Iraq (IQ)

Capital

Baghdad 

Population

39.3 million

Constitution

Federal Republic

Head of State

President Barham Salih

National Day

October 3rd

Iraq Ambassador to the UK

H.E. Dr Salih Al-Tamimi

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, 9 Holland Villas Road, London, W14 8BP

UK's Ambassador to Iraq

H.E. Mr Mark Bryson-Richardson MBE

British Embassy Baghdad, International Zone, Baghdad, Iraq

Though close in proximity, Iraq differs from the other Gulf states. The country today known as Iraq, created in 1932, tells a fraction of the story of the region at the centre of the Middle East, that has been central to both its civilisation and conflicts.

Iraq’s nodal geographical location makes it a vital nation in the Middle East, bordering the key regional players of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Iran. It is virtually landlocked apart from a 58 kilometer of coast in the northern Arabian Gulf. In its recent history Iraq has played host to a number of foreign interests, yet it boasts arguably some of the oldest and most significant history and civilisation in the world.

"Cradle of civilisation"

Often referred to as one of the cradles of civilisation, the fertile region between the rivers of the Tigris and Euphrates was known as Mesopotamia, or the "Land Between the Rivers".

Iraq has been and still continues to be the strategic and cultural heart of the region. The region has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC, including the titanic empires of the Babylonian, Sassanid and Abbasids. The region has been the site of a vast number of empires, tribes and religions. As such, Iraq has also given the world many innovations as well as sublime poetry and writing and great architecture and painting. The city of Baghdad, having been at the centre of the commercial and intellectual world, now plays an important strategic role in the region, as a centre of security and administrative control.

Ethnic diversity

Iraq’s diverse ethnic makeup, as well as its geography, tells the story of both its successes and conflicts. The creation of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1938 grouped ethnicities including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Yazidis under the same flag. As such, certain leaders and groups have exploited such ethnic divides to engage in sectarian violence that has marred the country's growth in recent decades.

The Kurds

Atrocities against ethnic groups, especially the Kurds, have been carried out by both Saddam Hussein and the Islamic State group (IS). The Kurds are concentrated in the mountainous northern region of Kurdistan and have long fought for independence from Iraq over the decades. This has been the source of tension and conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqi government.

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, a semi-autonomous Kurdistan region was established in Northern Iraq. (See our page on the Kurdistan Regional Government.) The Kurds of Iraq have witnesses much conflict and turmoil in recent decades. They played a vital role in the defeat of IS.

Inherent instability 

The geography and ethnic makeup of Iraq has meant it is susceptible to instability and violence, particularly from foreign actors and terrorist groups such as Iran or the Islamic State group/Daesh. Iraq is currently experiencing relative calm as it recovers from decades of unrest and war, from the 2003 invasion to the seizure and occupation of huge swathes of territory by IS.

The diminishing presence of foreign troops in the region as well as scheduled democratic elections in October 2021 signal renewed hope for the region in returning to a state of stability and prosperity. As Iraq rebuilds, the UK has an opportunity to redefine its relationship with the nation and region at large, becoming an economic partner as well as a strategic ally.

