed the Iraqi army back into Iraq by 1982. Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution westward into Iraq, especially on the majority Shi'a Arabs living in the country. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini, in his words, "drank the cup of poison" and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations.

Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians and military personnel were killed when Iraq used chemical weapons in its warfare. Iraq was financially backed by Egypt, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states, the United States (beginning in 1983), France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and the People's Republic of China (which also sold weapons to Iran).

There were more than 182.000 Kurdish victims [200] of Iraq's chemical weapons during the eight-year war. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Almost all relevant international agencies have confirmed that Saddam engaged in chemical warfare to blunt Iranian human wave attacks these agencies unanimously confirmed that Iran never used chemical weapons during the war. [201] [202] [203] [204]

Starting on 19 July 1988 and lasting about five months the government systematically executed thousands of political prisoners across Iran. This is commonly referred to as the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners or the 1988 Iranian Massacre. The main target was the membership of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), although a lesser number of political prisoners from other leftist groups were also included such as the Tudeh Party of Iran (Communist Party). [205] [206] Estimates of the number executed vary from 1,400 [207] to 30,000. [208] [209]

Khamenei (1989–present) Edit

On his deathbed in 1989, Khomeini appointed a 25-man Constitutional Reform Council which named then president Ali Khamenei as the next Supreme Leader, and made a number of changes to Iran's constitution. [210] A smooth transition followed Khomeini's death on June 3, 1989. While Khamenei lacked Khomeini's "charisma and clerical standing", he developed a network of supporters within Iran's armed forces and its economically powerful religious foundations. [211] Under his reign Iran's regime is said – by at least one observer – to resemble more "a clerical oligarchy . than an autocracy." [211]

Rafsanjani: pragmatic conservativism (1989–1997) Edit

Succeeding Khamenei as president on August 3, 1989 was pragmatic conservative Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who served two four-year terms and focused his efforts on rebuilding Iran's economy and war-damaged infrastructure though low oil prices hampered this endeavor. He sought to restore confidence in the government among the general population by privatizing the companies that had been nationalized in the first few years of the Islamic Republic, as well as by bringing in qualified technocrats to manage the economy. The state of their economy also influenced the government to move towards ending their diplomatic isolation. This was achieved through the reestablishment of normalized relations with neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and an attempt to improve its reputation in the region with assertions that its revolution was not exportable to other states. [212] During the Persian Gulf War in 1991 the country remained neutral, restricting its action to the condemnation of the U.S. and allowing fleeing Iraqi aircraft and refugees into the country.

Iran in the 1990s had a greater secular behavior and admiration for Western popular culture than in the previous decades, it had become a way in which the urban population expressed their resentment at the invasive Islamic policies of the government. [213] The pressures from the population placed on the new Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led to an uneasy alliance between him and President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Through this alliance they attempted to hinder the ulama's ability to gain further control of the state. In 1989, they created a sequence of constitutional amendments that removed the office of prime minister and increased the scope of presidential power. However, these new amendments did not curtail the powers of the Supreme Leader of Iran in any way this position still contained the ultimate authority over the armed forces, the making of war and peace, the final say in foreign policy, and the right to intervene in the legislative process whenever he deemed it necessary. [213]

Katami: reformers and conservatives struggle (1997–2005) Edit

President Rafsanjani's economic policies that led to greater relations with the outside world and his government's relaxation on the enforcement certain regulations on social behavior were met with some responses of widespread disenchantment among the general population with the ulama as rulers of the country. [213] This led to the defeat of the government's candidate for president in 1997, who had the backing of the supreme Islamic jurist. He was beaten by an independent candidate from the reformist, Mohammad Khatami. He received 69% of the vote and enjoyed particular support from two groups of the population that had felt ostracized by the practices of the state: women and youth. The younger generations in the country had been too young to experience the shah's regime or the revolution that ended it, and now they resented the restrictions placed on their daily lives under the Islamic Republic. Mohammad Khatami's presidency was soon marked by tensions between the reform-minded government and an increasingly conservative and vocal clergy. This rift reached a climax in July 1999 when massive anti-government protests erupted in the streets of Tehran. The disturbances lasted over a week before police and pro-government vigilantes dispersed the crowds.

Khatami was re-elected in June 2001 but his efforts were repeatedly blocked by the conservatives in the parliament. Conservative elements within Iran's government moved to undermine the reformist movement, banning liberal newspapers and disqualifying candidates for parliamentary elections. This clampdown on dissent, combined with the failure of Khatami to reform the government, led to growing political apathy among Iran's youth.

In June 2003, anti-government protests by several thousand students took place in Tehran. [214] [215] Several human rights protests also occurred in 2006.

Ahmadinejad: hardline conservatism (2005–2009) Edit

In 2005 Iranian presidential election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran, became the sixth president of Iran, after winning 62 percent of the vote in the run-off poll, against former president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. [216] During the authorization ceremony he kissed Khamenei's hand in demonstration of his loyalty to him. [217] [218]

During this time, the American invasion of Iraq, overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime and empowerment of its Shi'a majority, all strengthened Iran's position in the region particularly in the mainly Shi'a south of Iraq, where a top Shia leader in the week of September 3, 2006 renewed demands for an autonomous Shi'a region. [219] At least one commentator (Former U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen) has stated that as of 2009 Iran's growing power has eclipsed anti-Zionism as the major foreign policy issue in the Middle East. [220]

During 2005 and 2006, there were claims that the United States and Israel were planning to attack Iran, with the most cited reason being Iran's civilian nuclear energy program which the United States and some other states fear could lead to a nuclear weapons program. China and Russia opposed military action of any sort and opposed economic sanctions. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. The fatwa was cited in an official statement by the Iranian government at an August 2005 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. [221] [222]

In 2009, Ahmadinejad's reelection was hotly disputed and marred by large protests that formed the "greatest domestic challenge" to the leadership of the Islamic Republic "in 30 years". The resulting social unrest is widely known as the Iranian Green Movement. [223] Reformist opponent Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his supporters alleged voting irregularities and by 1 July 2009, 1000 people had been arrested and 20 killed in street demonstrations. [224] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other Islamic officials blamed foreign powers for fomenting the protest. [225]

Rouhani: pragmatism (2013-2021) Edit

On 15 June 2013, Hassan Rouhani won the presidential election in Iran, with a total number of 36,704,156 ballots cast Rouhani won 18,613,329 votes. In his press conference one day after election day, Rouhani reiterated his promise to recalibrate Iran's relations with the world.

On April 2, 2015, following eight days of tortuous discussions in Switzerland, which lasted through the night to Thursday, Iran and six world powers (United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia plus Germany) agreed on the outlines of an understanding to limit Iran's nuclear programs, negotiators indicated, as both sides prepared for announcements. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "Found solutions. Ready to start drafting immediately." European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted that she would meet the press with Zarif after a final meeting of the seven nations in the nuclear talks. She wrote: "Good news."

Reading out a joint statement, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hailed what she called a "decisive step" after more than a decade of work. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif followed with the same statement in Persian. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the top diplomats of Britain, France and Germany also briefly took the stage behind them. The deal is intended to be a provisional framework for a comprehensive agreement and was signed in 2015, and marked a significant breakthrough in the 12-year history of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme.

When Donald Trump was campaigning to become President of the US, he repeatedly said he would abandon the Iran nuclear deal. After he was elected president, the USA announced to withdraw from the agreement on the 8th of May 2018.

The Iranian-backed group known as Kataib Hezbollah attacked the United States embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019.

On January 3, 2020, the United States military executed a drone strike at Baghdad Airport, killing Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force, an elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.


Contents

Strong international opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime began after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The international community condemned the invasion, [79] and in 1991 a military coalition led by the United States launched the Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, the US and its allies tried to keep Saddam Hussein in check with a policy of containment. This policy involved numerous economic sanctions by the UN Security Council the enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones declared by the US and the UK to protect the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Shias in the south from aerial attacks by the Iraqi government and ongoing inspections to ensure Iraq's compliance with United Nations resolutions concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The inspections were carried out by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). UNSCOM, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, worked to ensure that Iraq destroyed its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and facilities. [80] In the decade following the Gulf War, the United Nations passed 16 Security Council resolutions calling for the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Member states communicated their frustration over the years that Iraq was impeding the work of the special commission and failing to take seriously its disarmament obligations. Iraqi officials harassed the inspectors and obstructed their work, [80] and in August 1998 the Iraqi government suspended cooperation with the inspectors completely, alleging that the inspectors were spying for the US. [81] The spying allegations were later substantiated. [82]

In October 1998, removing the Iraqi government became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act. The act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq." [83] This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change. [84] One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the US and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign's express rationale was to hamper Saddam Hussein's government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Saddam's grip on power. [85]

Following the election of George W. Bush as president in 2000, the US moved towards a more aggressive Iraq policy. The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act as "a starting point" in a plan to "remove" Saddam. [86] Little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks although plans were drafted and meetings were held from the first days of his administration. [87] [88]

After 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq. On the day of the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked his aides for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at the same time. Not only Osama bin Laden." [89] President Bush spoke with Rumsfeld on 21 November and instructed him to conduct a confidential review of OPLAN 1003, the war plan for invading Iraq. [90] Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command, on 27 November to go over the plans. A record of the meeting includes the question "How start?", listing multiple possible justifications for a U.S.–Iraq War. [91] [92] The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. [93]

President Bush began laying the public groundwork for an invasion of Iraq in January 2002 State of the Union address, calling Iraq a member of the Axis of Evil, and saying "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." [94] Bush said this and made many other dire allegations about the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that the Bush administration knew that Iraq had no nuclear weapons and had no information about whether Iraq had biological weapons. [95] He began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his 12 September 2002 address to the UN Security Council. [96] However, a 5 September 2002 report from Major General Glen Shaffer revealed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff's J2 Intelligence Directorate had concluded that the United States' knowledge on different aspects of the Iraqi WMD program ranged from essentially zero to about 75%, and that knowledge was particularly weak on aspects of a possible nuclear weapons program: "Our knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence," they concluded. "Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs." [97] [98] Similarly, the British government found no evidence that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq posed no threat to the West, a conclusion British diplomats shared with the U.S. government. [99]

