Northern Iraq was home to a Neanderthal civilization between 65,000 and 35,000 BC, with archaeological remains found at Shanidar Cave. A handful of pre-Neolithic graves, dating from about 11,000 BC, may also be found in this area.
Iraq (together with Asia Minor and the Levant) has been a center of a Caucasoid Neolithic civilization (known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) where agriculture and cattle breeding first emerged in the globe from about 10,000 BC. Rectangular dwellings reflect the Neolithic era after that (PPNB). People utilized stone, gypsum, and burned lime containers throughout the pre-pottery Neolithic period (Vaisselle blanche). Anatolia’s obsidian tool finds provide proof of early trading connections.
Jarmo (approximately 7100 BC), the Halaf civilization, and the Ubaid era (between 6500 BC and 3800 BC) were other significant locations of human development. These periods demonstrate constantly rising levels of advancement in agriculture, tool manufacture, and building.
The establishment of a number of Sumerian towns, as well as the usage of Pictographs, Cylinder seals, and mass-produced products, mark the beginning of Iraq’s historical era (4000 BC to 3100 BC).
The phrase “Cradle of Civilization” refers to the region of contemporary Iraq that was home to the oldest known civilization, the Sumerian civilisation, which developed in the lush Tigris-Euphrates river valley in southern Iraq during the Chalcolithic era (Ubaid period).
The world’s earliest writing system and recorded history were both born here in the late 4th millennium BC. The Sumerians were also the first to use the wheel to build cities, and their texts include the first evidence of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, written law, medicine, and organized religion.
The Sumerians spoke a Language Isolate, which is a language that is completely unconnected to any other language, including Semitic, Indo-European, Afroasiatic, and other isolates. Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, Shuruppak, Uruk, Kish, Ur, Nippur, Lagash, Girsu, Umma, Hamazi, Adab, Mari, Isin, Kutha, Der, and Akshak were the main city states of the early Sumerian era.
From the 25th century BC, cities such as Ashur, Arbela (modern Irbil), and Arrapkha (modern Kirkuk) existed in what was to become Assyria; nevertheless, they were Sumerian-ruled administrative centers at the time.
Eannatum of Lagash founded what was perhaps the first empire in history in the 26th century BC, but it was short-lived. Later, Lugal-Zage-Si, the priest-king of Umma, deposed the Lagash dynasty in the region, invaded Uruk, made it his capital, and claimed an empire that stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which contains the story of the Great Flood, was written during this time period.
A Semitic group arrived in Iraq from the west about 3000 BC and settled among the Sumerians. These people spoke an East Semitic language that became known as Akkadian through time. Akkadian Semitic names started to emerge on king lists and administrative records of different city states in the 29th century BC.
A cultural symbiosis evolved between the Sumerians and the Akkadians around the third millennium BCE, which featured widespread multilingual. The Sumerian and Akkadian languages have a lot in common, including extensive lexical borrowing and syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. Scholars have referred to Sumerian and Akkadian of the third millennium BCE as a Sprachbund because of their mutual impact. Sumero-Akkadian is the name given to the Iraqi civilization during this time period.
Between the 29th and 24th centuries BC, a number of kingdoms and city states in Iraq, notably Assyria, Ekallatum, Isin, and Larsa, started to have Akkadian speaking dynasties.
However, until the emergence of the Akkadian Empire (2335-2124 BC), headquartered in the city of Akkad in central Iraq, the Sumerians remained mostly dominant. Sargon of Akkad established the empire by conquering all of the city states of southern and central Iraq and subjugating the kings of Assyria, bringing the Sumerians and Akkadians together in one realm. He subsequently went about extending his kingdom, conquering Ancient Iran’s Gutium, Elam, Cissia, and Turukku, Anatolia’s Hurrians, Luwians, and Hattians, and Syria’s Amorites and Eblaites.
The Gutians controlled the south for a few decades after the fall of the Akkadian Empire in the late 22nd century BC, while Assyria reasserted its independence in the north. This was followed by the Neo-Sumerian Empire, which was a Sumerian renaissance. The Sumerians, led by king Shulgi, conquered nearly all of Iraq, with the exception of Assyria’s northern reaches, and ruled over the Elamites, Gutians, and Amorites.
