Invasion of Iraq

Invasion of Iraq

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The following is a detailed description of events and conflicts leading up to and during the disarmament and invasion of Iraq, which ended with the capture of Saddam Hussein.


Event / ConflictLocationSummary

September 11

U.S. planes hijackedNew York, Washington, D.C., PennsylvaniaSuspected al Qaeda terrorists hijack American planes and crash into New York City's Twin Towers, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a barren field in Pennsylvania - ultimately killing thousands of Americans, which begins President George W. Bush's campaign to eliminate terrorism worldwide.

January 29

State of the Union SpeechWashington, D.C.President Bush makes his State of the Union speech, and establishes Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, as an "axis of evil." He promises that the United States "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

April 20

War protestsWashington, D.C.A coordinated anti-Afghanistan war protest involving all major coalitions attempt to "Stop the War at Home and Abroad." Some 75,000 to 120,000 protesters gather.

May 14

UN Blockades IraqIraqThe UN Security Council anylizes and readmits the 11-year-old sanctions against Iraq, which begins a new list of procedures for processing contracts for humanitarian supplies and equipment. The United States, by way of the sanctions committee, is now preventing $5 billion of material from entering Iraq.

September 12

UN General AssemblyNew York CityPresident Bush makes his address at the opening of the UN General Assembly, challenging the body to "confront the grave and gathering danger of Iraq, or become irrelevant."

September 17

National Security StrategyWashington, D.C.President Bush releases his administration's National Security Strategy, which leans towards a conservative military approach. Bush's new strategy states that "the United States will exploit its military and economic power to encourage free and open societies." His release also prioritizes that the U.S. Army's military influence is not to be challenged, as it was during the Cold War.

October 10

Congress authorizes Iraq controlWashington, D.C.A joint resolution is adopted by Congress that authorizes the use of force against Iraq, and gives the Bush administration chargeable reasoning to wage explicit military action against Iraq.

November 8

UN Security Council approves arms inspectionsNew York, NYResolution 1441 is unanimously approved by the UN Security Council. The resolution creates stiff new arms inspections for Iraq, which also means "serious consequences" if Iraq decides not to cooperate.

November 27

Weapons inspectionsIraqUnder direction and ultimate supervision of the Interational Atomic Energy Agency and UN members, weapons inspections resume.

December 7

Iraq pleads weapons innocenceIraqIraqi officials submit a 12,000-page declaration on Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear activities, declaring it has no "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD).

December 10

War protestsUnited StatesOn International Human Rights Day, while chanting such themes as, "Let the inspectors work," demonstrators in more than 150 U.S. cities oppose a war with Iraq.

December 21

Bush administration approves troop deploymentWashington, D.C.President Bush approves the estimated deployment of 200,000 U.S. troops to the Gulf region. As part of the coalition, British and Australian troops also will join the invasion of Iraq.

January 27

Iraq makes inspections difficultIraqChief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix states, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it." President Bush then receives a letter the same day, which is signed by 130 members of the House of Representatives — encouraging him to "let the inspectors work."

January 28

Bush threatens Iraq without UN's approval.Washington, D.C.President Bush makes his State of the Union address, and states that "Saddam Hussein is not disarming." Bush indicates that he is ready to invade Iraq with UN approval or not.

February 14

UN inspection reportIraqChief inspecter Hans Blix reports to the UN that Iraq is beginning to cooperate with inspections.

February 15

Peace protestsInternationalThe largest day of peace protests in world history is coordinated, affirming that "The World Says No to War." Antiwar demonstrators in than 600 cities participate.

February 22

Iraq ordered to destroy missilesIraqBlix orders Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles by March 1, 2003.

February 24

Resolution proposalNew York CityUnder Resolution 1441, the U.S., the U.K., and Spain submit a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council stating that Iraq has not cooperated sufficiently with inspectors, and military force is now required. France, Germany, and Russia do not agree with the resolution for war and request a more intense inspection process to avert a war with Iraq.

March 1

Iraq cooperates with inspectorsIraqIraq begins to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles.

March 12

City council resolutionNew York, N.Y.New York City passes a city council resolution opposing a war against Iraq, joining more than 150 other U.S. cities. Councilman Alan Gerson states, "We, of all cities, must uphold the preciousness and sanctity of human life."

February 24 - March 14

UNSC antiwarU.S./U.K.The United States and Great Britain's intense lobbying efforts among UN Security Council (UNSC) members yields support only from Spain and Bulgaria. With little support for war, the U.S. decides not to call for a vote on war with Iraq.

March 17

UN unresolved/Bush gives ultimatumNew York City, N.Y.Diplomacy for Iraq has ended, and weapons inspectors quickly evacuate. President Bush warns Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq or else war is coming.

March 19

U.S. attacksIraqThe beginning of the Iraq "decapitation attack" gets under way when the United States launches Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first air strike pin-points Saddam Hussein and other top officials in Baghdad.

March 20

Continued air strikesIraq/KuwaitA second round of air strikes in Baghdad is launched by the U.S. Ground troops of the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the U.S. 3rd Division and 1st Marine Expeditionary Force invade southern Iraq from Kuwait. British air and ground attacks begin to take control of Iraq's Faw Peninsula while U.S. Marines begin to "pepper" the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. Pentagon officials state that the "shock and awe" operations have been temporarily halted to assess the initial bombing damage.

March 21

Baghdad heavily targetedIraqThe shock-and-awe bombing strategy by the Americans resumes with intense air strikes on Baghdad and the outlining cities of Tikrit, Mosul, and Kirkuk. Iraq's 8,000-man unit of the 51st Army Division surrenders to coalition forces at the Southern Iraq border.

March 22

U.S. troops advance/Heavy air strikesIraqU.S.-led coalition troops advance more than 150 miles into Iraqi territory and cross the Euphrates River using existing bridges. Heavy U.S. air strikes, accompanied by both manned and unmanned aircraft, continue a brutal punishment in Iraq with more than 1,500 sorties flown.

March 23

Marines ambushed in NasiriyaIraqAn Iraqi ambush, using massive artillery, inflicts heavy casualties on U.S. Marines in the city of Nasiriya.

March 24

Heavy resistanceIraqNow within 60 miles of Baghdad, coalition troops encounter much stronger resistance from Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary fighters in such towns as Nassiriya and Basra. Two Apache helicopter pilots are taken prisoner in the area. Coalition helicopters and planes continue to carpet bomb a path for ground troops to advance into Baghdad.

March 25

U.S. and British gaining groundIraqConceivably the biggest firefight of the war. Some 200 Iraqis are killed by U.S.-led coalition forces in the Euphrates Valley east of Najaf. U.K. troops stomp a "mud hole" into a battalion-sized counterattack by Iraqi forces southeast of Basra. Coalition deaths in Iraq climb to 43.

March 26

173rd Airborne Brigade secures airfieldKurdish-controlled area1,000 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade take control of an airfield in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The airfield will allow for more troop deployment, as well as humanitarian supplies to be delivered to the suppressed people.

March 28

Iraqi troops fire on innocent civiliansIraqIraqi troops fire on thousands of civilians trying to flee Basra. Three U.S. Marine infantry battalions occupy the northern and southern parts of Nasiriya. The longest helicopter-borne air assault operation in history takes place as hundreds of coalition soldiers are dropped into numerous cities surrounding Baghdad.

March 29

Heated firefight for NasiriyaIraqAlong the Euphrates River, U.S. Marines and Iraqi fighters exchange heavy munitions for occupation of Nasiriya.

March 30

Massive U.S. bombingIraqThe U.S. increases air strikes against Suddam's Republican Guard troops south of Baghdad — some 800 strike sorties — in one of the most intense days of bombing in the 11-day war.

April 1

U.S. forces surround Baghdad/Pfc. Jessica Lynch is rescuedIraqIn the official beginning of the battle of Baghdad, U.S. forces begin a major ground offensive against Republican Guard divisions south of the capital. Fighting also heats up in Karbala. U.S. Marines attack Iraqi militia units in Nasiriya. The U.S. 4th Infantry Division arrives in Kuwait City with 5,000 troops. Nineteen-year-old U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, missing since March 23 after an Iraqi ambush near Nasiriya, is rescued.

April 2

U.S. troops close in on BaghdadIraqU.S. troops are nearing Baghdad after beating back Iraqi Republican Guard units in what one officer calls a quick-moving battle. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division engaged the Republican Guard near Karbala, and with "little effort," capture the city. Also, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force takes on the Republican Guard's Baghdad Division (Saddam's elite), and capture a bridge crossing the Tigris River. Other Marines in Nasiriya continue their block-to-block sweeps for pestering Iraqi militia.