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the US actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised "serious consequences" for non-compliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government. [100] The US and UK ambassadors to the UN publicly confirmed this reading of the resolution. [101]

Resolution 1441 set up inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Saddam accepted the resolution on 13 November and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. As of February 2003, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq" the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses. [102] In March 2003, Blix said progress had been made in inspections, and no evidence of WMD had been found. [103]

In October 2002, the US Congress passed the "Iraq Resolution", which authorized the President to "use any means necessary" against Iraq. Americans polled in January 2003 widely favored further diplomacy over an invasion. Later that year, however, Americans began to agree with Bush's plan (see popular opinion in the United States on the invasion of Iraq). The US government engaged in an elaborate domestic public relations campaign to market the war to its citizens. Americans overwhelmingly believed Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction: 85% said so, even though the inspectors had not uncovered those weapons. By February 2003, 64% of Americans supported taking military action to remove Saddam from power. [104]

On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN to present evidence that Iraq was hiding unconventional weapons. However, Powell's presentation included information based on the claims of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed "Curveball", an Iraqi emigrant living in Germany who later admitted that his claims had been false. [105] Powell also presented evidence alleging Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda. As a follow-up to Powell's presentation, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Spain proposed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but NATO members like Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the US, the UK, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Japan, and Australia eventually withdrew their resolution. [106] [107]

In March 2003, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Italy began preparing for the invasion of Iraq with a host of public relations and military moves. In an address to the nation on 17 March 2003, Bush demanded that Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, surrender and leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline. [108]

The UK House of Commons held a debate on going to war on 18 March 2003 where the government motion was approved 412 to 149. [109] The vote was a key moment in the history of the Blair administration, as the number of government MPs who rebelled against the vote was the greatest since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Three government ministers resigned in protest at the war, John Denham, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the then Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook.

Opposition to invasion Edit

In October 2002, former U.S. President Bill Clinton warned about possible dangers of pre-emptive military action against Iraq. Speaking in the UK at a Labour Party conference he said: "As a preemptive action today, however well-justified, may come back with unwelcome consequences in the future. I don't care how precise your bombs and your weapons are when you set them off, innocent people will die." [110] [111] Of 209 House Democrats in Congress, 126 voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, although 29 of 50 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of it. Only one Republican Senator, Lincoln Chafee, voted against it. The Senate's lone Independent, Jim Jeffords, voted against it. Retired US Marine, former Navy Secretary and future US senator Jim Webb wrote shortly before the vote, "Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade." [112]

In the same period, Pope John Paul II publicly condemned the military intervention. During a private meeting, he also said directly to George W. Bush: "Mr. President, you know my opinion about the war in Iraq. Let's talk about something else. Every violence, against one or a million, is a blasphemy addressed to the image and likeness of God." [113]

On 20 January 2003, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin declared "we believe that military intervention would be the worst solution". [115] Meanwhile, anti-war groups across the world organized public protests. According to French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against war in Iraq, with demonstrations on 15 February 2003 being the largest. [116] Nelson Mandela voiced his opposition in late January, stating "All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil," and questioning if Bush deliberately undermined the U.N. "because the secretary-general of the United Nations [was] a black man". [117]

In February 2003, the US Army's top general, Eric Shinseki, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take "several hundred thousand soldiers" to secure Iraq. [118] Two days later, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the post-war troop commitment would be less than the number of troops required to win the war, and that "the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces is far from the mark." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Shinseki's estimate was "way off the mark," because other countries would take part in an occupying force. [119]

Germany's Foreign Secretary Joschka Fischer, although having been in favour of stationing German troops in Afghanistan, advised Federal Chancellor Schröder not to join the war in Iraq. Fischer famously confronted United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the 39th Munich Security Conference in 2003 on the secretary's purported evidence for Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction: "Excuse me, I am not convinced!" [120]

There were serious legal questions surrounding the launching of the war against Iraq and the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war in general. On 16 September 2004, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the Charter point of view, it was illegal." [121]

In November 2008 Lord Bingham, the former British Law Lord, described the war as a serious violation of international law, and accused Britain and the United States of acting like a "world vigilante". He also criticized the post-invasion record of Britain as "an occupying power in Iraq". Regarding the treatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham said: "Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration." [122] In July 2010, Deputy Prime Minister of the UK Nick Clegg, during PMQs session in Parliament, condemned the invasion of Iraq as "illegal" - though he later clarified that this was a personal opinion, not an official one. [123]

The first Central Intelligence Agency team entered Iraq on 10 July 2002. [124] This team was composed of members of the CIA's Special Activities Division and was later joined by members of the US military's elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). [125] Together, they prepared for an invasion by conventional forces. These efforts consisted of persuading the commanders of several Iraqi military divisions to surrender rather than oppose the invasion, and identifying all the initial leadership targets during very high risk reconnaissance missions. [125]

Most importantly, their efforts organized the Kurdish Peshmerga to become the northern front of the invasion. Together this force defeated Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan before the invasion and then defeated the Iraqi army in the north. [125] [126] The battle against Ansar al-Islam, known as Operation Viking Hammer, led to the death of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat. [124] [127]

At 5:34 a.m. Baghdad time on 20 March 2003 (9:34 pm, 19 March EST) the surprise [128] military invasion of Iraq began. [129] There was no declaration of war. [130] The 2003 invasion of Iraq was led by U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, under the code-name Operation Iraqi Freedom, [131] the UK code-name Operation Telic, and the Australian code-name Operation Falconer. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. Approximately forty other governments, the "Coalition of the Willing," participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces, with 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from Special Forces unit GROM sent to Kuwait for the invasion. [132] The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 70,000. [133]

According to General Franks, there were eight objectives of the invasion:

"First, ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate, and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture, and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can relate to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can relate to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to representative self-government." [134]

The invasion was a quick and decisive operation encountering major resistance, though not what the U.S., British and other forces expected. The Iraqi regime had prepared to fight both a conventional and irregular, asymmetric warfare at the same time, conceding territory when faced with superior conventional forces, largely armored, but launching smaller-scale attacks in the rear using fighters dressed in civilian and paramilitary clothes.

Coalition troops launched air and amphibious assaults on the al-Faw Peninsula to secure the oil fields there and the important ports, supported by warships of the Royal Navy, Polish Navy, and Royal Australian Navy. The United States Marine Corps' 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to 3 Commando Brigade and the Polish Special Forces unit GROM, attacked the port of Umm Qasr, while the British Army's 16 Air Assault Brigade secured the oil fields in southern Iraq. [135] [136]

The heavy armor of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the western desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force moved more easterly along Highway 1 through the center of the country, and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through the eastern marshland. [137] The U.S. 1st Marine Division fought through Nasiriyah in a battle to seize the major road junction. [138] The United States Army 3rd Infantry Division defeated Iraqi forces entrenched in and around Talil Airfield. [139]

With the Nasiriyah and Talil Airfields secured in its rear, the 3rd Infantry Division supported by the 101st Airborne Division continued its attack north toward Najaf and Karbala, but a severe sand storm slowed the coalition advance and there was a halt to consolidate and make sure the supply lines were secure. [140] When they started again they secured the Karbala Gap, a key approach to Baghdad, then secured the bridges over the Euphrates River, and U.S. forces poured through the gap on to Baghdad. In the middle of Iraq, the 1st Marine Division fought its way to the eastern side of Baghdad and prepared for the attack to seize the city. [141]

On 9 April, Baghdad fell, ending Saddam's 24‑year rule. U.S. forces seized the deserted Ba'ath Party ministries and, according to some reports later disputed by the Marines on the ground, stage-managed [142] the tearing down of a huge iron statue of Saddam, photos and video of which became symbolic of the event, although later controversial. Allegedly, though not seen in the photos or heard on the videos, shot with a zoom lens, was the chant of the inflamed crowd for Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. [143] The abrupt fall of Baghdad was accompanied by a widespread outpouring of gratitude toward the invaders, but also massive civil disorder, including the looting of public and government buildings and drastically increased crime. [144] [145]

According to the Pentagon, 250,000 short tons (230,000 t) (of 650,000 short tons (590,000 t) total) of ordnance was looted, providing a significant source of ammunition for the Iraqi insurgency. The invasion phase concluded when Tikrit, Saddam's home town, fell with little resistance to the U.S. Marines of Task Force Tripoli.

In the invasion phase of the war (19 March – 30 April), an estimated 9,200 Iraqi combatants were killed by coalition forces along with an estimated 3,750 non-combatants, i.e. civilians who did not take up arms. [146] Coalition forces reported the death in combat of 139 U.S. military personnel [147] and 33 UK military personnel. [148]

2003: Beginnings of insurgency Edit

On 1 May 2003, President Bush visited the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln operating a few miles west of San Diego, California. At sunset, he held his nationally televised "Mission Accomplished" speech, delivered before the sailors and airmen on the flight deck. Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, due to the defeat of Iraq's conventional forces, while maintaining that much still needed to be done.

Nevertheless, Saddam Hussein remained at large, and significant pockets of resistance remained. After Bush's speech, coalition forces noticed a flurry of attacks on its troops began to gradually increase in various regions, such as the "Sunni Triangle". [149] The initial Iraqi insurgents were supplied by hundreds of weapons caches created before the invasion by the Iraqi army and Republican Guard.

