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Iraq, believed by many to be the cradle of civilization, is located in a region between and surrounding the Tigris - Euphrates river system, an area generally referred to in ancient times as Mesopotamia. Over the millennia, Mesopotamia housed half a dozen ancient civilizations of great historical significance, including:

♦ Sumeria (4,500 BC -1,950 BC)
♦ Akkadia (3,000 BC - 2,000 BC)
♦ Babylonia (1,900 BC - 300 BC)
♦ Assyria (2,500 BC - 600 BC)

However, modern Iraq was only 'created' in 1920 by Britain, acting under a League of Nations mandate, following the signing of the Treaty of Severs on August 10, 1920 between the disintegrating Ottoman Empire and the victorious World War I Euro-Asian alliance led by Britain, France and Russia. Britain granted Iraq full independence in 1932.

In the 92 years since, the nation has been a raging whirlwind of wars, black gold and political unrest. Six military coups over the next four decades eventually saw to the ascension of Saddam Hussein as president in 1979.

Iraqi Chronological Timeline (1979 - 2011)

1979: Saddam Hussein took control of the government after engineering the assassination of President Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakar. Saddam was subsequently declared President.

1980: Saddam accused the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran of attempting to destabilize Iraq and funding Shia insurgents. An assassination attempt on Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was linked to a radical Iranian element.

1980-88: Saddam Hussein launched the invasion of Iran on September 22, 1980, leading to an eight-year war.

1981: Israel accused Iraq of nuclear weapons research and launched an air strike at the Tuwaitha "Yellow Cake Factory" near Baghdad.

1982: Intelligence reports indicated there was a strong likelihood that Iraq might lose the war. President Reagan "decided that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran" and "decided that the United States would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran." Pursuant to the National Security Decision Directive, beginning from June 1982, the CIA spearheaded efforts "to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war."

1985-1989: The Center for Disease Control, facilitated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, delivered 14 separate weapons-grade biological agents in 70 separate shipments to the Iraqis.

1988: Saddam ordered a chemical gas attack on the town of Halabjah, resulting in 5,000 deaths, and 10,000 injuries.

1990: Iraq accused Kuwait of illegally slant drilling oil wells in Iraqi territory. The Kuwaiti denied the accusation.

1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 with four Iraqi Republican Guard divisions and a single Army Special Forces division.

1990: The United States slapped an economic sanction on Iraq and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Iraq refused.

1990: The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 678 on November 29, 1990 authorizing the use of force by member states to uphold Resolution 660 if Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991.

1991: A United States-led coalition force launched an attack on Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Iraq on January 16, 1991. Kuwait was officially liberated from Iraq on February 25, 1991.

1991: Iraq was subjected to a United Nations-led weapons inspection program.

1993: The Clinton administration discovered an Iraqi assassination attempt on former president George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait on April 14-16, 1996. President Bill Clinton authorized an attack on the Iraqi Intelligence Service's (IIS) headquarters complex in Baghdad after obtaining conclusive evidence of the foiled car-bomb plot. On June 23, 1993, the USS Peterson in the Red Sea and USS Chancellorsville in the Persian Gulf fired a total of 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which completely destroyed the intelligence complex.

1998: Saddam ends the Iraqis cooperation with the United Nations Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

1998: The United States and British forces initiated "Operation Desert Fox," a bombing campaign to destroy facilities linked with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs Iraq continues to reject UN inspections.

2002: President George W. Bush declared Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil," alongside North Korea and Iran during his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002.

2002: President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair authorized the release of information detailing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.

2002: Iraq allowed the return of the UN inspection team in December 2002. Findings were inconclusive.

2003: On March 17, 2003, President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein, his sons and top lieutenants a 48-hour deadline to flee Iraq or face a US-led invasion.

2003: A US, British, Australian and Polish coalition forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Major combat operations ended after 21 days. The coalition failed to receive support from the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and its legality continues to be challenged.

2003: Saddam Hussein was captured on December 14, 2003, hiding in an underground ditch.

2004: Evidence emerges of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq by US troops and contractors.

2004: The United States formally hands sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on June 28, 2004.

2006: Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006, for crimes against humanity.

2007: Britain hands over the administration of Basra to the Iraqi government on December 17, 2007, marking the end of direct British military control in the country.

2008: The United States and the Iraqi government sign the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulates that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and the remaining forces will leave the country by December 31, 2011.

2010: The United States ends all combat operations in Iraq on August 31, 2010.

2011: The United States forces formally withdrew from Iraq on December 15, 2011. However, the United States maintains two military bases in Iraq manned by approximately 4,000 soldiers.



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