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The Roots of civilisation, the formation of the cities and the culture they produced began in Mesopotamia, "The land between the two rivers," more than 5000 years ago.

Understanding this history and vast cultural legacy that Mesopotamia produced is necessary in order to respect and protect the cultural heritage of modern Iraq as well as understanding the people who inhabit this most ancient of the ancient lands.


100,000 - 46,000 BC

Dawn of Civilisation in Mesopotamia

Paleolithic era.

Neanderthal burials discovered at Shanidar

10th Millenium BC

Late Paleolithic / proto-Neolithic remains discovered at Shanidar

10,600 BC

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Collecting of wild grasses, wheat and barley begins. Sumerian and Semitic language groups emerge.

c. 9500 BC

Early farming community at Nimrik

8,000 BC

7000 - 6000 BC

Elam (the highlands in present-day east and southeast Iraq) becomes a major farming region; organized agriculture with primitive irrigation begins

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Halaf culture emerges in northern Mesopotamia

5500 BC

first temples are built in southern Mesopotamia

5100 BC

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Ubaid culture develops on the alluvial plain in southern Mesopotamia (Sumer and Elam)

5000 BC

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Samarran culture (prosperous highly organized Chalcolithic or Copper Age society) develops at Tell es-Sawwan

c. 5000-4700 BC

4900 - 4000 BC

Kish, the earliest city in Mesopotamia we recognize today, founded circa 5000 BC, followed by Eridu, founded circa 4900 BC; followed by the first true city Uruk, founded circa 4200 BC (would eventually grow to more than 80,000 inhabitants).

Development of the wheel; urban culture flourishes.

4000 - 3000 BC

Early Bronze Age

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Uruk period: birth of Sumerian city-states, ‘proto-cuneiform’ notation, first civil law, invention of astronomy, astrology, irrigation, potter's wheel.

The world's first cities appear along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers just north of what is now the Persian Gulf. Collectively, these cities comprise the Umk culture, named after the principal city, Uruk, which is the Biblical Erech

3450 BC

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The Uruk culture invents writing and the lunar calendar, uses metals extensively, develops a practice of medicine, and builds monumental architecture. No unified government links these cities; they remain independent for almost one thousand years

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Sumerian temples appear at Erldu; first ziggurat is built at Al-Ubaid

3200 BC

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Cuneiform notation first used to write the Sumerian language; agriculture and trade flourish

3100 BC

3000 - 2700 BC

Early Middle Bronze Age

City-states emerge in Sumer and Akkad; earliest kings found in the Sumerian kings list.

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The city of Uruk, with a population of more than 50,000 is ruled by the Sumerian king. Gilgamesh who has since become me the subject of many epics, including the Sumerian "Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Nether World‘ and the Babylonian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh“.

2700 BC

2600 - 2500 BC

The rise of cities under powerful rulers such as Gilgamesh, fifih king of the First Dynasty of Uruk First literary texts appear ("Epic of Gilgamesh’) in cuneiform.

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Great wealth and power are accumulated by the ruling class, as evidenced by the Royal Cemetery and the ‘Death Pit‘ at Ur (Ur Ill Style, early Dynastic IIIA period, the pinnacle of Sumerian culture); .

Tomb of Queen Puabi was still intact when British archaeologist C. Leonard Wooley excavated the site in the 19205. More than 1800 burials were found, including 16 royal graves

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Dynasty of Lagash rises in Sumer; Laghash's king, Ur-Nanshe, is the earliest Sumerian ruler whose name is known from inscriptions

c. 2575 - 2550 BC

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Ur-Nanshe's grandson, Eannaturn, the prince of Lagash (dates unknown) conquers Ur, Nippur, Akshak, Larsa, Umma and Uruk and annexes Kish - establishes one of the first verifiable empires in history

2525 BC

2500 - 2124 BC

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Entemena. king of Lagash issues the first known legal decree ["Entemena instituted liberty in Lagash. He restored the child to its mother and the mother to its child; he cancelled interest.”].