April 3

U.S.-led coalition forces mop up remaining resistance in surrounding Baghdad citiesIraqSouthwest of Iraq's capital, U.S.-led coalition forces target ground and air attacks on Saddam International Airport. The 3rd Infantry Division pushes through the Karbala Gap, as soldiers with the division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team continue a relentless assault. Also, the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines secure two locations on the outskirts of Kut. The 101st Airborne Division takes control of Najaf and isolated Iraqi loyalists in the area. Near the southern city of Samawa, the 82nd Airborne Division launches a surprise attack on paramilitary forces attempting to organize north of the city. British forces begin a two-day artillery and rocket barrage on Iraqi forces around Basra and Zubayr.

April 4

Kurdish militia take Khazar; Republican Guard troops surrenderIraqU.S. forces now hold Baghdad's airport, 12 miles outside the city center, but they are still facing sporadic resistance. Approximately 2,500 Iraqi soldiers with the Republican Guard's Baghdad Division have surrendered to U.S. Marines between Kut and Baghdad. In northern Iraq, Kurdish forces easily capture the town of Khazar.

April 5

U.S. swarms BaghdadIraqWith the airport secure, U.S. forces now drive into the heart of downtown Baghdad with intermittent resistance. Army's V Corps, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and 1st Battallion, 7th Marines, also move into Baghdad. As the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force progresses into the capital city, they emerge victorious from "hand-to-hand" combat with an Iraqi infantry unit.

April 6

Closing in on BaghdadIraqWith highways strategically "locked down," U.S.-led coalition forces (including U.S. Army reconnaissance) encircle Baghdad and engage pockets of Iraqi resistance. Under cover of darkness, a C-130 Hercules transport plane brings troops and equipment to the capital's airport - the first coalition plane to land at the Baghdad airport since the Americans take control of it.

April 7

Coalition forces topple Saddam Husein statue and advance farther into BaghdadIraqU.S. air strikes target a building with senior Iraqi officials in it. American tanks crunch their way into Baghdad and seize two of Saddam Hussein's palaces while pushing over a huge statue of the Iraqi dictator. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade unleashes a downpour of heavy artillery upon Iraqi forces in northern Iraq. Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, is taken by British forces, where they set up a base. "Chemical Ali," Saddam's first cousin, is found dead in Basra. Iraqi militia (some disguised in women's clothing) ineffectively ambush a U.S. Marine platoon in Diwaniyah.

April 8

Resistance in Baghdad subsides/Coalition forces still encounter resistance in outlining citiesIraqThree weeks into the war, coalition forces are now moving at will within and around Baghdad; however, pockets of Saddam's regime linger on. Fifty miles south of Baghdad, in the town of Hillah, units with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division engage in a heated battle with Iraqi forces — with help from U.S. tanks, helicopters and air support, the 101st manages to dominate the firefight.

April 9

Iraqi citizens loot Baghdad/Iraqi troops still offer resistanceIraqFollowing days of coalition bombing, hundreds of celebrating Baghdad citizens loot the city. Marines are attacked at Baghdad University after initially being greeted by happy citizens three hours earlier. Iraqi defense forces are reinforced at the birthplace of Saddam in the town of Tikrit.

April 10

Medium Iraqi resistanceIraqUnits of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade progress into Tikrut after the Kurdish forces take the city. Iraq's 5th Corps surrender to U.S. and Kurdish forces outside Mosul; however, resistance from Iraqi forces surrounding Mosul and Tikrit lingers. At a U.S. Marine checkpoint in Baghdad, a Saddam loyalist with explosives strapped to his body blows himself up — wounding four marines.

April 11

Militia bus intercepted/Town of Mosul signs cease-fireIraqA bus heading west out of Iraq, carrying 59 males, is stopped by Australian Special Forces. The fleeing Iraqis had approximately $6,000,000 and literature stating that more money would be presented to them if more American casualties occurred. U.S.-led coalition troops encounter heavy Iraqi resistance near a Syrian border town. Also, the commander of the Iraqi Army's 5th Corps signs a cease-fire in Mosul.

April 12

Marines deploy for uncontrolled city of Tikrit/Town of Kut is controlled by coalition forcesIraqDivisions of the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit leave Baghdad for Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, one of the few Iraqi cities not under coalition control. Citizens of Kut, about 40 miles southeast of Baghdad, peacefully welcome U.S. Marines as the city comes under coalition control following talks between Kut civic leaders and U.S. officials.

April 13

Fighting begins inside TikritIraqU.S. Marines stage an offensive attack inside of Tikrit on approximately 2,500 Iraqi fighters faithful to dethroned Iraqi leader Saddam Hussen. General Tommy Franks publicly announces that Iraq is now an "ex-regime;" however, just short of calling the war a victory. Iraqi militia and sporadic terrorism constitute what remains.

April 14

Marines control TikritIraqSaddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit is mopped-up by U.S. Marines. With lighter resistance than expected, Marines establish checkpoints throughout the city.

April 9

Baghdad fallsIraqU.S. forces advance into central Baghdad. In following days, Kurdish fighters and U.S. forces take control of the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. There is widespread looting in the capital and other cities.

April 18

Compliance in BaghdadIraqIn the battered streets of Baghdad, tens of thousands march, calling for an Islamic state. The demonstration is Baghdad's largest gathering since the arrival of U.S. forces.

May 1

Major combat operations endIraqOnly 43 days after announcing the start of the war in Iraq, Bush announces to the nation on live television that major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Bush also states that "the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government was one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001, and still goes on." His live speech was given from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

May 12

New U.S. diplomat deployedIraqBecause of increased looting, lawlessness, and violence in Iraq, former civil administrator, Jay Garner, is replaced by diplomat and former chief of the counter-terrorism department at the U.S. State Department, Paul Bremer.

May 19

Baghdad protestsIraqThousands of Shi'a and Sunni Muslims protest peacefully in Baghdad against the U.S.-led occupation.

May 22

New resolution for IraqNew York, N.Y.The UN Security Council approves a resolution acknowledging U.S./U.K. as occupying powers in Iraq and lifts sanctions.

June 28

Political rebuildingIraqSelf-rule in provincial cities becomes a problem. military commanders order a halt to local elections, and hand pick mayors and administrators themselves. Ironically, many of the hand-picked officials are former Iraqi military leaders fresh off the battlefield.

July 9

War cost estimateWashington, D.C.The cost of U.S. forces in Iraq tops $3.9 billion a month, double that previously reported, and not including funds for reconstruction or relief. 140,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for the "foreseeable future."

July 13

Iraq drafts new constitutionIraqIraq's temporary governing council, composed of 25 Iraqis, are appointed by U.S. and British officials, as what is known as Iraq's interim governing council. These Iraqis are given the authority to name ministers and will ultimately draw up a new constitution for the battered country. civil administrator Paul Bremer remains under supervisory control of the new constitution being created.

July 17

U.S. casualties continue to riseIraqU.S. combat deaths in Iraq reach 147, the same number of soldiers who died from hostile fire in the first Gulf War. Of the total, 32 occur after May 1, the officially declared end of combat.

July 22

Uday and Qusay killedIraqSuddam's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, are killed in a gun battle.

August 19

Truck bombingIraqA truck bombing of (UN) headquarters in Baghdad kills 20, severely wounds many more, which provokes questions about the UN's future role in rebuilding Iraq. Among the dead is Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

December 14

Saddam is locatedIraqSaddam Hussein is found hiding in an underground bunker and is captured.

Invasion of Iraq - History

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Iraq, country of southwestern Asia.

During ancient times, lands that now constitute Iraq were known as Mesopotamia (“Land Between the Rivers”), a region whose extensive alluvial plains gave rise to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, including those of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria. This wealthy region, comprising much of what is called the Fertile Crescent, later became a valuable part of larger imperial polities, including sundry Persian, Greek, and Roman dynasties, and after the 7th century it became a central and integral part of the Islamic world. Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, became the capital of the ʿAbbāsid caliphate in the 8th century. The modern nation-state of Iraq was created following World War I (1914–18) from the Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul and derives its name from the Arabic term used in the premodern period to describe a region that roughly corresponded to Mesopotamia (ʿIrāq ʿArabī, “Arabian Iraq”) and modern northwestern Iran (ʿIrāq ʿAjamī, “foreign [i.e., Persian] Iraq”).

