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Iraq Timeline: 2004


by Borgna Brunner
Jan. 15, 2004

Tens of thousands of Shiites hold a peaceful demonstration in Basra in support of direct elections.

Jan. 17, 2004

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of the war reaches 500. Of those, 346 soldiers died in combat and 154 died from accidents.

Jan. 19, 2004

The United States asks the UN to intercede in the dispute over the elections process in Iraq. Shiite leader Ayatollah al-Sistani, at the center of the debate, has refused to meet with American officials. The UN weighs sending election experts to determine whether there is enough time to prepare for direct elections.

About 100,000 Shiites march in Baghdad and other cities in support of Ayatollah al-Sistani's demand for direct elections. It is the largest protest since the occupation of Iraq.

Jan. 28, 2004

David Kay, the former head of the U.S. weapons inspection teams in Iraq, informs a senate committee that no WMD have been found in Iraq and that prewar intelligence was "almost all wrong" about Saddam Hussein's arsenal. His report sets off a firestorm of allegations: did the U.S. receive bad intelligence, or did the Bush administration manipulate the intelligence to build the case for war, or both?

Feb. 1, 2004

About 109 Iraqis are killed by suicide bombings in Erbil.

Feb. 2, 2004

Under pressure from both sides of the political aisle, President Bush calls for an independent commission to study the country's intelligence failures.

Feb. 10, 2004

About 54 Iraqis are killed in a car bombing while applying for jobs at a police station. The next day an attack kills about 47 outside an army recruiting center.

Feb. 12, 2004

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, on a fact finding mission to Iraq to assess the feasibility of direct elections, meets with Ayatollah al-Sistani.

Feb. 19, 2004

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi announces the results of its report about Iraqi elections, concluding that "elections cannot be held before the end of June, that the June 30 date for the handover of sovereignty must be respected, and that we need to find a mechanism to create the caretaker government and then prepare the elections sometime later in the future."

Feb. 23, 2004

UN envoy Brahimi issues a report to the Security Council concluding that the earliest that credible, direct elections could be held in Iraq would be late 2004 or early 2005. He outlined several possible options for structuring an interim government that would rule the country after the June 30 hand over and until the results of elections in 2004 or 2005. He recommended that Iraqis themselves draw up a plan for the makeup of this provisional government.

Mar. 2, 2004

Suicide attacks in Karbala on Shiite Islam's most holy feast day killed more than 85 and wound 233 others. It is believed that the perpetrators are attempting to foment unrest between Shiites and Sunnis.

Mar. 8, 2004

The Iraqi Governing Council signs interim constitution, which includes a bill of rights, a system of checks and balances, and a military subordinate to civilian rule. The signing was delayed by several days when Shiites objected that Kurds, a minority, were given too much power in the interim constitution.

Mar. 17, 2004

At least 27 people are killed and 41 wounded in the car bombing of a hotel in Baghdad. The bombing came just two days before the anniversary of the first American attack on Baghdad that launched the war last year.

Mar. 28, 2004

Coalition forces close radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr's rabidly anti-American newspaper, Al Hawaz.

Mar. 31, 2004

Iraqi mob kills and mutilates four America civilian contract workers and then drags them through the streets of Falluja, a city west of Baghdad that is part of the Sunni triangle.

Apr. 4, 2004

U.S. troops begin assault on Falluja in response to March 31 assassination of four U.S. civilian contractors.

Coordinated attacks by Shiites are launched in the southern Iraqi cities of Kufa, Karbala, Najaf, al-Kut, and Sadr City. The militias are led by radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

Apr. 9, 2004

An American contract worker, Thomas Hamill, is taken hostage. In all, more than 20 foreigners kidnapped in Iraq.

Apr. 11, 2004

U.S. orders a cease-fire in Falluja to give political discussions a chance to break the cycle of violence. Two members of the Iraqi Governing Council resign in protest of American offensive in Falluja.

Apr. 15, 2004

The Bush administration agrees to a UN proposal to replace the Iraqi Governing Council with a caretaker government when the U.S. returns sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.

Apr. 17, 2004

The number of hostages taken by various Iraqi guerrillas reaches about 40.

