Iraq history, both modern and ancient, is very rich and significant with regards to world history. Known in Classic Antiquity (8th Century BC – 5th Century AD) as Mesopotamia, Iraq is nestled in the larger Fertile Crescent, which is currently though to be the place where our civilization originated (the Cradle of Civilization). Its cultural heritage goes back at least 10,000 years, and it is home to some of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Iraq has been a part of the Assyrian, Medo-Persian, Seleucid and Parthian empires. In each time period, both art, science, and military technology increased.
The Parthian Empire (also called the Arsacid Empire, after Arsaces I of Parthia) brought military advances such as the cataphracts. These were heavy cavalry with both man and horse armored in chain main and armed with a lance and bow with arrows. They used a composite bow, and had a shooting technique known as the Parthian Shot, where a rider would shoot at the enemy while facing away from them. The history of Iraq shows a region rich in culture, science, and war.
After Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, the area was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate. It fell under Ottoman rule during the 16th century AD. After World War I, it was ruled by the British Empire until 1932, with the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq. The Republic of Iraq was founded in 1958 following a coup d’etat. Iraq was controlled by Saddam Hussein from 1979 until 2003.
When Resolution 1441 was passed by the United Nations in 2002, it called for UN weapons inspectors to determine if Iraq had WMD (weapons of mass destruction) or cruise missiles, which posed a threat to US allies in the region. The United States, and the United Kingdom, both claimed that Iraq had WMD. Although Iraq did cooperate with inspectors, it could not be determined whether or not they had WMD or cruise missiles.
The US and its allies invaded Iraq, stating other reasons such as Iraq’s financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, government human rights issues, and as an effort to spread democracy, for the invasion. The invasion led to an occupation and the eventual capture and execution of Saddam Hussein. After his execution, fighting began anew in Iraq, along with the emergence of a new faction of Al-Qaeda.
In 2008, United States Department of Defense officials claimed that there were indications of improvement in the country. In 2009, US President Barack Obama announced that combat forces would be leaving Iraq over an 18-month period. In 2010, the operational name changed to Operation New Dawn. The remaining 50,000 US troops would be designated as “advise and assist brigades” while still keeping the ability to revert back to combat operations if needed.
In 2011, President Obama announced that all US troops would leave the country by the end of the year. By December 18, 2011, all US troops had left Iraq. Since the war in Iraq ended, more violence has erupted in the region between the Sunni and Shia Arabs, fueling what many fear may be another civil war in the region.