A retrospective: Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein

Iraq, (العراق al-‘Irāq), Republic of Iraq (جُمهورية العِراق) is a multi-cultural country in Western Asia with an extremely diverse ethnic population including:

Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians, and Kawliya.

Almost the majority of the country follow Shīʿite and Sunni Islam, with the official languages being Arabic and Kurdish. The country has had the Arabic name  العراق al-ʿIrāq since the 6th century.


Before the 6th century the area of Iraq, Syria and south Eastern Turkey was known as Mesopotamia (between two rivers) and the land was known as ‘Al-Jazirah’ (The Ísland) by Arabs. Due to the land being so fertile, civilisation goes back as far as 10,000 BCE due to archaeological discoveries.

In Mesopotamian pantheism there were over 1,000 deities, and many of the stories from the Bible have been taken from Mesopotamian lore, including (Enûma Eliš), the Babylon creation myth, and Noah’s Great Flood. Mesopotamian society were described by archaeologists and historians as the first to bring many useful resources to civilised society, that include: The First Moral Ideals.

Schools were as abundant as temples and the young were taught temples and taught reading, writing, religion, law, medicine and astrology. The politics of Mesopotamian society was predominantly Imperialism which is a form of Colonialism, where they conquered other areas to extend their rule over neighbouring states.

To date, the oldest city found, which is estimated to be around 4,000 years old is Uruk, south of Baghdad, which was surrounded by a 10 kilometre wall, which as legends state, was built on the orders of King Gilgamesh. A collection of over 200,000 clay tablets have been recovered from Mesopotamian lands, and whilst the majority of them serve no real purpose, a number of them were relating to astronomy with mathematical equations, geometry and arithmetic.

Modern Iraq

The territory of Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of the Great War (World War I) when the British took it as an occupied territory. Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi who was the King of Syria, was rejected by the French control during the Franco-Syrian war and was given the regency of Iraq so the British could maintain some control in the region.

Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi

The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 saw Iraq gain independence from George V monarchy and the Hashemite took control with Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi (فيصل بن الحسين بن علي الهاشمي) as the King. During his reign there was much disturbance in Iraq with several attempted coups. Bakr Sidqi al-Askari (بكر صدقي العسكري‎) took over as Prime Minster and a period of instability in the politics of Iraq reached its peak.

Rashid Ali al-Gaylani (رشيد عالي الكيلاني‎,) who was pro-Nazi, overthrew the Iraqi control of Abd al-Ilah of Hejaz (عبد الإله) which was a government of Iraq in 1941. This became the Anglo–Iraqi War that was to remove Rashid Ali al-Gaylani from power whilst assisted by Germany and Italy. This resulted in Rashid resigning from government and Taha al-Hashimi (طه الهاشمى) briefly replacing him, and due to fears of an assassination attempt he resigned, and whilst Iraq was used for Allied bases there was no involvement in the rest of World War II.

As World War II concludes, Iraq joined the United Nations, and were one of the founders of League of Arab States (جامعة الدول العربية), It was created with just six countries to monitor affairs, economics, free trade, joint defence and interests of Arab-speaking African and Asian speaking countries. It’s since changed its name to Arab League (لجامعة العربيةl) and now has twenty two members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In 1948 the Al-Wathbah uprising (انتفاضة الوثبة‎) began as Iraq’s government were about to continue the Anglo-Irāq treaty and this caused the inhabitants of Baghdad much distress. The Iraqi Communist Party (الحزب الشيوعي العراقي) were particularly upset about the deal that was arranged in secrecy and they were behind much of the unrest until the Iraqi government administered Marshall Law, when Iraq was forced into the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, in which The League of Arab States began a war against the newly formed State of Israel, as part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict that involves control of land, borders and control of Jerusalem. The result of this was Israel maintaining control of much of the area, and forcing Palestine refugees (Al-Nakba) into neighbouring states, and up to 700,000 Jews went to Israel after being exiled from Arab nations.

Nuri Pasha al-Said

After the war ended Nuri Pasha al-Said (نوري السعيد‎) became Prime Minister of Iraq, but he was extremely unpopular and several coup attempts were made to overthrow him, and in 1958 the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown, and Nuri was captured and murdered by gunshot. He was buried that same day, but angry protestors dug him up, dragged him though Baghdad and mutilated him beyond recognition.