Key dates

4000 BC - 3100BC
The Sumerian civilisation based at Uruk in north -eastern Iraq flourishes and produces the earliest form of wiriting discovered so far, and tales of the legendary King Gilgamesh
3000 BC - 700s AD
Iraq becomes integral for a number of succeeding civilisations including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Parthians and Umayyads
600s AD
Islam rapidly spreads through region. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law moves his capital to Kufa south of Baghdad where he becomes the 4th Caliph
700s AD
Baghdad becomes the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate
1258
Mongols led by Hulagu Khan sack Baghdad and execute the Caliph Musta'sim
1401
TAMERLANE SACKS BAGHDAD: A warlord of Mongolian descent - Tamerlane- invades Iraq and seizes Baghdad where he massacres 20,000 civilians
1400s
SAFAVIDS: Iraq becomes part of Iran's Safavid dynasty
1534
Most of the territory of present-day Iraq starts to be annexed by the Ottoman Empire who rule for the next 4 centuries
1917
Britain seizes Baghdad during World War 1
1920
BRITISH MANDATE APPROVED: The League of Nations approves British mandate in Iraq, prompting nationwide revolt
1921
British appoint Feisal, son of Hussein bin Ali, the Sherif of Mecca, as new King of Iraq
Oct' 1927
Oil is struck at the Baba Gurgur well north of Kirkuk. Iraq would go on to become the world's fifth biggest oil producer
1932
MANDATE ENDS: Mandate ends and Iraq becomes independent. British retain bases in Iraq
1941
Britain re-occupies Iraq following a failed pro-Axis coup during World War II
Feb' - Aug' 1958
HASHEMITE ARAB FEDERATION FORMED: King Faisal II of Iraq & King Hussein of Jordan join their kingdoms to form a new country.- in response to union of Egypt and Syria
July 1958
IRAQ'S BLOODY REVOLUTION AND END OF HASHEMITE ARAB FEDERATION: Army officers and Baathists led by Abd al-Karim Qasim topple the monarchy and massacre King Faisal and other members of the Royal family
June 1961
Kuwait's independence sparks major diplomatic crisis with Iraq. General Qasim announced Kuwait of Iraqi territory and the British send troops into Kuwait to discourage an Iraqi invasion
1963
The nationalist pan-Arab Baath party overthrow Prime Minister Qasim and execute him
Nov' 1963
Pro-Nasserist Iraqi military officers stage a successful coup within the Baath Party. The Baath Party is then banned
1968
BAATH COUP 2: a Baathist-led coup puts Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr in power
1972
Iraq nationalises the Iraq Petroleum Company
1974
Iraq grants limited autonomy to northern Kurdish region
1979
Vice President Saddam Hussein forces President al-Bakr to step down and takes over the top job. He executes a number of senior Baathists
1980 - 1981
A bloody 8 year war between Iraq and post-revolutionary Iran. Approximately 500,000 people die before war ends in stalemate
June 1981
Israeli air strike destroys Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad
March 1988
Saddam Hussein attacks the Kurdish city of Halabja killing between 3,000 and 5,000 people and injuring many thousands more. Later categorised as genocide, the massacre happens during conflict with Iran
1990 - 1991
GULF WAR: Iraq invades Kuwait, supposedly over a row about oil production and is defeated pushed out of Kuwait by March 1991
March - April 1991
Northern Kurdish and southern Shia populations - encouraged by Saddam's defeat - rise up against him but are brutally suppressed
April 1991
The UN establishes a safe haven in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds and orders Iraq to end all military activity in the area
Aug' 1992
Western allies establish a no-fly zone over southern Iraq to protect the Shia Srabs, which Iraqi plans are forbidden from entering
April 1995
OIL FOR FOOD: the UN permits partial resumption of sanctions-hit Iraqi oil exports to buy food and medicine
Sept' 1996
The US extends the northern limit of the southern no-fly zone to territory just south of Baghdad
1998
Iraq ends cooperation with UN weapons inspectors who are overseeing Iraq's destruction of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
Dec' 1998
The US and Britain start the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign to destroy Iraq's chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programme
Sept' 2001
9/11 ATTACKS: Devastating attacks on the US by al-Qaeda kill approximately 3,000 and sound the beginning of the end for Saddam Hussein
2001 - 2003
WAR AGAINST TERROR: The US turns up heat on Iraq to disclose and destroy Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
Jan' 2002
In his State of the Union address, US President George W. Bush says Iraq is part of an "axis of evil" and accuses it of supporting terror and acquiring WMD
Sept' 2002
President Bush tells the UN that Iraq poses a "grave and gathering danger"
Nov' 2002
UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq backed by UN resolution which threatens consequences if Iraq is in "material breach"
March 2003
A US-led invasion topples Saddam Hussein's government, eventually trigger years of civil conflict among various ethnic and armed groups
2003 -2019
SUNNI INSURGENCY STARTS: Violent insurgency starts led by groups including Al Qaeda in Iraq and continuing to the Islamic State group, aided by former Saddam security loyalists
Aug' 2003
Suicide truck bombing destroys UN HQ in Baghdad, killing UN envoy Sergio Viera de Mello
Aug' 2003
Car bomb in the predominantly Shia city of Najaf kills 125 people including Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim
2003
Capture of Saddam Hussein in his home city of Tikrit
Mar' 2004
Suicide bombers attack Shia Festival goers in Karbala and Baghdad, killing 140 people. Al Qaeda in Iraq is now believed to be playing central role in Sunni insurgency
April 2004
Photographs emerge of systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners by their US guards in Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad
June 2004
The US hands sovereignty fo interim government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, as Iraq descends into chaos
Aug' 2004
In Najaf, US troops battle Shia milia headed by the radical cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr
Jan' 2005
Elections for Transnational National Assembly