Initially, Iraqi resistance (described by the coalition as "Anti-Iraqi Forces") largely stemmed from fedayeen and Saddam/Ba'ath Party loyalists, but soon religious radicals and Iraqis angered by the occupation contributed to the insurgency. The three governorates with the highest number of attacks were Baghdad, Al Anbar, and Saladin. Those three governorates account for 35% of the population, but by December 2006 they were responsible for 73% of U.S. military deaths and an even higher percentage of recent U.S. military deaths (about 80%). [150]

Insurgents used various guerrilla tactics, including mortars, missiles, suicide attacks, snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, small arms fire (usually with assault rifles), and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), as well as sabotage against the petroleum, water, and electrical infrastructures.

Coalition efforts to establish post-invasion Iraq commenced after the fall of Saddam's regime. The coalition nations, together with the United Nations, began to work to establish a stable, compliant democratic state capable of defending itself from non-coalition forces, as well as overcoming internal divisions. [151]

Meanwhile, coalition military forces launched several operations around the Tigris River peninsula and in the Sunni Triangle. A series of similar operations were launched throughout the summer in the Sunni Triangle. In late 2003, the intensity and pace of insurgent attacks began to increase. A sharp surge in guerrilla attacks ushered in an insurgent effort that was termed the "Ramadan Offensive", as it coincided with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

To counter this offensive, coalition forces began to use airpower and artillery again for the first time since the end of the invasion, by striking suspected ambush sites and mortar launching positions. Surveillance of major routes, patrols, and raids on suspected insurgents was stepped up. In addition, two villages, including Saddam's birthplace of al-Auja and the small town of Abu Hishma, were surrounded by barbed wire and carefully monitored.

Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraq Survey Group Edit

Shortly after the invasion, the multinational coalition created the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA Arabic: سلطة الائتلاف الموحدة ‎), based in the Green Zone, as a transitional government of Iraq until the establishment of a democratic government. Citing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (22 May 2003) and the laws of war, the CPA vested itself with executive, legislative, and judicial authority over the Iraqi government from the period of the CPA's inception on 21 April 2003 until its dissolution on 28 June 2004.

The CPA was originally headed by Jay Garner, a former U.S. military officer, but his appointment lasted only until 11 May 2003, when President Bush appointed L. Paul Bremer. On 16 May 2003, his first day on the job, Paul Bremer issued Coalition Provisional Authority Order 1 to exclude from the new Iraqi government and administration members of the Baathist party. This policy, known as De-Ba'athification, eventually led to the removal of 85,000 to 100,000 Iraqi people from their job, [152] including 40,000 school teachers who had joined the Baath Party simply to keep their jobs. U.S. army general Ricardo Sanchez called the decision a "catastrophic failure". [153] Bremer served until the CPA's dissolution in June 2004.

In May 2003, the US Advisor to Iraq Ministry of Defense within the CPA, Walter B. Slocombe, advocated changing the pre-war Bush policy to employ the former Iraq Army after hostilities on the ground ceased. [154] At the time, hundreds of thousands of former Iraq soldiers who had not been paid for months were waiting for the CPA to hire them back to work to help secure and rebuild Iraq. Despite advice from U.S. Military Staff working within the CPA, Bremer met with President Bush, via video conference, and asked for authority to change the U.S. policy. Bush gave Bremer and Slocombe authority to change the pre-war policy. Slocombe announced the policy change in the Spring of 2003. The decision led to the alienation of hundreds of thousands of former armed Iraq soldiers, who subsequently aligned themselves with various occupation resistance movements all over Iraq. In the week before the order to dissolve the Iraq Army, no coalition forces were killed by hostile action in Iraq the week after, five U.S. soldiers were killed. Then, on 18 June 2003, coalition forces opened fire on former Iraq soldiers protesting in Baghdad who were throwing rocks at coalition forces. The policy to disband the Iraq Army was reversed by the CPA only days after it was implemented. But it was too late the former Iraq Army shifted their alliance from one that was ready and willing to work with the CPA to one of armed resistance against the CPA and the coalition forces. [155]

Another group created by the multinational force in Iraq post-invasion was the 1,400-member international Iraq Survey Group, who conducted a fact-finding mission to find Iraq weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. In 2004, the ISG's Duelfer Report stated that Iraq did not have a viable WMD program. [156]

Capturing former government leaders Edit

In summer 2003, the multinational forces focused on capturing the remaining leaders of the former government. On 22 July, a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and soldiers from Task Force 20 killed Saddam's sons (Uday and Qusay) along with one of his grandsons. In all, over 300 top leaders of the former government were killed or captured, as well as numerous lesser functionaries and military personnel.

Most significantly, Saddam Hussein himself was captured on 13 December 2003, on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn. [157] The operation was conducted by the United States Army's 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121. Intelligence on Saddam's whereabouts came from his family members and former bodyguards. [158]

With the capture of Saddam and a drop in the number of insurgent attacks, some concluded the multinational forces were prevailing in the fight against the insurgency. The provisional government began training the new Iraqi security forces intended to police the country, and the United States promised over $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq's future oil revenues. Oil revenue was also used for rebuilding schools and for work on the electrical and refining infrastructure.

Shortly after the capture of Saddam, elements left out of the Coalition Provisional Authority began to agitate for elections and the formation of an Iraqi Interim Government. Most prominent among these was the Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Coalition Provisional Authority opposed allowing democratic elections at this time. [159] The insurgents stepped up their activities. The two most turbulent centers were the area around Fallujah and the poor Shia sections of cities from Baghdad (Sadr City) to Basra in the south.

2004: Insurgency expands Edit

The start of 2004 was marked by a relative lull in violence. Insurgent forces reorganised during this time, studying the multinational forces' tactics and planning a renewed offensive. However, violence did increase during the Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004 with foreign fighters from around the Middle East as well as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, an al-Qaeda-linked group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, helping to drive the insurgency. [161]

As the insurgency grew there was a distinct change in targeting from the coalition forces towards the new Iraqi Security Forces, as hundreds of Iraqi civilians and police were killed over the next few months in a series of massive bombings. An organized Sunni insurgency, with deep roots and both nationalist and Islamist motivations, was becoming more powerful throughout Iraq. The Shia Mahdi Army also began launching attacks on coalition targets in an attempt to seize control from Iraqi security forces. The southern and central portions of Iraq were beginning to erupt in urban guerrilla combat as multinational forces attempted to keep control and prepared for a counteroffensive.

The most serious fighting of the war so far began on 31 March 2004, when Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a Blackwater USA convoy led by four U.S. private military contractors who were providing security for food caterers Eurest Support Services. [162] The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire. Subsequently, their bodies were dragged from their vehicles by local people, beaten, set ablaze, and their burned corpses hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. [163] Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing a great deal of indignation and moral outrage in the United States, and prompting an unsuccessful "pacification" of the city: the First Battle of Fallujah in April 2004.

The offensive was resumed in November 2004 in the bloodiest battle of the war: the Second Battle of Fallujah, described by the U.S. military as "the heaviest urban combat (that they had been involved in) since the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam." [164] During the assault, U.S. forces used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against insurgent personnel, attracting controversy. The 46‑day battle resulted in a victory for the coalition, with 95 U.S. soldiers killed along with approximately 1,350 insurgents. Fallujah was totally devastated during the fighting, though civilian casualties were low, as they had mostly fled before the battle. [165]

Another major event of that year was the revelation of widespread prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, which received international media attention in April 2004. First reports of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, as well as graphic pictures showing U.S. military personnel taunting and abusing Iraqi prisoners, came to public attention from a 60 Minutes II news report (28 April) and a Seymour M. Hersh article in The New Yorker (posted online on 30 April.) [166] Military correspondent Thomas Ricks claimed that these revelations dealt a blow to the moral justifications for the occupation in the eyes of many people, especially Iraqis, and was a turning point in the war. [167]

2004 also marked the beginning of Military Transition Teams in Iraq, which were teams of U.S. military advisors assigned directly to New Iraqi Army units.

2005: Elections and transitional government Edit

On 31 January, Iraqis elected the Iraqi Transitional Government in order to draft a permanent constitution. Although some violence and a widespread Sunni boycott marred the event, most of the eligible Kurd and Shia populace participated. On 4 February, Paul Wolfowitz announced that 15,000 U.S. troops whose tours of duty had been extended in order to provide election security would be pulled out of Iraq by the next month. [168] February to April proved to be relatively peaceful months compared to the carnage of November and January, with insurgent attacks averaging 30 a day from the prior average of 70.

The Battle of Abu Ghraib on 2 April 2005 was an attack on United States forces at Abu Ghraib prison, which consisted of heavy mortar and rocket fire, under which an estimated 80–120 armed insurgents attacked with grenades, small arms, and two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). The U.S. force's munitions ran so low that orders to fix bayonets were given in preparation for hand-to-hand fighting. It was considered to be the largest coordinated assault on a U.S. base since the Vietnam War. [169]

Hopes for a quick end to the insurgency and a withdrawal of U.S. troops were dashed in May, Iraq's bloodiest month since the invasion. Suicide bombers, believed to be mainly disheartened Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Syrians and Saudis, tore through Iraq. Their targets were often Shia gatherings or civilian concentrations of Shias. As a result, over 700 Iraqi civilians died in that month, as well as 79 U.S. soldiers.

The summer of 2005 saw fighting around Baghdad and at Tall Afar in northwestern Iraq as U.S. forces tried to seal off the Syrian border. This led to fighting in the autumn in the small towns of the Euphrates valley between the capital and that border. [170]

A referendum was held on 15 October in which the new Iraqi constitution was ratified. An Iraqi National Assembly was elected in December, with participation from the Sunnis as well as the Kurds and Shia. [170]

Insurgent attacks increased in 2005 with 34,131 recorded incidents, compared to a total 26,496 for the previous year. [171]

2006: Civil war and permanent Iraqi government Edit

The beginning of 2006 was marked by government creation talks, growing sectarian violence, and continuous anti-coalition attacks. Sectarian violence expanded to a new level of intensity following the al-Askari Mosque bombing in the Iraqi city of Samarra, on 22 February 2006. The explosion at the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shi'a Islam, is believed to have been caused by a bomb planted by al-Qaeda.

Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the mosque was severely damaged and the bombing resulted in violence over the following days. Over 100 dead bodies with bullet holes were found on 23 February, and at least 165 people are thought to have been killed. In the aftermath of this attack the U.S. military calculated that the average homicide rate in Baghdad tripled from 11 to 33 deaths per day. In 2006 the UN described the environment in Iraq as a "civil war-like situation". [172]

On 12 March, five United States Army soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment raped the 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, and then murdered her, her father, her mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and her six-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. The soldiers then set fire to the girl's body to conceal evidence of the crime. [173] Four of the soldiers were convicted of rape and murder and the fifth was convicted of lesser crimes for their involvement in the events, which became known as the Mahmudiyah rape and killings. [174] [175]

On 6 June 2006, the United States was successful in tracking Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a targeted killing, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. Having been tracked by a British UAV, radio contact was made between the controller and two United States Air Force F-16C jets, which identified the house and at 14:15 GMT, the lead jet dropped two 500‑pound (230 kg) guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU‑12 and GPS-guided GBU‑38 on the building where he was located. Six others—three male and three female individuals—were also reported killed. Among those killed were one of his wives and their child.

The government of Iraq took office on 20 May 2006, following approval by the members of the Iraqi National Assembly. This followed the general election in December 2005. The government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government, which had continued in office in a caretaker capacity until the formation of the permanent government.

Iraq Study Group report and Saddam's execution Edit

The Iraq Study Group Report was released on 6 December 2006. The Iraq Study Group made up of people from both of the major U.S. parties, was led by co-chairs James Baker, a former Secretary of State (Republican), and Lee H. Hamilton, a former U.S. Representative (Democrat). It concluded that "the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating" and "U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end." The report's 79 recommendations include increasing diplomatic measures with Iran and Syria and intensifying efforts to train Iraqi troops. On 18 December, a Pentagon report found that insurgent attacks were averaging about 960 attacks per week, the highest since the reports had begun in 2005. [176]

Coalition forces formally transferred control of a governorate to the Iraqi government, the first since the war. Military prosecutors charged eight U.S. Marines with the murders of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November 2005, 10 of them women and children. Four officers were also charged with dereliction of duty in relation to the event. [177]

Saddam Hussein was hanged on 30 December 2006, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court after a year-long trial. [178]

2007: U.S. troops surge Edit

In a 10 January 2007, televised address to the U.S. public, Bush proposed 21,500 more troops for Iraq, a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and $1.2 billion for these programs. [179] On 23 January 2007, in the 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush announced "deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq".

On 10 February 2007, David Petraeus was made commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I), the four-star post that oversees all coalition forces in country, replacing General George Casey. In his new position, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq and employed them in the new "Surge" strategy outlined by the Bush administration. [180] [181]

On 10 May 2007, 144 Iraqi Parliamentary lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. [182] On 3 June 2007, the Iraqi Parliament voted 85 to 59 to require the Iraqi government to consult with Parliament before requesting additional extensions of the UN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations in Iraq. [183]

Pressures on U.S. troops were compounded by the continuing withdrawal of coalition forces. [ citation needed ] In early 2007, British Prime Minister Blair announced that following Operation Sinbad, British troops would begin to withdraw from Basra Governorate, handing security over to the Iraqis. [184] In July Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also announced the withdrawal of 441 Danish troops from Iraq, leaving only a unit of nine soldiers manning four observational helicopters. [185] In October 2019, the new Danish government said it will not re-open an official probe into the country's participation in the US-led military coalition in 2003 Iraqi war. [186]

Planned troop reduction Edit

In a speech made to Congress on 10 September 2007, Petraeus "envisioned the withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. troops by next summer, beginning with a Marine contingent [in September]." [187] On 13 September, Bush backed a limited withdrawal of troops from Iraq. [188] Bush said 5,700 personnel would be home by Christmas 2007, and expected thousands more to return by July 2008. The plan would take troop numbers back to their level before the surge at the beginning of 2007.

Effects of the surge on security Edit

By March 2008, violence in Iraq was reported curtailed by 40–80%, according to a Pentagon report. [189] Independent reports [190] [191] raised questions about those assessments. An Iraqi military spokesman claimed that civilian deaths since the start of the troop surge plan were 265 in Baghdad, down from 1,440 in the four previous weeks. The New York Times counted more than 450 Iraqi civilians killed during the same 28‑day period, based on initial daily reports from Iraqi Interior Ministry and hospital officials.

Historically, the daily counts tallied by The New York Times have underestimated the total death toll by 50% or more when compared to studies by the United Nations, which rely upon figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry and morgue figures. [192]

The rate of U.S. combat deaths in Baghdad nearly doubled to 3.14 per day in the first seven weeks of the "surge" in security activity, compared to previous period. Across the rest of Iraq it decreased slightly. [193] [194]

On 14 August 2007, the deadliest single attack of the whole war occurred. Nearly 800 civilians were killed by a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks on the northern Iraqi settlement of Kahtaniya. More than 100 homes and shops were destroyed in the blasts. U.S. officials blamed al‑Qaeda. The targeted villagers belonged to the non-Muslim Yazidi ethnic minority. The attack may have represented the latest in a feud that erupted earlier that year when members of the Yazidi community stoned to death a teenage girl called Du'a Khalil Aswad accused of dating a Sunni Arab man and converting to Islam. The killing of the girl was recorded on camera-mobiles and the video was uploaded onto the internet. [195] [196] [197] [198]

On 13 September 2007, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed in a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi. [199] He was an important U.S. ally because he led the "Anbar Awakening", an alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that opposed al-Qaeda. The latter organisation claimed responsibility for the attack. [200] A statement posted on the Internet by the shadowy Islamic State of Iraq called Abu Risha "one of the dogs of Bush" and described Thursday's killing as a "heroic operation that took over a month to prepare". [201]

There was a reported trend of decreasing U.S. troop deaths after May 2007, [202] and violence against coalition troops had fallen to the "lowest levels since the first year of the American invasion". [203] These, and several other positive developments, were attributed to the surge by many analysts. [204]

Data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq remained "about the same" since February. The GAO also stated that there was no discernible trend in sectarian violence. [205] However, this report ran counter to reports to Congress, which showed a general downward trend in civilian deaths and ethno-sectarian violence since December 2006. [206] By late 2007, as the U.S. troop surge began to wind down, violence in Iraq had begun to decrease from its 2006 highs. [207]

Entire neighborhoods in Baghdad were ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni militias and sectarian violence has broken out in every Iraqi city where there is a mixed population. [208] [209] [210] Investigative reporter Bob Woodward cites U.S. government sources according to which the U.S. "surge" was not the primary reason for the drop in violence in 2007–08. Instead, according to that view, the reduction of violence was due to newer covert techniques by U.S. military and intelligence officials to find, target and kill insurgents, including working closely with former insurgents. [211]

In the Shia region near Basra, British forces turned over security for the region to Iraqi Security Forces. Basra is the ninth governorate of Iraq's 18 governorates to be returned to local security forces' control since the beginning of the occupation. [212]

Political developments Edit

More than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country for the first time. 144 of the 275 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition that would require the Iraqi government to seek approval from Parliament before it requests an extension of the UN mandate for foreign forces to be in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2008. It also calls for a timetable for troop withdrawal and a freeze on the size of foreign forces. The UN Security Council mandate for U.S.‑led forces in Iraq will terminate "if requested by the government of Iraq." [213] 59% of those polled in the U.S. support a timetable for withdrawal. [214]

In mid-2007, the Coalition began a controversial program to recruit Iraqi Sunnis (often former insurgents) for the formation of "Guardian" militias. These Guardian militias are intended to support and secure various Sunni neighborhoods against the Islamists. [215]

Tensions with Iran Edit

In 2007, tensions increased greatly between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan due to the latter's giving sanctuary to the militant Kurdish secessionist group Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK.) According to reports, Iran had been shelling PEJAK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan since 16 August. These tensions further increased with an alleged border incursion on 23 August by Iranian troops who attacked several Kurdish villages killing an unknown number of civilians and militants. [216]

Coalition forces also began to target alleged Iranian Quds force operatives in Iraq, either arresting or killing suspected members. The Bush administration and coalition leaders began to publicly state that Iran was supplying weapons, particularly EFP devices, to Iraqi insurgents and militias although to date have failed to provide any proof for these allegations. Further sanctions on Iranian organizations were also announced by the Bush administration in the autumn of 2007. On 21 November 2007, Lieutenant General James Dubik, who is in charge of training Iraqi security forces, praised Iran for its "contribution to the reduction of violence" in Iraq by upholding its pledge to stop the flow of weapons, explosives and training of extremists in Iraq. [217]

Tensions with Turkey Edit

Border incursions by PKK militants based in Northern Iraq have continued to harass Turkish forces, with casualties on both sides. In the fall of 2007, the Turkish military stated their right to cross the Iraqi Kurdistan border in "hot pursuit" of PKK militants and began shelling Kurdish areas in Iraq and attacking PKK bases in the Mount Cudi region with aircraft. [218] [219] The Turkish parliament approved a resolution permitting the military to pursue the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan. [220] In November, Turkish gunships attacked parts of northern Iraq in the first such attack by Turkish aircraft since the border tensions escalated. [221] Another series of attacks in mid-December hit PKK targets in the Qandil, Zap, Avashin and Hakurk regions. The latest series of attacks involved at least 50 aircraft and artillery and Kurdish officials reported one civilian killed and two wounded. [222]

Additionally, weapons that were given to Iraqi security forces by the U.S. military were being recovered by authorities in Turkey after being used by PKK in that state. [223]

Blackwater private security controversy Edit

On 17 September 2007, the Iraqi government announced that it was revoking the license of the U.S. security firm Blackwater USA over the firm's involvement in the killing of eight civilians, including a woman and an infant, [224] in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade.