King Faisal II

In 1958 the Hashemites (الهاشميون) were no more with the death of the last King of Iraq Faisal II who was executed with parts of his family in the same uprising which resulted in the death of Nuri (1958 Iraqi coup d’état). Abd Al-Karim Qasim (عبد الكريم قاسم‎), an army brigadier took control of Iraq until the Ramadan Revolution of 1963 where the government was once again overthrown and Qasim was executed by the National Council of the Revolutionary Command.

Abd ul-Salam Mohammed ‘Arif Aljumaily

1963 saw Colonel Abd ul-Salam Mohammed ‘Arif Aljumaily (عبد السلام محمد عارف الجميلي)‎ take over control of Iraq, until his death three years later, when his brother Abdul Rahman Mohammed Arif Aljumaily (عبد الرحمن محمد عارف الجميلي) took over, but it was short lived an he was exiled to Turkey in 1968.

The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party – Iraq Region (حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي في العراق), controlled by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (أحمد حسن البكر) for 11 years until Saddam Hussein forced him to resign.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (صدام حسين عبد المجيد التكريتي) was born in Tikrit (تكريت) in Iraq. He attended the nationalist Al-Karh school in Baghdad, and here he found his interest in politics and he joined the Ba-ath party, and after being involved in several attempted coups, he fled to Egypt to study law. During al-Bakr presidency Saddam became his deputy after rising up the political ladder, and his main function was to improve Iraq’s infrastructure, medical care, education and farming so that it was eventually far superior to other Arab states. Sadly, he was also behind the development of Iraq’s first chemical weapons program. After forcing al-Bakr to resign, he had a vast number of his cabinet arrested and charged with treason, with a number of them sentenced to death. This was the beginning of Saddam’s regime.

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti

Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini (سید روحالله موسوی خمینی) known as Ayatollah Khomeini was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and he returned to Iran in 1979 after exile. He wanted Iran to be controlled by wilayat al-faqih, which is Sharia Law, ruled by a faqīh (فقيه) who’s an expert in Fiqh (فقه) understanding Sharia (شريعة). He became Supreme Leader of Iran, and appointed Mehdi Bazargan ( مهدی بازرگان) as Prime Minister. Khomeini warned the Iranian people that it was God’s government and if anyone went against it then it was an attack against God.

Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini

The Persian Gulf War

Due to there being a huge Muslim community in Iraq, Saddam feared that the same type of revolution that occurred in Iran could happen in Iraq, so in 1980 he sent troops to invade Iran, and it quickly escalated into war. The west, as well as parts of the Middle East backed Saddam’s invasion as the last thing anyone wanted was the spread of Islamic radicalisation. It took 8 years, and hundreds of thousands of deaths before a ceasefire was agreed upon.

George H.W. Bush

Not long after the Iraq-Iran war ended, Saddam laid claim to Kuwait and said that its territories belonged to Iraq, so he invaded. U.S President George H.W. Bush immediately condemned the invasion, and this time Saddam had no support and was ordered out of Kuwait, but the demands weren’t met, and the UN headed by a US force drove Iraqi military out of Kuwait, after they’d occupied the country for 7 months. To try and gain support from his Arab neighbours he declared a Jihad (جهاد) against the western coalition, but his efforts were to of no avail.

The coalition advancement codenamed Operation Desert Storm, bombarded Iraqi defences from the air in an attempt to disable them by destroying fuel, communications and weapons.

A month later they began a ground invasion codenamed Operation Desert Sabre, and in just four days they pushed Iraqi forces back and liberated Kuwait. With Iraq defeated, President George H W Bush declared a ceasefire in February 28th 1991.

In the following years coalition aircraft continued to patrol the skies around the Gulf, and Iraq made every effort to make life difficult for UN weapons inspectors who were extremely suspicious of a mounting presence of nuclear weapons. Iraq became a no fly zone and there were regular encounters between Iraqi and coalition aircraft

The second Persian Gulf War

George W Bush was now the President of the United States, it’s 2002, and he insisted that UN weapons inspectors entered Iraq. Bush gave Saddam a deadline, he either step down from power and exit Iraq, or the U.S would invade. Saddam refused and the second Gulf War began.

George W. Bush

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S soil, the American government admitted their vulnerability and combine that with their worries of Iraq continuing to mass-produce weapons of mass destruction, they felt that they had no option but to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Despite Bush and his administration feeling confident that their actions were justified, none of it was sanctioned by the UN, and some major leaders, including France and Germany objected to the potential, and likely conflict.

