Iraq Timeline

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
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by Borgna Brunner

Iraq comes under British mandate after the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1918.


Faisal I becomes king of Iraq (Aug. 23).


Iraq achieves independence from Britain (Oct. 3).


Faisal I dies and is succeeded by his son, Ghazi.


The first of seven military coups over the next five years takes place; King Ghazi is retained as a figurehead.


King Ghazi is killed in an automobile accident; his son, Faisal II, 3, becomes king; Faisal's uncle, Emir Abd al-Ilah, becomes regent.


Anti-British leaders in Iraq side with the Axis powers in the early part of World War II.


Britain defeats Iraq; pro-Axis leaders flee.


Iraq declares war on the Axis countries.


Iraq becomes a charter member of the Arab League.


Iraq and other Arab countries launch an unsuccessful war against Israel, which had declared statehood that year.


A military coup overthrows the monarchy, kills King Faisal II, and declares Iraq a republic. General Abdul Karim Kassem becomes Iraq's leader, and begins reversing the monarchy's pro-western policies (July 14).


The Kurds, located in northern Iraq, revolt and demand autonomy; fighting between the Kurds and the government continues for decades.


Kassem is killed in a coup led Colonel Abd al-Salam Aref and the military as well as members of the Ba'ath party (Feb. 8). The Ba'ath party, founded in Syria, advocates pan-Arabism, secularism, and socialism. Colonel Aref becomes president, Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr of the Ba'ath Party becomes president.

Aref purges the government of Ba'ath party, including President al-Bakr.


Aref dies; his brother, Abdul Rahman Aref, takes over the presidency (Apr. 17).


Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr overthrows Aref in a bloodless coup. The Ba'ath party again dominates (July 17).


A peace agreement is signed between the Iraqi government and the Kurds, granting the Kurds some self-rule (March 11).


Iraq fights in the Arab-Israeli War (The Yom Kippur War) and participates in the oil boycott against Israel's supporters.


Fighting again breaks out with the Kurds, who call for their independence.


Al-Bakr resigns; his vice-president, Saddam Hussein, succeeds him (July 16). Hussein swiftly executes political rivals.


The bloody eight-year Iran-Iraq war begins. The main issue is control of the Shatt al Arab waterway, an essential resource providing for water and transportation that runs along the border of both countries (Sept. 22).


Iraq retaliates against the Kurds for supporting Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, and through "Operation Anfal" slaughters civilians or forces them to relocate. Thousands flee to Turkey (Feb.–Sept.).

Iran-Iraq war ends in a stalemate. An estimated 1.5 million died in the conflict (Aug. 20).


Iraqi troops invade Kuwait. Saddam Hussein justifies the attack by blaming Kuwait for falling oil prices that harm the Iraqi economy (Aug. 2).

The UN imposes economic sanctions on Iraq (Aug 6).

U.S. military forces arrive in Saudi Arabia (Aug. 9).

The UN issues a Security Council resolution setting Jan. 15, 1991, as the deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, authorizing the use of "all necessary means" if it does not comply (Nov. 29).


The Persian Gulf War begins when Operation Desert Storm launched by a U.S.-led coalition of 32 countries under the leadership of U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. A campaign of air strikes against Iraq begins (Jan. 16–17).

Ground forces invade Kuwait and Iraq, vanquish the Iraqi army, and liberate Kuwait. President George H. W. Bush declares a cease-fire on the fourth day (Feb. 24–28).

Shiites and Kurds rebel, encouraged by the United States. Iraq quashes the rebellions, killing thousands (March).

Formal cease-fire is signed. Saddam Hussein accepts UN resolution agreeing to destroy weapons of mass destruction and allowing UN inspectors to monitor the disarmament (April 6).

A no-fly zone is established in Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein (April 10).

UN weapons inspectors report that Iraq has concealed much of its nuclear and chemical weapons programs. It is the first of many such reports over the next decade, pointing out Iraq's thwarting of the UN weapons inspectors (July 30).


A southern no-fly zone is created to protect the Shiite population from Saddam Hussein and provide a buffer between Kuwait and Iraq ( Aug. 26).

U.S. launches cruise missile on Baghdad, after Iraq attempts to assassinate President George H. W. Bush while he visited Kuwait (June 27).


Iraq drains water from southern marshlands inhabited Muslim Shiites, in retaliation for the Shiites' long-standing opposition to Saddam Hussein's government (April).


A UN Security Council's "oil-for-food" resolution (passed April 1995) allows Iraq to export oil in exchange for humanitarian aid. Iraq delays accepting the terms for more than a 1½ years (Dec. 10).


The UN disarmament commission concludes that Iraq has continued to conceal information on biological and chemical weapons and missiles (Oct 23).

Iraq expels American members of the UN inspection team (Nov. 13).


Iraq suspends all cooperation with the UN inspectors (Jan. 13).

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan brokers a peaceful solution to the standoff. Over the next months Baghdad continued to impede the UN inspection team, demanding that sanctions be lifted (Feb. 23).

Saddam Hussein puts a complete halt to the inspections (Oct. 31).

Iraq agrees to unconditional cooperation with the UN inspectors (Nov. 14), but by a month later, chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler reports that Iraq has not lived up to its promise (Dec. 15).

The United States and Britain began four days of intensive air strikes, dubbed Operation Desert Fox. The attacks focused on command centers, missile factories, and airfields—targets that the Pentagon believed would damage Iraq's weapons stores (Dec. 16–19).


Beginning in January, weekly, sometimes daily, bombings of Iraqi targets within the northern no-fly zone begin, carried out by U.S. and British bombers. More than 100 air strikes take place during 1999, and continue regularly over the next years. The U.S. and Britain hope the constant barrage of air strikes will weaken Saddam Hussein's grip on Iraq (Jan. 1999–present).

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