2008: Civil war continues Edit

Throughout 2008, U.S. officials and independent think tanks began to point to improvements in the security situation, as measured by key statistics. According to the U.S. Defense Department, in December 2008 the "overall level of violence" in the country had dropped 80% since before the surge began in January 2007, and the country's murder rate had dropped to prewar levels. They also pointed out that the casualty figure for U.S. forces in 2008 was 314 against a figure of 904 in 2007. [225]

According to the Brookings Institution, Iraqi civilian fatalities numbered 490 in November 2008 as against 3,500 in January 2007, whereas attacks against the coalition numbered somewhere between 200 and 300 per week in the latter half of 2008, as opposed to a peak of nearly 1,600 in summer 2007. The number of Iraqi security forces killed was under 100 per month in the second half of 2008, from a high of 200 to 300 in summer 2007. [226]

Meanwhile, the proficiency of the Iraqi military increased as it launched a spring offensive against Shia militias, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had previously been criticized for allowing to operate. This began with a March operation against the Mehdi Army in Basra, which led to fighting in Shia areas up and down the country, especially in the Sadr City district of Baghdad. By October, the British officer in charge of Basra said that since the operation, the town had become "secure" and had a murder rate comparable to Manchester in England. [227] The U.S. military also said there had been a decrease of about a quarter in the quantity of Iranian-made explosives found in Iraq in 2008, possibly indicating a change in Iranian policy. [228]

Progress in Sunni areas continued after members of the Awakening movement were transferred from U.S. military to Iraqi control. [229] In May, the Iraqi army – backed by coalition support – launched an offensive in Mosul, the last major Iraqi stronghold of al-Qaeda. Despite detaining thousands of individuals, the offensive failed to lead to major long-term security improvements in Mosul. At the end of the year, the city remained a major flashpoint. [230] [231]

In the regional dimension, the ongoing conflict between Turkey and PKK [232] [233] [234] intensified on 21 February, when Turkey launched a ground attack into the Quandeel Mountains of Northern Iraq. In the nine-day-long operation, around 10,000 Turkish troops advanced up to 25 km into Northern Iraq. This was the first substantial ground incursion by Turkish forces since 1995. [235] [236]

Shortly after the incursion began, both the Iraqi cabinet and the Kurdistan regional government condemned Turkey's actions and called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the region. [237] Turkish troops withdrew on 29 February. [238] The fate of the Kurds and the future of the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk remained a contentious issue in Iraqi politics.

U.S. military officials met these trends with cautious optimism as they approached what they described as the "transition" embodied in the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which was negotiated throughout 2008. [225] The commander of the coalition, U.S. General Raymond T. Odierno, noted that "in military terms, transitions are the most dangerous time" in December 2008. [225]

Spring offensives on Shiite militias Edit

At the end of March, the Iraqi Army, with Coalition air support, launched an offensive, dubbed "Charge of the Knights", in Basra to secure the area from militias. This was the first major operation where the Iraqi Army did not have direct combat support from conventional coalition ground troops. The offensive was opposed by the Mahdi Army, one of the militias, which controlled much of the region. [239] [240] Fighting quickly spread to other parts of Iraq: including Sadr City, Al Kut, Al Hillah and others. During the fighting Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from militiamen in Basra to the point that the Iraqi military offensive slowed to a crawl, with the high attrition rates finally forcing the Sadrists to the negotiating table.

Following intercession by the Iranian government, al‑Sadr ordered a ceasefire on 30 March 2008. [241] The militiamen kept their weapons.

By 12 May 2008, Basra "residents overwhelmingly reported a substantial improvement in their everyday lives" according to The New York Times. "Government forces have now taken over Islamic militants' headquarters and halted the death squads and 'vice enforcers' who attacked women, Christians, musicians, alcohol sellers and anyone suspected of collaborating with Westerners", according to the report however, when asked how long it would take for lawlessness to resume if the Iraqi army left, one resident replied, "one day". [240]

In late April roadside bombings continued to rise from a low in January—from 114 bombings to more than 250, surpassing the May 2007 high.

Congressional testimony Edit

Speaking before the Congress on 8 April 2008, General David Petraeus urged delaying troop withdrawals, saying, "I've repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel," referencing the comments of then President Bush and former Vietnam-era General William Westmoreland. [242] When asked by the Senate if reasonable people could disagree on the way forward, Petraeus said, "We fight for the right of people to have other opinions." [243]

Upon questioning by then Senate committee chair Joe Biden, Ambassador Crocker admitted that Al‑Qaeda in Iraq was less important than the Al Qaeda organization led by Osama bin Laden along the Afghan-Pakistani border. [244] Lawmakers from both parties complained that U.S. taxpayers are carrying Iraq's burden as it earns billions of dollars in oil revenues.

Iraqi security forces rearm Edit

Iraq became one of the top purchasers of U.S. military equipment with their army trading its AK‑47 assault rifles for the U.S. M‑16 and M‑4 rifles, among other equipment. [245] In 2008 alone, Iraq accounted for more than $12.5 billion of the $34 billion U.S. weapon sales to foreign countries (not including the potential F-16 fighter planes.). [246]

Iraq sought 36 F‑16s, the most sophisticated weapons system Iraq has attempted to purchase. The Pentagon notified Congress that it had approved the sale of 24 American attack helicopters to Iraq, valued at as much as $2.4 billion. Including the helicopters, Iraq announced plans to purchase at least $10 billion in U.S. tanks and armored vehicles, transport planes and other battlefield equipment and services. Over the summer, the Defense Department announced that the Iraqi government wanted to order more than 400 armored vehicles and other equipment worth up to $3 billion , and six C-130J transport planes, worth up to $1.5 billion . [247] [248] From 2005 to 2008, the United States had completed approximately $20 billion in arms sales agreements with Iraq. [249]

Status of forces agreement Edit

The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was approved by the Iraqi government on 4 December 2008. [250] It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by 30 June 2009, and that all U.S. forces would be completely out of Iraq by 31 December 2011. The pact was subject to possible negotiations which could have delayed withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq, which might have required all U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010. [251] [252] The pact required criminal charges for holding prisoners over 24 hours, and required a warrant for searches of homes and buildings that are not related to combat. [253]

U.S. contractors working for U.S. forces were to be subject to Iraqi criminal law, while contractors working for the State Department and other U.S. agencies may retain their immunity. If U.S. forces commit still undecided "major premeditated felonies" while off-duty and off-base, they will be subject to the still undecided procedures laid out by a joint U.S.‑Iraq committee if the United States certifies the forces were off-duty. [254] [255] [256] [257]

Some Americans have discussed "loopholes" [258] and some Iraqis have said they believe parts of the pact remain a "mystery". [259] U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates predicted that after 2011 he expected to see "perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops" as part of a residual force in Iraq. [260]

Several groups of Iraqis protested the passing of the SOFA accord [261] [262] [263] as prolonging and legitimizing the occupation. Tens of thousands of Iraqis burned an effigy of George W. Bush in a central Baghdad square where U.S. troops five years previously organized a tearing down of a statue of Saddam Hussein. [142] [259] [264] Some Iraqis expressed skeptical optimism that the U.S. would completely end its presence by 2011. [265] On 4 December 2008, Iraq's presidential council approved the security pact. [250]

A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al‑Sistani expressed concern with the ratified version of the pact and noted that the government of Iraq has no authority to control the transfer of occupier forces into and out of Iraq, no control of shipments and that the pact grants the occupiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. He said that Iraqi rule in the country is not complete while the occupiers are present, but that ultimately the Iraqi people would judge the pact in a referendum. [264] Thousands of Iraqis have gathered weekly after Friday prayers and shouted anti‑U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans protesting the security pact between Baghdad and Washington. A protester said that despite the approval of the Interim Security pact, the Iraqi people would break it in a referendum next year. [266]

2009: Coalition redeployment Edit

Transfer of the Green Zone Edit

On 1 January 2009, the United States handed control of the Green Zone and Saddam Hussein's presidential palace to the Iraqi government in a ceremonial move described by the country's prime minister as a restoration of Iraq's sovereignty. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would propose 1 January be declared national "Sovereignty Day". "This palace is the symbol of Iraqi sovereignty and by restoring it, a real message is directed to all Iraqi people that Iraqi sovereignty has returned to its natural status", al‑Maliki said.

