Iraqi History

Figure 1.--Iraq and most of the Arab countries before Worls War II were countries where people still liced life as they did in Middle Ages. A major historical question is why a country like Iraw which in the 12th century had been so advanced had for nearly a milenium made vitually no progress in entering the modern world. This 1938 press photograpgh taken near Baghdad could easily had been taken in the 12th century or even erarlier. The press caption read, "Chargé d'Affaires during his father's absence. The camels know whsat the dtaff in his hand is gfor and obey him. A touch under the neck means 'arise' and a touvh over 'sit down'. The boy takes his father's cammels out to thorn pastures and may be away five or six days alone with his cammels without seeing another living soul. During that periodhis only food consists of dates and canel's milk. The camels lead him back to the water hole." Photograoher Wm. Chasrles Bellingham.

The history of Iraq begins with the very dawn of civilization. Here in the valley of the Tigris and Euophrates, agricuklture developed for the first time. The early city states gradualy were the foundatiin for the great civilization of Babylonia. Babylon's Neberkanezer was one of the great law givers of history. Eventually Babylon became a province of many grat empires, including Assyria, Persia, Alexander and others. Bagdad was the center of the famed Arab Caliphate. The modern history of Iraq begins with the Ottomnan Conquest (1533). The British after World War I helped set up Emir Fisel as king of Iraq. He was the leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the War. He was a member of the Sunni Hashimite family from Mecca. He was the first king of the new state of Iraq. This was the first independent state in what is now Iraq since the Islamic Caliphate. Feisal manage to obtained the Iraqi throne in part because of his close association T. E. Lawrence, the famed British officer who helped organize the Arab Revolt. The British drive the Ottomans out of Iraq at the end of the War and were granted a mandate by the League of Nations. The Iraqi monarchy was legitimized by a plebiscite (1921). The British Mandate ended (1932). The Iraqi Army moved toward the NAZIs during World War II and the British reoccupied the country (1941). It was the major source of oil for the British Royal Navy and 8th Army in the Werstern Desert Fisel proved to be a moderate, moderizing ruler. Faisal II was overthrown and brutally murdered in a military coup, the first step in Saddam Husein's rise to power.


Historians believe that settlement of the Fertle Cressent creaetd by the Tigris Euphrates Rivers began about 7000 BC. Several important civilizations developed in the Fertile Cressent. The generic name for the cultures of Fertile Cresent is Mesopotamia. The first major civilization was the Sumerians who devloped a loose coaltion of independent city states. Their civilization was concentrated in the marshy south where a thriving civilization emerged about 3500 BC. Summerians developed the pottery wheel from which they mad clay untensils. They also developed an early lunar calendar and advanced mathematics. An inovative irrigation system permitted the first intesive cultivation of the Tigris Euphrates. The Summerians also developed the first primitive writing, cuniform writing first used for commercial records, but evolving into literature such as poetry. The Summerians with their advanced agricuture were able to support the first first urban centers. The first city appears to be Ur. It apparent was fom Ur that Biblical Patiarch left to find Canaan. The Amorite King Hammurabi unified the Sumerian city states. He is know or enacting the fist written legal code. The Amorites and other war-like people from the hearding socities of the north blended blended with agraian Sumerian civilization. Babylon developed as the most important city of the region. Babylon was destroyed by the Assyrians, another war-lik northern peolpe, in 669 BC. Nebuhadnezzar II rebuilt Babylon as the worlds most beautiful and advanced city. It was the sit of the Hanging Gardens and Tower of Babel. Babylon was conuered by Alexader the Great in 331 BC who set out to Hllanize it. The Persians after defeating Roman armies led by Anthony, conquered Mesopotamia in 64 AD.