The Sumerian renaissance came to an end in 2004 BC due to an Elamite invasion. The Akkadian-speaking kingdom of Assyria had risen to supremacy in northern Iraq by the mid-21st century BC. Under monarchs such as Puzur-Ashur I, Sargon I, Ilushuma, and Erishum I, the Old Assyrian Empire (approximately 2035-1750 BC) expanded territorially into the north eastern Levant, central Iraq, and eastern Anatolia, establishing the Old Assyrian Empire (about 2035-1750 BC). The south was divided into a number of Akkadian-speaking republics, the most important of which were Isin, Larsa, and Eshnunna.
The Canaanite-speaking Northwest Semitic Amorites started to move into southern Mesopotamia in the 20th century BC. These Amorites eventually established tiny petty kingdoms in the south, usurping the thrones of existing city states like Isin, Larsa, and Eshnunna.
One of these minor kingdoms, established in 1894 BC, included Babylon, a small administrative town of the time. For more than a century, it was eclipsed by older and more powerful kingdoms like Assyria, Elam, Isin, Ehnunna, and Larsa.
In 1792 BC, an Amorite monarch called Hammurabi ascended to power in this kingdom and went about transforming Babylon from a small village into a great metropolis, proclaiming himself king. Hammurabi conquered all of southern and central Iraq, as well as Elam to the east and Mari to the west, before fighting the Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan for dominance of the area and establishing the Babylonian Empire. He ultimately defeated Ishme-successor Dagan’s and ruled Assyria and its Anatolian provinces.
Southern Iraq became known as Babylonia during Hammurabi’s reign, whereas the north had already consolidated into Assyria hundreds of years earlier. His kingdom, however, was short-lived and quickly crumbled following his death, with Assyria and southern Iraq falling back into native Akkadian hands under the Sealand Dynasty. The foreign Amorites held control in a weak and tiny Babylonia until 1595 BC, when it was destroyed by the Indo-European language Hittite Empire located in Anatolia. After that, another alien group, the Language Isolate speaking Kassites, who originated in Ancient Iran’s Zagros Mountains, took control of Babylonia and ruled for almost 600 years, making them Babylon’s longest dynasty.
Iraq was split into three polities from this time forward: Assyria in the north, Kassite Babylonia in the south central area, and the Sealand Dynasty in the south. Kassite Babylonia ultimately defeated the Sealand Dynasty about 1380 BC.
Assyria rose to become the most powerful country in the known world during the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC). Assyria defeated the Elamites, Phrygians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Cilicians, Gutians, Dilmunites, and Arameans beginning with the campaigns of Ashur-uballit I. Assyria destroyed the rival Hurrian-Mitanni Empire, annexed large swaths of the Hittite Empire for itself, annexed northern Babylonia from the Kassites, forced the Egyptian Empire The Middle Assyrian Empire spanned from the Caucasus to Dilmun (modern Bahrain), and from Phoenicia’s Mediterranean coastlines to Iran’s Zagros Mountains. Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria ascended to the throne of Babylon in 1235 BC, becoming the first native Mesopotamian to govern the country.
Babylonia was in a state of turmoil throughout the Bronze Age collapse (1200-900 BC), controlled for extended periods by Assyria and Elam. Assyria and Elam drove the Kassites out of power, enabling native south Mesopotamian monarchs to govern Babylonia for the first time, albeit they were still subordinate to Assyrian or Elamite authorities. However, these East Semitic Akkadian rulers were unable to prevent fresh waves of West Semitic migrants from entering southern Iraq, and around the 11th century BC, Arameans and Suteans arrived in Babylonia from The Levant, followed by migrant Chaldeans in the late 10th to early 9th centuries BC.
With the Neo Assyrian Empire (935–605 BC), Assyria started to grow again after a period of relative collapse. Iraq became the center of an empire stretching from Persia, Parthia, and Elam in the east to Cyprus and Antioch in the west, and from The Caucasus in the north to Egypt in the south, under rulers such as Adad-Nirari II, Ashurnasirpal, Shalmaneser III, Semiramis, Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ash
The Arabs appear in recorded history for the first time about 850 BC, as a subject people of Shalmaneser III who lived on the Arabian Peninsula. At this period, the Chaldeans are also mentioned for the first time.
During this time, the Assyrians adopted an Akkadian-influenced version of Eastern Aramaic as the lingua franca of their vast empire, and Mesopotamian Aramaic started to replace Akkadian as the spoken language of both Assyria and Babylonia’s general people. To this day, Assyrians in northern Iraq speak varieties descended from this language.
The Assyrian Empire was torn apart by a series of brutal civil wars in the late 7th century BC, weakening it to the point where a coalition of its former subjects, including the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Parthians, Scythians, and Cimmerians, were able to attack Assyria, finally bringing the empire down in 605 BC.
