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History of Iraq

Iraq is located in the centre of the Middle East. A large part of the world's oil comes from this region. It sits astride the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the ancient region of Mesopotamia. It borders Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Jordan Turkey, and Syria, and has an outlet to the Persian Gulf. There are three main factions that make up Iraq: the Kurds in the North, the Shia in the South, and the Sunnis centrally.

Iraq’s former leader Saddam Hussein (who is a sunni), was born on 28th April 1937, into a poor peasant family in the village of al-Auja, near Tikrit. His father died before his birth. As a child he sold watermelons to passengers on the train. Later, as he went to live with his uncle, he was infused with radical pan-Arabism. At twenty he became part of the Baathist hit team in 1957. It is said that he developed an obsession with Stalin. His brute force power helped pave the way for the Baath's rise to power. After 1968 he helped mould the party.

Iraq was not birthed at its roots with its present name. It was known, as part of what history tells us was Mesopotamia. Various ancient empires affected this area, such as the Medes and Persians. The most important modern root before the change of name from Mesopotamia to Iraq was the Ottoman Turk Empire.

In 1914, the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia squared off against the Triple Alliance of Germany and the empires of the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. Britain made promises to those who wanted an Arab Empire of, what they felt, was the entire Arabian Peninsula. This led to the Arab Revolt. Lawrence of Arabia fought in this revolt to help establish an Arab government.

The fate of the Arabs was decided behind closed doors in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in Paris between Britain and France. The British obtained a predominately British Middle East. British and French map makers drew the boundaries of what was to become the Arab states of Lebanon, Syria and Trans-Jordan. Other lines were drawn to form new nations. Iraq was one of those. They drew a line around Baghdad and Basra. Later, at a meeting in Cairo a group gathered by Winston Churchill met. It was this group that formally christened the new British colony, ‘Iraq’. The British installed Hashemite King Faisel to the contrived throne.

When the British expelled the mufti of Jerusalem, Baghdad's Arabs declared war on the Jews. Over the first two days of June 1941, nearly 200 Jews were killed and million’s of pounds of Jewish property was destroyed. At that time, ten of the twenty-five first class members of the chamber of commerce were Jews. Arab and Iraqi nationalism continued to grow alongside Anti-Western feelings and burst into open rebellion after the Portsmouth Treaty was signed in 1948.

In March 1950 a law was passed permitting Jew’s to leave the country with his or her assets in return for surrendering their Iraqi nationality. Whole Jewish communities across Iraq vanished without a trace. In 1952, the six seats in parliament set aside for Jews were cancelled.

American oil companies moved in and took a larger and larger role in the Iraqi oil industry. As America was identified more and more with the cause of Zionism and Israel, they were dubbed as ‘The Great Satan’ by extremists. This increased with the rise of the Israeli State that was reborn in 1948.

The United States, under President Eisenhower, (1953-61) gave military aid to Iraq as a safeguard against Communism. In July 1958 the Iraqi army led by General Kassem topped the royal regime.

The Baath party originated with two Syrians, a Christian and a Sunni Muslim. It is a mixture of Marxism superiority with an Arab character. A flaq, the supposedly Christian of the two, coined the phrase, ‘One Arab nation with an eternal mission’. The call was to Arabs over all factions of Islam. One of its new leaders was none other than a young Saddam Hussein. General Hussein attempted to assassinate Kassem. He only wounded him. Later the party succeeded in killing Kassem in 1963 when there were only 1,000 members of the Baath party. In 1968 the Arab Revolutionary Movement was overthrown, led by Saddam Hussein.

The Baath party rose to power through purges, where thousands of people were killed, with thousands more imprisoned. Later, backed by the Revolutionary Command Council, Saddam took and kept power. He did this by imprisoning his relative, al-Bakar, the leader of the Baath party. Those who might oppose him were executed.

In the Iran-Iraq War, it has been said that one million Iraqis died. Fearing Iran, America saw Iraq as their ally and gave resources to them, including money and weapons. At the end of that time Saddam felt that he did not receive the assistance and respect he felt he and his country deserved.

Saddam put down a Kurdish rebellion which demanded an independent land, by use of brutality and chemical weapons. The Kurdish accounts say that nearly 1,300 villages were destroyed through the use of poison gas; mass genocide.

Hussein owed Kuwait £8.5 million. Saddam made a trumped up claim that Kuwait actually belonged to Iraq and so invaded, of course, now he owed no debt as the country was his! During this time he offered the Shatt al-Arab waterway to the Iranians the very waterway they had fought over for eight years.

On 5th August 1990 President Bush (senior) said to the public, "This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait." In 16th January 1991 America, Britain and others went into an allied battle called ‘Operation Desert Storm’, to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein felt betrayed by the United States. But they did not remove Saddam Hussein.

Later, America hoped that factions from within the country would rise up and remove Saddam Hussein from power. The Shiites in the South did rise up, as did the Kurds in the North. But the Republican Guard slaughtered all uprising and showed no mercy. The United States had promised to support those who rose up, but they did not.

After the Gulf War, thousands of Kurds became refugees while trying to escape the retribution. Only later did the United States realise what had been done and sent relief to the near million refugees who sat in the mountains on the border. The borders of Syria and Turkey were closed, as they could not take in a million refugees.

The recent war to ‘liberate’ Iraq was probably the most controversial invasion in modern history. Saddam was removed, a new government is in place and the people hope for peace and prosperity in the midst of much terror.