Iraq gained formal independence in 1932 but remained subject to British imperial influence during the next quarter century of turbulent monarchical rule. Political instability on an even greater scale followed the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, but the installation of an Arab nationalist and socialist regime—the Baʿath Party—in a bloodless coup 10 years later brought new stability. With proven oil reserves second in the world only to those of Saudi Arabia, the regime was able to finance ambitious projects and development plans throughout the 1970s and to build one of the largest and best-equipped armed forces in the Arab world. The party’s leadership, however, was quickly assumed by Saddam Hussein, a flamboyant and ruthless autocrat who led the country into disastrous military adventures—the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) and the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). These conflicts left the country isolated from the international community and financially and socially drained, but—through unprecedented coercion directed at major sections of the population, particularly the country’s disfranchised Kurdish minority and the Shiʿi majority—Saddam himself was able to maintain a firm hold on power into the 21st century. He and his regime were toppled in 2003 during the Iraq War.

Iraq is one of the easternmost countries of the Arab world, located at about the same latitude as the southern United States. It is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iran, to the west by Syria and Jordan, and to the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq has 36 miles (58 km) of coastline along the northern end of the Persian Gulf, giving it a tiny sliver of territorial sea. Followed by Jordan, it is thus the Middle Eastern state with the least access to the sea and offshore sovereignty.

Know about the rich cultural history of Iraq before the invasion by U.S.-led forces in 2003, which overthrew President Saddam Hussein

Since 2003, Iraq has been consistently in the headlines. The recent fight between Iraqi forces and ISIL, as well as, their inclusion and then their removal from President Donald Trump's travel ban, has pushed the war torn country back into the spotlight. But what did Iraq looked like before the US invasion in 2003?

Often called the cradle of civilization due to its rich natural resources and cultural history, Iraq's borders were first drawn in 1920, and was quickly established as a semi-autonomous monarchy under the authority of the United Kingdom. The Muslim majority country is home to Iraqi Kurds, as well as the Shia and Sunni Islamic sect. The two major Muslim sects have long been politicized, including its invocation in the Iraq war.

The country gained its independence in 1932 and in 1968 became a republic under the leadership of Abd Al-Karim Qasim. However that was short lived, as the Ba'ath Party overthrew Qasim and took over Iraq's leadership. The party ruled the country largely under the infamous baathist, Saddam Hussein. Until his toppling by US led forces in 2003.

Unfortunately even before 2003, conflicts have plagued and defined much of Iraq's history, particularly under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. In 1980, Hussein declared war on Iran, a war that lasted eight years and ended in a stalemate, leaving over a million dead. And there were several other conflicts unfortunately in rapid succession.

Iraq's rich historical legacy as an early beacon of civilization, trade, and cultural exchange, predominantly because of its central location in the Fertile Crescent, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers was further advanced by its national devotion to education and literacy. However following years of war, crippling sanctions, and terror attacks, the country's working to regain its place as a regional heavyweight and a global actor.

Iraq War

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Iraq War, also called Second Persian Gulf War, (2003–11), conflict in Iraq that consisted of two phases. The first of these was a brief, conventionally fought war in March–April 2003, in which a combined force of troops from the United States and Great Britain (with smaller contingents from several other countries) invaded Iraq and rapidly defeated Iraqi military and paramilitary forces. It was followed by a longer second phase in which a U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was opposed by an insurgency. After violence began to decline in 2007, the United States gradually reduced its military presence in Iraq, formally completing its withdrawal in December 2011.

What was the cause of the Iraq War?

U.S. President George W. Bush argued that the vulnerability of the United States following the September 11 attacks of 2001, combined with Iraq’s alleged continued possession and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, justified the U.S.'s war with Iraq.

When did the Iraq War begin?

The Iraq War, also called the Second Persian Gulf War, began on March 20, 2003.

A Marine looks back at the invasion of Iraq, 18 years later: ‘The war can’t go on unless all the poop’s burned’

18 years after the invasion of Iraq, a Marine looks back on his role in the whirlwind march to Baghdad.

On March 20, 2003, Mark Pirhala was a 21-year-old Marine lance corporal serving as third crewman on an amphibious assault vehicle attached to the 1st Marine Division as it rolled into Iraq. It was the start of a long, bloody war and a wild several weeks for Pirhala as his unit, India Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fought its way through countless towns on the way to Baghdad.

Eighteen years later, as U.S. troops seem to be leaving Iraq (again), Pirhala is an industry analyst working towards a doctorate in business administration. After meeting a Task & Purpose reporter while playing airsoft, Pirhala sat down to tell some stories from that invasion, and all the green plastic army men, burning poop trenches and wayward donkeys he met along the way.

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 18, 2020.)

Why did you decide to join the Marines?

I had an uncle who was in the Marines who was very admired in my family. He had gone to multiple wars and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. He was in World War Two, he was in the Korean War. He had a lot of really good stories and he was about 70 years old at the time but he would still wake up and run 3 miles every day. I really wanted to be like him.

Plus I wasn’t that good at school, so I didn’t have a lot of college options at the time. So the Marine Corps made sense.

It’s funny hearing you talk about not being good at school when now you are earning a PhD.

Yeah well it was funny because when I got back from Iraq I was a completely different person. Like I had an extreme attention to detail. I started double-checking, triple-checking everything because I never wanted to be without. I never wanted to be not ready.

I think PTSD affects people in different ways. And for me I don’t have a lot of the common symptoms you see with people that have been in combat. But it’s almost like my PTSD experience turned into OCD where I’m just super thorough about making sure I have everything I need all the time. But it translates over to work and being detail-oriented.

Story One: Worse than Spirit

What was it like when you first got the call to go to war?

I was sitting at a fraternity house in Norfolk and it was late, probably around 11:30 at night and I had definitely been drinking and I got a phone call saying ‘you’re going to war,’ and I was like ‘ok, right on.’ I was really excited.

It happened really quickly. The process from me getting the phone call to me leaving happened all within like a week. We shipped out on a regular commercial passenger plane, but it wasn’t one Marine per seat. It was one Marine per seat and then a bunch of Marines in the aisle.

It’s an international flight, and if you had to use the bathroom, you were just getting beat the whole way there. The Marines were just punching you in the leg and stuff. They didn’t want to get stepped on and we were holding our packs, so it was a mess.

That’s like, a little bit worse than coach.

Yeah, you hear stories about Spirit Airlines. I’m like ‘oh no, you should have seen Continental on the way to Iraq.’

Crossing the Tigris River into Baghdad in an AAV. Pirhala said the AAVs had suffered a lot of wear-and-tear on the march across Iraq, and the Marines weren’t sure they would stay afloat. “I was holding my breath,” he said. “We were trained to jump out of those and swim, but that water was so nasty.”

Story Two: The Big Green Machine

And what was it like when you got there?

When we first got into Iraq, it was great, everybody was so happy. It was nighttime and we had the top of the vehicle open, so I remember looking up and it was like Star Wars, because you had so many missiles and airpower and artillery shooting over us, clearing the path for us basically. It was like the most amazing fireworks show you’ve ever seen in your entire life that just would not end.

It’s like a cloak. When you’re in the Marines they always say ‘We have the Big Green Machine’ and as long as you’re in the Big Green Machine, you’re going to be safe as long as you do what you’re supposed to do and what you’re trained to do. So I wasn’t really scared, I just wanted to perform.

Did some fear set in right before you started fighting in Nasiriyah?

Right before the ramp dropped, because we didn’t know what we were going to see when that ramp dropped. There was still some confusion about where exactly we were going and what direction the fire was coming from.

But it got settled, we dropped the ramp, and I remember when the ramp dropped one of the grunts got his sling caught on the ramp when they were trying to run out. So as a third crewman part of my goal was to make sure everybody gets the f–k off the vehicle so I’m like ‘Wow, we’re one second into this and we got a sling issue.”

Story Three: The Donkey of Baghdad

What are some of the memories that stand out when you look back on Iraq?

The thing that stands out the most to me was when we were in Baghdad. This was shortly after we had crossed the Tigris. We were in a skirmish with … I really don’t know who they were because at that point everybody changed into street clothes so they could shoot at us.

But I remember we were firing back and forth and there was a donkey walking by, and the donkey got hit. But it didn’t die, it just stood there. And at that point in time, you realize that it was kids fighting kids, because they stopped shooting and we stopped shooting, and everybody just paid attention to this donkey.

Everybody in my unit, this is always the story they tell. We just watched this donkey to see what he would do. And then all of a sudden they fired at it and nicked it, and then we shot at it to try to put it out of its misery. But it went back and forth, this donkey just would not die.