Assyria was followed by the short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire (620-539 BC). It did not grow to the same size, strength, or durability as its predecessor, but it did conquer the Levant, Canaan, Arabia, Israel, and Judah, as well as Egypt. Initially, Babylon was governed by the Chaldeans, a foreign monarchy who arrived in the area in the late 10th or early 9th century BC. Its greatest monarch, Nebuchadnezzar II, was rivaled as the greatest king of Babylon by another non-native ruler, the ethnically unrelated Amorite king Hammurabi. By 556 BC, however, the Chaldeans had been ousted from power by Nabonidus, an Assyrian, and his son and regent Belshazzar.
Iraq was absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire for almost two centuries when Cyrus the Great of neighboring Persia destroyed the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the Battle of Opis in the 6th century BC. Babylon was the Achaemenids’ principal capital. Around this period, the Chaldeans and Chaldea vanished, while Assyria and Babylonia survived and flourished under Achaemenid control. After three centuries under Assyrian control, the Persian kings regarded themselves as Ashurbanipal’s heirs, and they maintained Assyrian Imperial Aramaic as the imperial language, as well as the Assyrian imperial infrastructure and an Assyrian style of art and architecture.
Alexander the Great captured the area in the late 4th century BC, bringing it under HellenisticSeleucid control for almost two centuries. The Indo-Anatolian and Greek names Syria were introduced to the area by the Seleucids. This name had been the Indo-European word for Assyria for many centuries, and it specifically and only meant Assyria; however, the Seleucids also applied it to The Levant (Aramea), causing both Assyria and the Assyrians of Iraq, as well as the Arameans and The Levant, to be known as Syria and Syrians/Syrians in the Greco-Roman world.
During the reign of Mithridates I of Parthia (r. 171–138 BC), the Parthians (247 BC–224 AD) from Persia conquered the area. The Romans attacked western portions of the area on numerous occasions from Syria, temporarily establishing Assyria Provincia in Assyria. Between the 1st and 3rd centuries, Christianity started to spread over Iraq (especially in Assyria), and Assyria became a center of Syriac Christianity, the Church of the East, and Syriac literature. During the Parthian period, a number of indigenous autonomous Neo-Assyrian kingdoms arose in the north, including Adiabene, Assur, Osroene, and Hatra.
The Aramaic language of Assyria and Mesopotamia has been discovered as far afield as Hadrians Wall in northern Ancient Britain, with inscriptions written by Assyrianand Aramean troops of the Roman Empire.
In 224 AD, the Sassanids of Persia, led by Ardashir I, defeated the Parthian Empire and seized the area. The Sassanids progressively subjugated the minor Neo Assyrian kingdoms in the 240s and 250s AD, culminating in Assur in 256 AD. For over four centuries, the region was a province of the Sassanid Empire (see also; Asristn), and it served as a border and battleground between the Sassanid Empire and the Byzantine Empire, with both empires greatly weakening each other, paving the way for the Arab-Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-seventh century.
In the mid-seventh century AD, the Arab Islamic conquest of Iraq established Islam and resulted in a massive migration of Arabs. When Ali, the prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, became the fourth caliph under the Rashidun Caliphate, he relocated his capital to Kufa. In the seventh century, the Umayyad Caliphate governed Iraq from Damascus. (However, a distinct, autonomous Caliphate of Córdobain Iberia arose afterwards.)
The Abbasid Caliphate established Baghdad as its capital in the eighth century, and it remained the dominant metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world for the next five centuries. Baghdad was the greatest cosmopolitan metropolis in the Middle Ages, with a population of more than a million people, and the Islamic Golden Age’s center of study. During the siege of Baghdad in the 13th century, the city was devastated by the Mongols.
Hulagu Khan assembled an exceptionally large army, including a major part of the Mongol Empire’s troops, in order to capture Baghdad in 1257. Hulagu Khan demanded the surrender of the Islamic capital when they arrived, but Al-Musta’sim, the final Abbasid Caliph, refused. Hulagu was enraged, so he attacked Baghdad, destroyed the city, and murdered thousands of its people, following the Mongol policy of suppressing opposition. The death toll has been estimated to be between 200,000 and a million people.
