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Coalition Forces in Iraq

Coalition Forces in Iraq


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Iraq Coalition Troops

The size and capabilities of the Coalition forces involved in operations in Iraq has been a subject of much debate, confusion, and at times exageration. As of August 23, 2006, there were 21 non-U.S. military forces contributing armed forces to the Coalition in Iraq. These 21 countries were: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

However, in the August 23, 2006 Iraq Weekly Status Report (Slide 27) the State Department listed 27 foreign countries as contributing troops to the Coalition in Iraq. The additional four countries were Japan, Portugal, Singapore and the Ukraine.

In addition, that same Weekly Status Report listed 34 countries (including the US) as maintaining personnel in Iraq (as part of the Coalition, UNAMI, or NATO). The State Department reported that Fiji was contributing troops though UNAMI and that Hungary, Iceland, Slovenia, and Turkey were assisting with the NATO training mission. However, it is unclear whether Hungary actually maintained any forces in Iraq as part of NATO or UNAMI since its government announced the complete withdrawal of troops in December 2004.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee on August 3, 2006, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld described the coalition in Iraq as composed of 34 allies (plus the US).

As of June 13, 2006, MNF-I reported that 27 countries (including the US) maintained responsibility over the six major areas of Iraq. Since that time, Japan has withdrawn all of its forces from Iraq.

For the purposes of this tally, only countries that contribute troops as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom are counted.

Countries which had troops in or supported operations in Iraq at one point but have pulled out since: Nicaragua (Feb. 2004) Spain (late-Apr. 2004) Dominican Republic (early-May 2004) Honduras (late-May 2004) Philippines (

Jul. 19, 2004) Thailand (late-Aug. 2004) New Zealand (late Sep. 2004) Tonga (mid-Dec. 2004) Portugal(mid-Feb. 2005) The Netherlands (Mar. 2005) Hungary (Mar. 2005) Singapore (Mar. 2005) Norway (Oct. 2005) Ukraine (Dec. 2005) Japan (July 17, 2006) Italy (Nov. 2006) Slovakia (Jan 2007).

Countries planning to withdraw from Iraq: Poland had earlier claimed that it would withdraw all soldiers by the end of 2006. It however extended the mandate of its contingent through at least mid-2007. Denmark announced that it would withdraw its troop contingent by August 2007.

Countries which have recently reduced or are planning to reduce their troop commitment: South Korea is planning to withdraw up to 1000 soldiers by the end of 2006. Poland withdrew 700 soldiers in Feb. 2005. Between May 2005 and May 2006, the United Kingdom reduced the size of its contingent by 1,300. The United Kingdom also is planning to reduce significantly the size of its contingent by the end of 2007, with an initial reduction of 1,600 troops followed by an additional 500 troops by end of 2007.


Former coalition military spokesperson plans return to Kurdistan

US Army Col. Myles Caggins speaks during a press conference in the Kurdistan Region's Erbil. (Photo: KRG)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Colonel Myles Caggins, currently Director of Public Affairs for the US Army&rsquos III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, and former spokesperson for the US-led coalition against ISIS, said in an interview this week that he hopes to return to the Kurdistan Region soon.

Caggins, who was the coalition spokesperson from 2019 to 2020, returned to the United States and was replaced by the current coalition spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto late last year.

The Kurdistan in America podcast is honored to have Colonel @MylesCaggins as its guest this month.

He shares his upbringing, experience in the Army, encounters in #Kurdistan while serving as the Spokesperson for the Anti-ISIS Coalition, and more

Caggins was based in Baghdad, but also visited the Kurdistan Region and northern Syria during his tenure.

This week the accomplished colonel spoke with &ldquoKurdistan in America,&rdquo the official podcast of the Kurdistan Regional Government&rsquos representation in Washington, DC, about his upbringing, lifelong US Army experience, and his encounters with people in the Kurdistan Region and the area of northeast Syria that Kurds call Rojava.

Caggins stressed that he was speaking of his personal experiences, not as a representative of the US government.

In 2018, Caggins finished a fellowship at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. He told the KRG podcast that when he first arrived in the state he was summoned by Paul Funk II, a four-star Army general and then the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led military component of the anti-ISIS coalition. Funk told Caggins to travel to Baghdad for orientation on the coalition&rsquos operations.

&ldquoOne year later, in August of 2019, I returned to Baghdad, where I was the senior spokesman for the global coalition, representing the 78 nations and five international organizations, with the mission to partner with the Iraqi Security Forces, the Peshmerga, and the Syrian Democratic Forces to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,&rdquo Caggins said.

&ldquoIn that role, I lead a multinational team of communicators. Some of you might refer to them as public relations, I call them &lsquowords warriors,&rsquo&rdquo he said.

Caggins explained: &ldquoThe type of combat that the soldiers I lead are responsible for is &hellip public information [warfare]. And my goal was to try to dominate the information environment with weaponized truth.&rdquo

During a time of increased tension between the US and Iran in Iraq last spring, Caggins said, the coalition&rsquos military commander, US Army Lt. Gen. Pat White decided to hand over Qayyarah, Kirkuk and Mosul bases to full control of the Iraqi security forces.

&ldquoThis was an opportunity for me to concentrate a little more on the Kurdish regions and Rojava, and this enabled the coalition to continue to build relationships and let local audiences know what we were doing, to show that we were undeterred by the rocket attacks,&rdquo Caggins said.

Kurdish Hospitality

During this time period he was able to meet Kurdish reporters from different channels, including Kurdistan 24. Caggins was the first coalition spokesperson to conduct an interview inside the Kurdistan 24 studio in Erbil.

&ldquoThis was where I started to realize that the Kurds were looking forward to what I might have to say about how their forces were still standing up and fighting ISIS and capturing terrorists,&rdquo Caggins said, adding that he was &ldquowas welcomed into people's homes, people listening to the radio in taxi cabs or at their office places, and have extended those relationships to my time here in the United States.&rdquo

&ldquoAnd I think that's what led us to having this podcast together as, again, I left Iraq in September 2020, but here we are today in May of 2021, and I'm continuing to deepen these relationships across all of Kurdistan,&rdquo he added.

Moreover, he said was fortunate to serve with a Kurdish-American citizen, Tanya Aziz, who is still serving as a senior cultural advisor to the coalition&rsquos military commander in Baghdad. &ldquoThe coalition has been commanded by three star lieutenant generals for several years and Tanya has been there since 2017,&rdquo Caggins said.

Aziz, a Kurd from Suleimani, told Caggins that she would bring him to the Kurdistan Region&rsquos capital to meet people &ldquoin my culture.&rdquo In addition to her duties supporting the military command, Aziz helped the spokesperson with media strategy, and to build relationships with both the Peshmerga and Syrian Democratic Forces.

As a result, he met with Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) director Shakhawan Miro Lashkri at the Erbil Air base. &ldquoHe sat me down and said, &lsquoI want you to learn some of the history of the Peshmerga, and I want you to learn some of the culture of this region.&rsquo So over a lot of chai with sugar, I sat and listened and listened,&rdquo Caggins said.

He recounted telling his parents, who were worried about his safety overseas: &ldquoThis part of the nation of Iraq is much different, and people are extremely receptive. I have high confidence that the Peshmerga, Zerevani and Asayish will not let anything happen to Americans and members of the coalition.&rdquo

The &ldquosame feelings that were shared by my colleagues from Germany and Holland, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, and Italy, who all have a large presence in Iraq's Kurdistan Region for training and advising,&rdquo Caggins said.

He explained, &ldquoI've grown to really really love kebabs. I love the kebabs from the region, and have had a chance to eat them, not only in Erbil, but also Slemani, and in Syria in Ramalan and Hasakah.&rdquo

After his return to the United States, Caggins continued to meet Kurds and recently met with Sinam Mohammed, the head of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) in her home in Washington. He said he was with a Kurdish family from Zakho in Dallas, Texas last weekend.

&ldquoI had a great time breaking bread, and sharing conversation and exchanging cultures, cultural experiences and sharing my story as they shared so much of their story too.&rdquo

&ldquoAnd I don't take this lightly. It's quite an honor to be treated as a guest with the famous Kurdish hospitality,&rdquo Caggins told Kurdistan 24, saying he hopes to have more opportunities to visit Kurdish people&rsquos homes in the US and Kurdistan Region as the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control and travel opens again.

&ldquoI think I also have the unique ability to transcend, mix and mingle with Kurdish people from all backgrounds, and it doesn't matter if somebody is a high-level government official or if there is a rural person who's just making it through life. I don't have any favorites and I don't have any political affiliations,&rdquo he said.

&ldquoI&rsquove met people from Afrin all the way to Halabja and all along the way I've been able to form these little friendships and associations over social media or also to meet them and their families here in America and it's quite an honor. It's very cool. And I learned from everybody and I hope to share a little bit of my story, my family's background in America and talk to recent immigrants and people abroad too.&rdquo

Return to Kurdistan

This summer the colonel will move from Texas to New York City for a fellowship with the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the world&rsquos leading think tanks.

&ldquoWhile I'm there I will write about Kurdish affairs and information warfare, based on my experiences as coalition spokesman, but also through others who I've met in the United States and across social media,&rdquo he said.

And Caggins hopes to visit the Kurdistan Region again and continue to meet people from all different backgrounds. He explained that international policy makers, academics, and business leaders should seek greater understanding of the history, economic opportunities, and strategic importance of the Kurdistan Region.

&ldquoThis won't be the last time you hear from me,&rdquo he said. &ldquoI don't actively seek out media opportunities, but I'm always happy to visit the region and while I'm there I'll definitely talk to the press &ndash I would never say &lsquono&rsquo to my friends.&rdquo

&ldquoFriendships and education are my first priorities, but I am considering long-term professional opportunities too.&rdquo

He added that he already has &ldquoa bunch of invitations&rdquo to travel all over the region, &ldquoto a lot of unique places in cities, small villages, resort areas, and the most populated regions.&rdquo

&ldquoI&rsquom looking forward to going back,&rdquo he said.

Caggins says he has already been invited to visit families in Barzan, Zakho, Amed, Shush village, and Kobani.

&ldquoI&rsquom a friend to people of all Kurdish regions, all socioeconomic status, all ages, all dialects, all religions,&rdquo he concluded.


Course of the war

Initial Offensives

The war broke out at 9:11 AM on February 8 when Syria launched a full scale air assault against Israeli positions in Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force responded sending out most of its north eastern based fighting squadrons.

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad delivered a speech towards the Syrian population on the eve of the attack:

"Our enemy disgrace the life of every living Arab, they believe they have the right to own our land and deny our people the holy ground our families lived in for generations! I call to every living Syrian, to every living Arab citizen to step forward and end forever the Zionist regime!"

On the first day of the war 75 Israeli fighters and 200 Syrian fighters clashed over the skies of Lebanon. Older Syrian aircraft such as the MiG-21MF or the MiG-23MLD could barely match the modern F-16 and were completely outmatched by F-15 piloted by better trained Israeli pilots. However, elite squadrons flying the newest MiG-29B acquired from the Soviet Union managed to reach relative parity with their counterparts leading to the first losses of the F-15 and causing a shock despite their small numbers.

By the end of the day 40 Syrian Aircraft and 19 Israeli Aircraft had been shot down with Israeli positions in Southern Lebanon heavily damaged. Despite the heavier losses, the surprise attack coupled with a slow response from the IDF allowed for the Syrians to attain air superiority in Northern Israel and launch a large scale ground offensive.