2400 - 2380 BC

Urukagina, king of Lagash, creates first judicial code and reforms to combat corruption.

2380 - 2360 BC

Lugal-Zage-Si, king of Uruk and Umma (reign: 2296 - 2271 BC), conquers Lagash.

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Sargon, an offical in the city of Kish, founds the city-state of Akkad and crowns himself Sargon I ["the Great"], is the first ruler in history to maintain a permanent standing army (5,400 strong); by 2320 BC, Sargon conquers attacks Uruk, defeats its ruler Lugal-Zage-Si and conquers the independent city-states of Sumer, establishing the world's second empire, stretching from Elam in the south to the Meditewanean in the west.

c. 2334-c, 2279 BC

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Akkadian Empire reaches its zenith under Sargon I's third successor and grandson, Naram Sln, the King Akkad, Sumer & Elam ["l'he Mighty One"], the first Mesopotamian ruler to claim divinity ('Sin' refers to god) for himself. Akkadian Empire falls to the Gutians after Naram-Sin's death.

2190 - 2154 BC

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Lagash recovers, its King Gudea rebuilds the city's temple; many statues of Gudea are created to celebrate his good works.

2141-2124 BC

2100 - 2000 BC

The Sumerian King List records all kings and dynasties that ruled Sumer from the earliest times. Eridu is the earliest identified settlement on the list that modern archaeologists have been able to confirm.

c. 2125 - 2100 BC

Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur ill, also known as the Sumerian Renaissance or neo-Sumerian period) begins

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Ur-Nammu, founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, unites - Lagash and Ur, builds the Great Zlgurrat at Ur, writes the Law Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today, written in the Sumerian language circa 2100-2050 BC.

2100-2050 BC

2100 - 2000 BC

Middle to Late Bronze Age

c. 2125 - 2100 BC

Ur III rule and Sumer weaken, probably due to an increase in the salt content of the soil, thereby making farming difficuit; the Elamites from Persia invade Sumer, destroy its capital, Ur, then withdraw; Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur Ill) collapses.

c. 2000 BC

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The Amorites, a Semitic people situated south of Babylon, sweep north and conquer Sumer; Babylon henceforth serves as religious and intellectual capital of southern Mesopotamia; the Old Babylonian era begins.

c. 1900 BC

Amorites rule Akkad & Sumer (North & South Babylonla)

c. 1000-1595 BC

Laws of Eschunna written at Babylon.

c. 1900 BC

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The Old Babylonlans employ advanced mathematics, such as multiplication, division and square roots; they use a system based on 12 and 6 to measure time; we still use their system for counting minutes and hours.

c. 1800 BC

Old Babylonian (Amorite) ruler Harnrnurabi writes law code in 1758 BC; his 282 rules include the principles of "an eye for an eye‘ and ‘let the buyer beware. ‘

c. 1792 - 1745 BC

1600 - 1500 BC

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The Hittltes from Anatolia (modem-day Turkey) expand their empire into northern Mesopotamia (present-day Kurdistan).

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The Kassitea, an obscure tribe from the Zagros mountains, invade and defeat Old Babylon with the help of light chariot warfare, unite the feuding city states, create "œBabyIonia"; Kassite rule continues to circa 1157 BC.

1595-1157 BC

Akkadian Cuneifonn becomes the common language of the Near East for official/religious texts.

1500-1200 BC

Hittite culture reaches its high point, dominating the territory to the north and west of Babylon, Indudlng Turkey and northern Palestine.

1450-1300 BC

1300 - 1000 BC

Early Iron Age

Late Bronze Age

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Assyria regains it power under Shalmaneser I at Nlmrud, but renaissance is short-lived.

1274-1245 BC

the "Bronze Age Collapse" sweeps across the ancient world; drought ensues; crops fail; trade routes are interrupted; palace cultures are replaced by isolated village cultures; literacy declines.

circa 1206-1150 BC

nomadic invaders and disruptive migration contribute to the 'Dark Age of Mesopotamia'; few written records exist from Mesopotamia & Egypt during this period.