The Mongols destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate and Baghdad’s House of Wisdom, which housed a vast collection of valuable and historical manuscripts. The city has never recovered its former prominence as a significant cultural and political center. Some historians think that the Mongol invasion damaged most of Mesopotamia’s millennia-old irrigation system. Other historians attribute the decrease in agriculture to soil salinization.
Much of the Islamic world was devastated by the Black Death in the mid-14th century. A mortality rate of approximately one-third is the best estimate for the Middle East.
Tamerlane (Timur Lenk), a warrior of Mongol origin, conquered Iraq in 1401. 20,000 Baghdad residents were murdered when the city was captured. Timur demanded that each soldier bring at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur). Timur also massacred the indigenous Assyrian Christian population in northern Mesopotamia, which was still the majority at the time, and it was at this period that the ancient Assyrian city of Assur was abandoned.
The Black Sheep Turkmen controlled the region that is now Iraq in the late 14th and early 15th century. The White Sheep Turkmen overcame the Black Sheep Turkmen in 1466 and seized power. Iraq came into the hands of the Iranian Safavids in the early 16th century, in 1508, along with all of the previous White Sheep Turkmen’s lands. Iraq would be disputed between the two for more than a century during the numerous Ottoman-Persian Wars due to the century-long Turco-Iranian rivalry between the Safavids and the neighboring Ottoman Turks.
As a consequence of battles with the neighboring competitor, Safavid Iran, much of the area of modern-day Iraq ultimately fell under Ottoman Empire authority as the eyalet of Baghdad with the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639. The area of modern-day Iraq was a battleground for competing regional empires and tribal alliances throughout the majority of Ottoman rule (1533–1918).
The Ottoman Empire’s power had been eroded and its authority over its provinces weakened by repeated wars with the Safavids by the 17th century. The migration of bedouins from Najd, in the Arabian Peninsula, increased the nomadic population. Raids by Bedouins on populated areas proved difficult to stop.
Iraq was governed by a Mamluk dynasty of Georgian descent from 1747 to 1831, who were successful in gaining autonomy from the Ottoman Porte, suppressing tribal revolts, curtailing the authority of the Janissaries, restoring order, and implementing a modernization program for the economy and military. The Ottomans overthrew the Mamluk government in 1831 and established direct authority over Iraq. Iraq’s population, which peaked at 30 million in 800 AD, had shrunk to just 5 million by the turn of the century.
The Ottomans supported Germany and the Central Powers throughout World War I. British troops entered Mesopotamia during the Central Powers’ Mesopotamian campaign, suffering a severe defeat at the hands of the Turkish army during the Siege of Kut (1915–1916). Following this, however, the British started to take the upper hand, helped by the assistance of local Arabs and Assyrians. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the British and French devised a plan for the postwar partition of Western Asia in 1916. In 1917, British troops reunited and beat the Ottomans in Baghdad. In 1918, an armistice was signed.
During the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the United Kingdom fought the Ottomans and drove them out of most of the region. The Mesopotamian war cost the British 92,000 troops. The Ottomans suffered no casualties, but the British took 45,000 prisoners of war. The British had deployed 410,000 soldiers in the region by the end of 1918, 112,000 of them were combat troops.
British administration and independent Kingdom
Iraq became a League of Nations mandate under British administration on November 11, 1920, and was given the name “State of Iraq.” The British installed the Hashemite monarch of Iraq, Faisal I, as their client ruler after the French drove him out of Syria. Similarly, British officials chose Sunni Arab elites from the area for government and ministry positions.
In October 1920, Britain replaced Arnold Wilson with Sir Percy Cox, a new Civil Commissioner, as a result of rising expenses and public protests by war hero T. E. Lawrence in The Times. Cox was responsible for putting in place the fatal strategy of tight cooperation with Iraq’s Sunni minority, as well as quelling a revolt. Slavery was abolished in the United States in the 1920s.
On King Faisal’s request, Britain gave Iraqi independence in 1932, but the British kept military bases, local militia in the shape of Assyrian Levies, and transit rights for their troops. After King Faisal’s death in 1933, King Ghazi reigned as a figurehead until his death in 1939, despite attempted military coups. Faisal II, Ghazi’s underage son, was succeeded by ‘Abd al-Ilah, who served as Regent during Faisal’s minority.
Rashid Ali al-Gaylani and members of the Golden Square attempted a coup d’état on April 1, 1941, to depose ‘Abd al-administration. Ilah’s The United Kingdom (which still had air bases in Iraq) invaded Iraq after fearing that the Rashid Ali administration would stop oil supplies to Western countries due to his ties to the Axis powers during the following Anglo-Iraqi War. The conflict began on May 2nd, and the British, assisted by loyal Assyrian Levies, destroyed Al-troops, Gaylani’s forcing an armistice on May 31st.