Apr. 22, 2004

In a shift of policy, U.S. announces that some Iraqi Baath Party officials who had been forced out of their jobs after the fall of Saddam Hussein will be allowed to resume their positions. About 400,000 people lost their jobs, including teachers and members of the military, depleting Iraq of skilled and experienced workers to rebuild the country.

Apr. 27, 2004

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi reports to the UN Security Council that by the end of May he will select a transitional government to run Iraq until elections are held in 2005. Proposed government will include a president, two vice presidents, a prime minister, and a consultative conference made up of about 1,500 Iraqis. The government will have limited control over Iraq, and would not be authorized to enact news laws.

Apr. 30, 2004

The appalling physical and sexual abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad comes to light when photographs are released by the U.S. media. The images spark outrage around the world, especially in the Middle East. Abu Ghraib was a notorious prison and torture center during the rule of Saddam Hussein. The Pentagon has been investigating these and other allegations of abuse since January. Criminal charges have been filed against seven U.S. soldiers.

In an attempt to restore peace in Falluja, U.S. Marines transfer security of the volatile city to a former Iraqi general.

May 5, 2004

George Bush appears on two Arab television stations to condemn the prisoner abuse.

May 8, 2004

Nicholas Berg, an American contractor, is beheaded by Iraqi militants, who claim the grisly murder was in retaliation for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners.

May 17, 2004

A suicide bomber kills the head of Iraq's Governing Council, Izzedin Salim, and six other people.

May 27, 2004

After seven weeks of fighting in Najaf, U.S. forces and the militias loyal to Moktada al-Sadr reach a truce.

May 28, 2004

Iyad Allawi is designated prime minister of the Iraqi interim government. A Shiite neurologist, Alawi has close ties to the CIA, and many observers inside—and outside—Iraq say Alawi's selection is a sign of the U.S.'s continued attempt to assert control over the country.

Jun. 1, 2004

Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim, is chosen president, a largely ceremonial post. The Governing Council decided to dissolve itself immediately rather than wait for the official handover of sovereignty on June 30, making way for a cabinet of 33 Iraqis, including Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Christians. New government includes former members of the governing council, former militants, professionals, and opponents of Saddam Hussein.

Jun. 8, 2004

The UN Security Council unanimously passes a resolution endorsing the appointment of an interim government in Iraq. It authorizes U.S. military forces to remain in the country until Jan. 2006.

Jun. 1–17,
2004

Between June 1 and June 17, at least 100 people are reported killed in car bombs across Iraq. Among the dead are a senior Iraqi government official and a senior diplomat. Several other members of the new Iraqi government become the targets of gunmen.

Jun. 16, 2004

The 9/11 Commission (formally the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks) concludes in its report that there is "no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." The link between al-Qaeda and Iraq was used as one of the justifications for the war. President Bush disputes the report's conclusion the next day, insisting there was "a relationship" between the two.

Jun. 17, 2004

In a poll conducted by the Coalition Provisional Authority in May, 92% of Iraqis saw the U.S. as "occupiers," 3% saw them as "peacekeepers," and only 2% Iraqis viewed them as "liberators."

Jun. 28, 2004

In a surprise move, the United States transfers power back to Iraqis two days early. The ceremony was held in secret to thwart attacks by Iraqi insurgents. Only 30 people were present.

Jun. 30, 2004

The interim government of Iraq takes legal custody of Saddam Hussein and 11 other high-profile former Baath Party officials.

Jul. 7, 2004

Prime Minister Allawi signs a law permitting him to impose martial law.

Jul. 9, 2004

The Senate Intelligence Committee releases an unanimous, bipartisan "Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq" evaluating the intelligence assessments that formed the basis for the Bush administrations justifications for the war. It harshly criticizes the CIA and other American intelligence agencies for the "mischaracterization of intelligence:" "most of the major key judgments" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence report." It disputed assertions that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, that it had chemical and biological weapons, and that it was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle for use in delivering biological warfare agents. It also concluded that there was no "established formal relationship" between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. "In the end, what the president and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was provided by the intelligence community, and that information was flawed," said Senator Pat Roberts, the committee's Republican chairman.

Jul. 14, 2004

The Butler report on pre-Iraq war British intelligence is released, and it echoes the American findings of the week before (though with a much milder tone) that pre-war intelligence exaggerated Saddam Hussein's threat. In particular, the British intelligence dossier asserting the widely suspect claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons within 45 minutes was deemed highly misleading, and "led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character."