1200-1000 BC

The Elamite army (from western Persia) seizes Babylonia. Kassite rule in Babylonia comes to an end.

1157 BC

Tlgleth Plleser I re-ignites the Assyrian Empire, captures Babylonia, and begins to rebuild temples, giving rise to the Neo-Assyrian era.

1114-1076 BC

1000 - 700 BC

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Neo-Assyrian king Aohurnaolrpal II builds a new capital and palace with splendid reliefs at Nimrud.

883-859 BC

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Ashurpasirpal I1's son, Shalmanosar III, spends 31 of his 35-year reign at war; the Neo-Assyrians occupy Babylon and rule an empire from Egypt to Persia.

859-824 BC

After decades of war between Ashumasirpal II and the Syrian alliance, the Neo-Assyrian king Adad-nerara II sacks Damascus in 796 BC (confirmed by archaeology and reported in the Bible, 2 Kings 13:5).

810-733 BC

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one of the most successful military leaders in history, Tlglauu-Plluor III, signals the beginning of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, conquers most of the remaining world known to the ancient Assyrians.

745-727 BC

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figleth-Pileser III's son and successor Shalmaneoer V dies in battle quelling a revolt in Samaria (present"”day Israel); is succeeded by Sargon II.

727-722 BC

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Sargon I! abandons the Assyrian capital at Nimrud, builds a new capital at Dur-Sharrukun ("Fortress of Sargon'); re-captures or tightens control over Babylonia, Syria, Samaria; crowns himself king of Assyria and Babylonia.

717-710 BC

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Sargon II's death in battle against the Cimmerians is considered a bad omen; his successor Sennacherib abandons Dur Sharmkin, builds a new capital at Ninevah where he forms a library of Sumerian and Babylonian tablets. Sennacherib is a prolific builder and powerful ruler who subdues most of western Asia.

705 BC

Sannacherib invades Judah, lays seige to Jerusalem, but ceases and returns to Nineveh to quell an attempted coup. According to the Bible (2 Kings 19:35), the seige of Jerusalem failed because the angel of Jehovah struck down 185,000 of Sannacherib's Assyrian troops.

701 BC

700-600 BC

After years of conflict, Sannacherib sacks Babylon, leaves the ruined city unoccupied for several years, while turning his attention to the invasion of Egypt.

609 BC

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Assyrian king Ealrhaddon (reign: 681-668 BC) invades Egypt, captures, Memphis, crowns himself "King of Egypt, Patros and Kush', returns to Nineveh with vast booty; Egyptians begin to revolt almost immediately.

671 BC

Assyrian capital Nineveh becomes the world's largest city; the second largest is Thebes in Egypt.

668 BC

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Neo-Assyrian king Assurbanlpal (reign: 668-627 BC) attacks Egypt, sacks Thebes.

664 BC

A generation after Sannacherib destroyed it, Ashurbanlpal rebuilds Babylon, continues his military campaign, sacks Susa, defeats the Elamites; founds a library at Nineveh which contains the earliest complete copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

650 - 640 BC

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Nabopolassar, ruler of the tiny kingdom of Chaldee (southern Mesopotamia), seizes Babylon and founds the Chaldean Dynasty (625-539 BC).

625-605 BC

An alliance of Chaldeans and Babylonians, Medes from northern Persia and Susianlans from Egypt attack Assyria; the Assyian king is kiIIed; Assyria's key cities Nineveh and Ashur are sacked.

612 BC

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final defeat of the Assyrian army by the Chaldean-Medean-Susianian Alliance; the Neo-Assyrian era ends; Babylon becomes the world's largest city.