And finally when it did fall over, this will sound weird, but you could hear laughter on both sides. It was like there was no reason to fight, because at that point it’s almost like you’re hanging out with your friends. Like you had an experience together that was kind of messed up, because the donkey died, but at the same time both sides were actually working together to achieve something. But we didn’t know each other.

Yeah, you were trying to kill each other.

Yeah, a second ago, and now we’re trying to just shoot this donkey, put it out of its misery. Everybody stopped firing, and then all of a sudden we got this thing on the radio: “Fire fire fire!” They were mad that we didn’t keep engaging.

Marines in Pirhala’s unit put together a makeshift toilet on the march to Baghdad.

Story Four: The ‘Poople’ Heart

What other memories stand out to you?

I was a lance corporal and I got all the crappy jobs, the shit jobs, and that includes burning the shit. So every time we were in a new position we dug poop trenches. My last name is Pirhala, but I got so good at digging poop trenches, they called me Poo-hala.

What’s involved in being good at burning poop? What are the skill sets?

That’s an excellent question. It’s all about having enough kindling and tinder, not just like putting diesel fuel on it and lighting a fire. We got to a point where we would go find sticks or strategically pick out some of the trash that we would produce to put in certain places within the trench.

And there was a point where actually it was enjoyable. This is a menial task, it’s probably the worst job anybody could ever have at war, but it was a nice distraction from being at war when you’re just getting shot at all the time.

Yeah, and it sounds like it’s a craft too, like you take pride in your work.

Yeah it is, you do take pride in it. We would experiment a lot with it too. Because they don’t really teach you how to burn it well, and you want to burn it quickly and get it over with. If not, you’re just sitting there waiting for it, and the war can’t go on unless all the poop’s burned.

There was one instance where we were using a new method to burn poop where we were taking pieces of wood and making vents with them so that air could circulate, almost like using a tipi method where the air comes underneath to create a fire.

Then this gunnery sergeant is like “that’s not how you do it, this is the way we did it in Desert Storm.” And he grabbed a big stick and goes to shove it in there and we’re like “no, don’t do that,” and he’s like “Shut up, I know what I’m doing. You gotta jam the stick in there to create vents and craters and everything.”

We already had a piece of wood in there, and so when he shoved in the stick, it created a see-saw, and a piece of poop just went flying and stuck to his face.

So we always joked on him and said that he won the Poople Heart.

Story Five: Green plastic army men

There was a lot of weird funny stuff like that that we would do. One of the kids back home sent us a care package full of plastic army men, and that was the most fun ever. We would invent these games where we’d strategically place them over this big battlefield and then we’d have all these tactical maneuvers and stuff like that.

So we would set up the little army men and everyone had a rock and you would throw it to try to knock out their units. Each side took turns and then after everyone threw their rock then you could redo your battle formations. But you could only advance a certain amount with whatever you had that wasn’t killed.

We were kids that were playing war, while we’re at war. It was like the most ironic thing.

So would this be like in between shooting?

Yes, it’d be at assembly areas, or when we went to Baghdad, we played it and it was a game we took with us, or we tried to, when we got back to Kuwait. But we ended up just losing a lot of the army men. They’d just get destroyed due to the rock throwing and us having to get up and move really quickly.

What do you make of that, playing war while being at war?

It goes back to: one, it’s good to have a healthy distraction. And two, they’re still normal kids. I mean I was probably one of the older ones. I was 21, almost 22. I had my 22nd birthday there in Iraq actually. But there were a lot of 18, 19, 20-year-olds who never had a real job before. They were in the reserves, they were just in college and all of the sudden they’re in war, out of nowhere. It doesn’t change their taste or preferences.

Yeah like if they had an Xbox they would have played Call of Duty.

Yeah, it was Halo non-stop when we got back to Kuwait. There was a lot of Halo going on.

Pirhala posing with a portrait of Saddam Hussein during a raid on a government building in Baghdad.

Story Six: The best and lowest thing you did is the same

What was it like getting back from the war?

It was hard getting back into reality. After you’ve been to war, everything you do in life just doesn’t really compare. It’s not as much hype. I see a lot of my friends become thrill seekers where they’ll do anything to get an adrenaline rush. You want that, but you don’t get it from a lot of stuff. Not like that.

I did risk in business, I was a business owner for eight years. I wasn’t sky-diving or doing parkour off a building or anything like that. Maybe driving fast. Sometimes it’s soothing to engage in things that give you that same adrenaline rush that you had.

Playing airsoft was soothing for me. Like okay, I know exactly what this feels like, it’s like muscle memory. My body’s down, crouching in a certain way. I know how to move around corners, and it’s like ‘Oh yeah, this feels nice to me.’ Actually, I would like to see what happened if I took friends of mine from the war airsofting.

You almost kind of feel like you peaked. Unless I cure cancer or something, there’s nothing I can do that’s as profound as that. Most people live their life building to something, and for us, being a young Marine going to war, that’s what you did. That’s what you’re probably gonna be known for and talk about for the rest of your life.

A lot of people get married, a lot of people have a kid, a lot of people drive cars, a lot of people are an analyst at their job. But there’s not too many people that could say they were in combat and invaded a country.

Is it painful knowing that?

It’s painful knowing that … like for me I’m always trying to achieve things, I always want to do better. Iraq was the baseline because I never want to have to be in that position ever again. I don’t want anybody to be in that position ever again. Because it’s just fucked up and weird.

But at the same time, that was my greatest accomplishment. And I didn’t realize it until much later. Like right after I got back, I got married to someone I had known for three months. I just wanted my life to be as normal as possible. I was like ‘Ok I’ve had my fill,’ and I never thought about war much after that.

Luckily, I’m still married. It’ll be 16 years at the end of this month. But yeah, it’s weird that the very lowest thing and the very best thing you did is all the same.

It almost sounds like a teenage Olympic gold medalist, where you do something huge and how do you level up to it.

Yeah exactly. You spend the rest of your life talking about it. And it’s cool to kind of relive it through airsoft. It’s a lot like war except when you die you come back. Let’s just do that instead of regular war. Just challenge Iraq to an airsoft tournament.

Or throw army men at each other

Yeah, throw army men at each other.

Given what’s happening in Iraq now, what do you think when you look back on your role and getting in there?

Yeah. I would like to see us leave. As long as we’ve been over there, the perception of Marines and the military and just America as a whole, I feel it’s changed with those people. And we may have worn out our welcome.

I don’t think that what we did over there during the invasion was in vain. Like no matter what, Saddam tortured those people. And the people that I talked to over there were extremely happy for what we did. Everyone wanted to be Americanized. They asked me all the time what America is like.

So I feel like it’s time to go. It was probably time to leave a while ago. When I was there, there was no ISIS or anything like that. We were just fighting Iraq. We beat Iraq within a month, and maybe staying there caused more harm than good.

Feature image: Mark Pirhala provides cover for units on the ground somewhere between Nasiriyah and Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Courtesy photo.)

If you were to pick the one, singular, culture-defining moment from the ’90s—a decade that gave us so many—you’d be hard pressed to beat Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky affair. Even now, in our current climate of oversharing and punch-drunk numbness to the spewing of digital media, . read more

1. The Hutchinson Letters In December 1772, Benjamin Franklin, who was then serving as Britain’s Postmaster General of the American colonies, anonymously received a packet of letters written to a British official by Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts. In the . read more

Invasion of Iraq - History

The statue of Saddam Hussein topples in Baghdad's Firdos Square on April 9, 2003.

Editor's Note:

As the American combat mission in Iraq comes to end, the Obama administration and Pentagon officials have repeatedly assured the world that American involvement with Iraq will continue. They are undoubtedly right. Since the founding of Iraq in the aftermath of World War I, U.S. policy has included cooperation, confrontation, war, and, most recently, an ongoing experiment in state-building. This month, Peter Hahn, an expert on the history of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, examines this century of interaction between the two nations, giving readers a context in which to think about the future of that relationship.

Under a cloak of early morning darkness on December 18, 2011, some 500 U.S. soldiers at Camp Adder in southern Iraq boarded 110 military vehicles and drove off quietly into the night, without having notified their local Iraqi colleagues of their departure. On heightened alert, the convoy maneuvered steadily to the south and reached the border of Kuwait some five hours later.

This departure of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army—conducted in secrecy in hope of avoiding any opportunistic attacks by local adversaries—marked the end of a nearly nine-year-long U.S. military adventure in Iraq.

Although the final convoy departed Iraq without incident, it left behind a legacy of a war that was controversial in origin, costly to Iraqi civilians and American soldiers, and inconclusive in outcome.