The reinstatement of the Hashemite monarchy’s pre-coup administration was followed by a military occupation. The occupation ended on October 26, 1947, although the British military outposts in Iraq remained until 1954, when the Assyrian militias were dissolved. Nuri as-Said, the authoritarian Prime Minister who also governed from 1930–1932, and ‘Abd al-Ilah, the former Regent who currently serves as an advisor to King Faisal II, were the rulers during the occupation and the rest of the Hashemite kingdom.
Republic and Ba’athist Iraq
The monarchy was overthrown in 1958 by a coup d’etat known as the 14 July Revolution. Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim took control, but was deposed in February 1963 by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. His brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, replaced him after his death in 1966, but the Ba’ath Party overthrew him in 1968. General Saddam Hussein acceded to the president and leadership of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), then Iraq’s highest administrative body, in July 1979. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr was the first Ba’ath President of Iraq, but the movement eventually fell under the authority of General Saddam Hussein.
The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979. In September 1980, after months of cross-border incursions between the two nations, Saddam Hussein declared war on Iran, beginning the Iran–Iraq War (or First Persian Gulf War). Iraq took advantage of the post-revolutionary turmoil in Iran to gain some territory in the southwest, but Iran reclaimed all of the lost territory within two years, and Iran went on the offensive for the following six years. Between half a million and 1.5 million people died in the conflict, which ended in a stalemate in 1988. The bombing of an Iraqi nuclear materials testing facility at Osirak by Israeli planes in 1981 drew widespread condemnation at the United Nations. Saddam Hussein utilized chemical weapons extensively on Iranians during his eight-year battle with them. The Ba’athist Iraqi government conducted the Al-Anfal Campaign, a genocidal campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds and resulted in the deaths of 50,000–100,000 people in the latter phases of the Iran–Iraq War. During the protests in Iraq in 1991, chemical weapons were also used against Iraqi Shia people.
Iraq attacked and occupied Kuwait in August 1990. As a result, the United States-led troops intervened militarily in the First Gulf War. Following a bombing campaign against military objectives, the coalition troops began a 100-hour ground attack against Iraqi soldiers in Southern Iraq and those occupying Kuwait.
Iraq’s military forces were decimated throughout the war, and when it ended in 1991, Shia and Kurdish Iraqis launched a series of uprisings against Saddam Hussein’s government, which were effectively suppressed with the help of Iraqi security forces and chemical weapons. It is believed that up to 100,000 people were murdered, including many civilians. Using UNSCR 688 as authority, the US, UK, France, and Turkey created Iraqi no-fly zones to protect Kurdish and Shiite civilians from assaults by the Hussein regime’s fixed-wing aircraft during the uprisings (but not helicopters).
Iraq was ordered to destroy its chemical and biological weapons, and the United Nations tried to force Saddam Hussein’s administration to disarm and agree to a ceasefire by placing further penalties on the nation in addition to the sanctions imposed after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Because the Iraqi government refused to disarm and consent to a ceasefire, sanctions were imposed, which lasted until 2003. The impact of the sanctions on Iraqi people have been disputed by studies.
Because of the difficulties faced by ordinary Iraqis in the late 1990s, the UN contemplated easing Iraq sanctions, and assaults on US planes patrolling no-fly zones led to the US bombing of Iraq in December 1998.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration started preparing the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the US Congress approved the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of US Armed Forces Against Iraq in October 2002. The United Nations Security Council approved UNSCR 1441 in November 2002, and the United States and its allies attacked Iraq in March 2003.
On March 20, 2003, a coalition headed by the United States attacked Iraq on the pretense that Iraq had failed to relinquish its WMD program in violation of UN Resolution 687. This allegation was based on papers supplied by the CIA and the British government, which were subsequently shown to be untrustworthy.
The Coalition Provisional Authority was formed by the US after the invasion to administer Iraq. The CPA’s chief executive, L. Paul Bremer, issued orders in May 2003 excluding Baath Party members from the new Iraqi government (CPA Order 1) and disbanding the Iraqi Army (CPA Order 2). The decision disbanded the mostly Sunni Iraqi Army and barred many former government officials from participating in the country’s administration, including 40,000 school teachers who had joined the Baath Party merely to retain their jobs, contributing to the chaos that followed the invasion.
