Beyond the War in Iraq: Chronology
A Timeline of Events in the Current Iraqi Conflict

U.S. soldiers fire a round at Iraqi fighters in Kifl, a town south of Baghdad, March 31, 2003.
U.S. soldiers fire a round at Iraqi fighters in Kifl, a town south of Baghdad, March 31, 2003.
Credit: Reuters Limited © 2003

On Jan. 29, 2002, President Bush delivered a State of the Union address in which he branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" threatening world peace. Barely a year later, a U.S.-led force drove into Iraq to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Here, in reverse chronological order, is a timeline of the war and preceding events.

April 21, 2003: Muhammad Hazmaq al-Zubaydi, a former Iraqi prime minister who reportedly played a key role in suppressing the 1991 Shiite Muslim uprising, is arrested in Iraq. Al-Zubaydi is No. 18 on the U.S. list of 55 most wanted Iraqi regime leaders. Retired U.S. Gen. Jay Garner sets up office in Baghdad as Iraq's new civil administrator. Huge crowds of Iraqi Shia Muslims make a pilgrimage to Karbala as part of one of Shia Islam's holiest celebrations -- banned for decades by Saddam Hussein. Some Shiite leaders urge the crowds to demonstrate against the United States.

April 20, 2003: Saddam Hussein's last surviving son-in-law, Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, returns to Iraq from Syria and turns himself in to the Iraqi National Congress. Al-Tikriti, the former deputy head of the Tribal Affairs office in Saddam's ousted regime, is No. 40 on the U.S. list of 55 most wanted regime leaders. Some semblance of order returns to Basra as Iraqi police patrol the streets, shops reopen and electricity comes back.

April 19,2003: Hikmat al-Azzawi, the former Iraqi finance minister and deputy prime minister, is captured by Iraqi police and handed over to U.S. Marines. A cache of hidden cash is discovered in the walls of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. U.S. officials say they are investigating the origins of the cash and its purpose.

April 18, 2003: Frustration with the U.S. occupation of Baghdad leads thousands of Shia Muslims attending services at the mosque to take to the streets in protest. Images of a man appearing to be Saddam Hussein on the streets of Baghdad are broadcast on Abu Dhabi television. U.S. officials say they are studying the authenticity of the images, which are dated April 9, the same day U.S. forces took control of Baghdad.

April 17, 2003: U.S. forces in Baghdad capture one of Saddam Hussein's half-brothers, who once headed Iraq's secret police. President Bush calls on the U.N. Security Council to lift sanctions imposed on Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration says the war in Iraq has cost $20 billion and is likely to cost another $20 billion over the next five months.

April 16, 2003: Gen. Tommy Franks visits Baghdad for the first time, as the U.S. military's focus turns to restoring order in postwar Iraq. Anti-American protests erupt in Mosul. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States may seek peacekeeping assistance from other nations to maintain order in Iraq. U.S. forces say they will temporarily replace Iraq's currency, the de-valued dinar, with the U.S. dollar.

April 15, 2003: With the fall of Tikrit, the Pentagon declares an end to major fighting in Iraq and begins withdrawing troops, warships and aircraft from the Gulf region. The Bush administration turns up the pressure on Syria, accusing Iraq's neighbor of sponsoring terrorists and granting entry to members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Talks begin between select members of Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities and U.S. officials looking to establish a post-Saddam interim government.

April 14, 2003: Facing sporadic clashes with Iraqi troops, U.S. Marines drive to the center of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. In Baghdad, Iraqi policemen volunteer to participate in joint patrols with U.S. soldiers to control the looting and lawlessness that has followed the fall of Saddam's regime. The Bush administration says Syria is harboring Iraqi leaders and demands that Damascus cooperate in capturing them. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the White House will consider diplomatic, economic and other measures against Syria.

April 13, 2003: Seven American prisoners of war are rescued by U.S. Marines heading north from Baghdad to Tikrit. Medical exams show the POWs are in good shape, Pentagon officials say. U.S. forces clash with Iraqi troops in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. As looting and lawlessness continue in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, U.S. forces call on former policemen to return to their jobs. In Basra, British forces begin efforts to restore running water to the city's more than one million residents, and to re-establish law and order on the streets.