The 2003 U.S. military invasion of Iraq and the extended occupation that followed were certainly the most dramatic and significant events in the long history of U.S. relations with Iraq. During the nine decades since Iraq was established as a separate state in the aftermath of World War I, the policy of the United States towards it can be divided into five phases.

In each period, the United States pursued distinct goals in Iraq—goals that reflected the growing interest of the United States in the Middle East, the increasing political and military influence of Iraq, and the evolution of U.S. interests in a rapidly changing international context.

I. Genesis of U.S.-Iraqi Relations, to 1958

Prior to World War II, the U.S. government took very little interest in Mesopotamia (Greek for "land between the rivers," in reference to the basin between the Tigris and the Euphrates, and a name used before World War I for the territory that generally formed modern Iraq).

The first Americans to encounter the region were evangelical Christian missionaries who swarmed across it beginning in the 1830s and who built hundreds of churches, schools, and medical facilities by the turn of the twentieth century. In 1880-1920, archaeologists from American universities conducted field work in Mesopotamia in the hope of discovering physical artifacts that would corroborate Biblical history.

U.S. oil corporations began probing Mesopotamia for commercial opportunities in the 1910s, gaining a 23.75 percent share in the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) in 1928. Within a decade, the IPC discovered a massive oil field near Kirkuk and built a network of wells, pipelines, and production facilities that earned it considerable wealth.

U.S. government involvement in early Iraq was limited. President Woodrow Wilson envisioned a liberal post-World War I political system that would include self-determination for Iraqis and other peoples of the former Ottoman Empire, but he was unable to promote that vision effectively.

In the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. diplomats generally deferred to British officials, who managed Iraq as a League of Nations mandate, demarcated its national borders, and built it into a pro-Western monarchy.

When a threat developed that Nazi Germany might gain political dominance in Baghdad during World War II, U.S. diplomats endorsed the British military suppression of Rashid Ali al-Gailani, a pro-Nazi Iraqi who briefly occupied the position of prime minister. With American backing, the British restored the monarchy, which cooperated with Allied war aims and strategy.

Post-World War II international dynamics gradually drew the United States into a deeper political relationship with Iraq. The onset of the Cold War raised fears in Washington about Soviet expansionism into the Middle East and generated a determination among American leaders to prevent the spread of communism in Iraq.

Financially drained by the world war, Britain proved unable to maintain its position of imperial dominance in the country. Intra-regional tensions, most notably the conflict over Palestine that erupted as the first Arab-Israeli War of 1948-49, also destabilized the region. The emergence of anti-Western nationalism—a reaction to the legacy of British imperialism and U.S. support for Israel, among other factors—undermined the local popularity of the pro-Western monarchy in Baghdad.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, U.S. officials sought to stabilize Iraq. They helped to negotiate a withdrawal of Iraqi military forces from the Palestinian theater as part of a broader plan to end the first Arab-Israeli war. They encouraged the IPC to increase oil production and to share a larger portion of revenues with the Iraqi government. They provided economic and military aid to the Iraqi government.

By 1955, the United States enlisted Iraq as a charter member of the Baghdad Pact, an anti-Soviet defense partnership linking Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Britain, with informal U.S. backing.

Briefly, it appeared that the United States had found a formula for ensuring the long-term stability and anti-communism of Iraq.

But that appearance evaporated quickly in July 1958, when a coalition of Iraqi military officers, disillusioned by the monarchy's subservience to the West and inspired by revolutionary leader Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, overthrew the king in a bloody coup d'état and instituted a new regime with a distinctly anti-western flavor.

In reaction, President Eisenhower sent U.S. Marines into Lebanon to avert a copycat rebellion there, but he rejected the notion of military intervention to reverse the revolution in Baghdad as too difficult tactically and too risky politically.

The Iraqi revolution of 1958 clearly marked the failure of the U.S. quest to align the pro-Western, British-built, royalist government of Iraq on the Western axis in the Cold War.

II. Managing Chronic Instability, 1958-1979

The second phase of U.S.-Iraqi relations was defined by the political instability in Baghdad that came in the wake of the fall of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958.

The revolution of 1958 was followed by others in 1963, 1968, and 1979. Other revolts reportedly were attempted along the way and political and ethnic-cultural conflicts generated persistent strife throughout the era.

Nationalists aiming to remove the vestiges of foreign imperialism clashed with indigenous communists who sought political influence. The Kurdish population of northern Iraq resisted the authority of Arabs in Baghdad.

Although internally unstable, Iraq emerged as an independent power on the international stage. Its government pursued neutralism in the Cold War and flirted with the Soviet Union and other communist states. It also sought political influence among Arab states and contested Egyptian dominance of the Arab community of nations. Iraq remained technically at war and occasionally skirmished with Israel. Management of the delicate Kurdish problem in the 1970s led Baghdad into alternating conflict and cooperation with Iran.

In the 1958-1979 era, the United States pursued interlocking goals in Iraq. On behalf of U.S. political and economic interests in the country and the region, U.S. officials sought a stable political relationship with the government in Baghdad, aimed to prevent the rise of communism within the country and to deny the Soviet Union influence there, and strove to prevent Iraq from becoming a source of regional conflict or war.

U.S. leaders showed little support for democracy in Iraq or the advancement of its people, eschewing any such liberal political goals on behalf of the primary objective of keeping Iraq free of communism.

For several years after the 1958 coup, U.S. officials accrued some successes in achieving its goals. They maintained diplomatic relations, negotiated the peaceful termination of the Baghdad Pact, averted conflict in an Anglo-Iraqi showdown over Kuwait in 1961, dispensed foreign aid to Iraq, and promoted business opportunities there. In light of evidence that the Soviet Union backed Iraqi Kurds, officials in Washington did nothing to alleviate the Iraqi suppression of that ethnic group.

Nonetheless, U.S.-Iraqi relations declined in the late 1960s.

Iraq severed diplomatic relations in 1967 because it considered the United States complicit in Israeli military conquests during the so-called Six Day War of June 1967. In the early 1970s, Iraq nationalized U.S. petroleum interests and partnered with the Soviet Union to develop its oil capacity.

U.S. officials covertly equipped Kurdish rebels in order to weaken the Iraqi government. Although Iraq neutralized the Kurdish problem through diplomacy with Iran, it criticized foreign powers that backed the Kurds and it displayed renewed anti-U.S. tendencies in its approach to Arab-Israeli issues in the late 1970s.

III. The Initial Challenge of Saddam Hussein, 1979-1989

The third phase in U.S.-Iraqi relations opened in 1979, when Saddam Hussein seized power in Baghdad. Quickly, Hussein brutally suppressed all domestic rivals and thereby built internal stability in Baghdad, ending decades of political turmoil.

A secularist, Hussein also positioned himself as a vital bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, where the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power in 1979 and declared an intention to export his revolutionary ideals across the region. [Read Origins on U.S.-Iranian Relations]

Mounting tension between the two gulf powers erupted into war in September 1980, when Hussein ordered the Iraqi army to launch a full-scale invasion of Iran. Iraq initially occupied 10,000 square miles of Iranian territory before Iran stymied the Iraqi thrust. Iran then gradually recaptured its territory, leading to a stalemate in the battle front by 1982.

A series of massive land offensives proved to be ineffective at breaking the deadlock. Yet the war ground on, widened by missile attacks on cities and by mutual assaults on oil tankers on the Gulf. By 1988, the two states together counted more than one million casualties.

President Ronald Reagan gradually led the United States into involvement in the Iran-Iraq War. Initially, Reagan continued the policy he inherited from Jimmy Carter of practicing strict neutrality in the conflict. By 1982, however, the government in Washington began to shift toward a position of supporting Iraq.

Iran's military advances worried U.S. officials that it might gain political influence across the region and its support of anti-American kidnappers in Lebanon soiled its reputation in the West. Despite Hussein's political despotism, U.S. leaders reinterpreted Iraq as a more benign power and as a vital bulwark against Iranian expansionism.

Thus the Reagan Administration provided Iraq with economic aid, restored diplomatic relations, shared intelligence information about Iranian military forces, and otherwise engaged in what it called a "tilt" toward Iraq designed to ensure its survival. U.S. officials also suspended their protests of Iraq's use of weapons of mass destruction against Iranian troops and domestic rivals.

By 1987, the Reagan Administration even assumed limited military involvement in the war on behalf of Iraq. When Iran attacked oil tankers carrying Iraqi oil to world markets, Reagan ordered the U.S. Navy to patrol the Gulf and protect those tankers. Armed clashes occurred between U.S. and Iranian naval vessels, peaking in late 1987 and mid-1988.