Israeli Magach 6 tank destroyed by Syrian forces in Lebanon

At 07:05 PM of February 10, IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak with the authorization of Prime Minister Shimon Peres ordered a full scale counter attack prompting the IAF to launch Operation Amir against Syrian bases at the Golan Heights and Lebanon.

The operation went with over seventeen Israeli Fighter Bomber Squadrons flew with over 167 aircraft against southern Syrian air bases confronting 278 enemy airplanes.

In the ensuing battle the IAF downed 90 Syrian planes in the air and destroyed another 121 on the ground but in turn lost 72 aircraft of its own.

It would take two weeks before Israel completely mobilizes its forces to counter the Syrian advance but by then the Syrians had already taken most of Lebanon and breached into the Golan Heights.

Syrian advances stall, Iraq joins the conflict

While in the first two weeks of the conflict the attacking Syrian forces were able to nearly drive the Israelis out of Lebanon and almost retake the Golan Heights, in the second week Israel was able to mobilize more of its forces from other parts of the country and gain the upper hand.

The Syrian Air Force, despite being able to break Israeli air superiority and inflict heavy damage on Israeli positions in Lebanon and the Golan Heights, suffered heavy losses and was rapidly losing its capacity to cover ground troops from IAF bombers.

At 12:13 PM of February 22, Israel launched Operation Thesaurus with another large scale attack targeted against Syrian forces followed by a coordinated ground offensive in the Golan Heights and Lebanon.

Following four days of continuous fighting the Syrians were pushed back from Southern Lebanon and Israel reoccupied most of the Golan Heights, threatening to push into the heart of the Syrian mainland.

At this point Syrian authorities, fearing another defeat at the hands of Israel that could spark unrest against the regime, pursued a ceasefire and return to previously held positions at the UN. However, the proposal failed to reach consensus at the Security Council due to issues between the United States and the Soviet Union regarding the latter's crackdown on democracy movements and continued military action on Afghanistan.

With a quick exit out of the war now unlikely Syria was faced with its second option, to drag Iraq into a broader Arab-Israeli conflict where the larger, better equipped and better trained Iraqi forces could turn the tides against the Israelis.

As Iraq also faced economic deterioration and growing public discontent, the Iraqi leadership was also looking for an excuse to go to war despite the huge popularity boost the successful military campaign against Iran had brought for Saddam Hussein and his aides.

Following secret meetings between Syrian and Iraqi representatives the Iraqi government agreed the war was a broader Arab issue and decided to intervene on the basis of their long relationship of friendship with the Syrian government and their mutual animosity towards Israel.

At 9:00 AM of February 26, Iraq's President Saddam Hussein delivered a speech to the Iraqi people:

"The coward Zionist enemy mercilessly attacks our Syrian brothers, their only goal is to destroy every Arab nation to create a kingdom where they could rule us as slaves! I as leader of the strongest Arab nation feel obliged to assist our neighbors in ending the blatant demons' thrust against Islam!"

The Iraqi "Scimitar" strikes Israel

At 606 AM on March 1, Iraq launched Operation Idam Shaitan firing over 1400 missiles and sending over 750 combat aircraft to attack Israel.

The attack, planned with alleged use of Soviet intelligence and carried out with the alleged help of Soviet pilots, aimed at destroying the military and economical infrastructure of Israel softening it for Syrian forces to retake the offensive and defeat Israel.

Tel Aviv under attack by Iraqi SCUD missiles

The missile defense system of Israel while arguably the most advanced in the world was just overwhelmed by the Iraqi salvo, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, thousands of civilians perished and many more thousands desperately sought cover in bomb shelters, the population of the whole country became "bunkerized".

The Iraqi air offensive was also devastating, using blind spots on the Israeli air defence and taking advantage of the ballistic missiles overwhelming the SAM defences Iraqi planes managed to cause large casualties and intense destruction on a fully alert IAF.

Despite being severely damaged, losing some 192 fighters, the IAF managed to down 237 Iraqi aircraft achieving the largest single day number of victories in jet fighter combat.

However, it was not sufficient, with over two thirds of its aircraft lost and several of its bases rendered inoperable for weeks the IAF lost control of over large portions of its airspace.

With air superiority attained over most of Israel the Arabs resumed the offensive as Iraqi bombers rained ordnance on the Israeli front lines with impunity.

Israel on the defensive

Following devastating losses to the IQAF and losing air control over Northern Israel the IDF began a slow and protracted retreat under the cover of its remaining air umbrella trying to inflict as many casualties as possible on the advancing enemy forces while retaining ground for as long as they could.

Following the reversal in the course of the war, Israel increasingly sought Western resupply to continue fighting while appealing for Washington to reach a cease fire in the UN Security Council.

While the freshly arrived supplies from Europe and USA helped the IDF slow down the Arab offensive they could not reverse the tides of the conflict as Iraqi troops and equipment reinforced the Syrians in greater and greater numbers.

In fact, because the conflict produced a sharply raise in oil prices Iraq once again had a large income at hands which it used to purchase Soviet military hardware on a scale greater than what the West could resupply Israel.

Unable to survive an attrition war against the Arab Allies, Israel became increasingly desperate as large populations had to be evacuated as Arab forces drew closer to its northern cities.

If the war couldn't be stopped and if the IDF were to fall the Israeli government would take extreme measures avoid the destruction of the state and the massacre of its people.

UN resolution

After Iraq entered and changed the dynamics of the conflict, the United Nations were meet under constant pressure from Israel to broke a cease fire.

The war was met with great discordance among the UN Security Council, many believe a quicker response could have avoided the escalation of the conflict

While the United States showed strong support this time for the immediate cessation of hostilities it was met with opposition from the Soviet Union which considered their previous objections to Syrian requests as hypocrisy now that Israel was losing.

Israel warned that if the UN Security Council doesn't force the Arab armies to back down and if the war threatens the integrity of the State of Israel or its people they would use by any means, unconventional if necessary, to preserve the existence of their nation.

In May 20, 1993, the UN Security Council attended on another meeting regarding the Israeli demands of a ceasefire with Syria and Iraq, Soviet authorities denied.

Degeneration and nuclear war

At 10:46am, on the morning of May 26, 1993, the IQAF launched Operation Qaza-a. This attack, which also allegedly made use of Soviet-supplied information and pilots, aimed to destroy Israeli missile launching facilities and remaining air force units so as to cripple their ability to deliver possible weapons of mass destruction, and pave the way for a decisive Arab victory.

The attack was a major success, with advanced Iraqi fighter bombers crippling what was left of the IAF and destroying nearly all missile sites with Soviet-made bunker busters.

With their nuclear deterrence nearly destroyed and with the IDF on the verge of collapsing, Israeli leadership activated their emergency protocols and launched Operation Olam. As the clocks turned close to midnight Israel would launch a nuclear offensive to punish her destroyers to submission,

At 11:56 PM the remaining missiles (five Jericho I and 2 Jericho II) were launched against major cities in Syria and Iraq. Three of them crashed on sparsely populated areas due to damage inflicted by Iraqi bombers, while one reached its target (Baghdad) without detonating.

The other ones hit the Syrian capital Damascus, the cities of Aleppo and Homs, and one hit the Iraqi city of Ramadi. The nuclear attacks from Israel killed nearly 1.2 million people directly, and another 800.000 due to fallout, in total causing roughly a quarter of all the deaths from the war.

The attacks received world wide condemnation, and in the Middle East it prompted Jordan to join the war against Israel and increased the support for the Arab Alliance with volunteers from several countries joining their ranks.

The retaliation from Syria and Iraq however, would match in horror and brutality the actions of Israel. Iraq began widespread usage of chemical weapons against Israeli population centers while their troops were to show no mercy for the Jewish citizens of any areas they came to occupy. A new Holocaust was beginning.

The new Holocaust and the formation of the Coalition

Israeli citizens were being brutally executed on a daily basis.

Despite the nuclear attacks, which crippled Syria's ability to play a major role in the conflict, the enlarged Arab alliance continued to advance and pushed into the heart of Israel.

With its air force destroyed, with military aid suspended over the nuclear attacks, and with an armed Palestinian uprising in Gaza and the West Bank undermining its rear lines, the IDF collapsed as Arab forces occupied over two-thirds of its territory.

On June 6 of 1993, Jordan took back the Holy City of Jerusalem on the same day they lost it to Israel in the Six-Day War, 26 years ago.

This was the last battle the IDF fought as a conventional military force. From that point onward formal military organization crumbled, and the defenders of Israel were forced into guerrilla warfare.

However, instead of achieving the dream of a free and independent Arab world, the destruction of Israel began a nightmare of systematic mass murder fueled by indescribable hatred and revenge.

Iraqi forces equipped with MOPP chemical gear parachuted into cities that had been bombarded with nerve gas, and dragged out survivors from shelters to execute them on the street.

Synagogues were burned with people inside them, cities were razed with chemical weapons and death squads executed thousands of people on a daily basis.

As these disturbing images reached the eyes of Western observers, it became clear that unless an external intervention was carried out, the population of Israel would be wiped out.

The United States invoked an emergency summit of the UNSC to mount a coalition to stop the genocide of the Jewish population of Israel by Arab forces, and announced it would carry it out even if they had to confront Soviet troops over it.

The Soviet Union, rather than opposing the U.S. intervention, completely supported it as it recognized the total degeneration of the situation in the Middle East, framing their compromise with statements about human rights and peace in the region.

On June 9 of 1993 UN Security Council passed resolutions 776 and 779, respectively authorizing the use of military force against Iraq and her allies if they did not remove their troops from Israel and cease all hostilities, giving them a deadline of August 5th to comply.

Iraq's reaction, the conflict escalates

With the announcement that U.S. troops would enter the conflict, Iraq appealed to Arab countries in the Middle East to deny entrance to any foreign forces.

Iraq believed that the sympathy gained from the nuclear attacks would lead any Arab neighbors to deny the passage of foreign troops through their soil however, despite strong popular support in the Arab world, they did not receive a clear response from the governments of close allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

As the deadline drew closer Iraqi intelligence detected large concentrations of coalition troops being deployed in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

It was then that they realized their neighbours would not prevent the intervention of the U.S. led coalition in the Middle East. Seeing the inevitable confrontation, Saddam Hussein deemed those supporting foreign troops as enemies of Iraq and ordered a pre-emptive strike to take place against the international forces. This decision would define the nature of the war to nearly worldwide proportions.

At 02:04 AM of August 4 Iraq launched Operation Jihad against the incumbent coalition forces. The plan aimed at disabling the ability of the coalition to project air power over the skies of the Middle East and paving way for the Iraqi army to occupy Arab countries allied with the West, ultimately expelling all western influence in the Middle East and setting a new Iraqi Empire.

The offensive was aimed towards the Coalition aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and air bases in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Eastern Egypt. The Iraqi air strikes shocked the coalition forces which didn't realized they had been pinpointed by Iraqi sympathisers and intelligence agents in those countries, within minutes the skies was filled with Iraqi, Syrian and coalition aircraft fighting the largest air battle in history.

The Arab Alliance on the offensive

Operation Jihad momentarily put the coalition under disarray, for the next week Iraqi ground forces captured Kuwait and pushed deep into Saudi Arabia. To worse things

Iraqi MBT "Fahd Babil" fighting in the invasion of Saudi Arabia, the Republican Guard was armed with arguably the best tank in the world

up for the International Coalition South Yemen which recently invaded and annexed its northern counterpart joined the Arab Alliance opening a second front in Oman and Saudi Arabia, the war wasn't just a matter of whether international intervention would take place but whether it would be able to turn the tides of the conflict and defeat Saddam Hussein.