600-500 BC

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Nabopolassar's son and successor, the Babylonian-Chaldean King Nabuchadnozzar II conquers Jerusalem, destroys the Temple (the Jews and Temple goods are exiled to Babylon (\"Babylonian Captivity\") until the Persian conquest of Babylon in 538 BC); Nebuchadnezzar invades Egypt (568), re-builds Babylon Palace, builds the Ishtar Gate and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World.

604-562 BC

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Achaemenid ruler Cyrus the Great seizes Babylon (538); Neo-Babylonian Empire collapses; the 'Babylonian Captivity' of the Jews ends (Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem); Cyrus's successor Darius I makes Aramaic the official language from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.

540-500 BC

500-300 BC

which began at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) culminates in the defeat of the Persian army by Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugemela (331 BC) near present-day Arbil.

492-330 BC - Generations of conflict between the Adiaemenld Persians and the Greeks

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Babylon surrenders to Alexander; all of Mesopotamia falls under Alexander's control.

331 BC

Alexander dies at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.

323 BC

disagreements among Alexander's generals over division of the newly-won empire leads to conflict "” the War of the Diadochi ("War of the sucessors").

322-301 BC

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Alexander's cavalry commander Seleucus I Nlcator and two other officers assassinate Perdiccas, the Empire's newly-Installed regent and guardian of Alexander's unborn son. Securing himself at Babylon, Seleucus seizes all of Alexander's conquered territory from Syria to India, including all of Mesopotamia, forming the vast Seleucld Empire.

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Babylon is virtually abandoned after Seleucus builds a new capital in southern Iraq: Seleucia-on-the-Tigris, where the remains of a sophisticated city and many Hellenistic-era artifacts have been found.

300-100 BC

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Rome's victory In the Second Punic War (218-201BC) and conquest of Greece (146 BC) pressures and destabilizes the Seleucld Empire; taking advantage of this weakness, the Parthians defeat the Seleucid army in Mesopotamia; using local Greek-trained builders, the Parthians erect a splendid Hellenistic-style city at Hatra in northern Iraq and a capital at Cteslphon, across the river from Seleucia-on-the-Tigris. Mesopotamia becomes the center of the Silk and Spice Route linking China in the east with Rome in the West.

56 BC

The Parthians deal the Roman legions under Crassus a decisive defeat at Haran (ancient Carrhae) in northern Mesopotamia.

56 BC

100BC - AD 200

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Parthians maintain control over Mesopotamia, a critical link in Silk Road trade between China and the Mediterranean.

AD 114

Roman emperor Trajan invades Parthia.

AD 114

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Trajan captures Ctesiphon in southern Iraq, converts Assyria and Babylonia into Roman provinces.

AD 116

Parthians try to retake Mesopotamia, are repulsed by Roman general Septimius Severus. Ctesiphon is re-captured (198); the gold and silver brought from Ctesiphon to Rome was sufficient to postpone a European economic crisis for three or four decades. The Parthians were ruined.

AD 193-198

200 - 600

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Persian vassal king, Ardasil, re-unites the Persians under the Sassanid dynasty and seizes Ctesiphon (AD 226) as their new capital. setbacks incurred by the Romans and the Byzantine Empire allowed the Sassanids to prosper until the advent of Islam.

AD 224

600 - 150 AD

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The Sassanlan Empire, which once extended from the Eastern boundary of the Roman Empire to present-day Afghanistan, disintegrates as its lands were seized by: 0 - - Arab armies under Mohammed (662-632 AD); - during the Patriarchal Caliphate (632-661 AD); and during the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750).

First Islamic Civil War


Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib is assassinated and succeeded by Hasayn ibn All as the Shia imam and Muawiyah I as the Sunni Caliph - the foundation of the Umayad Caliphate.


Battle of Karbala occurs near Kufa, which led to the killing of Husayn ibn Ali and the division of the Muslim community into Sunni and Shia sects.


Second Islamic Civil war


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The last Umayyad Caliph Marwan II (744-750) is overthrown and executed by the first Abbasid Caliph, Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah. The Caliphate moves to Baghdad, within the territory of the former Persian Empire; Baghdad evolves into a center of trade and culture.