April 2005
Parliament selects Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president; Ibrahim Jaafari is prime minister
May 2005 onwards
Surge in car bombings and shootings. Sectarian violence grows
June 2005
Massoud Barzani is sworn in as regional president of Iraqi Kurdistan
Oct' 2005
Voters approve new constitution at aimed at creating an Islamic federal democracy
Feb' 2006
CIVIL WAR: Al-Qaeda objective of sparking war between Iraq's Sunnis and Shias is achieved with bombing of the important Shia Al-Askari Shrine, famous resting place of 2 important imams, in Samarra 80 miles north of Baghdad
April 2006
Nouri al-Malaki becomes prime minister, ending months of political deadlock
June 2006
Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi is killed in US airstrike. He is soon succeeded by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, as head of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)
Dec' 2006
Saddam Hussein is hanged for crimes against humanity
Jan' 2007
THE SURGE: President Bush announces a new strategy to counter the militants by dispatching 1000s more troops to Iraq
March 2008
Government forces battle with Moqtada's Mehdi Army in Basra
April 2008
Maliki announces death of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the obscure leader of the Islamic State of Iraq group which has been largely destroyed in the Surge. Both he and his deputy, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, are killed by Iraqi troops
Aug' 2008
Shia and Kurdish leaders form alliance to support Maliki's government but fail to involve Sunni leaders
Sept' 2008
SURGE SUCCESS: US troops hand over the predominantly Sunni western province of Anbar to Iraqi government. This had been the heart of the insurgency
Nov' 2008
Parliament agrees security pact with the US that it will remove all troops from Iraq by end of 2011
June 2009
US troops start to withdraw from Iraq cities and towns six years after the invasion
March 2010
Elections. Parliament attempts to tackle sectarian divisions by approving new unity government representing main Iraq communities
May 2010
START OF ISIS: The Islamic State of Iraq announces new leader will be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who will gain global notoriety as the self-proclaimed "caliph" of the Islamic State group
Aug' 2010
US LEAVES IRAQ: Last combat brigade departs Iraq more than 7 years after the invasion
Dec' 2011
Unity government already is disarray following completion of US withdrawal. Shia PM Maliki issues arrest warrants for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Sunni bloc boycotts parliament and cabinet
April 2013
RISE OF ISIS: Sunni insurgency re-starts with car bombings and assassinations. A leading group is Islamic State of Iraq led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, founder of IS/Daesh
Sept' 2013
ISI is said to be behind devastating car bombs in Irbil , the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Dec' 2013
The end of 2013 records a devastating death toll at the hands of militants like ISI. The UN estimates the death toll at 7,157, more than double the number of the previous year
Jan' 2014
Sunni militants infiltrate Anbar cities such as Ramadi and particularly Falluja, which had been the heart of the Sunni insurgency in the months after the US-led invasion
June - Sept' 2014
Al-Baghdadi's militants, now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advance across Iraq from its stronghold in Raqqa in Syria to seize Iraq's second city of Mosul
July 2014
IS CALIPHATE DECLARED: from the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri is Mosul, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declares himself "caliph" of the "Islamic State" and calls on all Sunnis to support him
July 2014 - 2015
Islamic State fails to take Baghdad but enforces reign of terror stretching 400 miles of territory from northern Syria to the Iraqi town of Suleiman Bek near Irani
2015-2017
Iraqi government aided by US-led airstrikes start counter-offensive against IS, beginning with fight for control of Tinkrit and Anbar province
Nov' 2016
Iraqi parliament recognises Shia militias becoming dominant in Iraq, many of which are Iran-backed
July 2017
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announces victory over IS/Daesh in Iraq's second city of Mosul after a bloody 9 month battle
Sept' 2017
Kurds back independence in referendum organised by Kurdish Regional Government. Iraq's Supreme Court orders suspension of the result
OCT' 2017
Iraqi government troops launch offensive against Kurdish forces to aimed at halting moves to independence and retaking the northern cities of Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, along with other objectives including the Mosul Dam
Nov' 2017
Government, Shia militia and Kurdish allies drive Islamic State militias out of most remaining strongholds
May 2018
Parliamentary elections see big victory by the political bloc led by Moqtada al-Sadr
Oct' 2018
Parliament elects veteran Kurdish politician Barham Salih as president. In turn, he appoints as prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, with support of majority of Shia MPs
Sept- Nov' 2019
Protests over corruption, unemployment and Iranian influence in Baghdad and elsewhere result in 400 deaths
October 2020
Prime Minister Adel Abu Mahdi and his cabinet resign in wake of protests against corruption and Iranian interference
Jan 2020
The powerful Iranian Major General, Qasim Soleiman, leader of the controversial Quds Force is killed at Baghdad International Airport in a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump causing outrage in Iraq and Ira
April 2020
President Barham Salih appoints as prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the third person lined up for the role in 10 weeks. He stays the course
Jan' 2021
IS claims it carried out a bombing in Tarayan Square in Baghdad killing 32 people
July 2021
More IS bombing attacks against the Shia f Iraq. A suicide bomber kills 30 people in Sadr City, Baghdad, which is predominantly Shia
Oct' 2021
Moqtada al-Sadr's party is biggest winner in Iraq's parliamentary elections, extending the dominance over government enjoyed by Shia parties and blocs since the 2003 invasion

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