Taking advantage of the relaxation of Cold War tensions, Reagan also worked with Soviet and other world leaders to fashion a United Nations ceasefire resolution that provided a legal framework for ending the hostilities. Iraq promptly accepted the ceasefire but Iran refused, demanding that Iraq first must agree to pay war reparations. Pressured by the U.S. Navy, however, Khomeini eventually accepted the ceasefire in July 1988.

From the U.S. perspective, the Iran-Iraq ceasefire promised to restore a semblance of stability to the Gulf region for the first time in a decade. Peace on the battlefields would end the bloodletting between the two belligerents and restore lucrative commerce. At the same time, the dramatic improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations diminished the traditional U.S. concern that communism would sweep across the region.

With Khomeini contained, U.S. officials hoped that Saddam Hussein would lead his country and the Middle East into an era of peace, prosperity, and moderation. Yet, U.S. officials refrained from addressing Hussein's dreadful record of human rights abuses, his aggressive tendencies, and his political despotism nor did they take steps to curb the Western thirst for Middle East oil.

Subsequent events would demonstrate that such U.S. officials unwisely built a Middle East strategy on the unstable foundation of the Hussein regime.

IV. The Gulf War and Containment, 1989-2003

The fourth era in U.S. policy toward Iraq featured a short, indecisive war between the two states followed by a "long decade" of consequential complications.

The military clash originated in Saddam Hussein's decision, in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, to seek territorial and economic gains at the expense of Kuwait. In 1989 and 1990, Hussein signaled a growing intention to use force to against the tiny emirate.

Hussein's aggressiveness was prompted by multiple incentives: a desire to capture lucrative oil assets and thus relieve the financial burdens incurred in the war against Iran a quest to achieve stature among neighboring leaders and to rally domestic public opinion behind his regime and a hope of capturing land that, many Iraqis believed, had been misappropriated to Kuwait decades before.

The George H.W. Bush administration reacted to the mounting tensions by using the relatively stable relationship that emerged during the 1980s as a brake on Iraqi recklessness. Viewing Iraq as an important counterweight against Iranian expansionism, Bush offered political friendship and economic incentives to lure Hussein into proper behavior.

When tensions rose and Hussein moved 100,000 troops to the Kuwait border, Bush also bolstered the U.S. naval presence in the Gulf and warned Hussein against instigating military action.

Yet Bush continued to deal with Hussein constructively—while ignoring his abysmal human rights and foreign policy records—on the calculation that firmer measures might actually provoke the very aggressive behavior that the United States hoped to prevent.

Iraq's full-scale military invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 clearly demonstrated Hussein's reckless aggressiveness and the futility of Bush administration efforts to deal with him on friendly terms.


Mandatory Iraq Edit

The Kingdom of Iraq (also referred to as Mesopotamia) was governed by Great Britain under a League of Nations mandate, the British Mandate of Mesopotamia, until 1932 when Iraq became nominally independent. [25] Before granting independence, Britain concluded the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. The treaty included permission to establish military bases for British use and provide the facilities for the unrestricted movement of British forces through the country, upon request to the Iraqi government. [26] [27] The conditions of the treaty were imposed by the British to ensure control of Iraqi petroleum. Many Iraqis resented these conditions because Iraq was still under the control of the British Government. [28]

After 1937, no British troops were left in Iraq and the government had become solely responsible for internal security. [29] The Royal Air Force (RAF) had been allowed to retain two bases RAF Shaibah, near Basra and RAF Habbaniya (Air Vice-Marshal Harry George Smart, also air officer commanding RAF Iraq Command), between Ramadi and Fallujah. [30] [31] The bases protected British petroleum interests and were a link in the air route between Egypt and India. [30] At the beginning of the Second World War, RAF Habbaniya became a training base, protected by No. 1 Armoured Car Company RAF, Iraq Levies and locally raised Iraqi troops, the RAF Iraq Levies. [32] [33]

In September 1939, the Iraqi Government broke off diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany. [29] In March 1940, the nationalist and anti-British Rashid Ali replaced Nuri as-Said as Prime Minister of Iraq. Rashid Ali made covert contacts with German representatives in Ankara and Berlin, though he was not yet an openly pro-Axis supporter. [34] In June 1940, when Fascist Italy joined the war on the side of Germany, the Iraqi government did not break off diplomatic relations. [29] The Italian Legation in Baghdad became the chief centre for Axis propaganda and for fomenting anti-British feeling. In this, they were aided by Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who had been installed by the British, in 1921. The Grand Mufti had fled from the British Mandate of Palestine shortly before the war and later received asylum in Baghdad. [35] In January 1941, Rashid Ali resigned as prime minister and was replaced by Taha al-Hashimi amidst a political crisis and a possible civil war. [36]

Coup d'état Edit

On 31 March, the Regent of Iraq, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, learned of a plot to arrest him and fled Baghdad for RAF Habbaniya. From Habbaniya he was flown to Basra and given refuge on the gunboat HMS Cockchafer. [36] On 1 April, Rashid Ali and the Golden Square (four senior military commanders) seized power in a coup d'état. Rashid Ali proclaimed himself "Chief of the National Defence Government". [36] The Golden Square deposed Prime Minister Taha al-Hashimi [37] and Rashid Ali again became Prime Minister of Iraq. Ali did not overthrow the monarchy and named a new Regent to King Faisal II, Sherif Sharaf. Faisal and his family took refuge in the home of Mulla Effendi. The Golden Square also arrested pro-British citizens and politicians, but many managed to escape through Transjordan.

The Golden Square intended to refuse further concessions to Britain, retain diplomatic links with Fascist Italy, and exile prominent pro-British politicians. They thought Britain was weak and would negotiate with them. [38] On 17 April, Ali asked Germany for military assistance in the event of war with Britain. [39] Ali also tried to restrict British rights under Article 5 of the 1930 treaty when he insisted that newly arrived British troops be quickly transported through Iraq and to Palestine. [40]

Iraqi forces Edit

Before the war, the United Kingdom provided support to the Royal Iraqi Army (RIrA) and to the Royal Iraqi Air Force (RIrAF) through a small military mission based in Baghdad, commanded from 1938 by Major-General G. G. Waterhouse. [41] [42] The RIrA was composed of approximately 60,000 men, most in four infantry divisions and one mechanized brigade. [15] The 1st and 3rd Divisions were stationed near Baghdad. [41] [15] Also based within Baghdad was the Independent Mechanized Brigade, composed of a light-tank company, an armoured-car company, two battalions of motorised infantry, machine-gunners and an artillery brigade. The Iraqi 2nd Division was stationed in Kirkuk and the 4th Division in Al Diwaniyah, on the main rail line from Baghdad to Basra. [19] Unlike the modern use of the term "mechanized", in 1941 "mechanized" for the RIrA meant motorised (moving in lorries, fighting on foot). [19] The Iraqis fielded police units and about 500 irregulars under Arab guerrilla leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji, a ruthless fighter who did not hesitate to murder or mutilate prisoners. For the most part, Fawzi operated in the area between Rutbah and Ramadi, before being chased back into Syria. [43] [44]

The RIrAF had 116 aircraft in seven squadrons and a training school 50 to 60 of the aircraft were serviceable. [19] [11] Most Iraqi fighter and bomber aircraft were at "Rashid Airfield" in Baghdad (formerly RAF Hinaidi) or in Mosul. Four squadrons and the Flying Training School were based in Baghdad. Two squadrons with close co-operation and general-purpose aircraft were based in Mosul. The Iraqis flew an assortment of aircraft types including Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, Breda 65 fighter bombers, Savoia SM 79 medium bombers, Northrop/Douglas 8A fighter bombers, Hawker Hart (Hawker Nisr) biplane close co-operation aircraft, Vickers Vincent biplane light bombers, de Havilland Dragon biplane general purpose aircraft, de Havilland Dragonfly biplane general purpose aircraft and Tiger Moth biplane trainers. The RIrAF had another nine aircraft not allocated to squadrons and 19 aircraft in reserve. [19]

The Royal Iraqi Navy (RIrN) had four 100 long tons (100 t) Thornycroft gunboats, a pilot vessel and a minesweeper. All were armed and were based in the Shatt al-Arab waterways. [45]