830 - 861 AD

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The House of wisdom, a library and translation center, established by the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun in Baghdad, preserves the culture of the ancient world by translating classic works from Greek and Persian for the Muslim world. One of the first works of algebra ('The Compendlus Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing") by Al-Khawarizmi was completed at the House of wisdom.


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Revolt in Baghdad forces the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil to move to Samarra, where he built a city, mosque and minaret, and palace complex (al Jafariyya, 859-860).


The Caliph returns to Baghdad, which for the next four centuries was a center of learning and the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world (population: more than one million).



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Baghdad is captured, sacked and burned by the Mongol leader Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Kahn. The Grand Library of Baghdad ("House of Wisdom") is destroyed along with thousands of irreplaceable historical, scientific and artistic works. The city never regains its status as a center of culture and influence.


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Turco-Mongol warlord Tamerlane invades Mesopotamia, captures Baghdad and orders each of his soldiers to return with two severed heads; 20,000 Baghdad citizens were massacred.

1500 - 1900

Ottoman Empire (established in 1299) seizes Baghdad.


Ottomans lose Baghdad to the Persians.


Ottomans re-take Baghdad; the next 250 years, the Mesopotamian region serves as a buffer between the Ottoman Turks in the west and the Persians in the east.


Mamluks (former slave military cadre) govern Baghdad as client-rulers under Ottoman Turk protection.


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Ottomans govern Baghdad directly.


1900 - 1950

Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) formed, concession given to the British by 1914


Boundary with Kuwait defined by Anglo-Turkish Convention


The Ottomans were driven from Baghdad for most of World War I


Mandate for Iraq and Palestine awarded to Great Britain by the League of Nations.


The Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra are combined by Great Britain to form modern Iraq; Kurdish and Arab rebellions are suppressed;.


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(23 August) Hashemite King Faysal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, is crowned as a client ruler with Sunni Arab ministers; boundary with Saudi Arabia is agreed upon, along with creation of Iraq-Saudi Neutral Zone (entire boundary re-defined by treaty in 1981);


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discovery of oil north of Kirkuk; oil pipeline begun in the Mediterranean.


(October 3) Iraq becomes an independent state; British maintain a military presence.


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King Ghazi rules as a figurehead after King FaisaI's death.


(October) first military coup d'etat, under General Bakr Sidqi.


UK invades Iraq, fearing that the government of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani might cut oil supplies to Western nations, as well as his sympathies toward Nazi Germany.


Hashemite monarchy restored under military occupation (ends 26 October 1947).


Iraqi troops participate in the Arab League invasion of the state of Israel.


1950 - 2000

(February) Hashemlte kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan join into Arab Union Federation.


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(July 14) second military coup, led by Iraqi Army Brigadier General Abdul al-Karim Qasim and Colonel Abdul al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq is declared a republic; Qaslm becomes prime minister; the monarchy is eliminated; friendly relations with the Soviet Union begin.


Qasim claims Kuwait as integral part of Iraq; Kurds begin an11ed revolt against Baghdad.


(8 February) Qasim killed in third military coup, led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP); Abdul al-Salam Muhammad Arif becomes president.


(18 November) Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.


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(17 April) after Arif dies in a helicopter crash on 13 April, his elder brother, Major General Abdul al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.


cease-fire is effected between rebellious Kurds and government forces.


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(17 July) fourth military coup, a Baathist led group ousts Abdul ai-Rahman Muhammad Arif; General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr becomes president.


(11 March) the Baath Party Revolution Command Council (RCC) and Mullah Mustafa Barzanl, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), sign a peace agreement, but legal status of Kurdish territory remains unresolved.


a 15-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation is signed between Iraq and the Soviet Union.


Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), a consortium of Western companies, is nationalized.


implementing the 1970 agreement, Iraq grants limited autonomy to the Kurds, but the KDP rejects it.