During the Battle for the Persian Gulf USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Abraham Lincoln were severely damaged and forced to return to USA for repair whilst HMS Invincible was sunk by an Iraqi Exocet missile strike. Two amphibious assault ships, seven destroyers and one cruiser were also sunk. The air bases in north Saudi Arabia were incapacitated with most of Saudi Aircraft lost in air combat or destroyed on the ground. The air bases in Egypt suffered minor damage and the Iraqi offensive there was successfully repelled by the coalition's air power. Iraq lost 567 aircraft against 340 from the coalition without meeting the appropriate success they hoped would dispel the intervention.

In the ground Iraqi forces fared much better, with coalition air power locked in combats over the Persian Gulf, Kuwait and the heart of Saudi Arabia were left unprotected and in one day Kuwait fell while in five days Iraqi forces reached 250 km from Riyadh.

South Yemen tried to attack coalition forces at the rear lines making moderate gains into Saudi and Omani territories, these however were under air cover from the coalition and the offensive soon stalled under air strikes.

Coalition takes the offensive

While the first week of offensives launched by the Arab Alliance surprised the Coalition and sparked fears that Iraq and her allies would win the war, the air offensive dealt huge casualties to the IQAF without truly incapacitating the International Coalition. To further Arab difficulties, the Soviet Union - which was the main supplier of Arab war material throughout the - war joined the international embargo ceasing to sell most of the important military hardware that keep the alliance at constant fighting condition.

After the initial shock of the pre-emptive strike passed the Coalition forces reorganized and took on to the offensive.

Coming from Egypt, the coalition forces met with the remnants of the IDF and rapidly began pushing back the Arab armies occupying Israel. From the Arabian Peninsula Coalition forces deployed by amphibious landing countered the Yemenite forces and slowly pushed them back to their own borders.

The main Iraqi forces in Saudi Arabia were the most difficult to counter because the IQAF still prevented the Coalition from attaining complete air coverage.

The next two months were marked by fierce resistance from the retreating Arab Armies while the coalition also had to deal with insurgency and terrorist attacks by anti-western Iraqi sympathizers amidst the Saudi and Palestinian populations.

Jordan signed a ceasefire in September 9 and retired its forces from Israel.

Yemen signed a ceasefire and retired itself from the conflict in October 6.

By November 13 Israel was liberated and Coalition encircled the remaining Syrian forces in Lebanon, a revolution ousted Hafez al-Assad and Syria signed a cease fire compromising itself with peace negotiations.

The sole Arab power to remain fighting was Iraq, but the war was far from over.

Iraqi retreat and nuclear retaliation on coalition forces

By January 15 of 1994 the Coalition had pushed Iraqi forces out of most of Saudi Arabia, in the southern part of the front they have gone as far as reaching Kuwait. Retreating

Iraqi tank fighting before Saudi oilfields set ablaze

Iraqi forces set Saudi and Kuwaiti oilfields ablaze in retaliation to the advances of the coalition.

In the Kuwaiti front the coalition forces were engaging in fierce street to street fighting for the control of Kuwaiti city. As the fighting progressed Coalition troops encircled the city and while many pockets of resistance kept Coalition troops tied down the Iraqi Army was retreating en masse. Once Kuwaiti City was under coalition control there was nothing in the way of the international forces between them and the Iraqi territory.

With as much as 245.000 coalition troops fighting within the vicinity of the city and with the last stronghold of the Iraqi army preventing access to their mainland on the verge of being lost the remnants of the Iraqi army within Kuwait City detonated a 30kt nuclear warhead recovered from the Israeli nuclear missile which crashed into Iraqi territory earlier in the war.

This action destroyed the city and all its inhabitants alongside remaining Iraqi fighters and much of the coalition forces fighting within the the city and its immediate vicinity. The reaction to the attack was that of shock and fear that Iraq could produce and use weapons of mass destruction. American authorities questioned whether they should respond to this with America's own nuclear weapons but given the already tragic situation brought by their use in the Middle East and the fact conventional means were already meeting success in disabling the Iraqi WMD capabilities, U.S. authorities choose to proceed with the conventional approach unless Iraq proved capable of utilizing further WMDs against their forces. The event however was labeled the single greatest tragedy on America's military history.

Invasion of Iraq

After several months of air strikes to its military infrastructure and with its air force severely depleted, Iraq was now left open to ground invasion. In January 21, 1994, the

M1A1 tank destroyed by Iraqi guerrillas, the use of asymmetrical warfare brought large casualties to the Coalition fighting in Iraq

Coalition troops pushed northwards from Kuwait and Eastwards from Saudi Arabia into Iraq.

The were met by heavy resistance from conventional and asymmetrical forces every inch they advanced into the country. They tried to severe Iraqi morale and coordination with decapitating air trikes against Iraqi commanders and leaders but Saddam Hussein and other major commanders continued to avoid coalition intelligence escaping unharmed from such attacks.

Iraqi insurgency was so large and organized that coalition forces were some times more worried in avoiding major attacks at their rear lines rather than advancing towards strategical targets.

Iraqi fighters on an ambush against coalition forces

In May 7, 1994, after a long bloody struggle the Coalition forces won the Battle for Baghdad taking over the Iraqi capital, ending President Hussein's 15-year rule. U.S. troops seized deserted office buildings and brought down most monuments built in Saddam's homage.

In the east Iranian troops joined the coalition, opening a third front against remaining Iraqi forces and retaking the territories lost in the Iran-Iraq war nearly 13 years ago.

At 11:05 PM on May 12 the remaining Iraqi forces called out a ceasefire and at 09:11 AM of May 13 it was officially announced that the Iraqi army accepted a peace agreement unconditionally.

The official war was over but the amount of insurgency in Iraq was overwhelming. The post invasion stabilization and peace process would be long and painful.

Occupation of Iraq (May 1994 - October 1996)

This period is marked by restless insurgency from Ba'ath loyalists, Islamic fundamentalists and sectarian factions within the Iraqi population.

Saddam Hussein wasn't found after the Iraqi army surrendered and disbanded, his person was source of inspiration for those loyalists who attributed to him the growth of the previous decade and the near total destruction of the enemies of Iraq before the American led invasion. After the tumbling of the Ba'ath regime army depots were looted by insurgent groups that sought to combat the American led occupation.

Administration of the country was primarily made by U.S. military and most Iraqis didn't trusted their attempts to build a democratic government. The sole support coalition troops held within the country came from Kurdish minorities who were brutally repressed under Saddam's regime. A possible major source of support that could change the situation would be the Shi'a Muslim majority which was very oppressed under Ba'ath rule. However, unless the coalition could contain sectarian violence they wouldn't earn their trust.

In 1996, however, Sheik Hamal al-Quseyir a prominent moderate Shi'a cleric began to rise in popularity within the country as his force became proficient in combating sectarian violence and provide assistance to the necessitated people of the war torn country. To help improving the peace process the coalition asked for his assistance and as free elections were to be held for the first time in the country he became a candidate and won by a landslide victory.

Another factor contributing to the peace process was the capture of Saddam Hussein in October 20 of 1996 which rapidly began to wane the morale of Ba'ath loyalists.

Coalition pulls out, Iraqi government assumes, the war ends

Under the administration of al-Quseyir he quickly managed to unite the Shi'ite majority and organized the new Iraqi army which progressively assumed the roles played by the Occupational forces.

While situation was still chaotic in general the cleric managed to get hold of a solid position in power which could be maintained without external assistance.

The U.S. and other governments of the coalitions forces were tired of the war and occupation. The main objectives of the intervention was to stop the genocide of Jews, enforce peace between the countries fighting in the region and disable their ability to produce weapons of mass destruction. There was no interest in wasting the lives of more soldiers in what seemed to be an internal Iraqi matter.

Following the transition of power to civilian authorities coalition forces immediately began to pull out of Iraq leaving the following inner fighting to be carried on by Iraqis themselves.

By November 21 of 1997 most of coalition forces had already left the country leaving only two permanent U.S. military bases behind. The war was publicly declared over.


The U.S. Military Has Been Engaged In Iraq For 30 Years Now

August 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Iraq’s infamous invasion of Kuwait. It also marks 30 years since the U.S. military begun its involvement in Iraq. That involvement has lasted, in one form or another, almost continuously to this day.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein launched his invasion of Kuwait and conquered the tiny oil-rich sheikdom in a highly effective two-day operation. By doing so, he rapidly turned the United States and most of the world against him.

The George H.W. Bush administration promptly established a multinational coalition consisting of 35 countries. It launched Operation Desert Shield, a military build-up in Saudi Arabia primarily aimed at protecting that kingdom from any potential Iraqi attack.

U.S. jets flying over burning oil wells in Kuwait during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Saddam, likely believing the Americans were bluffing with their threat of military force, refused to withdraw from Kuwait by the deadline set by the United Nations Security Council. Consequently, in January 1991, the U.S. launched Operation Desert Storm, an enormous air campaign against Iraq that rapidly devastated both its armed forces and infrastructure.

Television viewers across the world saw the bombing of Baghdad in real-time. The U.S. military showcased its hi-tech military gear, particularly its stealthy F-117 Nighthawk bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and various precision-guided ‘smart’ bombs.

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The Iraqi military stood no chance against this superior firepower and technology.

Following Desert Storm, the U.S. launched a ground campaign called Operation Desert Sabre that lasted a mere 100-hours. U.S.-led armored forces battled the Iraqis in the desert and suffered minuscule losses compared to their Iraqi adversary. Iraqi forces fled Kuwait, after infamously looting it and setting its oil wells on fire, and the war was formally ended by a ceasefire by the end of February.

In the lead-up to the war, Bush had promised a quick and decisive victory, insisting that the Persian Gulf War would be nothing like the costly and demoralizing quagmire the U.S. experienced in Vietnam. In many ways, in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War, the U.S. felt it had gotten over its so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” since it achieved its objectives quickly and suffered very few casualties.

However, the removal of Saddam’s forces from Kuwait and the ceasefire did not end the U.S. military’s involvement in Iraq. In many ways, it was merely the beginning.

Iraqi Shiites and Kurds rose against Saddam in March 1991, shortly after the U.S.-Iraq ceasefire. They believed that Bush’s suggestion that Iraqis should take matters into their own hands and overthrow Saddam from power meant that the U.S. military would support their uprising. Instead, it stood by.

Despite gaining much momentum and ground early on, the widespread uprisings were brutally crushed and countless numbers of people were massacred by Saddam’s ruthless forces.

Bush wanted to avoid becoming entangled in any internal conflict in Iraq. However, images of destitute Kurdish refugees fleeing into the mountains under fire from Saddam’s helicopter gunships resulted in widespread public pressure for the U.S. to do something.

After all, Bush had continuously compared Saddam to Hitler in the run-up to and during that war. But when Saddam began slaughtering his victims before the world’s eyes, Bush sought to keep the U.S. on the sidelines.

The U.S. finally did intervene in April 1991, establishing no-fly zones over large swathes of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region and the southern Shiite regions. Operation Provide Comfort saw the U.S. military and its allies Britain and France provide humanitarian aid to the Kurds and helped incubate the autonomous Kurdistan region that exists there today.