Middle East

Arab bedouins burst out of the Arabian desert in 7th centuary AD. The Arabs were followers of the prophet Muhammad. They swept through the Holy Land and Mesopotamia, driving back the Byzatines and defeating the Persians in 637 AD. At the time most in the pople in th region wre Christians and Zoroastrians. The Arabs set about spreading the Islamic faith, but allowed much more religious diversity than was the case of Christian Europe. Depite the overwealming military victories, the force of Islam was imerilde in 661 in a fight over sucession. It was at this time that the schism betweenthe Shiites and Sunis developed. The bedouin Arabs by the 8h century had acquired th e civilization of the people they conquured. They founded a new capital at Bagdad in 762. This was the golden age of Islam. The Caliphiate was destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1258.

Decline (1258-1638)

The Mongols sacked Bagdad in 1258. They also destroyed the irrigation system, leaving Mosoptamia a barren, arid plain. For three centuries petty struggles between towns and wandering bands of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans dominated Mesopotamia.

Ottomon Empire (1638-1918)

The area of modern Iraq was a prize which the major Middle Easter powers struggled to control. It became a buffer zone between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire of Persia. The Ottomans fearful that the Safavids might spread their Shi'ite faith to Anatolia, invaded Mesopotamia in the early 16th century. Most of what is modern Iraq was conquered by the Ottoman Empire (1533). Iraq became the pashalik of Baghdad. It was a contested province between rival empires. Internal tribal and religious divisions (especially the Shi'a/Sunni split) made it a difficult province to govern. The Safavid dynasty of Persia was the primary refional rival. The Safavids controlled much of modern Iraq for short periods (1508-1533 and 1622-1638). The Ottomons finally seized Bagdad in 1638. The Ottomans administered modern Iraq and adjacent areas as three different provinces, dominated by Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs in the center, and Shi'ite Arabs in the south. With the exception of a brief period of Safavid rule in the 17th century, Iraq was dominated by the Ottomons. Another regional power was the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt. The Mamluks were officers of Georgian origin who managed to exert secular autonomy from the Ottoman Sultan. The Mamaluks managed to not only exert autnomy, but seized control of some other areas of the Ottoman Empire. The Mamaluks seized conrol of Iraq (747-1831). The Mamaluks during their era of control managed to restore order, primarily by suppressing the tribes who had partcipated in various revolts and intersecine conflicts. The Mamaluks also curbed the Janissaries and began a program of economic and military reform. The Ottomans managed to overthrow the Mamluks who had been weakened by the struggle over Greece (1831). The Ottoman Empire was in the 19th century the "sick man of Europe". It managed to survive only because the Great Powers could not decide on how to divide it. The area of modern Iraq, as the influence of the Ottomon declined, became the scene of a struggle for influence between Britain and Germany. The area was seen as an important route to Asia. One of the issues was the Bagdad railway. The importance of the region increased with the discivery of oil around Mosul (near ancient Nineveh). The Ottomon Empire entered World War on the side of the Central Powers. Iraq at the beginning of World War I was still part of three Ottoman provinces, dominated by Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs in the center, and Shi'ite Arabs in the south.

Modern Iraq (1918- )

The Ottoman Empire sides with Germany and the Central Powers in Wotld War I. Their primary focus was on Russia to the North. The War, however, brought them into conflict with the British and resulted in the loss of their Arab provinces, including Iraq. Modern Iraq was created when the British at the end of the World War seized what is now Iraq from the collapsing Ottomon Empire. The British mandate for Iraq was established at the 1919 Paris Peace Talks. An Arab insurection in 1920 convinced the British to permit the establishment of a monarchy under King Feisal in 1921, but the British retained control for several years as a Protectorate (1920-32). Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations as an independent country in 1932. When Iraqi leaders began to show signs of siding with the NAZIs during World War II, the British seized the country in 1941. The monarchy was overthrown in 1958 in a bloody military coup. The country became a republic which persued an alliance with the Soviet Union. The Bath Party seized power in 1968. Saddam was important in the securrity service of the Bath Party. By 1979 he became the Bath Party Chairman and had achieved total control. One year later he ordered the invasion of Iran.


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Created: 8:40 PM 1/22/2007
Last updated: 5:31 AM 6/2/2010