In the summer of 2003, parts of the old Iraqi secret police and army established guerrilla groups to fight the US-led coalition’s authority in Iraq. Self-described ‘jihadist’ organizations started attacking coalition troops in the autumn of 2003. In 2003, a number of Sunni militias were formed, including Abu Musab al-Jama’at Zarqawi’s al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Inter-ethnic violence between Sunnis and Shias was common throughout the conflict. In late 2003, Amnesty International and the Associated Press published information on the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse crisis.
In April 2004, the Mahdi Army, a Shia group founded by Muqtada al-Sadr in the autumn of 2003, started fighting Coalition troops. The First Battle of Fallujah in April and the Second Battle of Fallujah in November saw Sunni and Shia insurgents battling one other, as well as the new Iraqi Interim Government, which was established in June 2004, and Coalition troops. In October 2004, the Sunni group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad morphed into Al-Qaeda in Iraq, targeting Coalition troops as well as civilians, mostly Shia Muslims, increasing ethnic tensions.
The first elections after the invasion were held in January 2005, and a new Constitution was adopted in October, followed by legislative elections in December. Insurgent assaults, on the other hand, were more frequent in 2005, rising from 26,496 in 2004 to 34,131 in 2005.
Fighting continued to escalate in 2006, with new war crimes revelations emerging, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, by US troops, and Iraq’s former ruler Saddam Hussein being condemned to death for crimes against humanity and hung. The US government’s Iraq Study Group suggested in late 2006 that the US concentrate on training Iraqi military professionals, and US President George W. Bush announced a “Surge” in the number of US soldiers sent to the nation in January 2007.
In May 2007, Iraq’s parliament demanded that the US establish a departure timeline, and US coalition allies such as the United Kingdom and Denmark started removing their troops from Iraq. Between 151,000 and 1.2 million Iraqis have died as a consequence of the conflict.
Fighting persisted in 2008, and Iraq’s freshly trained military forces launched counter-offensives against insurgents. The Iraqi government ratified the US–Iraq Status of Troops Agreement, which mandated US forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and to leave Iraq entirely by December 31, 2011.
In June 2009, US soldiers turned over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, but they continued to cooperate with them after the withdrawal. The final group of US soldiers to be ceremonially evacuated crossed the border into Kuwait on the morning of December 18, 2011. Despite the initial rise in violence in the months after the US departure from cities in mid-2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry authorities announced in November 2009 that the civilian death toll in Iraq had fallen to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion.
Following the departure of US forces in 2011, the insurgency became stronger, and Iraq’s political situation deteriorated. The Arab Spring protests extended to Iraq in February 2011, although the first demonstrations failed to overthrow the government. In late 2011 and early 2012, the Iraqi National Movement, which claims to represent the majority of Iraqi Sunnis, boycotted Parliament for several weeks, alleging that the Shiite-dominated administration was attempting to marginalize Sunnis.
In 2012 and 2013, the degree of violence rose, and the Syrian Civil War galvanized armed organizations within Iraq. Sunnis and Shias both crossed the border into Syria to fight. Sunni Arabs demonstrated against the government in December 2012, alleging that it had marginalized them.
Sunni terrorist organizations intensified assaults against Iraq’s Shia population in 2013, in an effort to erode trust in the Nouri al-Maliki-led government. Sunni rebels affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization captured significant swaths of territory in 2014, including many major Iraqi towns such as Tikrit, Fallujah, and Mosul, displacing hundreds of thousands of people amid allegations of ISIL members’ crimes.
Nouri al-Maliki served as caretaker Prime Minister after an inconclusive election in April 2014.
Iraq’s top court decided on August 11 that PM Maliki’s group had the most seats in parliament, allowing him to remain Prime Minister. However, by the 13th of August, the Iraqi president had entrusted Haider al-Abadi with establishing a new administration, and the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and certain Iraqi MPs had voiced their desire for a new Iraqi leadership, such as Haider al-Abadi. Maliki resigned as Prime Minister on August 14 to back Mr. al-Abadi and “protect the country’s important interests.” This was hailed by the US administration as “another significant step forward” in unifying Iraq. Haider al-Abadi was sworn in as Prime Minister on September 9, 2014, after forming a new cabinet. Increasing discussion about the division of Iraq into three autonomous areas, including Kurdistan in the northeast, Sunnistan in the west, and Shiastan in the southeast, has resulted from intermittent fighting between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish groups.