Saddam remained in power, presiding over large swathes of a largely destroyed and destitute country subjected to a crippling international embargo that further devastated its economy and left many Iraqis hungry.

The no-fly zones remained in place throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency and U.S., along with British and French, fighter jets often patrolled designated swathes of Iraq’s airspace. While Clinton opted to contain Saddam Hussein his administration also took some limited military action against Iraq throughout the 1990s.

In his first year in power, Clinton launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against Baghdad in retaliation over a suspected Iraqi plot to assassinate former President Bush while he was on a visit to Kuwait to commemorate the coalition’s victory in the Gulf War.

In October 1994, the U.S. also promptly deployed forces to Saudi Arabia in Operation Vigilant Warrior when it looked like Saddam was positioning force for a second invasion of Kuwait — which, of course, never happened.

Tomahawk cruise missile launch from USS LaBoon (DDG 58) to southern Iraq during Operation Desert . [+] Strike in early 1996.

U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Wyane W. Edwards

Clinton’s pinpoint strikes often had a questionable impact on reprimanding certain actions of the Iraqi regime. For example, when Saddam briefly sent a large ground contingent to intervene in the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War in 1996, Clinton responded by firing cruise missiles at some remnants of Iraq’s air defense in the south of the country.

The most punitive strikes the U.S. military carried out against Iraq during Clinton’s administration was undoubtedly Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. The four-day bombing campaign aimed to degrade Iraq’s purported capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. It had debatable results.

Clinton was succeeded by President George W. Bush, who ran on a platform of isolationism regarding foreign policy in the 2000 presidential elections. Bush’s worldview, however, quickly changed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although Saddam’s Iraq had nothing to do with that terrorist atrocity, his regime soon found itself in the Bush administration’s crosshairs.

In March 2003, ditching prior containment efforts, the U.S. outright invaded Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It toppled the Iraqi regime under the pretext of preventing it from developing deadly weapons of mass destruction. It quickly became apparent, however, that Saddam’s prior efforts at developing such weapons had long since ceased before that invasion.

While the Iraqi armed forces promptly crumbled in the face of the coalition’s superior firepower, the U.S. quickly became embroiled in an occupation and conflict against various insurgents. Its early decision to disband the old Iraqi Army proved fatal since it antagonized tens-of-thousands of Iraqis who had military training overnight.

The U.S. also fought the ruthless Al-Qaeda in Iraq group, which sought to exploit Sunni disenchantment with the invasion and that minority’s displacement from power. Some of the bloodiest fighting experienced by U.S. forces during the Iraq War took place in Fallujah in late 2004 against entrenched Al-Qaeda militants. By the time the militants were routed much of that city was reduced to rubble.

Significant elements of Iraq’s Shiite-majority also at times violently opposed the U.S. presence, particularly forces loyal to the rabble-rousing Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Vicious sectarian conflict also plagued Iraq during this period.

U.S. troops in firefight with Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad in March 2007.

Approximately 4,000 U.S. troops ultimately lost their lives throughout the Iraq War, which lasted from March 2003 until the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011. Tens-of-thousands of Iraqis, many of them civilians, also lost their lives during that period.

The U.S. military achieved some success in building up a new Iraqi government and army and briefly afflicting a series of strategic defeats against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, the Iraq War became widely opposed in the U.S. and viewed by many in retrospective as a costly and shameful blunder.

During the 2008 presidential elections, Barack Obama vowed to bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq. On the other hand, his opponent John McCain once suggested he would support the U.S. military having an open-ended presence in the country that could last up to 100 years. McCain cited long-term U.S. deployments to Germany and South Korea as possible precedents.

All U.S. troops in Iraq withdrew under the terms of a status of forces agreement reached with Baghdad during the Bush administration. For two years and seven months – between December 2011 and August 2014 – the U.S. military had no presence in Iraq, a conspicuously exceptional period in the last 30 years.

That all changed in Obama’s second term in office when the vicious Islamic State (ISIS) group took over one-third of Iraq, including the country’s second city Mosul, in the summer of 2014. ISIS quickly demonstrated its brutality and immense cruelty by subjecting the Yazidi minority in Sinjar to a campaign of genocide and slaughtering up to 1,700 unarmed Shiite Iraqi cadets at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

The U.S. quickly established a multinational coalition to combat the terrorist group. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cited George H.W. Bush’s coalition to force Saddam out of Kuwait as a model for that new anti-ISIS coalition.

Operation Inherent Resolve, which is ongoing, relied heavily on airstrikes to target the group in both Iraq and Syria. Adverse to troop casualties and generally reluctant to have the U.S. become embroiled in Iraq again, Obama continuously vowed early in the campaign that he would avoid putting America ‘boots on the ground’.

Nevertheless, about 5,000 U.S. troops would redeploy to Iraq, mostly to train Iraqi and Kurdish military forces. U.S. special forces also participated in combat. The U.S. suffered minimal casualties, especially compared to the Iraq War.

Tens of thousands of U.S.-led airstrikes supported ground offensives by Iraqi forces, which gradually reclaimed territories and cities captured by ISIS. In 2015, the Iraqis recaptured Tikrit and Ramadi. In 2016, it recaptured Fallujah from the group. In October 2016, Iraqi forces launched the lengthy and ferocious battle to reclaim Mosul.

That urban campaign lasted until July 2017 and saw much of the city’s west side reduced to rubble after months of bitter fighting and hundreds of supporting air and artillery strikes.


Iraq Timeline: Since the 2003 War

Friday, May 29, 2020 / By: Sarhang Hamasaeed Garrett Nada

After Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, Iraq’s new leaders struggled to chart a democratic course after decades of dictatorship. Two events were pivotal. First, the U.S. decision to bar the long-ruling Baath Party—and the way it was implemented—created a political vacuum. Second, disbanding the military—alienating hundreds of thousands of trained men with no alternative—left a security void. Iraq suffered through a civil war, political turmoil, widespread corruption, sectarian tensions and an extremist insurgency that seized a third of the country. Iraq has evolved through four rocky phases.

The first phase, the initial transition between 2003 and 2007, started with a U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Each ministry had a U.S. advisor. As a self-declared occupying force, the U.S. military was responsible for national security, but at least 100,000 people died during its eight-year intervention (some estimates were as high as half a million). The transition included building new parties, recruiting and training new military forces, creating nascent civil society, and drafting new laws. In 2005, Iraqis voted on a new constitution, which introduced individual rights, including for religious and ethnic minorities.

The political balance of power—dominated for centuries by Sunnis—shifted dramatically. For the first time, the Shia majority claimed the prime minister’s slot and had sufficient leverage to control key ministries and other levers of the state. For the first time, Iraq also had a Kurdish president. Kurds, who had long demanded autonomy from Baghdad, became part of the state the constitution recognized autonomy for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and formal status of its Peshmerga forces. Sunnis, who had dominated the state under Saddam, maintained the key position of parliamentary speaker but lost many other powers.

The transition also witnessed the outbreak of sectarian tensions, symbolized by the bombing of the al-Askari shrine, a Shia holy site, in early 2006. The blast destroyed the famous gold dome and triggered violence across Iraq for years. The tensions were exploited by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian jihadi who had fought in Afghanistan and moved to Iraq to lead al-Qaida in Iraq. He was linked to bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. He was the first in a series of jihadi leaders determined to foment hostilities among Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities. Al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in mid-2006. The group subsequently rebranded as the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).

The second phase, from 2007 to 2011, was marked by the U.S. military surge of an additional 30,000 troops—adding to 130,000 already deployed—to help stem the escalating bloodshed. The surge overlapped with the so-called “Awakening” among Iraq’s Sunni tribes. They turned against the jihadi movement and started working with U.S. troops. The collaboration initially contained ISI. By 2011, the United States opted to withdraw from Iraq, with an understanding from the Baghdad government that it would incorporate the Sunni tribes into the Iraqi security forces to contain the sectarian divide.

The third phase played out between 2012 and 2017, as the government of Iraq did not follow through on promises to employ and pay the minority Sunnis who had fought the jihadis. Thousands of Sunnis were detained. By early 2013, tens of thousands of Sunnis participated in anti-government protests in Ramadi, Fallujah, Samarra, Mosul and Kirkuk. The Sunnis accused then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of exclusionary sectarian policies. Maliki’s relationship with the Kurds also deteriorated.

The Shia-dominated government’s failure to follow through with the Sunnis allowed ISI to reconstitute. The underground extremist movement recruited thousands of Sunnis, including beyond Iraq’s borders. In 2013, it expanded into Syria and rebranded again as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Its militia captured Fallujah in December 2013. Despite having far more numbers, the Iraqi army crumbled. By June 2014, ISIS took control of a third of the country. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the creation of an Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and named himself caliph. It instituted a reign of terror that included rape, abductions, executions, mass murder, pillaging, extortion, seizure of state resources, and smuggling.

The rise of ISIS further split Iraqi society. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shia world’s top marja, responded to the Sunni jihadis movement with a fatwa calling Iraqis to take up to arms. Tens of thousands of men, mostly Shia, joined new and old militias, many supported by Iran. More than 60 armed groups eventually merged under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

The rise of ISIS also led to foreign intervention a second time. Iran was the first to provide military assistance, partly because Sunni jihadis came within 25 miles of its border. In September 2014, the United States formed “The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” made up of 79 countries and institutions, including NATO, the European Union, and the Arab League. The Obama administration re-deployed U.S. troops to retrain and advise the Iraqi Army it also launched airstrikes that continued for more than three years until the Islamic State collapsed. Turkey deployed its own troops in northern Iraq to help protect Sunnis and Turkmen, but also to contain the influence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that operated in both Iraq and Turkey.

Between 2015 and 2017, Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the PMF—backed by airpower provided by the U.S.-led coalition—gradually retook territory from ISIS. Tens of thousands of jihadis reportedly were killed. In December 2017, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory.

A fourth phase began in 2018 after the government regained control over all Iraqi territory. In May 2018, a national election redesigned the political landscape. Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr led an unlikely coalition with secular Sunnis and communists that won the largest number of seats while an Iran-backed block came second. Parliament elected veteran Kurdish politician Barham Salih as president and Muhammad al-Halbusi, a 37-year-old Sunni lawmaker, as speaker. Salih designated Adil Abdul al-Mahdi, a 76-year-old economist and veteran Shia politician to be prime minister. Although both have long been desired by Iraqis and international interlocutors to lead in those positions, they were unable to usher the changes in governance and reform that Iraq needed. In October 2019, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the street to demand change and reform. However, the response from government forces and armed groups was lethal, leaving over 20,000 people injured and more than 450 people killed.

Iraq’s turbulent transition reflected the wider changes and challenges across the Middle East in the 21st century:

  • The biggest threat is not conventional warfare but asymmetrical conflict launched by militias and non-state actors. Despite losing its territory in 2017, ISIS remnants continued to attack civilian and military targets in Iraq. Jihadism remained a threat to several Arab governments by playing on Sunni grievances still not addressed by governments.
  • Instability made Iraq vulnerable to regional and international rivalries. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation triggered deeper intervention by Iran. Tehran successfully applied its “Hezbollah” model in Iraq by supporting Shia armed groups, some of which began participating in Iraqi politics. Some groups—such as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, the Imam Ali Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq—also became useful in Iran’s campaign to save the government of President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria. In late 2019 and early 2020, rising tensions between the United States and Iran played out in Iraq. Armed group members and affiliates of Iran stormed the external perimeter of the U.S. Embassy, and the United States killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike.
  • For all its turbulence, Iraq’s transition produced some positive changes. Iraq reintegrated into regional and international forums. The number of media outlets increased dramatically. The long-repressed citizenry became politically active. Inspired partly by the 2011 Arab uprisings, Iraqis demonstrated to demand jobs and basic services. They also called out officials for corruption. Even amid the fight against ISIS in 2015 and in subsequent years, Iraqis pressured the government for reforms. One message from the 2018 election and recurring demonstrations was that many Iraqis wanted to limit outside influence by Iran, Turkey and others. In 2018, Iraq produced oil at record levels. The economic wellbeing of many Iraqis improved, although unemployment and poverty were still serious problems.