(March) the Algiers Accord, codified in Baghdad Treaty, fixes southern Iraq-Iran boundary along Thalweg of Shatt al Arab and formally ends Kurdish rebellion.


First export pipeline via Turkey to the Meditenanean is completed.


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(1 February) Fifteen days after the departure of the Shah of Iran (ostensibly "on vacation"), Ayatollah' Ruhollah Khomeini takes control of Iraq, resulting in a Shi'ite Muslim theocratic state next to Iraq, which has a Shi'ite majority population and a Sunni Muslim regime and ruling class.


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(16 July) President Al-Bakr resigns and is succeeded by Vice"”President Saddam Hussein Abdul al-Majid al Tikriti , who quickly arrests his rivals and emerges as President and Chairman of the Ba'ath Party Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).


(1 April) The pro-Iranian Dawah Party claims responsibility for an attack on Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Azlz, at Mustansiriyah University, Baghdad.


(4 September) lraq begins shelling lran-Iraqi border towns; (17 September) Iraq officially renounces the 1975 Baghdad Treaty; Iran-lraq war ensues for the next eight years.


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(7 June) Israel attacks an Iraqi nuclear research center at Tuwaythah near Baghdad.


Export pipeline via Syria closed.


Diplomatic relations restored with U.S. (broken again in January 1991).


The 'tanker war' (increased Iraqi and Iranian attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf) transpires.


(16 March) Iraq is said to have used chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabjah.


(20 August) A ceasefire comes into effect between Iran and Iraq, to be monitored by the UN Iran- Iraq Military Observer Group (Uniimog); Iraq reasserts claim to Kuwait.


(2 August) lraq invades Kuwait and is condemned by United Nations Security Council (UNSC); UNSC Resolution 660 calls for full withdrawal; (6 August) UNSC Resolution 661 imposes economic sanctions on Iraq; (29 November) UNSC Resolution 678 authorizes the states cooperating with Kuwait to use 'all necessary means' to uphold UNSC Resolution 660.


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(16-17 January) U.S. and coalition forces begin aerial bombardment of Iraq ("Operation Desert Storrn').


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(24 February) Ground operations begin.


(27 February) Kuwait is liberated.


(Mid-March/early April) Iraqi forces suppress rebellions in the south and the north of the country.


(8 April) A plan to establish a UN safe-haven in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds is approved at a European Union meeting. On 10 April the U.S. orders Iraq to end all military activity in this area.


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(26 August) No-fly zones, which Iraqi planes are not allowed to enter, are set up in northern and southern Iraq.


(19 March) Kurdish groups opposed to Baghdad elect their own parliament.


(27 June) U.S. forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for the attempted assassination of President George Bush in Kuwait in April.


(29 May) Saddam Hussein becomes prime minister.


(10 November) Iraqi National Assembly recognises Kuwait's borders and its independence.


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(14 April) UNSC Resolution 986 allows the partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and medicine (the 'oil-for-food programme"œ). It is not accepted by Iraq until May 1996 and is not implemented until December 1996.


(15 October) Saddam Hussein wins a referendum allowing him to remain president for another seven years.


(20 February) Hussein Kamil Hasan al-Majid and his brother, promised a pardon by Saddam Hussein, return to Baghdad and are killed on 23 February.


(31 August) Alter call for aid from KDP, Iraqi forces launch offensive into northern no-fly zone and capture Irbil.


(3 September) U.S. extends northern limit of southern no-fly zone to latitude 33 degrees north, just south of Baghdad.


(12 December) Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday, is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Baghdad.


(31 October) lraq ends cooperation with UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom).


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(16-19 December) After UN staff are evacuated from Baghdad, the U.S. and UK launch a bombing campaign, "Operation Desert Fox', to destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.


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(19 February) Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shia community, is assassinated in Najaf.


(17 December) UNSC Resolution 1284 creates the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects the resolution.



Content: CHCAG

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