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Flag of Iraq
  1. Iraq Main Page
  2. Iraq Gains Independence
  3. Rise of the Baath Party
  4. Saddam Hussein's Ascendancy Brings Series of Wars
  5. The UN Steps In With Sanctions and Weapons Inspections
  6. The U.S. Launches War in Iraq
  7. With No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq, Bush Calls Iraq the Focal Point of War on Terror
  8. War Does Little to Improve Infrastructure or Security in Iraq
  9. Insurgency Gathers Steam
  10. Iraqi Leadership Struggles in Effort to Form a Government
  11. U.S. Strategy Under Fire
  12. President Bush Hopes Surge of U.S. Troops Will Change Course of War
  13. Iraqi Parliament Gets Down to Business
  14. Iraqi Government Shows Signs of Stability
  15. U.S. Role Diminishes in Iraq
  16. Political Veterans Fare Well in Parliamentary Elections
  17. War in Iraq Is Officially Over
  18. Political Unrest and Violence Continue
Political Unrest and Violence Continue

On Dec. 19, 2011, the Iraqi government issued a warrant for the arrest of Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's vice president since 2006. Charged with operating death squads responsible for 150 assorted bombings, killings, and assassinations, al-Hashemi denied the accusations—claiming they were politically motivated—and fled to Turkey. On Sept. 9, 2012, al-Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging in absentia. The trial stirred up political unrest and ethnic violence. Maliki, who had been seeking to expand control of security in the Kurdish north, sent government troops to the region. The Iraqi and Kurdish troops engaged in a potentially volatile standoff.

In March 2013, ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country remained politically unstable and vulnerable to another civil war, with mounting tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds.

May 2013 witnessed a surge in violent attacks between Sunnis and Shiites when bomb blasts in Sunni areas on the 17th left more than 66 dead. A deadly echo occurred three days later in Shia sections of Baghdad when car bombs killed 76 civilians. On the same day in Shia-predominant Basra, at least 15 were victims in more bomb attacks; and in an area north of Baghdad, 12 Iranian pilgrims were killed.

In July 2013, Al Qaeda in Iraq orchestrated two bold, well-planned prison escapes using both mortar and suicide attacks that resulted in some 800 dangerous militants going free from facilities at Taji and Abu Ghraib. The sophistication of the operation signaled the growing threat from the militant group as well as the weaknesses in Iraq's security forces. The prison breaks coincided with increased car bombings and sectarian violence throughout the country.

In Aug. 2013, during the Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of Ramadan, more than 100 Iraqis—mostly civilians—were killed in sectarian gun and bomb attacks in Baghdad and beyond. Similar violence continued through the end of the year, with the death toll for 2013 reaching close to 9,000, making it the deadliest year since 2008.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an affiliate of al Qaeda made up of Sunni militants—several of whom broke out of prison in 2013, threatened the stability of the country and tested the strength of the Iraqi armed forces at the end of 2013 and into January 2014. Many Sunnis are disappointed with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Maliki, claiming it has shut out Sunni leaders and targeted Sunni citizens in an attempt to rout out militants. Such policies have fueled the insurgency. Forty Sunni members of parliament resigned in December. In early January 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took control of Falluja and most of Ramadi, both cities in Anbar Province that are Sunni strongholds and were major battlegrounds during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Government troops resumed control of Ramadi, but the militants held on to Falluja.

Al Qaeda severed ties with ISIS in early February 2014, citing the group's refusal to comply with directives from Al Qaeda leadership and its insistence on acting independently of other rebel groups. The rift had been simmering for months, but the final straw seemed to be ISIS's defiance of an order to leave Syria from Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.

Moktada al-Sadr, the radical—and influential—Shiite cleric who led the powerful Madhi militia that fueled sectarian violence during the war in Iraq by fighting both Iraqi Sunnis and American troops, announced his departure from politics in February 2014. He had allied himself with Prime Minister Maliki but said the government is "a group of wolves hungry for power and money, backed by the West and the East." He encouraged his allies in Parliament to stay on and continue their work.

See also Encyclopedia: Iraq .
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Iraq

See also Iraq Timeline.

Information Please® Database, © 2008 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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