Iraq is and has always been a country divided by the Islamic faith. The people in the Middle East have lived with wars, assassinations, revolution, domination, and bloody purges for over 700 years. They have a different take on how they should defend their faith and their Islamic politics. For them, be it religion or politics, it’s all or nothing. Take a look at the timeline below and the summary of the religious divide between Sunni and Shia. You know the rest of the current news, so if you dare, tell us what you would do if you were the President of the United States:
1919 – Treaty of Versailles – Iraq is a nation carved out by Europeans after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Britain created the borders of Iraq with the League of Nations approval.
1920 – Great Iraqi Revolution – rebellion against British rule.
1921 – Faysal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, is crowned Iraq’s first king.
1932 – Iraq becomes an independent state.
1939-1945 – World War II. Britain re-occupies Iraq.
1958 – The monarchy is overthrown in a military coup led by Brig Abd-al-Karim Qasim and Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq is declared a republic.
1963 – Prime Minister Qasim is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP). Arif becomes president.
1963 – The Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.
1966 – After Arif is killed in a helicopter crash on 13 April, his elder brother, Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.
1968 – A Baathist led-coup ousts Arif. Revolution Command Council (RCC) takes charge with Gen Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as chairman and country’s president. The first petroleum firms are nationalized.
1972 – Iraq nationalises the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).
1974 – Iraq grants limited autonomy to Kurdish region.
1979 – Saddam Hussein succeeds Al-Bakr as president.
1980-1988 – Iran-Iraq war, the border war resulted in one million dead.
Chemical attack on Kurds
1988 March – Iraq attacks Kurdish town of Halabjah with poison gas, killing thousands.
1990 – Iraq invades Kuwait, prompting what becomes known as the first Gulf War. A massive US-led military campaign forces Iraq to withdraw in February 1991. This resulted in a UN peace treaty and subjected Iraq to weapons inspection program.
1991 Mid-March/early April – Southern Shia and northern Kurdish populations – were falsely encouraged by Iraq’s defeat in Kuwait – rebel, prompting a brutal crackdown by Saddam Hussein and more human rights abuses leading to UN economic sanctions.
1991 April – UN-approved safe-haven established in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. Iraq ordered to end all military activity in the area.
1993 June – US forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for the attempted assassination of US President George Bush in Kuwait in April.
1995 April – UNSC Resolution 986 allows the partial resumption of Iraq’s oil exports to buy food and medicine (the “oil-for-food programme”).
1995 October – Saddam Hussein wins a contrived referendum allowing him to remain president for another seven years.
1996 August – After call for aid from KDP, Iraqi forces launch offensive into northern no-fly zone and capture Irbil.
1996 September – US extends northern limit of southern no-fly zone to latitude 33 degrees north, just south of Baghdad.
1998 October – Iraq ends cooperation with UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom).
Operation Desert Fox
1998 December – After UN staff are evacuated from Baghdad, the US and UK launch a bombing campaign, “Operation Desert Fox”, to destroy Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes.
1999 February – Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shia community, is assassinated in Najaf.
1999 December – UNSC Resolution 1284 creates the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects the resolution.
Saddam was ‘sure he would survive’ and this Iraq war begins to reveal the limits of US power.
2001 February – Britain, US carry out bombing raids to try to disable Iraq’s air defence network. The bombings have little international support.
Weapons inspectors return
2002 September – US President George W Bush tells skeptical world leaders at a UN General to confront the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq – or stand aside as the US acts. In the same month British Prime Minister Tony Blair publishes a questionable dossier on Iraq’s military capability.
2002 November – UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq backed by a UN resolution which threatens serious consequences if Iraq is in “material breach” of its terms.
2003 March – Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reports that Iraq has accelerated its cooperation but says inspectors need more time to verify Iraq’s compliance.
2003 March – UK’s ambassador to the UN says the diplomatic process on Iraq has ended; arms inspectors evacuate; US President George W Bush gives Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war. Saddam Hussein feels he must call what he sees is a bluff, confident that he will survive and re-establish himself as a strong leader in the Middle East.
Gulf War 2
2003 March – US-led invasion topples Saddam Hussein’s government, marks start of years of violent conflict with different groups competing for power. US occupation forces find themselves totally unprepared for policing Iraq. Many logistical and diplomatic blunders are made leading to a growing insurgency and unnecessary casualties, especially from IED’s.
2003 July – US-appointed Governing Council meets for first time. Commander of US forces says his troops face low-intensity guerrilla-style war. Kidnappings, beheadings and IED’s mar the peacekeeping efforts.
2003 August – Suicide truck bomb wrecks UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and exposing how ill prepared U.S. forces are for peace keeping. Car bombs, suicide bombers and IED’s pose a great threat to US forces.
2003 14 December – Saddam Hussein captured in Tikrit.
2004 March – Suicide bombers attack Shia festival-goers in Karbala and Baghdad, killing 140 people.
2004 April-May – Shia militias loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr take on coalition forces. Hundreds are reported killed in fighting during the month-long US military siege of the Sunni Muslim city of Falluja.