The U.S. military attributed a decline in reported civilian deaths to several factors including the U.S.‑led "troop surge", the growth of U.S.-funded Awakening Councils, and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's call for his militia to abide by a cease fire. [267]

Provincial elections Edit

On 31 January, Iraq held provincial elections. [268] Provincial candidates and those close to them faced some political assassinations and attempted assassinations, and there was also some other violence related to the election. [269] [270] [271] [272]

Iraqi voter turnout failed to meet the original expectations which were set and was the lowest on record in Iraq, [273] but U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker characterized the turnout as "large". [274] Of those who turned out to vote, some groups complained of disenfranchisement and fraud. [273] [275] [276] After the post-election curfew was lifted, some groups made threats about what would happen if they were unhappy with the results. [277]

Exit strategy announcement Edit

On 27 February, United States President Barack Obama gave a speech at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in the U.S. state of North Carolina announcing that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would end by 31 August 2010. A "transitional force" of up to 50,000 troops tasked with training the Iraqi Security Forces, conducting counterterrorism operations, and providing general support may remain until the end of 2011, the president added. However, the insurgency in 2011 and the rise of ISIL in 2014 caused the war to continue. [278]

The day before Obama's speech, Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al‑Maliki said at a press conference that the government of Iraq had "no worries" over the impending departure of U.S. forces and expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces and police to maintain order without U.S. military support. [279]

Sixth anniversary protests Edit

On 9 April, the 6th anniversary of Baghdad's fall to coalition forces, tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged Baghdad to mark the anniversary and demand the immediate departure of coalition forces. The crowds of Iraqis stretched from the Sadr City slum in northeast Baghdad to the square around 5 km (3.1 mi) away, where protesters burned an effigy featuring the face of U.S. President George W. Bush. [280] There were also Sunni Muslims in the crowd. Police said many Sunnis, including prominent leaders such as a founding sheikh from the Sons of Iraq, took part. [281]

Coalition forces withdraw Edit

On 30 April, the United Kingdom formally ended combat operations. Prime Minister Gordon Brown characterized the operation in Iraq as a "success story" because of UK troops' efforts. Britain handed control of Basra to the United States Armed Forces. [282]

On 28 July, Australia withdrew its combat forces as the Australian military presence in Iraq ended, per an agreement with the Iraqi government.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces began at the end of June, with 38 bases to be handed over to Iraqi forces. On 29 June 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Baghdad. On 30 November 2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level in November since the 2003 invasion. [283]

Iraq awards oil contracts Edit

On 30 June and 11 December 2009, the Iraqi ministry of oil awarded contracts to international oil companies for some of Iraq's many oil fields. The winning oil companies entered joint ventures with the Iraqi ministry of oil, and the terms of the awarded contracts included extraction of oil for a fixed fee of approximately $1.40 per barrel. [284] [285] [286] The fees will only be paid once a production threshold set by the Iraqi ministry of oil is reached.

2010: U.S. drawdown and Operation New Dawn Edit

On 17 February 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of 1 September, the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom" would be replaced by "Operation New Dawn". [287]

On 18 April, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit, Iraq. [288] The coalition forces believed al-Masri to be wearing a suicide vest and proceeded cautiously. After the lengthy exchange of fire and bombing of the house, the Iraqi troops stormed inside and found two women still alive, one of whom was al-Masri's wife, and four dead men, identified as al-Masri, Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, an assistant to al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi's son. A suicide vest was indeed found on al-Masri's corpse, as the Iraqi Army subsequently stated. [289] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. "The attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles," Mr Maliki said. "During the operation computers were seized with e-mails and messages to the two biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri", Maliki added. U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. "The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al‑Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency", he said. "There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stated that the deaths of the top two al‑Qaeda figures in Iraq are "potentially devastating" blows to the terror network there and proof that Iraqi security forces are gaining ground. [290]

On 20 June, Iraq's Central Bank was bombed in an attack that left 15 people dead and brought much of downtown Baghdad to a standstill. The attack was claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq. This attack was followed by another attack on Iraq's Bank of Trade building that killed 26 and wounded 52 people. [291]

In late August 2010, insurgents conducted a major attack with at least 12 car bombs simultaneously detonating from Mosul to Basra and killing at least 51. These attacks coincided with the U.S. plans for a withdrawal of combat troops. [292]

From the end of August 2010, the United States attempted to dramatically cut its combat role in Iraq, with the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces designated for active combat operations. The last U.S. combat brigades departed Iraq in the early morning of 19 August. Convoys of U.S. troops had been moving out of Iraq to Kuwait for several days, and NBC News broadcast live from Iraq as the last convoy crossed the border. While all combat brigades left the country, an additional 50,000 personnel (including Advise and Assist Brigades) remained in the country to provide support for the Iraqi military. [293] [294] These troops are required to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011 under an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. [295]

The desire to step back from an active counter-insurgency role did not however mean that the Advise and Assist Brigades and other remaining U.S. forces would not be caught up in combat. A standards memo from the Associated Press reiterated "combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials". [296]

State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated ". we are not ending our work in Iraq, We have a long-term commitment to Iraq." [297] On 31 August, from the Oval Office, Barack Obama announced his intent to end the combat mission in Iraq. In his address, he covered the role of the United States' soft power, the effect the war had on the United States economy, and the legacy of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. [298]

On the same day in Iraq, at a ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein's former residences at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, a number of U.S. dignitaries spoke in a ceremony for television cameras, avoiding overtones of the triumphalism present in U.S. announcements made earlier in the war. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concerns regarding the ongoing lack of progress in forming a new Iraqi government, saying of the Iraqi people that "they expect a government that reflects the results of the votes they cast". Gen. Ray Odierno stated that the new era "in no way signals the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq". Speaking in Ramadi earlier in the day, Gates said that U.S. forces "have accomplished something really quite extraordinary here, [but] how it all weighs in the balance over time I think remains to be seen". When asked by reporters if the seven-year war was worth doing, Gates commented that "It really requires a historian's perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run". He noted the Iraq War "will always be clouded by how it began" regarding Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, which were never confirmed to have existed. Gates continued, "This is one of the reasons that this war remains so controversial at home". [299] On the same day Gen. Ray Odierno was replaced by Lloyd Austin as Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

On 7 September, two U.S. troops were killed and nine wounded in an incident at an Iraqi military base. The incident is under investigation by Iraqi and U.S. forces, but it is believed that an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. forces. [300]

On 8 September, the U.S. Army announced the arrival in Iraq of the first specifically-designated Advise and Assist Brigade, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was announced that the unit would assume responsibilities in five southern governorates. [301] From 10 to 13 September, Second Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division fought Iraqi insurgents near Diyala.

According to reports from Iraq, hundreds of members of the Sunni Awakening Councils may have switched allegiance back to the Iraqi insurgency or al-Qaeda. [302]

In October, WikiLeaks disclosed 391,832 classified U.S. military documents on the Iraq War. [303] [304] [305] Approximately, 58 people were killed with another 40 wounded in an attack on the Sayidat al‑Nejat church, a Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq organization. [306]

Coordinated attacks in primarily Shia areas struck throughout Baghdad on 2 November, killing approximately 113 and wounding 250 with around 17 bombs. [307]

Iraqi arms purchases Edit

As U.S. forces departed the country, the Iraq Defense Ministry solidified plans to purchase advanced military equipment from the United States. Plans in 2010 called for $13 billion of purchases, to include 140 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. [308] In addition to the $13 billion purchase, the Iraqis also requested 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of a $4.2 billion program that also included aircraft training and maintenance, AIM‑9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs and reconnaissance equipment. [309] All Abrams tanks were delivered by the end of 2011, [310] but the first F-16s did not arrive in Iraq until 2015, due to concerns that the Islamic State might overrun Balad Air Base. [311]

The Iraqi navy also purchased 12 U.S.‑built Swift-class patrol boats, at a cost of $20 million each. Delivery was completed in 2013. [312] The vessels are used to protect the oil terminals at Basra and Khor al-Amiya. [309] Two U.S.‑built offshore support vessels, each costing $70 million, were delivered in 2011. [313]

The UN lifts restrictions on Iraq Edit

In a move to legitimize the existing Iraqi government, the United Nations lifted the Saddam Hussein-era UN restrictions on Iraq. These included allowing Iraq to have a civilian nuclear program, permitting the participation of Iraq in international nuclear and chemical weapons treaties, as well as returning control of Iraq's oil and gas revenue to the government and ending the Oil-for-Food Programme. [314]

2011: U.S. withdrawal Edit

Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq in the holy city of Najaf to lead the Sadrist movement after being in exile since 2007. [315]

On 15 January 2011, three U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. One of the troops was killed on a military operation in central Iraq, while the other two troops were deliberately shot by one or two Iraqi soldiers during a training exercise. [316]

On 6 June, five U.S. troops were killed in an apparent rocket attack on JSS Loyalty. [317] A sixth soldier, who was wounded in the attack, died 10 days later of his wounds. [318]

On 13 June 2011, two U.S. troops were killed in an IED attack located in Wasit Governorate. [319]

On 26 June 2011, a U.S. soldier was killed. [320] Sergeant Brent McBride was sentenced to four years, two months for his involvement in the death. [321]

On 29 June, three U.S. troops were killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base located near the border with Iran. It was speculated that the militant group responsible for the attack was the same one which attacked JSS Loyalty just over three weeks before. [322] With the three deaths, June 2011, became the bloodiest month in Iraq for the U.S. military since June 2009, with 15 U.S. soldiers killed, only one of them outside combat. [323]

On 7 July, two U.S. troops were killed and one seriously injured in an IED attack at Victory Base Complex outside Baghdad. They were members of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit base in Post Falls, Idaho. Spc. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, were killed in the attack, Staff Sgt. Jazon Rzepa, 30, was seriously injured. [324]

In September, Iraq signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes, becoming the 26th nation to operate the F-16. Because of windfall profits from oil, the Iraqi government is planning to double this originally planned 18, to 36 F-16s. Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency. [325]

With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end. [326] The last American soldier to die in Iraq before the withdrawal, SPC. David Hickman, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on 14 November. [327]

In November 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end. [328]

On 15 December, an American military ceremony was held in Baghdad putting a formal end to the U.S. mission in Iraq. [329]

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on 18 December 2011, although the U.S. embassy and consulates continue to maintain a staff of more than 20,000 including U.S. Marine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors. [330] [331] The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi. He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq. [332]

The invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence, which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, with as many as 2 million Iraqis having left the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution, which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005. In addition, the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land. [333]

Sectarian violence continued in the first half of 2013. At least 56 people died in April when a Sunni protest in Hawija was interrupted by a government-supported helicopter raid and a series of violent incidents occurred in May. On 20 May 2013, at least 95 people died in a wave of car bomb attacks that was preceded by a car bombing on 15 May that led to 33 deaths also, on 18 May 76 people were killed in the Sunni areas of Baghdad. Some experts have stated that Iraq could return to the brutal sectarian conflict of 2006. [334] [335]

On 22 July 2013, at least five hundred convicts, most of whom were senior members of al-Qaida who had received death sentences, broke out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail when comrades launched a military-style assault to free them. The attack began when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into prison gates. [336] James F. Jeffrey, the United States ambassador in Baghdad when the last American troops exited, said the assault and resulting escape "will provide seasoned leadership and a morale boost to Al Qaeda and its allies in both Iraq and Syria . it is likely to have an electrifying impact on the Sunni population in Iraq, which has been sitting on the fence." [337]

By mid-2014 the country was in chaos with a new government yet to be formed following national elections, and the insurgency reaching new heights. In early June 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and said it was ready to march on Baghdad, while Iraqi Kurdish forces took control of key military installations in the major oil city of Kirkuk. The al-Qaida breakaway group formally declared the creation of an Islamic state on 29 June 2014, in the territory under its control. [338]

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked his parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him increased powers, but the lawmakers refused. [339] On 14 August 2014, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki succumbed to pressure at home and abroad to step down. This paved the way for Haidar al-Abadi to take over on 19 August 2014.