British Force Edit

On 1 April 1941, the British forces in Iraq were small. Air Vice Marshal Harry Smart commanded British Forces in Iraq, a multi-service headquarters. Ground forces included Number 1 Armoured Car Company RAF and six companies of Assyrian Levies, composed of indigenous Eastern Aramaic speaking Christian Assyrians about 2,000 officers and other ranks strong, under the command of about twenty British officers. [46] The armoured-car company had 18 ancient Rolls Royce armoured cars built for the RAF in 1921 on converted chassis of World War I design. [47] The armoured car company had two large tanks (HMT 'Walrus' & 'Seal', based on Vickers Medium Dragon Mk 1 artillery tractors with Rolls-Royce turrets [48] ) and a Carden-Lloyd Mk VI tankette. [49]

At RAF Habbaniya, No. 4 Flying Training School RAF (4FTS) had a miscellany of obsolescent bombers, fighters and trainers. Many of the 84 aircraft were unserviceable or were not fit for offensive use. At the start of hostilities, there were about 1,000 RAF personnel but only 39 pilots. [50] On 1 April, the British had three Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters used as officers' runabouts, thirty Hawker Audax biplane close co-operation aircraft, seven Fairey Gordon biplane bombers, 27 twin-engine Airspeed Oxford trainers, 28 Hawker Hart biplane light bombers (the bomber version of the Hawker Audax), twenty Hart trainers and a Bristol Blenheim Mk1 bomber. Audaxes could carry eight 20-pound bombs (9.1 kg) and twelve were modified to carry two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs. The Gordons could each carry two 250 lb bombs and the Oxfords were converted from carrying smoke bombs to carrying eight 20 lb bombs. The Hawker Harts could carry two 250 lb bombs. The Hawker trainers were unarmed and the Blenheim departed on 3 May. There was also an RAF Iraq Communications Flight at Habbaniya with three Vickers Valentia biplane flying boats. [51] At RAF Shaibah there was 244 Squadron with some Vickers Vincent bombers. [52] The naval forces available to support British actions in Iraq were part of the East Indies Station and included vessels from the Royal Navy (RN), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and the Royal Indian Navy (RIN).

British response Edit

The British perspective was that relations with Rashid Ali's "National Defence Government" had become increasingly unsatisfactory. By treaty, Iraq was pledged to provide assistance to the United Kingdom in war and to permit the passage of British troops through its territory. There was a British Military Mission with the Iraq Army, and the Royal Air Force had stations at Habbaniya and at Shaibah. [53] From the outset, British Prime MinisterWinston Churchill advocated the non-recognition of Rashid Ali or his illegal "National Defence Government." [54]

On 2 April, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, the new British Ambassador to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad. [39] [53] He had much experience in Mesopotamia and had spent twenty years in the country as the advisor to King Faisal I. Cornwallis was highly regarded and he was sent to Iraq with the understanding that he would be able to hold a more forceful line with the new Iraqi government than had hitherto been the case. Unfortunately, Cornwallis arrived in Iraq too late to prevent the outbreak of war. [31]

On 6 April, AVM Smart requested reinforcements, but his request was rejected by the air officer commanding in the Middle East, Sir Arthur Longmore. [39] At this point in the Second World War, the situation developing in Iraq did not figure highly in British priorities. Churchill wrote, "Libya counts first, withdrawal of troops from Greece second. Tobruk shipping, unless indispensable to victory, must be fitted in as convenient. Iraq can be ignored and Crete worked up later." [55]

The British Chiefs-of-Staff and the Commander-in-Chief, India, General Claude Auchinleck, were in favour of armed intervention but the three local commanders-in-chief, already burdened by the Western Desert Campaign, East African Campaign and the Battle of Greece, suggested that the only force available was an infantry battalion in Palestine and the aircraft already in Iraq. [56] [nb 7] The Government of India had a long-standing commitment to prepare an infantry division to protect the Anglo-Iranian oilfields and in July 1940, the leading brigade of the 5th Indian Infantry Division, was ordered to Iraq. [57] In August, the division was placed under the control of Middle East Command and diverted to the Sudan. [58] Since then, India Command had been investigating the move of troops by air from India to RAF Shaibah.

Operation Sabine Edit

On 8 April, Winston Churchill contacted Leo Amery, Secretary of State for India, and asked him what force could be quickly sent from India to Iraq. Amery contacted General Auchinleck and Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, the same day. [59] The response from India was that most of a brigade group due to set sail for Malaya on 10 April, could be diverted to Basra and the rest sent ten days later 390 British infantry could be flown from India into RAF Shaibah and when shipping was available, the force could quickly be built up to a division. [11] On 10 April this offer was accepted by London, and the move of these forces was codenamed. [57] On the same day General Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of Middle East Command, informed London that he could no longer spare the battalion in Palestine and urged diplomacy and possibly a demonstration of air strength, rather than military intervention. [11]

On 10 April, Major-General William Fraser assumed control over Iraqforce, the land forces from India headed for Basra with orders to occupy the Basra-Shabai area to ensure the safe disembarkation of further reinforcements and to enable a base to be established in that area. [11] [nb 8] The attitude of the Iraqi Army and local authorities was still uncertain and attempts might be made to oppose disembarkation. Fraser was closely to co-operate with the navy commander. If the landing was opposed, Fraser was to defeat the Iraqi forces and establish a base, but Fraser was not to infringe Iranian neutrality. [60] In early April, preparation for hostilities began at Habbaniya, aircraft were modified to carry bombs and light bombers such as the Audaxes were modified to carry larger bombs. [61]

On 12 April, Convoy BP7 left Karachi. [62] The convoy was composed of eight transports escorted by the Grimsby-class sloop HMAS Yarra. The forces transported by the convoy were under the command of Major-General Fraser, the commanding officer of the 10th Indian Infantry Division. The forces being transported consisted of two senior staff officers from the 10th Indian Division headquarters, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, the personnel of the Royal Artillery's 3rd Field Regiment [11] but without their guns, [63] and certain ancillary troops. [60]

On 13 April, the Royal Navy force of four ships in the Persian Gulf were reinforced by the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and two light cruisers, HMS Emerald and HMNZS Leander. HMS Hermes carried the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers of 814 Squadron. [62] The naval vessels which covered the disembarkation at Basra consisted of the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, the light cruiser HMS Emerald, the light cruiser HMNZS Leander, the sloop HMS Falmouth, the gunboat HMS Cockchafer, the sloop HMS Seabelle, the minesweeper sloop HMIS Lawrence, and the sloop HMAS Yarra. On the morning of 15 April, Convoy BP7 was met at sea by HMS Seabelle from Basra. Later in the day the escort was reinforced by HMS Falmouth. On 17 April, the convoy was joined by HMIS Lawrence and then proceeded towards the entrance of the Shatt al-Arab. On 18 April, the convoy moved up the Shatt al-Arab and arrived at Basra at 0930 hrs. HMS Emerald was already in Basra. [2] On the same day, HMNZS Leander was released from support duties in the Persian Gulf. On 16 April, the Iraqi Government was informed that the British were going to invoke the Anglo-Iraq treaty to move troops through the country to Palestine. Rashid Ali raised no objection.

First arrivals in Basra Edit

On 17 April, the 1st Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment (1st KORR) was flown into RAF Shaibah from Karachi in India. [35] Colonel Ouvry Roberts, the Chief Staff Officer of the 10th Indian Infantry Division, arrived with the 1st KORR. [64] [65] By 18 April, the airlift of the 1st KORR to Shaibah was completed. The troop-carrying aircraft used for this airlift were 7 Valentias and 4 Atalantas supplemented by 4 DC-2s which had recently arrived in India. [2]

On 18 April, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade landed at Basra. [11] Brigadier Donald Powell commanded this brigade. The 20th Indian Infantry Brigade included the 2nd battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles, 2nd battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles, and the 3rd battalion 11th Sikh Regiment. The landing of the force transported by Convoy BP7 was covered by infantry of the 1st KORR [66] which had arrived the previous day by air. [35] The landing was unopposed. [40]

By 19 April, the disembarkation of the force transported by Convoy BP7 at Basra was completed. [2] On the same day, seven aircraft [nb 9] were flown into RAF Habbaniya to bolster the air force there. [15] Following the landing of the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, Rashid Ali requested that the brigade be moved quickly through the country and that no more troops should arrive until the previous force had left. [67] Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, the British Ambassador to Iraq, referred the issue to London and London replied that they had no interest in moving the troops out of the country and wanted to establish them within Iraq. Cornwallis was also instructed not to inform Rashid Ali who, as he had taken control of the country via a coup d'état, had no right to be informed about British troop movements. [61]