April 12, 2003: Baghdad looters continue to comb through official buildings and empty Iraq's national museum of priceless antiquities. U.S. officials decline to adopt much of a security role, but insist that the presence of U.S. troops is helping to restore order despite apparent chaos in the Iraqi capital. Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser, surrenders to U.S. forces. Al-Saadi insists Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters agree to withdraw from Kirkuk after working with U.S. forces to secure the Iraqi oil center.

April 11, 2003: The northern city of Mosul falls peacefully to Kurdish militia and U.S. troops after being abandoned by Iraqi forces. Like other cities in Iraq, Mosul is overtaken by a wave of looting and near anarchy. In Baghdad, U.S. Marines seek the help of local Muslim clergymen in stopping the wave of looting and arson in the Iraqi capital. American military commanders distribute a list of the 55 "most wanted" leaders of the fallen Iraqi regime.

listenListen to an April 11, 2003, White House news briefing on the war in Iraq.

April 10, 2003: One Marine dies and 20 more are wounded in battles on the streets of Baghdad. More Marines are injured in a suicide bombing at a U.S. checkpoint. Crowds fill the streets of the Iraqi capital, some looting, others cheering on U.S. troops. Facing no resistance from forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, Kurdish militia and U.S. Special Forces seize the key northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, one of the country's main oil-producing areas. Fearing that Turkish Kurds might now rise up against the government, Turkey threatens to send troops into northern Iraq.

April 9, 2003: As U.S.-led forces take control of Baghdad, Iraqi security officials disappear from the capital city's streets, replaced by looters. Iraqi civilians cheer on advancing U.S. troops as they celebrate the apparent end to Saddam Hussein's oppressive 24-year-long rule. Iraqis aided by U.S. Marines topple a huge statue of Saddam in central Baghdad. Pockets of resistance are reported in parts of the Iraqi capital, and fighting continues elsewhere in the country.

moreFollow NPR's coverage of the fall of Baghdad, April 9, 2003.

April 8, 2003: U.S.-led forces fan out across Baghdad, meeting heavy resistance. U.S. Marines cross the Diala River to take control of Baghdad's Rasheed Airport. British officials say the southern Iraqi city of Basra is now under the control of British forces. Basra residents flood the streets and loot the city. Two journalists are killed and at least four others injured after U.S. forces fire on their hotel in Baghdad. Pentagon officials say the hotel was targeted in response to sniper fire.

April 7, 2003: In central Baghdad, U.S. forces surround at least one presidential palace and move toward the Information Ministry. In southern Iraq, British troops consolidate their hold on Basra, where they find the body of "Chemical Ali," an Iraqi general who allegedly ordered poison gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

April 6, 2003: U.S. tanks re-enter Baghdad as U.S.-led warplanes continue 24-hour patrol missions over the Iraqi capital. Thousands of Baghdad's residents flee the city. British forces stage their largest raid into Basra, moving into the city with dozens of armored personnel carriers and setting up checkpoints. The U.S. military investigates reports that an American warplane bombed a convoy of Kurdish fighters and U.S. special forces in northern Iraq, killing at least 18 people and wounding 45 others.

April 5, 2003: Facing fierce Iraqi resistance, U.S. Army troops enter Baghdad from the south, but do not cross the Tigris River into the center of the city. U.S. planes begin flying 24-hour missions over Baghdad in preparation for a ground attack. U.S. Central Command says U.S.-led troops have claimed more than 50 percent of Iraqi territory and that Iraqi defenses have been weakened by days of heavy bombardment. In the southeast, British forces surround Basra, while in northern Iraq, U.S. troops and local Kurdish militia advance on Iraqi positions.

April 4, 2003: U.S forces secure Baghdad's international airport. Marines close in on Baghdad from the southeast, as the Iraqi army continues to take large losses and thousands more soldiers surrender. Both houses of Congress pass emergency legislation that gives President Bush more than $75 billion to pay for the initial costs of the war in Iraq and for anti-terrorism efforts in the United States. American journalist Michael Kelly, a columnist for The Washington Post and editor-at-large for The Atlantic Monthly, dies in a Humvee accident near Baghdad.

listenListen to an April 4, 2003, Pentagon news briefing on the war.

April 3, 2003: The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division attacks Baghdad's international airport as American forces move within 12 miles of the Iraqi capital. Baghdad mysteriously plunges into darkness in the first widespread power outage since the war began. The U.S. military investigates the possibility that an American Patriot missile caused the crash of a Navy F/A-18.