Originally posted February 2019. Updated May 2020.

This timeline was assembled with the help of graphic research by Lindsay Jodoin and editorial research by Garrett Nada, Lindsay Jodoin, Eli Pollock, Grace Makhoul, and Yomnna Helmi.

After months of diplomatic attempts to engage President Saddam Hussein failed, President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. It began with massive air strikes described as “shock and awe.” On May 1, Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech aboard the USS Lincoln, prematurely declaring the end of major combat in Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer was appointed to lead the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.-led ruling authority during the transition. On May 16, CPA Administrator Bremer outlawed the former ruling Baath Party and ordered Iraq institutions to “de-Baathify,” which removed Baath Party members from public sector jobs and ministerial posts. On May 23,Bremer dissolved the Iraqi military, leaving more than 350,000 soldiers without jobs. Former soldiers with the rank of colonel or above were banned from working for the new Iraqi government and did not receive severance or retirement. “We could have done a lot better job of sorting through that and keeping the Iraqi army together,” General Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told TIME in 2015. “We struggled for years to try to put it back together again.” Some of the disaffected Sunni men later joined militant groups, including ISIS. Bremer served as head of a caretaker government until the 2004 handover to a provisional Iraqi government.

A bombing at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed 23 people, including U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and triggered the withdrawal of hundreds of U.N. workers from Iraq. Jordanian-born jihadi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—who led a group originally known as Tawhid and Jihad and later as al-Qaida of Iraq—was responsible. On August 29, a car bomb killed 95 people at Najaf’s Imam Ali Mosque, the holiest Shia shrine in Iraq. Among the dead was Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, an important religious leader who had cooperated with U.S. forces. In October and November, Iraqi insurgents launched a massive offensive during the month of Ramadan that struck dozens of targets, including the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad.

December 13

U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein in a hole on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. Hussein had been broadcasting pro-insurgency messages since the U.S. invasion, and had evaded several U.S. attempts to kill or capture him. U.S. troops had killed Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, in a gun battle at their Mosul hideout on July 22.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice admitted for the first time the United States had been mistaken about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the main pretext for the war. The admission followed the January 23 testimony and resignation of David Kay, the chief weapons inspector of the U.S.-run Iraq Survey Group that had been tasked with finding Iraq’s WMD. He said that the intelligence assessments of Iraq’s weapons program before the war had been almost entirely incorrect.

Dual suicide bombings targeted the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party offices in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing at least 70, including the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government. U.S. forces suspected al-Qaida or Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Islamist group. On March 2,terrorists attacked Shia worshippers observing the Ashura holiday in Baghdad and Karbala with small arms and explosives. At least 140 were killed in the deadliest day since the U.S. occupation began. Coalition forces suspected al-Zarqawi. On May 17, Zarqawi’s group assassinated Ezzedine Salim, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The U.S. military launched the unsuccessful First Battle of Fallujah to take control of the city from Sunni insurgents. The Mahdi Army, a Shia militia led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, conducted its first attacks on coalition forces in Amara, Baghdad, Kufa, and Najaf. In April and May, chronic prisoner abuse by U.S. forces in the Abu Ghraib Prison outside of Baghdad was revealed in graphic photographs and prisoner testimonials. The scandal triggered backlash against the United States and U.S. forces.

The CPA and Iraqi Governing Council handed over political control of the country to the Iraqi Interim Government under Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a Shia. The move transferred nominal sovereignty from U.S. to Iraqi hands, although the government had limited powers.

Al-Zarqawi’s group formally declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden and became known as al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI). The group had perpetrated about a dozen attacks in Iraq. It was also infamous for beheading foreign hostages. In November and December, U.S. forces conducted Operation Phantom Fury, or the Second Battle of Fallujah, to take control of Fallujah from AQI and other Sunni insurgent groups. The operation was the bloodiest yet for U.S. forces in Iraq, but it succeeded.

Iraqis voted for the Transitional National Assembly in the first elections since the U.S. invasion. Shia cleric Ayatollah al-Sistani endorsed the elections and encouraged participation. The United Iraqi Alliance, a Shia Islamist coalition, secured 47 percent of the vote. Kurdish parties secured approximately 25 percent. And Prime Minister Allawi’s party came in third. Violence and low Sunni turnout marred the outcome of the first elections.

February 28

At least 122 people were killed in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in the deadliest single bombing since the U.S. invasion. In April and May, the Sunni insurgency, increasingly dominated by AQI, escalated its bombing campaign. Insurgents killed hundreds of Shias to undermine the government and trigger a wider sectarian conflict. Shia leaders urged their followers not to take revenge. Iraq suffered 135 car bombings in April, up from 69 in March.

Iraq’s parliament installed Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader, as president of Iraq. President Talabani named Ibrahim Jaafari, from a religious party, as prime minister. On June 14, Massoud Barzani was sworn in as president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the result of an agreement with Iraqi President Talabani on power sharing between their rival Kurdish parties.

July through December

U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted Operation Sayaid, a series of operations to undermine the Sunni insurgency and retake Anbar province. On August 31, fears of a suicide bomber approaching triggered a panicked stampede by Shia pilgrims on a bridge to the Kadhimiyah Shrine, in northern Baghdad, which killed more than 95 people. On September 14, AQI killed at least 150 people in a series of attacks on Baghdad’s Shia population. In a video, al-Zarqawi declared war on all Iraq’s Shias.

November 13

U.S. troops discovered 173 starved and tortured bodies in the cells of an Interior Ministry detention center. All the detainees were Sunnis.

November 19

Twin suicide bombings at two Shia mosques in Khanaqin, near the eastern border with Iran, killed 90 Iraqi civilians. The bombings occurred as U.S. and Iraqi forces engaged in heavy fighting in Anbar province as part of Operation Steel Curtain, the latest in a series of Anbar province operations targeting the Sunni insurgency. In November, the United States conducted 120 airstrikes in Iraq, up from 25 in January.

December 15

Following the vote to ratify a new constitution in October, Iraqis elected a new parliament for the first time since the U.S. invasion. Turnout was high. The results were announced in January. The United Iraqi Alliance—a list of Islamist groups—won the most seats, 128, but fell 10 short of the majority needed to govern without a coalition. The secular list of former Prime Minister Allawi won just 25 seats. The two Sunni lists collectively won 55 seats, significantly increasing their representation compared to the previous parliament. Sunnis had largely boycotted the January 2005 election.

In separate attacks AQI suicide bombers attacked police recruits in Ramadi and pilgrims in Karbala, killing more than 140 people. On January 15, AQI merged with other Sunni insurgent groups and was briefly renamed the Mujahideen Shura Council. It was still commonly referred to as AQI.

February 13

The United Iraqi Alliance, which won the December parliamentary elections, selected Ibrahim Jaafari as prime minister, the second since Saddam’s ouster. In March, Kurdish and Sunni parties rejected Jaafari as prime minister and refused to join a national unity government because he had failed to stop escalating sectarian violence. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told Shia leaders that President Bush opposed Jaafari too.On April 21, Jaafari agreed to step aside.

February 16

After 22 policemen were arrested for killing Sunnis, the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into its personnel who had allegedly ran death squads. The arrests brought attention to a pattern of extrajudicial killing by Iraqi forces targeting minority Sunnis. On February 22, the famous golden dome of the al Askari Shrine in Samarra, one of the holiest Shia shrines, was destroyed in a bombing widely blamed on Sunni jihadis of AQI. The shrine bombing triggered violence by Shia and Sunni militias that killed more than a 1,000 people. Shia leaders al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani called for calm, but Shia militias, including al-Sadr’s own Mahdi Army, reportedly continued sectarian killings. On March 26, U.S. Ambassador Khalizad charged that violence by Shia militias exceeded killings by Sunni terrorists or insurgents. He urged the prime minister to reign in militias and end extrajudicial killings by people with links to the government. On April 7, a triple suicide bombing at the Shia Buratha mosque in Baghdad killed 85 and wounded 160. The attack came amid a post-election political crisis and related sectarian violence.

The Iraqi Parliament approved Nuri al-Maliki as Iraq’s third prime minister since Saddam Hussein’s ouster. His cabinet included representatives from most Iraqi sects and ethnic groups, although three key cabinet positions remained unfilled due to sectarian disagreements. On June 8, Parliament approved Maliki’s appointees. General Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim al-Mifarji, a Sunni, became defense minister. Jawad al-Bolani, a Shia, became interior minister. Sherwan al-Waili, a Shia, became national security minister.

Al-Zarqawi, the AQI leader linked to bombings, kidnappings and beheadings, was killed in a U.S. air strike. He was succeeded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri. On June 14, Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki released his security plan, Operation Together Forward, to improve conditions in the Baghdad area amid increasing sectarian bloodletting. It introduced curfews, checkpoints, and joint Iraqi-U.S. raids on insurgent cells. On June 25, Prime Minister Maliki delivered his 24-point plan to restore order and reduce sectarian violence in Iraq. The reconciliation plan promised amnesty for those imprisoned on charges unrelated to crime, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Videos of three Russian diplomats kidnapped on June 3 being executed was released online. On July 1, at least 66 people were killed in a car bombing at an outdoor market in the Shia Sadr City area of Baghdad.

Mahdi Army militiamen killed at least 40 Sunnis during house searches and at phony checkpoints in Baghdad. Some two-dozen people were killed in a double car bombing at a mosque in Baghdad’s Kasra district. On July 11, a double suicide bombing near the entrance to the Green Zone killed more than 50 people. The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella Sunni Islamist group that included AQI, claimed responsibility. Prime Minister Maliki rejected suggestions that Iraq was falling into civil war despite deepening violence. On July 17, a shooting and mortar attack in Mahmoudiyah, a predominantly Shia city, killed at least 40 people. The attack marked several days of intensifying violence in retaliation for the July 9 Mahdi Army killings.July was the deadliest month for civilians since violence erupted, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry. Nearly 3,500 Iraqis—or an average of 110 Iraqis per day—were killed that month, although the United Nations said the body count was higher. More than half of the deaths occurred in the Baghdad area. The United States increased troop deployments on an emergency basis, despite hopes earlier in the year for a partial withdrawal.

Masri disbanded the Mujahideen Shura Council, which included AQI, and announced the establishment of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, another al-Zarqawi successor, led the new group. On October 20, the U.S. military announced that the Baghdad security plan, Operation Together Forward, had not stemmed violence in the capital.On November 23, bombs in Sadr City, a Shia enclave of Baghdad, killed 215 Shias. In an act of revenge, Shia militiamen burned six Sunnis alive after they left Friday prayers.