In September 2014, President Obama acknowledged that the U.S. underestimated the rise of the Islamic State and overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off ISIL. [340] As a result, he announced the return of U.S. forces to Iraq, but only in the form of aerial support, in an effort to halt the advance of ISIL forces, render humanitarian aid to stranded refugees and stabilize the political situation. [341] A civil war between ISIL and the central government continued for the next three years, until the government declared victory in December 2017. [342]

Following the election of Donald Trump, the United States intensified its campaign against the Islamic State by January 2017. [343] Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a tactical shift to surrounding Islamic State strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, was devised not only to "annihilate" ISIL fighters hunkered down there, but also to prevent them from returning to their home nations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In 2017, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces captured Raqqa, which had served as the ISIL capital. [344] By 2018, violence in Iraq was at its lowest level in ten years. This was greatly a result of the defeat of ISIL forces and the subsequent calming-down of the insurgency. [345]

In January 2020, the Iraqi parliament voted for all foreign troops to leave the country. This would end its standing agreement with the United States to station 5,200 soldiers in Iraq. Then President Trump objected to withdrawing troops and threatened Iraq with sanctions over this decision. [346]

For coalition death totals see the infobox at the top right. See also Casualties of the Iraq War, which has casualty numbers for coalition nations, contractors, non-Iraqi civilians, journalists, media helpers, aid workers, and the wounded. Casualty figures, especially Iraqi ones, are highly disputed.

There have been several attempts by the media, coalition governments and others to estimate the Iraqi casualties. The table below summarizes some of these estimates and methods.

Source Iraqi casualties March 2003 to .
Iraq Family Health Survey 151,000 violent deaths June 2006
Lancet survey 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths June 2006
PLOS Medicine Study 460,000 excess deaths including 132,000 violent deaths from the conflict [52] June 2011
Opinion Research Business survey 1,033,000 violent deaths from the conflict August 2007
Iraqi Health Ministry 87,215 violent deaths per death certificates issued
Deaths prior to January 2005 unrecorded
Ministry estimates up to 20% more deaths are undocumented.
January 2005 to
February 2009
Associated Press 110,600 violent deaths
Health Ministry death certificates plus AP estimate of casualties for 2003–04
April 2009
Iraq Body Count 105,052–114,731 violent civilian deaths
compiled from commercial news media, NGO and official reports
Over 162,000 civilian and combatant deaths
January 2012
WikiLeaks. Classified Iraq War Logs 109,032 violent deaths including 66,081 civilian deaths January 2004 to
December 2009

The Bush Administration's rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War. [348] For example, a former CIA officer described the Office of Special Plans as a group of ideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and stated that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. [349] The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the Bush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq's alleged threat to the United States. [350]

Both proponents and opponents of the invasion have also criticized the prosecution of the war effort along with a number of other lines. Most significantly, critics have assailed the United States and its allies for not devoting enough troops to the mission, not adequately planning for post-invasion Iraq, and for permitting and perpetrating human rights abuses. As the war has progressed, critics have also railed against the high human and financial costs. In 2016, the United Kingdom published the Iraq Inquiry, a public inquiry which was broadly critical of the actions of the British government and military in making the case for the war, in tactics and in planning for the aftermath of the war. [351] [352] [353]

    of the invasion[354][355]
  • Human rights violations such as the Iraq prison abuse scandals
  • Insufficient post-invasion plans, in particular inadequate troop levels (A RAND Corporation study stated that 500,000 troops would be required for success.) [356] with approximately $612 billion spent as of 4/09 the CBO has estimated the total cost of the war in Iraq to the United States will be around $1.9 trillion . [357]
  • Adverse effect on U.S.-led global "war on terror" [358][359]
  • Damage to U.S.' traditional alliances and influence in the region. [360][361]
  • Endangerment and ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities by insurgents [209][362][363][364][365]
  • Disruption of Iraqi oil production and related energy security concerns (The price of oil has quadrupled since 2002.) [366][367]

Financial cost Edit

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War to date was estimated at $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. [368] Some argue that the total cost of the war to the U.S. economy will range from $3 trillion [369] to $6 trillion , [370] including interest rates, by 2053, as described in the Watson Institute's report. The upper ranges of these estimates include long-term veterans costs and economic impacts. For example, Harvard's public finance expert Linda J. Bilmes has estimated that the long-term cost of providing disability compensation and medical care to U.S. troops injured in the Iraq conflict will reach nearly $1 trillion over the next 40 years, [371] and that the war in Iraq diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan, led to rising oil prices, increased the federal debt, and contributed to a global financial crisis. [372]

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that $6 billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general's report mentioned that "'Severe inefficiencies and poor management' by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used", said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. "The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial, and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner." [373] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent "the largest theft of funds in national history." [374]

The child malnutrition rate rose to 28% in 2007. [375] In 2007, Nasser Muhssin, a researcher on family and children's affairs affiliated to the University of Baghdad claimed that 60–70% of Iraqi children suffered from psychological problems. [376] Most Iraqis had no access to safe drinking water. A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq was thought to be the result of poor water quality. [377] As many as half of Iraqi doctors left the country between 2003 and 2006. [378] Articles in The Lancet and Al Jazeera have suggested that the number of cases of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, illnesses and premature births may have increased dramatically after the first and second Iraq wars, due to the presences of depleted uranium and chemicals introduced during American attacks. [379] [380]

By the end of 2015, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 4.4 million Iraqis had been internally displaced. [381] The population of Iraqi Christians dropped dramatically during the war, from 1.5 million in 2003 to 500,000 in 2015, [382] and perhaps only 275,000 in 2016.

The Foreign Policy Association reported that "Perhaps the most perplexing component of the Iraq refugee crisis . has been the inability for the United States to absorb more Iraqis following the 2003 invasion of the country. To date, the United States has granted around 84,000 Iraqis refugee status, of the more than two million global Iraqi refugees. By contrast, the United States granted asylum to more than 100,000 South Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War." [383] [384] [385]

Throughout the entire Iraq War, there have been human rights abuses on all sides of the conflict.

Post-invasion Iraq Government Edit

  • Use of torture by Iraqi security forces [386]
  • Iraqi police from the Interior Ministry accused of forming Death Squads and committing numerous massacres and tortures of Sunni Arabs [387] and the police collusion with militias in Iraq have compounded the problems.

Coalition forces and private contractors Edit

  • Deaths of civilians as a result of bombing and missile strikes that fail to take all feasible precautions with regards to civilians casualties. [388] by U.S. Army personnel, [389] involving the detention of thousands of Iraqi men and women. Torture at Abu Ghraib included rape, sodomy and extensive sexual abuse, waterboarding, pouring phosphoric acid on detainees, sleep deprivation and physical beatings. of 24 civilians.
  • Widespread use of the incendiary munition white phosphorus such as during the battle of Fallujah. The documentary Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre, claimed that Iraqi civilians, including women and children, had died of burns caused by white phosphorus during the battle, however, US Department of Defence spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable denied that this was true but confirmed to the BBC that US forces had used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon there against enemy combatants. [390][391][392] The use of white phosphorus against civilian populations is banned by international legislation. [393] by Coalition Forces, estimated to number at least 300,000 rounds fired in Iraq during the war. [394] Several 2012 studies in Iraq have identified increased occurrence of deformities, cancers, and other serious health problems in areas where depleted uranium shells were used. Some Iraqi doctors attributed these malformations to possible long-term effects of depleted uranium. Studies disagree on whether depleted uranium ammunition has any measurable detrimental health effects. [395][396] and murder of an Iraqi girl, and murder of her family. [397]
  • The torture and killing of prisoner of war, Iraqi Air Force commander, Abed Hamed Mowhoush. . . [398] where 42 civilians were allegedly killed by coalition forces.
  • Planting weapons on noncombatant, unarmed Iraqis by three U.S. Marines after killing them. [399][400] According to a report by The Nation, other similar acts have been witnessed by U.S. soldiers. [401] .
  • Allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions, and sexual assault by British troops were presented to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) on 12 January 2014. [402]