April 2, 2003: U.S. ground forces set the stage for an assault on Baghdad. The Army's 3rd Infantry Division is reported to be about 30 miles southwest of the Iraqi capital. Southeast of Baghdad, U.S. Marines hammer a division of the Iraqi Republican Guard and cross the Tigris River.

April 1, 2003: Allied forces rescue Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, a prisoner of war held at an Iraqi hospital. Another Iraqi civilian dies in a shooting at a U.S. military checkpoint. Iraq's information minister, reading a statement allegedly from Saddam Hussein, calls for a holy war against the U.S.-led invasion. Iraqi officials say 19 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in heavy U.S. airstrikes on facilities in Baghdad.

March 31, 2003: Pentagon officials say they're starting to see a breakdown among Republican Guard forces outside Baghdad as ground battles and heavy airstrikes take their toll. About 50 miles south of Baghdad on the Euphrates River, a U.S. Army division seizes the river town of Hindiyah. Farther south, Marines struggle to hold bridges over the Tigris River. Military officials say U.S. soldiers opened fire on a civilian van after the driver failed to stop as ordered at a checkpoint near Najaf. At least seven Iraqi civilians are killed in the incident.

March 30, 2003: Fires burn in Baghdad as the U.S.-led bombardment of the city and nearby Republican Guard positions continues. Inside the city, the infrastructure begins to degrade as telephones fail and supply shortages threaten. U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks says the war in Iraq is on schedule, pointing to the allies' control of southern Iraq's oil fields and much of western Iraq as campaign successes.

March 29, 2003: A suicide car bomber kills four U.S. troops in an attack near Najaf. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan says the bomber was an Iraqi army officer and warns that such attacks are now "routine military policy." In northern Iraq, Iraqi troops consolidate around the oil city of Kirkuk to protect it from a Kurdish advance. U.S. officials deny Iraqi resistance is stalling the drive to Baghdad. The British humanitarian aid ship Sir Galahad arrives in the southern port of Umm Qasr.

listen Listen to NPR's coverage of President Bush's weekly radio address.

March 28: Iraqi officials blame American bombs for an explosion in a crowded Baghdad market that left more than 50 dead and nearly 50 wounded. More U.S. paratroopers arrive in northern Iraq as Kurdish fighters seize positions abandoned by Iraqi paramilitary forces. The Kurds say they're within 15 miles of the oil city of Kurkuk. Several people are injured in an explosion near a seaside shopping mall in Kuwait City; an Iraqi missile is suspected in the incident.

March 27, 2003: Resistance from Iraqi militia continues to slow the advance of U.S.-led forces toward Baghdad. Iraq's defense minister says he expects U.S. forces to encircle the city within five to 10 days. About 1,000 U.S. soldiers parachute onto an airfield in a Kurdish-controlled area in an effort to threaten the Iraqi regime from the north. Iraq's health minister says 350 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the first week of war.

listenListen to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair's news conference on the progress of the war.

March 26, 2003: As U.S. and British forces push closer to Baghdad, Iraqi units strike along a 200-mile stretch of allied supply lines. The most serious fighting takes place at Najaf and Nasiriyah. A Baghdad marketplace is bombed, killing as many as 36 civilians. Iraqi officials blame U.S. missiles, but the Pentagon denies it targeted the area. Arab journalists in Basra cast doubt on a British military report that suggested a rebellion against the Iraqi regime was brewing in the city.

March 25, 2003: U.S. forces consolidate within 60 miles of Baghdad; Iraqi militia volunteers prepare to defend the capital. The Pentagon says American troops killed 150 to 200 Iraqis during a battle near Najaf. In Basra, the British report a possible rebellion against the Iraqi government may be under way. President Bush asks Congress for $75 billion to pay for the war.

March 24, 2003: U.S. forces advance to within 70 miles of Baghdad but are hampered by crippling sandstorms. American ground troops arrive in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Officials say the two crewmen of an Apache helicopter shot down near Baghdad are missing. At least 10 American soldiers are reported killed in fighting around the southern town of Nasiriyah.