An Iraqi special tribunal sentenced Saddam Hussein to death for the 1982 killing of 148 Shias in the town of Dujail. On December 30, Hussein was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity. “Justice, in the name of the people, has carried out the death sentence against the criminal Saddam, who faced his fate like all tyrants, frightened and terrified during a hard day which he did not expect,” Prime Minister Maliki said in a statement.

President Bush announced the “surge” of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to stop mass sectarian violence, counter jihadi extremism and stabilize the country. The parallel was to give Iraqi leaders time and space to forge political reconciliation. Between January 16 and March 27, a wave of sectarian bombings in Baghdad killed hundreds of Sunnis and Shias. On March 30, the U.S. Senate set March 31, 2008 as a goal for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces. On April 1, President Talabani said al-Sadr had ordered his Mahdi Army to stand down after six weeks of the new security push by joint U.S.-Iraqi forces. On April 18,car bombings by ISI killed more than 190 people. On June 10, U.S. forces advanced a strategy to arm Sunni groups to fight ISI.

The al Askari mosque in Samarra was bombed for the second time, destroying its minarets. On August 14, ISI bombings targeted communities of Yazidis, a non-Muslim religious minority, in northern Iraq. More than 400 were killed in the deadliest attack to date.

Shia and Kurdish leaders formed a political coalition to support Prime Minister Maliki after a Sunni faction quit the coalition government on August 1. On August 29, al-Sadr suspended military operations by his Mahdi Army militia for six months after street battles with Iraqi forces in Karbala.

Seven Americans were killed, making 2007 the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the 2003 invasion. By year’s end, 899 U.S. troops had died. On December 16, British forces handed over security for Basra province to Iraqi forces, ending five years of British control of southern Iraq. After the surge of U.S. troops, ISI was driven from Baghdad into Diyala, Salahideen, and Mosul. The organization lost the majority of its leaders, cells, and capabilities.

Parliament passed a bill allowing some former officers from Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to take government jobs, collect government pensions, and return to public life.

Fighting broke out between the government and militias. On May 11, the government agreed to a ceasefire with al-Sadr. On April 21, Prime Minister Maliki announced a crackdown on armed militias and al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

The United States transferred administrative and operational control over the Sunni Awakening Council militias to the Iraqi government. The government also assumed security control over Anbar province. But the security situation worsened in the neighboring city of Mosul. In October, some 13,000 Christians fled threats and killings attributed to Sunni extremists.

The United States handed control over the Green Zone security district to the Iraqi government. On January 5, the United States opened a new embassy in the Green Zone, one of the largest it had ever built.

February 27

President Obama announced a plan to end the U.S. combat mission in August 2010. By June 30, U.S. troops had withdrawn from some 150 bases and outposts in cities and villages, although some 130,000 still remained in the country. On July 31, the last British troops withdrew from Iraq to Kuwait.

August and December

ISI claimed responsibility for a series of bombings. Among the biggest was an August 19 bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 100. An October 25 bombing in Baghdad killed more than 150.On December 10, five suicide bombings in Baghdad killed at least 127.

Iraq held its second parliamentary elections since the 2003 U.S. invasion. No single coalition came close to winning majority seats. A new government was not formed because of political gridlock that played out over several issues for eight months. Maliki served as a caretaker prime minister.

Iraqi security forces, with the support of U.S. troops, killed ISI leaders Abu Omar al Baghadi and Abu Ayuub al Masri. In May, ISI selected Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the new leader. Baghdadi had participated in the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces in the 2000s, was detained by U.S. forces for 10 months at Camp Bucca in 2004, and eventually joined ISI.

A series of coordinated attacks carried out by ISI kill more than 100 people in Baghdad and other cities across Iraq.

President Obama officially ended the seven-year U.S. combat mission in Iraq. The last U.S. combat troops left on August 19, although U.S. military advisors and trainers remained in Iraq.

November 12

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, to form a new government. On December 21, Parliament approved a new government, inclusive of all major political parties and ethnic groups, just four days before a constitutional deadline. Political infighting had delayed the formation process.

Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq after three years of voluntary exile in Iran. In his first public statement, al-Sadr urged his followers to resist the “occupiers” of Iraq. On February 25, a “Day of Rage” swept the country as tens of thousands of Iraqis protested the newly elected government. Some 23 people were killed.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi sent ISI operatives to build up a branch in Syria. One of them, Abu Muhammad al Julani, emerged as the leader of the new Nusra Front in January 2012.

December 18

The last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, officially ending the eight-year American military involvement in Iraq.

December 19

The government issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al Hashemi, a Sunni, for alleged ties to a group responsible for assassinations and bombings. The Sunni al Iraqiya bloc boycotted parliament, and its nine ministers stopped attending cabinet meetings, marking a rise in sectarian tensions. Iraqiya lawmakers ended their boycott in late January 2012, and Iraqiya ministers rejoined the cabinet in February 2012.

January 5-14

Attacks on Shia areas in Baghdad, Basra and Nasiriyah killed more than 100.

The Kurdistan Regional Government halted oil exports to Baghdadover thegovernment’s refusal to pay for the Kurdish oil sold, violating a 2011 agreement dividing income between the two parties.

ISI launched its “Breaking the Walls” campaign. It carried out 24 bombings and orchestrated prison breaks at eight facilities, freeing jihadists who had participated in AQI/ISI attacks in 2006 and 2007.The campaign continued through July 2013.

November 10

Iraq cancelled a $4.2 billion deal to buy military jets, helicopters, and missiles from Russia, due to concerns that the contract included corruption.

December 28

Massive protests spread throughout Iraq in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Anbar province, all Sunni-majority areas. Tens of thousands of Sunnis demonstrated against the Shia-dominated government of Maliki.

The Sunni insurgency intensified across Iraq. Sectarian violence, kidnappings, and bombings escalated levels not seen since 2006 and 2007. On April 8, Baghdadi announced the absorption of the al Qaida-backed Nusra Front in Syria. He said the combined group would be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But the leader of the Nusra Front, Julani, rejected the merger and instead declared allegiance to al-Qaida. In April 2013, the Hawija region’s anger at the government exploded after the Iraqi Army attacked Sunni protestors exercising what they considered civil disobedience. Up to 200 civilians were killed and at least 150 were injured. Such incidents fueled the surge of ISIS in the area the following year. By June 2014, ISIS had seized Hawija and much of southern Kirkurk, often with help from disaffected local residents.

On July 21, 2013, ISIS launched its second 12-month campaign, “Soldier’s Harvest,” on Iraqi security forces and to capture territory. On July 22, ISIS attacked Abu Ghraib prison freeing between 500 and 1000 inmates, including senior al-Qaida leaders and other militants.

September 21

Iraqi Kurdistan held parliamentary elections for the first time in 22 years. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani’s KDP Party remained the dominant political power of the sub-region. The PUK suffered significant loses and the new Goran movement gained votes, reflecting a shift in the region’s politics.

September 29

ISIS launched a wave of attacks in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, in response to the Iraqi Kurds fighting jihadis in Syria. These attacks were the first in the city since 2007. In October, some 900 people were killed in attacks, many attributed to ISIS. On December 30, ISIS militants in Iraq seized Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, both major cities.

2014

ISIS overran parts of the towns of Anbar and Ramadi. In January,ISIS also seized the Syrian city of Raqqa, which it declared the caliphate’s capital. On February 3,al-Qaida central disavowed any connection to ISIS. In a statement posted on jihadist web forums, it said al-Qaida “was not informed or consulted about ISIS’s establishment. It was not pleased with the duplication of its missions, and thus ordered its suspension.”

Prime Minister Maliki’s Dawa Party won the first election since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but fell short of a majority. For the next four months, political gridlock delayed formation of a new government.

ISIS militants seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city some 250 miles north of Baghdad. On June 12, Iran deployed forces to fight ISIS in Iraq, and helped Iraqi troops regain control of most of Tikrit. On June 18, Iraq asked the United States to conduct airstrikes against ISIS. On June 21, ISIS seized the strategic border crossing between Syria’s Deir Ezzor province and Iraq, as well as three other Iraqi towns. With much fanfare, it declared the failure of colonial borders defined by Europeans in the Sykes-Picot agreement a century earlier.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shia world’s top marja, responded to the Sunni jihadi movement with a fatwa calling Iraqis to take up to arms. Tens of thousands of men, mostly Shia, joined new and old armed groups, many supported by Iran. Prime Minister Maliki signed a decree creating the Commission for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). More than 60 armed groups eventually merged under the PMF umbrella. They were dominated by Shias and often Iranian-backed, but they also included some Sunnis and Christians. They became pivotal fighters in the war against ISIS which helped them attain the status that allowed them to fight alongside the Iraqi armed forces.

ISIS announced the establishment of a caliphate and rebranded itself as the “Islamic State.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared the caliph, the “leader for Muslims everywhere.” Spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced that the “legality of all [other] emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and arrival of its troop to their areas.”

ISIS conquered the towns of Sinjar and Zumar, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee their homes. ISIS was accused of extensive human rights abuses, including rape of Yazidi women and mass executions. ISIS also seized Mosul dam, a critical piece of infrastructure responsible for controlling the flow of the Tigris River and supplying electricity to more than a million people.

President Obama announced the beginning of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq to defend Yazidi citizens stranded in Sinjar.

Prime Minister Maliki resigned. On September 8, Parliament approved a new government formed by new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

September 10

The United States announced the creation of a broad international coalition to defeat ISIS. Seventy-nine nations and institutions, including NATO, the European Union and the Arab League, eventually joined it. Some contributed warplanes for aerial strikes, others logistical support or trainers.

Iraq’s government signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government to share the country’s oil and military resources to defeat ISIS.

Iraq deployed 30,000 forces in a major offensive to recapture Tikrit from ISIS. On May 17, ISIS took over Ramadi.

Iraq recaptured the Baiji refinery, the country’s largest oil refinery, from ISIS.On November 13,Kurdish forces seized Sinjar from ISIS. On December 27, Iraqi military forces seized Ramadi from ISIS.

A member of a U.S. special operations force was killed during an ISIS hostage rescue mission in northern Iraq. He was the first American to die in ground combat with ISIS. On December 1, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that U.S. special operations forces would be sent to Iraq to support Iraqi and Kurdish fighters and launch targeted operations in Syria. On December 10, U.S. officials announced that airstrikes killed ISIS Finance Minister Abu Saleh and two other senior leaders in Tal Afar.

Supporters of al- Sadr broke into the Green Zone and stormed Parliament. Protesters demanded a new government to fight corruption after weeks of political gridlock and turmoil because parties insisted on appointing ministers along sectarian lines.

Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. and coalition airstrikes, advanced on Fallujah, which ISIS had held since 2014.On June 26,the Iraqi army retook Fallujah. On July 6, ISIS killed 250 people in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad. On October 16, Iraq launched a campaign to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State. OnOctober 22, Iraqi forces captured Qaraqosh, a Christian area southeast of Mosul, which had been under ISIS rule since 2014.On October 25, ISIS took control of half of the western Iraqi town of Rutba, located near the Syrian and Jordanian borders. OnOctober 28, ISIS fighters used tens of thousands of men, women and children as human shields in Mosul to prevent Iraqi troops from advancing.

November 26

Iraq’s parliament legalized the PMF, armed groups that emerged after ISIS seized territory in 2014. The vote was unanimous. “Those heroic fighters, young and old, need our loyalty for the sacrifices they have made,” Abadi’s office said.