2004 June – US hands sovereignty to interim government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
2004 August – Fighting in Najaf between US forces and Shia militia of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.
2004 November – Major US-led offensive against insurgents in Falluja.
(Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made Al-Qaeda in Iraq the most feared insurgent group)
2005 30 January – Some 8 million vote in elections for a Transitional National Assembly. 2005 28 February – At least 114 people are killed by a car bomb in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in the worst single such incident since the US-led invasion.
2005 April – Amid escalating violence, parliament selects Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president. Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, is named as prime minister.
2005 May onwards – Surge in car bombings, bomb explosions and shootings: Iraqi ministries put the civilian death toll for May at 672, up from 364 in April.
2005 August – Draft constitution is endorsed by Shia and Kurdish negotiators, but not by Sunni representatives.
2005 October – Voters approve a new constitution, which aims to create an Islamic federal democracy.
2005 December – Iraqis vote for the first, full-term government and parliament since the US-led invasion.
2006 February onwards – A bomb attack on an important Shia shrine in Samarra unleashes a wave of sectarian violence in which hundreds of people are killed.
2006 22 April – Newly re-elected President Talabani asks Shia compromise candidate Nouri al-Maliki to form a new government, ending months of deadlock. Car bombings intensify as Shia and Sunny sectarian violence divides neighborhoods.
2006 May and June – An average of more than 100 civilians per day are killed in violence in Iraq, the UN says.
2006 7 June – Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is killed in an air strike.
2006 November – Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations after nearly a quarter century.
2006 December – Iraq Study Group report making recommendations to President Bush on future policy in Iraq describes the situation as grave and deteriorating.
2006 December – Saddam Hussein is executed for crimes against humanity. UN says more than 34,000 civilians were killed in violence during 2006; the figure surpasses official Iraqi estimates threefold.
2007 January – US President Bush announces a new Iraq strategy; thousands more US troops will be dispatched to shore up security in Baghdad.
2007 February – A bomb in Baghdad’s Sadriya market kills more than 130 people. It is the worst single bombing since 2003.
2007 March – Insurgents detonate three trucks with toxic chlorine gas in Falluja and Ramadi, injuring hundreds.
2007 April – Bombings in Baghdad kill nearly 200 people in the worst day of violence since a US-led security drive began in the capital in February.
2007 August – Truck and car bombs hit two villages of Yazidi Kurds, killing at least 250 people – the deadliest attack since 2003.
Kurdish and Shia leaders form an alliance to support Prime Minister Maliki’s government but fail to bring in Sunni leaders. Sunni’s are left out by Maliki.
2007 December – Britain hands over security of Basra province to Iraqi forces, effectively marking the end of nearly five years of British control of southern Iraq.
2008 January – Parliament passes legislation allowing former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Baath party to return to public life.
2008 March – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Iraq for the first time.
2008 September – US forces hand over control of the western province of Anbar – once an insurgent and Al-Qaeda stronghold – to the Iraqi government. It is the first Sunni province to be returned to the Shia-led government.
Iraqi parliament passes provincial elections law. Issue of contested city of Kirkuk is set aside so elections can go ahead elsewhere.
2008 November – Parliament approves a security pact with the United States under which all US troops are due to leave the country by the end of 2011.
2009 January – Iraq takes control of security in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and assumes more powers over foreign troops based in the country. PM Nouri al-Maliki welcomes the move as Iraq’s “day of sovereignty”.
2009 March – US President Barack Obama announces withdrawal of most US troops by end of August 2010. Up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there will stay on into 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests, leaving by end of 2011.
2009 June – US troops withdraw from towns and cities in Iraq, six years after the invasion, having formally handed over security duties to new Iraqi forces.
2009 July – New opposition forces make strong gains in elections to the regional parliament of Kurdistan, but the governing KDP and PUK alliance retains a reduced majority. Masoud Barzani (KDP) is re-elected in the presidential election.
2009 December – The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) claims responsibility for suicide bombings in Baghdad that kill at least 127 people, as well as attacks in August and October that killed 240 people.
2010 January – Controversy as candidates with alleged links to Baath Party are banned from March parliamentary polls. A court later lifts the ban, prompting a delay in campaigning.
2010 March – Parliamentary elections. Nine months pass before a new government is approved.
2010 August – Seven years after the US-led invasion, the last US combat brigade leaves Iraq.
2010 September – Syria and Iraq restore diplomatic ties a year after breaking them off.
2010 October – Church in Baghdad seized by militants. 52 people killed in what is described as worst single disaster to hit Iraq’s Christians in modern times.
2010 November/December – Parliament reconvenes after long delay, re-appoints Jalal Talabani as president and Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister. A new government includes all major factions.
2011 April – Army raids camp of Iranian exiles, killing 34. Government says it will shut Camp Ashraf, home to thousands of members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran.
2011 August – Violence escalates, with more than 40 apparently coordinated nationwide attacks in one day.
2011 December – US completes troop pull-out. President Obama declares war is over and Iraq is a stable and prepared to rule itself.
2012 March – Tight security for Arab League summit in Baghdad. It is the first major summit to be held in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. A wave of pre-summit attacks kills scores of people.