Insurgent groups Edit

  • Killing over 12,000 Iraqis from January 2005 to June 2006, according to Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, giving the first official count for the victims of bombings, ambushes and other deadly attacks. [403] The insurgents have also conducted numerous suicide attacks on the Iraqi civilian population, mostly targeting the majority Shia community. [404][405] An October 2005 report from Human Rights Watch examines the range of civilian attacks and their purported justification. [406]
  • Attacks against civilians by sectarian death squads primarily during the Iraqi Civil War. Iraq Body Count project data shows that 33% of civilian deaths during the Iraq War resulted from execution after abduction or capture. These were overwhelmingly carried out by unknown actors including insurgents, sectarian militias and criminals. [407]
  • Attacks on diplomats and diplomatic facilities including the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 killing the top UN representative in Iraq and 21 other UN staff members [408] beheading several diplomats: two Algerian diplomatic envoys Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi, [409] Egyptian diplomatic envoy al-Sherif, [410] and four Russian diplomats [411]
  • The February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, destroying one of the holiest Shiite shrines, killing over 165 worshipers and igniting sectarian strife and reprisal killings [412]
  • The publicised killing of several contractors Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley, Kenneth Bigley, Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov (Bulgarian truck drivers.) [413] Other non-military personnel murdered include: translator Kim Sun-il, Shosei Koda, Fabrizio Quattrocchi (Italian), charity worker Margaret Hassan, reconstruction engineer Nick Berg, photographer Salvatore Santoro (Italian) [414] and supply worker Seif Adnan Kanaan (Iraqi.) Four private armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire, their bodies dragged from their vehicles, beaten and set ablaze. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. [415]
  • Torture or killing of members of the New Iraqi Army, [416] and assassination of civilians associated with the Coalition Provisional Authority, such as Fern Holland, or the Iraqi Governing Council, such as Aqila al-Hashimi and Ezzedine Salim, or other foreign civilians, such as those from Kenya [417]
  • A group of Iraqi Shia militia supporters broke into the compound of the US Embassy in Baghdad and set fire in the reception area. U.S. soldiers fired tears gas at the militants, who advanced no further. The attack came after U.S. airstrikes on 29 December, which killed 25 militants of Iran-backed group, Kataeb Hezbollah. [418]

International opinion Edit

In a March 2003 Gallup poll, the day after the invasion, 76% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq. [419] In a March 2003 YouGov poll, 54% of Britons supported the military action against Iraq. [420]

According to a January 2007 BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, 73% of the global population disapproved of U.S. handling of the Iraq War. [421] A September 2007 poll conducted by the BBC found that two-thirds of the world's population believed the U.S. should withdraw its forces from Iraq. [422]

In 2006 it was found that majorities in the UK and Canada believed that the war in Iraq was "unjustified" and – in the UK – were critical of their government's support of U.S. policies in Iraq. [423]

According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute, four years after the invasion of Iraq, 83% of Egyptians had a negative view of the U.S. role in Iraq 68% of Saudi Arabians had a negative view 96% of the Jordanian population had a negative view 70% of the population of the United Arab Emirates and 76% of the Lebanese population also described their view as negative. [424] The Pew Global Attitudes Project reports that in 2006 majorities in the Netherlands, Germany, Jordan, France, Lebanon, Russia, China, Canada, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco believed the world was safer before the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam, while pluralities in the United States and India believe the world is safer without Saddam Hussein. [425]

Iraqi opinion Edit

Directly after the invasion, polling suggested that a slight majority supported the U.S. invasion. [426] Polls conducted between 2005 and 2007 showed 31–37% of Iraqis wanted U.S. and other Coalition forces to withdraw once security was restored and that 26–35% wanted immediate withdrawal instead. [427] [428] [429] Despite a majority having previously been opposed to the U.S. presence, 60% of Iraqis opposed American troops leaving directly prior to withdrawal, with 51% saying withdrawal would have a negative effect. [430] [431] In 2006, a poll conducted on the Iraqi public revealed that 52% of the ones polled said Iraq was going in the right direction and 61% claimed it was worth ousting Saddam Hussein. [427] In a March 2007 BBC poll, 82% of Iraqis expressed a lack of confidence in coalition forces based in Iraq. [432]

Though explicitly stating that Iraq had "nothing" to do with 9/11, [433] erstwhile President George W. Bush consistently referred to the Iraq War as "the central front in the War on Terror", and argued that if the United States pulled out of Iraq, "terrorists will follow us here". [434] [435] [436] While other proponents of the war regularly echoed this assertion, as the conflict dragged on, members of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. public, and even U.S. troops questioned the connection between Iraq and the fight against anti-U.S. terrorism. In particular, a consensus developed among intelligence experts that the Iraq War actually increased terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna frequently referred to the invasion of Iraq as a "fatal mistake". [437]

London's International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in 2004 that the occupation of Iraq had become "a potent global recruitment pretext" for Mujahideen and that the invasion "galvanised" al-Qaeda and "perversely inspired insurgent violence" there. [438] The U.S. National Intelligence Council concluded in a January 2005 report that the war in Iraq had become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists David Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, indicated that the report concluded that the war in Iraq provided terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills . There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will, therefore, disperse to various other countries." The council's chairman Robert Hutchings said, "At the moment, Iraq is a magnet for international terrorist activity." [439] And the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, which outlined the considered judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, held that "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement." [440]

Role of Saudi Arabia and non-Iraqis Edit

According to studies, most of the suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners, especially Saudis. [441] [442] [443]

Role of Iran Edit

According to two unnamed U.S. officials, the Pentagon is examining the possibility that the Karbala provincial headquarters raid, in which insurgents managed to infiltrate an American base, kill five U.S. soldiers, wound three, and destroy three humvees before fleeing, was supported by Iranians. In a speech on 31 January 2007 , Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated that Iran was supporting attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq [444] and some Iraqis suspect that the raid may have been perpetrated by the Quds Force in retaliation for the detention of five Iranian officials by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on 11 January . [445] [446]

A 1,300-page US Army Iraq War study, released in January 2019, concluded that “At the time of this project’s completion in 2018, an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor" and that the outcome of the war triggered a "deep skepticism about foreign interventions” among America's public opinion. [447]


Iran-Iraq War / The Imposed War (1980-1988)

The Iran-Iraq War permanently altered the course of Iraqi history. It strained Iraqi political and social life, and led to severe economic dislocations. Viewed from a historical perspective, the outbreak of hostilities in 1980 was, in part, just another phase of the ancient Persian-Arab conflict that had been fueled by twentieth-century border disputes. Many observers, however, believe that Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran was a personal miscalculation based on ambition and a sense of vulnerability. Saddam Hussein, despite having made significant strides in forging an Iraqi nation-state, feared that Iran's new revolutionary leadership would threaten Iraq's delicate SunniShia balance and would exploit Iraq's geostrategic vulnerabilities--Iraq's minimal access to the Persian Gulf, for example. In this respect, Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Iran has historical precedent the ancient rulers of Mesopotamia, fearing internal strife and foreign conquest, also engaged in frequent battles with the peoples of the highlands.

The Iran-Iraq War was multifaceted and included religious schisms, border disputes, and political differences. Conflicts contributing to the outbreak of hostilities ranged from centuries-old Sunni-versus-Shia and Arab-versus-Persian religious and ethnic disputes, to a personal animosity between Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini. Above all, Iraq launched the war in an effort to consolidate its rising power in the Arab world and to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Phebe Marr, a noted analyst of Iraqi affairs, stated that "the war was more immediately the result of poor political judgement and miscalculation on the part of Saddam Hussein," and "the decision to invade, taken at a moment of Iranian weakness, was Saddam's".

Iraq claimed territories inhabited by Arabs (the Southwestern oil-producing province of Iran called Khouzestan), as well as Iraq's right over Shatt el-Arab (Arvandroud). Iraq and Iran had engaged in border clashes for many years and had revived the dormant Shatt al Arab waterway dispute in 1979. Iraq claimed the 200-kilometer channel up to the Iranian shore as its territory, while Iran insisted that the thalweg--a line running down the middle of the waterway--negotiated last in 1975, was the official border. The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement.

The Iraqis also perceived revolutionary Iran's Islamic agenda as threatening to their pan-Arabism. Khomeini, bitter over his expulsion from Iraq in 1977 after fifteen years in An Najaf, vowed to avenge Shia victims of Baathist repression. Baghdad became more confident, however, as it watched the once invincible Imperial Iranian Army disintegrate, as most of its highest ranking officers were executed. In Khuzestan (Arabistan to the Iraqis), Iraqi intelligence officers incited riots over labor disputes, and in the Kurdish region, a new rebellion caused the Khomeini government severe troubles.

As the Baathists planned their military campaign, they had every reason to be confident. Not only did the Iranians lack cohesive leadership, but the Iranian armed forces, according to Iraqi intelligence estimates, also lacked spare parts for their American-made equipment. Baghdad, on the other hand, possessed fully equipped and trained forces. Morale was running high. Against Iran's armed forces, including the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) troops, led by religious mullahs with little or no military experience, the Iraqis could muster twelve complete mechanized divisions, equipped with the latest Soviet materiel. With the Iraqi military buildup in the late 1970s, Saddam Hussein had assembled an army of 190,000 men, augmented by 2,200 tanks and 450 aircraft.

In addition, the area across the Shatt al Arab posed no major obstacles, particularly for an army equipped with Soviet river-crossing equipment. Iraqi commanders correctly assumed that crossing sites on the Khardeh and Karun rivers were lightly defended against their mechanized armor divisions moreover, Iraqi intelligence sources reported that Iranian forces in Khuzestan, which had formerly included two divisions distributed among Ahvaz, Dezful, and Abadan, now consisted of only a number of ill-equipped battalion-sized formations. Tehran was further disadvantaged because the area was controlled by the Regional 1st Corps headquartered at Bakhtaran (formerly Kermanshah), whereas operational control was directed from the capital. In the year following the shah's overthrow, only a handful of company-sized tank units had been operative, and the rest of the armored equipment had been poorly maintained.

For Iraqi planners, the only uncertainty was the fighting ability of the Iranian air force, equipped with some of the most sophisticated American-made aircraft. Despite the execution of key air force commanders and pilots, the Iranian air force had displayed its might during local riots and demonstrations. The air force was also active in the wake of the failed United States attempt to rescue American hostages in April 1980. This show of force had impressed Iraqi decision makers to such an extent that they decided to launch a massive preemptive air strike on Iranian air bases in an effort similar to the one that Israel employed during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War.


Watch the video: RR8040A IRAN-IRAQ: BACKGROUND TO THE WAR (May 2022).