The Iraqi Counterterrorism Service captured the Mosul state television station from ISIS. It was the first building taken from ISIS since the Mosul campaign began. On November 15, an Iraqi interior ministry spokesman announced that one-third of eastern Mosul had been liberated.

Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer was named the new spokesman for ISIS in an online audio message. The previous spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, was killed in an airstrike at the end of August in Syria. In his first statement as spokesman, al-Muhajer urged ISIS sympathizers to carry out new attacks and for fighters to stand their ground in Iraq.

January 23-24

Government forces took complete control of eastern Mosul from ISIS, 100 days after the campaign started. On February 19, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a ground offensive against ISIS in western Mosul.

February 24

Iraq launched air strikes against ISIS targets inside Syria for the first time after coordinating with Damascus. Between March 14 and 16, Iraqi forces killed the Islamic State’s commander of Mosul. On March 16,Iraqi forces besiegedISIS fighters in Mosul’s Old City. On March 31,the Islamic State’s deputy leader Ayad al-Jumaili was killed in an air strike. On May 18,PMF captured the Sahl Sinjar airbase from the Islamic State in the western desert about 40 miles from the Syrian border. On May 26, U.S. airstrikes killed three senior level ISIS military leaders—Mustafa Gunes, Abu Asim al-Jazeri and Abu Khattab al-Rawi. On May 31,ISIS fighters in Mosul closed off the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in preparation for their last stand. On June 14, ISIS fighters launched a counterattack in west Mosul against Iraqi forces. On June 21,ISIS destroyed the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared the Islamic caliphate in June 2014. Iraqi troops captured the remains of the mosque on June 29 after an eight-month campaign. On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minster al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul. On August 26, Iraqi forces captured Tal Afar near the Syrian border.

September 25-October 16

In a regional referendum,92 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted for independence. It was organized by Kurdistan Regional Government as a step toward statehood. The turnout was more than 72 percent. Iraq’s central government responded by using military force to reassert control over Kurdish-controlled territories—including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk—which are disputed between the KRG and the central government.

September 21

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Hawija, one of the last territories under Islamic State. During the first week of October, hundreds of ISIS militants surrendered to Kurdish authorities after being driven from Hawija. On November 2,Iraqi forces retook the Akkas gas field near the Syrian border. On November 3, Iraqi forces recaptured al-Qaim, one of the Islamic State’s last territories. On November 17, Iraqi forces captured the border town of Rawa, the last remaining town under ISIS control in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State. “Honorable Iraqis your land has been completely liberated. The dream of liberation is now a reality,” he said on national television.

December 27

The U.S.-led coalition reported that less than 1,000 ISIS fighters remained in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq airstrikes targeted ISIS military positions and its explosives factory with in Syria. On May 1,the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced a new effort to reclaim the last ISIS held territory in Syria. “ISIS retains a significant presence near the Iraqi borders from which it seeks to retain safe haven to plan attacks around the world and expand its territory in Syria and Iraq,” an SDF statement said. “Over the coming weeks, our heroic forces will liberate these areas, secure the Iraq-Syria border, and end the presence of ISIS in eastern Syria once and for all.” On May 6,the Iraqi Air Force struck ISIS commanders in Syria. On May 9, a group of senior ISIS officials hiding in Turkey and Syria were captured in a cross-border U.S.-Iraqi sting.

Iraq held parliamentary elections. The political bloc led by al-Sadr won the majority. It was an unlikely alliance of al-Sadr’s followers, communists and other secular groups. On June 7, Parliament ordered a nationwide recount of May election results after the emergence of widespread allegations of election fraud. In August, the results were finalized. Al-Sadr’s bloc took 54 seats, six more than a group of Iran-backed Shia leaders, and 12 more than Abadi’s block.

Protests spread throughout the Shia majority city Basra, in southern Iraq, over unemployment, shortages of clean water and electricity, and widespread corruption. Protesters burned government buildings and political offices, including the Iranian consulate. The United States ordered the evacuation of its consulate after rockets were launched in its direction. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held Iran and its allies responsible.

September 15

Parliament elected Sunni lawmaker Muhammad al-Halbusi as its new speaker. At age 37, al-Halbusi was the youngest speaker in Iraqi history. He was jointly supported by Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah (Conquest) Coalition, a group of Iran-backed groups that ran in the 2018 elections and influential Sunni politicians like Jamal Karbouli. On October 2, Parliament elected veteran Kurdish politician Barham Salih to the presidency. On the following day, he asked Adil Abd al-Mahdi, a 76-year-old economist and veteran Shia politician, to be the prime minister. The selection of Salih and Mahdi, respected technocrats, signaled a shift toward a more conciliatory and less sectarian method of governing. The Iraqi people, however, remained skeptical about their ability to deliver reform and practical changes in their lives.

September 30

The KRG held parliamentary elections. The ruling KDP came in first place with 45 seats while the rival PUK came in second place with 21 seats. Parliament has 111 seats, 11 of which are reserved for minority groups.

Prime Minister Mahdi was sworn in with a partial cabinet of 14 ministers. He was the first premier not affiliated with a party or political bloc when he was nominated, a significant shift for Iraq. Political factions failed to reach consensus on the remaining eight posts, which included the ministries of defense, justice and immigration and interior. Lawmakers were slated to vote on the vacancies on December 4, but the session was cut short after opponents of Mahdi’s picks banged on tables and shouted “illegitimate.” Five more ministries have been confirmed, but defense, interior, and justice remain unfilled due to strong disagreements.

Iranian PresidentHassan Rouhani made his first official trip to Baghdad alongside Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Rouhani held a high-profile meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most revered religious authority, as well as Prime Minister Mahdi and President Salih. During the visit, Iranian and Iraqi officials signed memorandums of understanding on oil and gas, land transport, railways, agriculture, industry, health, and banking. Rouhani’s visit was largely seen as an effort to boost trade with Iraq and circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad hours after telling reporters that the United States was concerned about Iraqi sovereignty because of increasing Iranian activity. He told Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Mahdi and President Salih, that Washington did not “want anybody interfering in their country,” and asked them to protect U.S. troops in Iraq.

May 15-June 18

Amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees from Iraq, both at the embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil. In the first half of 2019, unidentified militias had launched eight rocket attacks on U.S.-linked facilities in Iraq, including strikes on coalition training facilities in Taji and Mosul on June 17-18.

Some 10 months after Kurdistan Regional Parliament elections, lawmakers elected Nechirvan Barzani—a former KRG prime minister and KDP leader—to the region’s presidency. His party’s rival, the PUK, boycotted the vote, but senior PUK leaders eventually decided to attend the swearing in ceremony. Iraqi President Salih and Speaker of the Council of Representatives al-Halbusi, among other officials from Baghdad, also attended the ceremony on June 10. The election was positively received by the international community and Iraqi leaders because the Kurdish region’s presidency had been vacant since Masoud Barzani stepped down in 2017. Masrour Barzani, the former chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, was named for the post of prime minister and was tasked with forming a cabinet.

Mass protests spread in Baghdad and southern provinces over the government and political class’s failure to deliver basic services, provide jobs, fight corruption, and more. To disperse the protests, reports indicate that Iraqi security forces and armed groups linked to Iran killed over 100 protestors and injured more than 6,000 during the first week. The demonstrators’ demands expanded to include calls for regime change, the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, early elections, a push back against Iranian influence, and accountability for the killing of peaceful protesters. The prime minister rejected calls for his resignation and instead proposed administrative reforms, including cabinet reshuffles. Iraqi President Barham Salih proposed a new election law as an attempt to respond to protestors’ demands of more inclusive and fair elections.

The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed by a U.S. special forces air raid in Idlib in northwest Syria. President Donald Trump confirmed the success of the two-hour night operation that targeted al-Baghdadi’s safe house in Syria.

Confrontations between protestors and security forces intensified, leaving more than 400 protestors dead and thousands more wounded in the first two months. On November 27, anti-government demonstrators who opposed Iranian influence in Iraq burned down the Iranian consulate in Najaf. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation in response to a call by Iraq’s most prominent Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, for a change in leadership.

December 27

Kataeb Hezbollah, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, carried out a rocket attack that killed a U.S. defense contractor and wounded four U.S. military personnel at an Iraqi military base in the province of Kirkuk. Two days later, the U.S. launched retaliatory airstrikes on Kataeb Hezbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria, killing over 20.

December 31

Kataeb Hezbollah, other Iran-backed groups, and leaders of some units of the Popular Mobilization Forces organized a siege on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. No U.S. casualties were reported. Following the attack, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced the deployment of an infantry battalion, totaling about 750 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, to the Middle East.

A U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad airport killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Kataeb Hezbollah and deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi urged Iraqi legislators to end U.S. troop presence in Iraq. The Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution to end foreign military presence in Iraq. Most Kurdish and Sunni members boycotted the vote. The U.S.-led coalition halted its operations against the Islamic State as American forces prepared for Iranian retaliations. Operations were resumed 10 days later.

In retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. The attack damaged the facilities, but the United States initially reported that no U.S. or Iraqi personnel were harmed. In February, the U.S. military disclosed that more than 100 troops were diagnosed with brain injuries following the Iranian strike. On January 27, following a short period of de-escalation, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was hit by three rockets that landed in the embassy and its surroundings. The attack injured at least one person and was not claimed by any group.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi called on U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to send delegates to Iraq to discuss mechanisms for the withdrawal of U.S. troops following the Iraqi Council of Representatives’ resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. A day later, the State Department said that the U.S. would not hold discussions with Iraq regarding military withdrawal.

Thousands of Iraqi protesters gathered in al-Hurriyah Square in Baghdad and near the main university to protest continued U.S. military presence. The protests came as a response to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s call demanding U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Former Communications Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi was appointed by President Salih as prime minister-designate to form a new cabinet. Allawi’s nomination sparked uproar on the streets by demonstrators who were wary of his role under former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government. After failing to receive a vote of confidence in parliament for his cabinet nominees, Allawi withdrew his candidacy on March 1. Former Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi continued to serve as the caretaker during the deadlock.

February 24

The Iraqi Ministry of Health recorded the first case of COVID-19 in Najaf governorate, and in the following days reported several other cases in Iraq—the majority of whom were infected after recently visiting Iran. On February 26, the Ministry of Health instituted a ban on travel to and from nine countries, including Iran and China. The first fatality due to COVID-19 was recorded on March 3 in the city of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. On March 15, the Iraqi government began imposing multiple provincial curfews and a ban on public gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.

Thirty Katyusha rockets were fired at Camp Taji north of Baghdad, killing two U.S. service members and one British service member and injuring 14 others. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iran-backed groups, including Kataeb Hezbollah (KH), lauded the operation. In retaliation for the attack on Camp Taji, the U.S. struck five weapon storage facilities belonging to KH early on March 13. Iraqi military officials, however, said the strikes damaged an unfinished civilian airport, and killed three Iraqi soldiers, two police officers, and a civilian worker. On March 14, at least 25 rockets hit Camp Taji again, injuring three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers.

President Salih appointed former Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurfi as prime minister-designate, after the first candidate Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi’s withdrawal on March 1. Al-Zurfi was the head of the Nasr parliamentary grouping of former Prime Minister Al-Abadi. After three weeks of deadlock and opposition from the Shia groups, al-Zurfi withdrew citing “internal and external reasons.”

