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History of Iraq

WARNING: Iraq is currently unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

In about 10,000 BC a great civilization in Mesopotamia arose in what is today Iraq. These people are credited with inventing the wheel and for having the first organized agricultural system. From this point over the next couple thousand years numerous civilizations arose in the valleys of the region, however none rose to great prominence until the 2000-1000s BC when Babylon arose to greatness.

The Babylonian civilization was essentially a mix between the Acadian and Sumerian people, however over time the Acadians gradually grew to dominate this relationship as their language took over. Over time the Assyrian Empire grew just north of the Babylonian Empire until the 700s BC when it had become a legitimate power competing with the Babylonians. Although the two grew side by side for some time, by about 600 BC the Assyrians fell from power by just enough for the Babylonians to take them over in 612 BC, moving the capital from the city of Babylon to the city of Nineveh, the former capital of Assyrian.

In the 500s the Babylonians took over Jerusalem and Judea under Nebuchadnezzar's rule and gaining fame as this is event is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. However, after Nebuchadnezzar died, the land was overrun by the Persians and Greeks in the 500s BC and the 300s BC respectively. Under Persian control the land fell under the Achaemenid Dynasty and under Greek control it fell under Seleucid Dynasty.

The Seleucid Dynasty didn't last long in the region as in the 200s BC they fell to the Parthian Empire and in the 100s BC the region was again taken over, this time by the Romans, however Roman rule only lasted a short time before it was returned to the Parthians, who ruled the region until the 200s AD.

In the 200s AD the Sassanid Empire took the lands of Mesopotamia from the Parthians and held the land with a strong rule until the 600s. The Sassanids stood on the eastern border of Rome, and later Byzantium and grew to a great empire during this time as they controlled much of the Middle East.

The western rule of the Sassanians eventually fell to the combined Roman and Byzantium forces, then in 635 or 636 AD they fell to the Arabs who had arrived with the spread of Islam. At this time, most of the people in the region were Persian or were a mix of numerous ethnicities. These invaders were Arabs and sought to control the people both religiously as well as culturally.

After the Arabs had taken the region they flooded in en masse, creating new cities, while attempting to force the Arabic language and Islam on the people. Most of the ethnic Persians resisted this, most particularly the Arabic language, however many of the other people accepted this new religion and language in order to prevent their own deaths and improve their well-being.

The city of Baghdad was founded under these new Muslim rulers in the mid-700s and became a center of learning in the Muslim world. From this point until the 1200s Bagdad continued to be a leader in the Islamic world both religiously, as well as culturally and politically. However, the ruling people, the Abbasid dynasty also slowly brought the Persians back into power, replacing the Arabs.

The Mongols came loudly as they killed many people in the country with their arrival. However only 50 years after their arrival, many of the Mongol rulers began to convert to Islam and actually allowed numerous aspects of Persian, not Arab culture to thrive. After Mongol rule came the rule of the Timurid dynasty. Timur invaded what is today Iraq in the late 1300s and took much of it as his descendants continued to rule the region into the 1400s. Like the earlier Mongols, after an initial mass murder to obtain power, Timur and his dynasty slowly adopted many Persian customs.

At the same time as the Mongols and Timurid invasions, the Turkmen also fought for power and control over the region in the 1300s and 1400s. However the end of the Timurids and Turkmen came in the following century when the Ottoman Turks took control of nearly the entire region in the 1500s. Under this rule though, battles continued as the country was greatly divided as all these people fought for control as did the Safavid Dynasty from Persia.

From the 1600s until the 1800s these people all fought over Iraq until 1831, when the Ottoman Turks solidified power in the region. The Ottomans ruled the region until the early 1900s after losing World War I. In 1915 and 1916 the British attacked the region of Mesopotamia as a front during WWI. After WWI the British took control of the region, however created great hostilities when since the Kurds and Assyrians demanded independence and didn't receive it.

The British installed a king and the country was founded in 1921, but not officially independent from Britain until 1932. However this new rule led to numerous battles between the Sunnis and Shias as the new government was Sunni Muslim, but numerous minority groups were Shia Muslim.

The 1930s were plagued by these battles and in 1941 the government was overthrown in favor of a government that favored the Axis powers. This led to all-out war in Iraq and eventually the British re-took control and used the region as a base for the rest of the war. After the war these battles and protests continued, although Iraq also entered the world's political stage by joining the United Nations.

In 1948, after the founding of Israel, the Arab-Israeli war broke out, with the Iraqis taking an active role. Regional tensions continued through the 1950s when Iraq discussed politics with Kuwait, which was still under British control. The British took this as an insult and Iraq soon lost support from Britain. This led to strained tensions with nearly everyone and in 1958 the government was overthrown once again in favor of a republic.

In 1961 Kuwait gained independence from the United Kingdom and Iraq claimed control over the region, something the Kuwaitis rejected and led to great tension between the two countries. At about the same time Kurds in the north began rebelling, which moved Iraq's attention north to fight these insurgents and maintain control over the country. These battles continued until 1969 when the war ended with no resolution; the Kurds had taken much power in the struggle.

The tensions with the Kurds though continued and in 1974 another war broke out between the two groups. This war only lasted until the following year and again was limited in what it accomplished as the two groups continued to maintain poor relations.

In 1979, with continued pressure on the government, the president stepped down and chose Saddam Hussein as his successor. At nearly the same time Iran underwent a revolution and gained a new political system. Despite the changes in power, the tension between the two countries didn't retreat as in 1980 the two went to war over border disputes, partially due to Hussein's believe that Iran was susceptible due to their change in government.

The Iran-Iraq war continued for nearly eight years and proved to be economically disastrous for Iraq. Following this, the former general, Hussein, decided to invade Kuwait in 1990. This led to the Kuwaiti support of Saudi Arabia and their request that the United States enter Kuwait to restore the country's former borders and security. By 1991 the conflict had ended.

Following this, the internal wars of Iraq continued with another Kurdish revolt. The government did not hesitate to smash this revolt and in the process they killed numerous people, encouraging those Kurds to call the actions genocide. Throughout the rest of the 1990s and into the 2000s the Iraqi government made more and more enemies domestically and abroad as the standards of living in the country severely declined.

In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq on the grounds that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had failed to obligate numerous UN sanctions imposed on them regarding disarment. This invasion was highly controversial and the United Kingdom was the only large militarized nation to fully support the decision. The country was quickly overrun by the western armies, however this invasion also led to massive internal rioting and rebellions as the Kurds and other minority groups fought the Iraqi government and people, seeking independence. It also opened the door to Al Qaeda who began bombing U.S. strongholds and planting bombs on the roads. The war essentially ended in December, 2003 when Saddam Hussein was captured.

These many internal fights were been escalated to essentially a civil war by 2006. This internal violence continued well into 2011 and still exists on a more regional scale. This violence led to further U.S. occupation.

This page was last updated: March, 2013