2012 April – Oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan halted amid row with central government over contracts with foreign firms.
2012 November – Iraq cancels a $4.2bn deal to buy arms from Russia because of concerns about alleged corruption within the Iraqi government. The purchase, signed in October, would have made Russia the country’s second-largest arms supplier after the US. Moscow was the main arms supplier of to Saddam Hussein.
2012 December – President Jalal Talabani suffers a stroke. He undergoes treatment in Germany and makes progress through the winter and spring.
2013 April – Troops storm a Sunni anti-government protest camp in Hawija near Kirkuk, leaving more than 50 dead and prompting outrage and clashes in other towns.
Insurgency intensifies, with levels of violence matching those of 2008. By July the country is described as being in a full-blown sectarian war zone once again.
2013 July – At least 500 prisoners, mainly senior al-Qaeda members, escape from Taji and Abu Ghraib jails in a mass breakout and they join forces with ISIS.
2013 October – Parliamentary elections set for April 2014.
Government says October is deadliest month since April 2008, with 900 killed. By the year-end the UN estimates the 2013 death toll of civilians as 7,157 – a dramatic increase in the previous year’s figure of 3,238.
2013 December – At least 35 people killed in twin bombing of Baghdad churches on Christmas Day.
2014 January – Pro-al-Qaeda fighters infiltrate Fallujah and Ramadi after months of mounting violence in mainly-Sunni Anbar province.
2014 March – The electoral commission board tenders resignation in protest at what it says is political interference ahead of parliamentary elections, amid allegations opposition candidates are being barred using a controversial legal clause.
2014 April – Iraqis vote in first parliamentary election since 2011 withdrawal of US troops.
2014 May-June. ISIS forces control Mosul and Tikrit, free 3000 criminals to fight as ISIS forces. The speed of advance strikes fear in Baghdad. Iraqi army falling apart and abandoning their positions. ISIS, assisted in some degree by Syria are proving to be more capable than al Qaeda. The fighting is becoming more clearly divided as Sunni verses Shia.
2014 – June 12. Iran sends 500 Revolutionary Guards to assist Iraqi forces, but it may be too little too late. ISIS forces are within 50 miles of capital. President Maliki is desperately asking for US military assistance, Obama rejects sending in ground forces. Maliki’s regime is faced with the immanent prospects of being captured or fleeing to save their lives and their families lives.
Religious Divide: Article by Paul R. Hollrah — April 11, 2007
Sunnis constitute the large majority (90 percent) of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. They reside primarily in Asia, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, North and East Africa, and more recently, in Western Europe and North America.
The word “Sunni” is derived from the Arabic word “Sunnah,” which means, roughly, “customary practices,” and refers to the oral history and traditions of what the Prophet Muhammad said or did during his lifetime. Sunnis regard themselves, as opposed to Shiites, as the “keepers of the true faith.”
Shiites, a distinct minority in the Muslim world, comprise some 89% of Iran’s population and 60% of the Iraqi population. They are also a majority in Yemen, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and there are sizeable Shiite communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon. The Lebanese guerilla organization, Hezbollah, is Shiite.
Shiites are descended from Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima, and his son-in-law, Ali. In the years that followed Ali’s assassination in 661 A.D., leadership of Islam was claimed by the Ummayad dynasty, a Sunni sect. Nevertheless, Ali’s followers continued to claim his son, Hussein, the Third Imam, as the rightful heir. After years of bitter dispute, Hussein and his Shia followers migrated north from the Arabian Peninsula into Iraq.
In 680 A.D. Hussein found himself surrounded by Ummayad forces at Karbala, in present day Iraq. With only a handful of supporters to defend him, Hussein and 72 of his men were captured and beheaded, and their women taken captive. The battle was a defining moment in the split between Sunnis and Shiites.
Ashoura, the holiest day of the Muslim calendar, marks the martyrdom of Hussein at Karbala. To this day, Shiites celebrate Ashoura by flagellating themselves with chains and slashing their bodies with swords in grief over Hussein’s death. And they’ve never forgotten who it was that beheaded him.
Sunnis and Shiites lived in relative harmony for nearly a millennium and few challenged the Sunni assumption of superiority. However, with the coming of modern communications and transportation, the drawing of national boundaries, and the establishment of major cities, Sunnis and Shiites were suddenly thrown together in close proximity and memories of old unsettled scores resurfaced.
Many of today’s most militant Islamic terror cells, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda, are members of a fundamentalist Sunni sect called Wahhabi. Since the earliest days, Wahhabis have been particularly hostile toward the Shiites. During the early 19th century, Wahhabis attacked and destroyed Shiite shrines at Mecca, Medina, and Karbala, accusing the Shiites of worshipping idols.
In 2004, a Kuwaiti sheikh, Hamed al-Ali, condemned Shia as “the world’s biggest display of heathens and idolatry,” while the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, once said that “the Shiites are a more pernicious enemy than the Americans, and the best strategy for… Sunnis is to ‘strike their religious, military, and other cadres.’ ” The Saudis still maintain official discrimination against Shiites and vilify them in children’s textbooks.