Within days, Britain and the U.S bombed a bunker and destroyed government buildings in the hope that Saddam was inside them, and U.S and British forces attacked Iraq via Kuwait. Surprisingly not many Iraqi troops offered any resistance, until they reached the city of Al-Basrah where Fedayeen Ṣaddām (militant Ba’ath party supporters) were fighting back. It took them just under a month to reach Baghdad, and although they encountered some tough resistance, the Iraqi soldiers suffered from a lack of training, discipline and organisation. On April 9th, 2003, Baghdad fell to U.S soldiers. Some Iraqis put up resistance to the U.S forces, but many were extremely thankful for the removal of Saddam and his government. Much of his legacy was vandalised and destroyed as the public removed artwork and statues of their former leader, and perhaps the most famous example of this is the toppling of his statue at Baghdad’s Firdus Square.

What became of Saddam Hussein?

Operation Red Dawn was an American mission to capture Saddam Hussein. Despite the American government offering a reward of $25,000,000 for the capture of Saddam, the U.S had to rely on tip offs, and one such tip off suggested that he was taking refuge in his hometown of Tikrit. US intelligence officers pieced together an area of his potential whereabouts and soldiers swept the area looking for his associates. On 12th December they struck gold when they stumbled across one of his closest allies, although he couldn’t have been that close as under questioning he gave the soldiers Saddam’s whereabouts. He told them that he was held up in a safe house near Ad Dawr just south of Tikrit.

The next day, American troops raided the area, and were met with no resistance. Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a hole, and he also gave no resistance. Saddam was usually smart in appearance, but he was a broken man, disheveled with a scruffy beard.

Saddam Hussein after capture

Iraqi High Tribunal is a selection of judges who try the most serious of crimes ie: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The first trial began almost two years after the capture of Saddam and this involved his human rights abuse in Iraq, and the second trial a little less than a year later was a case against him for genocide of Kurds. On November 5th he was found guilty and the verdict was death by hanging, he appealed but was rejected and he met his demise 26th December 2006.

Critics claim that it was an unfair trial and Salem Chalabi, who was a former head of the Iraq Special Tribunal which was Forbes to try Saddam, said months before it began that it was a show trial and damages future democracy and rule of law. Jalal Talabani, who was the Iraqi President from 2006 also claimed that the trial was unfair.

Other critics claim that the date of the execution was a political decision for George W. Bush with mid-term elections coming. Pakistan said that under Bush’s administration, more Iraqis have died in three and a half years than the whole of Saddam’s twenty three year dictatorship, and Bush should face war crimes.

Surrounding Muslim states had divisive opinions. Some said that the execution was an act of divine justice, and others claimed the whole thing was farcical, and in a fair world, Bush would also be sentenced to death.

Despite Saddam deserving his sentence as many maintained that he was as evil tyrant, but where has it left Iraq?

Iraq by all accounts returned to the dark ages after Saddam’s death, and became an even more dangerous environment to be in. Shīʿite and Sunni militia groups targeted each other, and attacked coalition forces. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Iraqi branch of the Al-Qaeda, was killed in an American air strike didn’t reduce the violence, and if anything created more tension and Iraq struggled to recruit police officers due to fear of being targeted by militants.

Things gradually started to get better and one of the key factors behind this was the Sunni Awakening. Whilst they once fought against the U.S troops they’d now changed their allegiances and fought against other militants and insurgents, especially the ones belonging to Al-Qaeda.

Barack Obama

Barrack Obama was now the President of the United States of America, and in 2009 he laid out plans to remove all American military involvement by 2010. This didn’t actually happen and it was December 15th 2011 when the U.S military held a celebration of America’s mission ending in Iraq.

Nūrī al-Mālikī, the Prime Minister of Iraq was accused of using the government and the military for his own personal gain against his political rivals, and gave an arrest warrant against the Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi accusing him of commanding a death squad during the war. Tariq fled to Turkey, and despite his absence he was convicted and sentenced to death.

In 2013 Al-Qaeda and radical Syrians joined forces and formed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and more commonly known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The threat from ISIS became a huge problem as they began to take control of various towns and cities around Iraq. Iraqi forces aided by a U.S coalition fought hard against ISIS and gradually forced them out of the country.

Political tensions, instability, economic struggles, and corruption fuels protests and demonstrations on a daily basis in Iraq to this day. There are too many political and religious power struggles all with different agendas that will be a problem for the progression of the country for the foreseeable future.

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