Jul. 22, 2004

Australia releases the Flood report, its assessment of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and finds the evidence supporting Iraq's possession of WMD "thin, ambiguous, and incomplete." Like the earlier U.S. and UK intelligence reports, it clears the government of manipulating the intelligence.

A report on military prison abuse in Iraq identified 94 suspected or confirmed cases of abuse of prisoners, including the deaths of at least 20 prisoners. Prepared by Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek, the Army's inspector general, the report maintained that abuse was not "systemic." The report is one of 11 Pentagon investigations into prisoner abuse as a result of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Jul. 28, 2004

In the deadliest attack since Iraq's interim government took power, at least 68 were killed in a car bombing in Baqouba.

Aug. 24, 2004

The Pentagon-sponsored Schlesinger report's investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal called the prisoner abuse acts of "brutality and purposeless sadism," rejected the idea that the abuse was simply the work of a few aberrant soldiers, and asserted that there were "fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon."

Aug. 27, 2004

A bloody, three-week battle in Najaf between the U.S. forces and the militia of militant cleric al-Sadr ends in August when Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani negotiates a settlement.

Sep. 7, 2004

The American death toll in Iraq reaches 1,000; about 7,000 soldiers have been wounded. In August, attacks on American forces reached their highest level since the beginning of the war, an average of 87 per day.

Sep. 15, 2004

The Bush administration requests that the Senate shift $3.4 billion of the $18.4 billion Iraqi aid package meant for reconstruction work to improving security measures. The worsening security situation—with pockets of Iraq essentially under the control of insurgents—threatens to disrupt national elections, scheduled for January. Republican and Democratic senators alike harshly criticize the request as a sign that the American campaign in Iraq has been poorly executed. Senators also denounce the slow progress in rebuilding Iraq: just 6% ($1 billion) of the reconstruction money approved by Congress last year has in fact been spent. Sen. Richard Lugar, the Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, laments that "the slow pace of reconstruction spending means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq."

In a BBC interview, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says the war against Iraq was illegal and violated the UN Charter. The U.S., UK, and Australia vigorously reject his conclusion.

Oct. 1–3, 2004

U.S and Iraqi troops take control of Samarra, which had become a stronghold of the insurgency.

Oct. 6, 2004

In the final report on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Charles Duelfer concludes that there is no evidence that Iraq had undertaken weapons production program when the U.S. began the war.

Oct. 11, 2004

Rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army begins to surrender heavy weapons. Results deemed a "mixed success."

Oct. 14, 2004

Insurgents detonate two bombs in the Green Zone, home to Iraqi officials and the American Embassy.

Oct. 19, 2004

Margaret Hassan, British-Iraqi director of CARE International, is abducted in Baghdad. She is later presumed dead.

Oct. 24, 2004

Fifty new Iraqi soldiers are executed by insurgents loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Oct. 25, 2004

The New York Times reports that about 380 tons of powerful explosives disappeared from military installation called Al Qaqaa sometime after the U.S.-led war began in March 2003. Before the U.S. invasion, the explosives had been monitored and sealed by the UN's IAEA. The missing explosives could potentially be used to detonate a nuclear weapon.

Nov. 8, 2004

U.S. forces initiate an all-out assault on Falluja, which has been under the control of insurgents since May. Named Operation Phantom Fury, the invasion involved about 10,000 American soldiers. A month later, the U.S. estimated it had killed about 1,600 rebels. It also uncovered enormous caches of weapons. According to Maj. Jim West of the Marines, “We are very reluctant to say that we have broken their backs. We have given them a very strong jolt and disrupted their operations.” The city has been severely damaged by artillery, air and tank bombardments, and most of the city's 300,000 residents have not returned.

Dec. 19, 2004

Car bombers target Shiites and election workers in brazen attacks in Najaf and Karbala. More than 60 people killed and 120 wounded.

Dec. 21, 2004

Bomb explodes in U.S. military tent at base in Mosul. At least 24 people die, including 19 American soldiers.

Previous: The Iraq Crisis, 2002-2003 Top Next: The Iraq Crisis, 2005

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