Browse Topics



Confronting Iraq
A Timeline of Iraqi History

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has been president of Iraq since 1979.
Credit: Reuters Limited © 2003

Iraq occupies a large part of what was once known as Mesopotamia, and was once the site of a number of different civilizations. Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Parthian cultures all flourished in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, an area often referred to as the "cradle of civilization." In the seventh century, Arab Muslims brought the Arabic language and Islamic religion to the region. The Abbasid dynasty came to power in the eighth century and established as its capital Baghdad, which became a center of trade and culture.

In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded Mesopotamia and razed Baghdad. By the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire gained control of the area. Mesopotamia remained under Ottoman rule until the British took it over during World War I.

Following is a timeline of key events since then, including audio of NPR coverage.

Modern Iraq

Oct. 3, 1932: Iraq is created as independent state under monarchy.

July 14, 1958: Monarchy overthrown by coup led by Brig Abd-al-Karim Qassim and Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq declared a republic. Qasim named prime minister.

1959-1963: Saddam Hussein, 22, flees Baghdad for Damascus, then Cairo, after failed plot to kill Qasim.

Feb. 8, 1963: Qasim ousted in coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP).

Nov. 18, 1963: Baath government overthrown by Arif and a group of military officers.

1964-1966: Saddam Hussein jailed as a member for participation in the Baath Party.

April 17, 1966: President Arif dies in a helicopter crash. Succeeded by his elder brother, Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhamad Arif.

Rise of Saddam Hussein

July 17, 1968: Baath-led coup ousts Arif. Gen. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr becomes president. Saddam Hussein rises to vice president.

March 11, 1970: Saddam's Revolution Command Council signs peace agreement with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

1972: Iraq nationalizes the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).

1973 Coup against Bakr fails. Saddam consolidates control of internal security services, management of oil resources.

1974: Iraq's offer of limited autonomy rejected by the KDP.

March 1975: At a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algiers, Iraq and Iran sign a treaty ending their border disputes.

Jan. 16, 1979: Islamic Revolution ousts the Shah of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini, who had lived in Iraq from 1964-1978, returns to Iran's capital, Tehran, in February.

July 16, 1979: President Al-Bakr resigns and is succeeded by Saddam. Tensions between Iraq and Iran rise.

Iran-Iraq War

September 1980: Iran-Iraq War begins.

Sept. 22, 1980: Iraq attacks Iranian airbases.

June 7, 1981: Israel attacks an Iraqi nuclear research center at Tuwaythah near Baghdad.

audio icon  Listen to a July 15, 1982, All Things Considered report on how Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gained and retained power.

audio icon  Listen to March 16, 1984, Morning Edition report on the U.S. tilting toward support for Iraq in its war with Iran.

Chemical Attacks

1986 - 1988: United Nations gathers evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks.

August 1988: Iran-Iraq war ends in stalemate.

audio icon  Listen to an Aug. 31, 1988, Morning Edition profile of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

audio icon  Listen to a Nov. 28, 1988, Morning Edition report on political reforms by Saddam Hussein.

Persian Gulf War

August 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait. U.N. Security Council Resolution 660 calls for a full withdrawal. More U.N. sanctions follow.

Nov. 29, 1990: U.N. orders Iraqi withdrawal by Jan. 15, 1991.

Jan. 17, 1991: Gulf War starts with aerial bombing of Iraq under the name "Operation Desert Storm."

audio icon  Listen to All Things Considered's coverage of the start of the Gulf War.

Feb. 24 - 27, 1991: Kuwait liberated after brief ground war.

audio icon  Listen to Morning Edition's coverage of the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, Feb. 26, 1991.

March 3, 1991: Iraq accepts terms of a ceasefire calling for end to weapons of mass destruction programs, recognition of Kuwait, end of support for terrorism.

Mid-March/early April 1991: Iraqi military forces suppress rebellions in south and north of the country.

No-Fly Zones

April 1991: Safe haven created in northern Iraq for protection of Kurds. U.S. orders Iraq to end all military action in this area.

1991 April: U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) established to ensure Iraq is free of weapons and other prohibited weapons.

August 1992: No-fly zone established in southern Iraq.

June 1993: U.S. forces hit Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad with cruise missile. Attack is response to assassination bid on former President Bush.

Nov. 10, 1994: Iraqi National Assembly recognizes Kuwait's borders and its independence.

April 14, 1995: U.N. allows partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and medicine. Not immediately accepted by by Iraq.

Sept. 3, 1996: U.S. extends southern no-fly zone.

Dec. 12, 1996: Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt.

Oct. 31, 1998: UNSCOM inspectors removed from Iraq.

Dec. 16-19, 1998: U.S., U.K. launch "Operation Desert Fox" bombing campaign to destroy suspected nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

audio icon  Listen to a Dec. 22, 1998, Morning Edition report on the outcome of "Operation Desert Fox."

Dec. 17, 1999: U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) replaces UNSCOM.

March 1, 2000: Hans Blix assumes post of executive chairman of UNMOVIC.

February 2001: Britain and U.S. carry out bombing raids to try and disable Iraq's air defense network.

Jan. 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President Bush declares Iraq, Iran and North Korea and their terrorist allies constitute an "axis of evil" that threatens world peace.

May 2002: U.N. Security Council approves revised sanctions program against Iraq intended to speed delivery of humanitarian goods while bolstering embargo against military items.

July 2002: Iraq again rejects weapons inspections proposals after talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

August 2002: In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General, Iraq invites Hans Blix for technical discussions on remaining disarmament issues.

click for moreTimeline of the current war in Iraq and the the events that led up to it.

Sources: U.S. State Department, NPR News.