March 23, 2003: U.S. forces make it within 100 miles of Baghdad but meet heavy resistance in Najaf and Nasiriyah. Ground fighting resumes in Umm Qasr as pockets of resistance emerge there. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, airs footage from Iraqi sources that appears to show the bodies of four U.S. soldiers, and five Americans held as prisoners of war. The Pentagon says the report appears to be genuine.

March 22, 2003: Army tanks push towards Baghdad while U.S. and British troops close in on Basra, where they meet Iraqi resistance. In Baghdad, Iraqi forces set fire to oil-filled trenches in an effort to shield the capital city in smoke. Officials say seven crew members are missing and feared dead in the collision of two British helicopters over the Persian Gulf.

March 21, 2003: The war in Iraq escalates. U.S. and British troops pushing toward Baghdad from the south seize Umm Qasr, an important Iraqi port city. Special Operations troops capture two airfields in the west, about 50 miles from the Iraq-Jordan border.

March 20, 2003: The U.S. launches a pre-dawn missile attack on what President Bush calls "selected targets of military importance" in Iraq. Hours after missiles fall on Baghdad, Saddam Hussein appears on Iraqi television to denounce the attacks and rally his people.

listen  Listen to President Bush's statement on the start of the U.S. strikes against Iraq.

Before the War: The Push for Disarmament

March 17, 2003: President Bush gives Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face "the full force and might" of the American military "at a time of our choosing." In a prime-time address to the nation, Mr. Bush says: "The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities. So we will rise to ours."

listen  Listen to NPR Special Coverage of President Bush's speech.

March 16, 2003: President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar reinforce a March 17 deadline for the U.N. Security Council to endorse the use of force to compel Iraq's immediate disarmament. Meeting with the foreign leaders in the Azores for an emergency summit, Mr. Bush calls it a "moment of truth for the world."

listen  Listen to NPR Special Coverage of the Azores summit.

March 10, 2003: France and Russia -- permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- vow to veto a U.S.-backed U.N. resolution that in effect authorizes war in Iraq.

March 7, 2003: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell argues before the U.N. Security Coucnil that Iraq has not complied with Resolution 1441. Britain introduces a U.S.-backed amendment to Resolution 1441 setting a March 17 deadline for Iraq to comply or face "serious consequences."

March 6, 2003: In a prime-time news conference, President Bush says he's prepared to go to war against Iraq, with or without United Nations or other international support. Mr. Bush says he believes Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has no intention of disarming.

listen  Listen to a Morning Edition report on President Bush's news conference.

March 1, 2003: Iraq meets a U.N. deadline to begin destroying roughly 100 Al Samoud 2 missiles. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix demanded Iraq destroy the missiles because their range exceeded U.N.-set limits.

Feb. 14, 2003: Hans Blix says Iraq has taken steps to assist U.N. inspections but the country refuses to account for chemical and biological agents. His report disappoints U.S. officials seeking U.N. support for a confrontation with Saddam Hussein and leaves the door open for further deliberations at the U.N.

listen  Listen to All Things Considered's coverage of Blix's report to the Security Council.

Feb. 5, 2003: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the U.N. Security Council with satellite photos and other evidence he says shows Iraq continues to secretly develop weapons of mass destruction in violation of Resolution 1441. Expanded coverage.

Dec. 19, 2002: Hans Blix tells the U.N. Security Council the declaration "is essentially a reorganized version" of information Iraq provided UNSCOM in 1997, and that it "is not enough to create confidence" that Iraq has abandoned its WMD efforts.

Dec. 7, 2002: Iraq provides UN weapons inspectors with 12,000 pages of information comprising a "currently accurate, full and complete declaration" of the regime's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Iraq denies in the declaration that it has any weapons of mass destruction.

listen  Listen to All Things Considered's coverage of the release of Iraq's weapons declaration.

Nov. 13, 2002: Iraq accepts U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 and informs the U.N. Secretary-General that it will work with the resolution.

Nov. 8, 2002: U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1441 outlining an enhanced inspection regime for Iraq's disarmament to be conducted by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Oct. 11, 2002: Congress votes to authorize President Bush to use force, if necessary, to disarm Iraq. Expanded coverage.

Sept. 12, 2002: President Bush challenges U.N. to confront the "grave and gathering danger" of Iraq - or stand aside as the United States and likeminded nations act.

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

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

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.

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.

moreTimeline of Iraqi history

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