President Salih appointed the head of Iraq’s intelligence service, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, as prime minister-designate, after the first two appointees withdrew. On May 6, parliament approved al-Kadhimi as the new Iraqi prime minister after almost six months of a caretaker government.


Awareness of American public opinion [ edit | edit source ]

A single study has compared the number of insurgent attacks in Iraq to supposedly negative statements in the U.S. media, release of public opinion polls, and geographic variations in access to international media by Iraqis. The purpose was to determine if there was a link between insurgent activity and media reports. The researchers' study suggested it may be possible that insurgent attacks spiked by 5 to 10% after increases in the number of negative reports of the war in the media. The authors believe this may possibly be an "emboldenment effect" and speculated that "insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal." ⏞]


The Gulf War 1990/1991

By 1990 Iraq was in severe financial difficulties the price of oil was low and Iraq relied on this as its main source of income. It accused Kuwait of overproducing and flooding the market with cheap oil. Kuwait agreed to lower production but this failed to pacify Sadamm Hussain. He had a second grievance with Kuwait that of the Rumalia oil field in northern Kuwait. The Iraqis owed half this oil field and wanted the rest of it, so they accused the Kuwaitis of stealing oil from the Iraqi half of the oil field.

With the Western powers focused on Europe and the end of the Cold War few paid much attention to the Iraqis threats to Kuwait a "Rich, small vulnerable state". Even when conflict looked likely it was thought that if they did invade it would be for limited objectives such as the oil field, (this is what Gen Schwarzkopf believed). The only intelligence agency to predict the invasion was the CIA and then it was on the day before the Iraqis invaded, (not much use!).

On 2nd Aug 1990 100,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait spearhead by 3 divisions of the Republican Guard. It was well organized with Heli-bourne and Amphibious assaults, with Special Forces landing at key sites and ground controllers disguised as civilians going on ahead to direct Armour. The resistance was quickly crushed. Saddam Hussein then made his first big mistake, his forces stopped at the Saudi Arabian border. He had 130,000 men 1,200 tanks and 800 guns against only 72,000 Arabians, if he had invaded it would have provoked a stronger international response but with Arabian airfields and ports in his hands it would have made any liberation very difficult indeed. Maybe he was unable to support his forces logistically? Maybe he feared retaliation? No one knows, but this was to be possibly his only chance to win the War. By December 1990 it was clear the Iraqis were digging in, and foolishly throughout the following Coalition build up he left their forces in Saudi Arabia unmolested.

OPPOSING FORCES

The Iraqi Armed Forces

Although the Iraqis had about 5500 tanks 90% were designed over 30 years ago and were nearly harmless to a modern MBT. Tank gunnery was also poor. The most modern was an unarmored T-72 whose autoloader could grab a gunner's finger if they were a bit slow. Artillery was good being South African 155mm based on the designs of Dr Gerald Bull (Dr Bull was killed Mar 1990 probably by Israeli Secret Service).

Anti Aircraft ability was poor except for the Russian made ZSU-23-4, which made low level flying dangerous. The Air force was large but their best planes were Mirage F-1's and MIG 29's the later had been delivered without the look down shoot down radar.

The Iraqi forces did have large stocks of chemical weapons and had used them in combat in the previous war their possible use was a great concern to the Coalition Commanders. By the time the War started the Iraqis had around 400,000 men on the front line, 150,000 in Kuwait alone.

The Coalition Forces

A Coalition was formed and troops from all over the world started to arrive. This wide spread of nations was vital if the war was to be seen as just not just a war by the US against an Arab state. This build up was Operation Desert Shield. In the up coming offensive the ground element was to be Operation Desert Sword and the British element Desert Saber.

At first British involvement was the 7th Arm Brigade (2 Armored Regts and 1 Stafford's with Warriors) this was to support the USMC but later British forces were increased to an Armored Division by the addition of the 4th Arm Bde and support troops such as medics and large numbers of artillery 3 M109 regts , 1 M110 Regt and 1 MRLS Regt giving the British contingent a heavy punch. This would give us greater flexibility and a bigger role to play in the up coming battles. The British Commander was General Sir Peter De la Billere.

Coalition forces eventually numbered over 500,000, with large numbers of Arab allies such as Syrians and Egyptians. Various plans were put forward, including some very silly ones such as a 500 mile drop of paratroopers behind the lines and an armored link up as in Operation Market Garden, General Schwarzkopf was under pressure to attack early but he refused until he had all the heavy equipment he needed.

The Gulf War 1991

Air Superiority was soon won, with 116 Iraqi aircraft fleeing to Iran were they were seized. To have complete dominance over the air is very rare in warfare and it allowed normally vulnerable helicopter Gunships to roam at will across the open battlefield.

This is what is called the Air land battle or Deep battle where due to modern weapons with extended range an attack does not just attack the enemy front lines but his whole military organisation, his front, his art, his reserves and importantly his C&C, without this his troops are blind and helpless.

The ground assault began on 24th Feb 1991 and lasted exactly 100 hours the pace of operations was intense. The plan was a general attack along the line with dummy and decoy attacks on the right and the left flank swing around like a huge left hook. 2 US armoured divisions under Gen Franks were to drive north then east and pin the Republican Guard against the Sea and destroy it. If it went south the British forces were to form the anvil and the 2 US divisions would swing back like a hammer.

The first day went very well, the Iraqis who were expected to fight stubbornly were steam rollered by the Coalition forces, with no recon, poor supplies and their Armour being completely outclassed progress was rapid Coalition casualties on the first day were 8 dead and 27 wounded.

On day two sandstorms stopped many of the air resupply missions but thanks to GPS the Coalition forces kept advancing, although not fast, frequently taking Iraqi units by surprise in the poor weather conditions. Heavy rain started to fall and in the darkness the British forces encountered the 12th Iraqi Armoured Division, after calling down support fire they attacked and drove the Iraqis off, inflicting heavy casualties.

On the third day cloud was limiting air recon and the advance continued, now a race to catch and destroy the Republican Guard. On first light the British forces attacked a large enemy position with a two pronged armoured attack and 1 Stafford's attacking them from the rear clearing out the prepare position.

It was during this afternoon that two US A-10s accidentally fired on 2 British Warriors AFV's of the Royal Fusiliers, nine men died and 11 were wounded. By the end of the War the British division had in 66 hours wrecked the better part of three armoured divisions and captured more than 7,000 prisoners in an advance of over 180 miles, a testament to both our ability and the speed of modern warfare.

Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East, Oscar E. Gilbert. Covers a range of types of armoured warfare, from the conventional tank battles of the two Gulf Wars to counter insurgency work in Afghanistan. Paints a picture of a flexible, adaptable and competent armoured force that plays a key part in just about every Marine Corps deployment, despite never being at the top of the pile for funding. Also suggests that the tank can be surprising effective in counter-insurgency work, providing a powerful backup to the infantry (Read Full Review)

Iran's Threat to Coalition Forces in Iraq

On January 13, 2004, Eli Lake of the New York Sun reported that two senior members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had defected to coalition forces in Iraq. This defection constitutes a good opportunity to reflect on several issues, including Iran's efforts to infiltrate the Iraqi Shi'i community, Tehran's potential plans to target (either directly or by proxy) U.S. forces in Iraq, and the appropriate U.S. policy response to this potential Iranian threat.

Iran's Support for Anti-American Terrorism

According to the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 (issued in April 2003), Tehran provides the Lebanon-based Hizballah with "funding, safe haven, training, and weapons." Such support (estimated at $80 million per year) has given Iran a terrorist proxy of global reach. For example, Hizballah suicide bombings against the U.S. Marine barracks and the U.S. embassy annex in Beirut (in October 1983 and September 1984, respectively) killed some 300 U.S. diplomats and soldiers. In addition, the twenty-two individuals on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists include three Hizballah operatives accused of the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, during which a U.S. Navy diver was murdered. The hijacking featured the infamous image of an American pilot peering out of the cockpit with a gun to his head. Moreover, according to a November 1, 1996, report by the Washington Post, Saudi intelligence concluded that a local group calling itself Hizballah was responsible for the June 1996 truck bombing of the Khobar Towers U.S. military housing complex on the kingdom's Persian Gulf coast. The Saudis also asserted that this local group was a wing of Lebanese Hizballah. More recently, Hizballah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah made the following remarks in a speech given one week before coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom (as broadcast on al-Manar, the organization's Beirut-based satellite television station): "In the past, when the Marines were in Beirut, we screamed, 'Death to America!' Today, when the region is being filled with hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, 'Death to America!' was, is, and will stay our slogan."

Iran's support for anti-American terrorism is not limited to Hizballah, however. According to the State Department, some al-Qaeda operatives have obtained safe haven in Iran. U.S. intelligence believes that one such operative is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for whose capture the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program offers up to $5 million. Iran's links to al-Qaeda may predate the organization's post-September 11 flight from Afghanistan. At the trial for those suspected of bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, one of the defendants testified that he had provided security for meetings between al-Qaeda and Hizballah operatives. In addition, phone records revealed at the trial demonstrated that, during the period preceding the bombings, 10 percent of the calls made from Osama bin Laden's satellite phone were to Iran.

Iranian Efforts in Postwar Iraq

Over 2,000 Iranian-sponsored clerics have crossed into Iraq from Iran since the cessation of major combat in May 2003. Many of them carry books, compact discs, and audiotapes that promote militant Islam. Moreover, according to Iranian dissident sources, the IRGC's Qods (Jerusalem) Force is establishing armed underground cells across the Shi'i southern region of Iraq, often using the Iranian Red Crescent as a front. Such sources also contend that the Jerusalem Force has established medical centers and local charities in Najaf, Baghdad, Hillah, Basra, and al-Amarah in order to gain support from the local population. In addition, according to a September 2003 Washington Times report, IRGC agents have been deployed to Najaf in order to gather intelligence on U.S. forces. Tehran has also permitted members of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist faction with close links to al-Qaeda, to cross back into Iraq and join the anti-American resistance.

Even as Tehran began to send Iranian operatives into postwar Iraq, members of Hizballah infiltrated the country as well. Because most of Hizballah's members are Arab, they may constitute an even more effective Iranian proxy in Iraq than Iranian agents trained in Arabic. According to Iranian dissident sources (and confirmed in part by U.S. intelligence), Tehran tasked Hizballah with sending agents and clerics across a major portion of southern Iraq. Indeed, once major combat operations came to an end, Hizballah "holy warriors" crossed into the country not only from Syria, but from Iran as well. Initially, these operatives numbered nearly 100, but this relatively small figure belies their potential impact on behalf of Tehran. Hizballah has established charitable organizations in Iraq in order to create a favorable environment for recruiting, a tactic that the organization had previously tested in southern Lebanon with Iranian assistance. Moreover, according to Mohammed al-Alawi, Hizballah's chief spokesman in Iraq, the organization's agents act as local police forces in many southern cities (e.g., Nasiriya, Ummara), ignoring an official U.S. ban on militias. Overall, Tehran seems to be using Hizballah to supplement its own penetration of local Iraqi governing offices and judiciaries.

In addition, Iranian dissident sources report that Tehran has used Hizballah to smuggle Iraqis living in Iran back into their native country. A significant number of Iraqis have dual nationalities and have resided in Iran for many years some have even served as IRGC commanders. Hizballah can help conceal their long association with Iran indeed, some of these individuals have apparently joined Iraqi police forces since the end of major combat.


Watch the video: Iraq: Coalition forces face tough resistance against jihadist fighters inside Mosul (November 2022).

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