On 20 April, Churchill had written to Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, and indicated that it should be made clear to Ambassador Cornwallis that the chief interest in sending troops to Iraq was the covering and establishment of a great assembly base near Basra. It was to be understood that what happened "up country", with the exception of Habbaniya, was at that time on an "altogether lower priority." Churchill went on to indicate that the treaty rights were invoked to cover the disembarkation, but that force would have been used if it had been required. Cornwallis was directed not to make agreements with an Iraqi government which had usurped its power. In addition, he was directed to avoid entangling himself with explanations to the Iraqis. [68]

Additional arrivals Edit

On 29 April, having sailed from Bombay, the remaining elements of the 20th Infantry Brigade arrived at Basra on the three transports of Convoy BN1. [40] [69] On 30 April, when Rashid Ali was informed that ships containing additional British forces had arrived, he refused permission for troops to disembark from them and began organising for an armed demonstration at RAF Habbaniya. [61] He did this while fully expecting German assistance would be forthcoming in the guise of aircraft and airborne troops. [66] Rashid Ali decided against opposing the landings at Basra. [40]

Also, on 29 April, [15] the British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, [36] advised that all British women and children should leave Baghdad 230 civilians were escorted by road to Habbaniya and during the following days, were gradually airlifted to Shaibah. [15] A further 350 civilians took refuge in the British Embassy and 150 British civilians in the American Legation. [70]

Reinforcement of Habbaniya Edit

By the end of the month, Colonel Roberts and 300 of the 1st KORR had been flown from RAF Shaibah to RAF Habbaniya to reinforce the latter base. [15] Other than the 1st KORR, there were no trained British troops at Habbaniya bar the Number 1 Armoured Car Company RAF. [51]

Iraqi moves and escalation to war Edit

At 03:00 hours on 30 April, RAF Habbaniya was warned by the British Embassy that Iraqi forces had left their bases, at Baghdad, and were heading west. [15] The Iraqi force was composed of between 6,000. [71] –9,000. [72] troops with up to 30 artillery pieces. [71] Within a few hours of RAF Habbaniya being warned, Iraqi forces occupied the plateau to the south of the base. Prior to dawn, reconnaissance aircraft were launched from RAF Habbaniya and reported that at least two battalions, with artillery, had taken up position on the plateau. [nb 10]

By 1 May, the Iraqi forces surrounding Habbaniya had swelled to an infantry brigade, two mechanised battalions, a mechanised artillery brigade with 12 3.7-inch mountain howitzers, a field artillery brigade with 12 18-pounder field guns and four 4.5-inch howitzers, 12 Crossley six-wheeled armoured cars, a number of Fiat light tanks, a mechanised machine gun company, a mechanised signal company, and a mixed battery of anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. This totalled 9,000 regular troops along with an undetermined number of tribal irregulars and about 50 field guns. [73]

Iraqi demands Edit

At 06:00 hours, an Iraqi envoy presented a message to the air officer commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Harry George Smart, stating that the plateau had been occupied for a training exercise. [74] The envoy also informed Smart that all flying should cease immediately [15] and demanded that no movements, either ground or air, take place from the base. [74] Smart replied that any interference with the normal training carried out at the base would be treated as an act of war. [15] Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, the British Ambassador located at the British Embassy in Baghdad and in contact with RAF Habbaniya via wireless, fully supported this action. [15]

British reconnaissance aircraft, already in the air, continued to relay information to the base they reported that the Iraqi positions on the plateau were being steadily reinforced, they also reported that Iraqi troops had occupied the town of Fallujah. [15]

At 11:30 hours, the Iraqi envoy again made contact with Air Vice-Marshal Smart and accused the British of violating the Anglo-Iraqi treaty. Air Vice-Marshal Smart replied that this was a political matter and he would have to refer the accusation to Ambassador Cornwallis. [15] Meanwhile, Iraqi forces had now occupied vital bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as well as reinforcing their garrison at Ramadi thus effectively cutting off RAF Habbaniya except from the air. [12]

Situation at RAF Habbaniya Edit

During the morning, Smart and Roberts surveyed the situation, they determined that they were exposed to attack on two sides and dominated by Iraqi artillery a single hit from an Iraqi gun might destroy the water tower or power station and, as a result, cripple resistance at Habbaniya in one blow – the base seemed at the mercy of the Iraqi rebels. The garrison did not have enough small arms and, apart from a few mortars, no artillery support. [75]

Air Vice-Marshal Smart controlled a base with a population of around 9,000 civilians [61] that was indefensible with the force of roughly 2,500 men currently available. [76] The 2,500 men included air crew and Assyrian Levies, who were prized by the British for their loyalty, discipline and fighting qualities. [77] There was also the possibility that the Iraqi rebels were waiting for dark before attacking. As a result, Air Vice-Marshal Smart decided to accept the tactical risks and stick to Middle East Command's policy of avoiding aggravation in Iraq by, for the moment, not launching a pre-emptive strike. [8]

Further exchanges Edit

Further exchanges of messages took place between the British and Iraqi forces but none were able to defuse the situation. Air Vice-Marshal Smart again requested reinforcements and this time Air Officer Commanding [12] Sir Arthur Longmore [78] ordered 18 [nb 11] Vickers Wellington bombers to RAF Shaibah. The British Ambassador signalled the Foreign Office that he regarded the Iraqi actions as an act of war, which required an immediate air response. He also informed them that he intended to demand the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces and permission to launch air strikes to restore control, even if the Iraqi troops overlooking Habbaniya did withdraw it would only postpone aerial attacks. [12]

Decision to launch air strikes made Edit

Also on 1 May, Ambassador Cornwallis received a response giving him full authority to take any steps needed to ensure the withdrawal of the Iraqi armed forces. [12] Churchill also sent a personal reply, stating: "If you have to strike, strike hard. Use all necessary force." [74] In the event that contact broke down between the British Embassy in Baghdad and the air base in Habbaniya, Air Vice-Marshal Smart was given permission to act on his own authority. [12]

Still in contact with the British Embassy and with the approval of Ambassador Cornwallis, Air Vice-Marshal Smart decided to launch air strikes against the plateau the following morning without issuing an ultimatum as with foreknowledge the Iraqi force might start to shell the airbase and halt any attempt to launch aircraft. [12]

2 May Edit

Most combat operations of the Anglo-Iraqi War centred on the Habbaniya area. Starting early on 2 May, British airstrikes were launched against the Iraqis from RAF Habbaniya. [12] While the largest number of British troops were ultimately assembled in the Basra area, an advance from Basra was not immediately practicable and did not get under way until after Rashid Ali's government was already collapsing. Initially, the Iraqi siege of RAF Habbaniya and the ability of the besieged British force there to withstand the siege was the primary focus of the conflict. Air Vice-Marshal Smart's decision to strike at the Iraqi positions with air power not only allowed his force to withstand the siege, but to neutralise much of Iraq's air power. While the relief force from Palestine arrived in Habbaniya after the siege was over, it did allow an immediate change over to the offensive.

Siege of Habbaniya Edit

Air Vice-Marshal Smart's tactics to defend Habbaniya was to mount continuous bombing and strafing attacks with as many aircraft as possible. [79] At 05:00 on 2 May 33 aircraft from Habbaniya, [12] out of the 56 operational aircraft based there, [80] and eight Wellington bombers, from Shaibah, began their attack. [12] A few of the Greek pilots being trained at Habbaniya also joined in the RAF attack. [4] Within minutes the Iraqis on the escarpment replied by shelling the base, damaging some planes on the ground. The Royal Iraqi Air Force (RIrAF) also joined in the fray over Habbaniya. [12] RAF attacks were also made against Iraqi air fields near Baghdad, which resulted in 22 aircraft being destroyed on the ground [79] further attacks were made against the railway and Iraqi positions near Shaibah, with the loss of two planes. [12] Throughout the day, the pilots from Habbaniya flew 193 sorties [12] and claimed direct hits on Iraqi transports, armoured cars and artillery pieces [81] however five aircraft had been destroyed and several others had been put out of service. On the base 13 people had lost their lives and a further 29 wounded, including nine civilians. [12]

By the end of the day, the Iraqi force outside of Habbaniya had grown to roughly a brigade. [82]

Iraqi forces, 2 May Edit

The British attack on 2 May took the Iraqis completely by surprise. While the Iraqis on the escarpment carried live ammunition, many Iraqi soldiers were under the impression that they were on a training exercise. Rashid Ali and the members of the Golden Square were shocked by the fact that the British defenders at RAF Habbaniya were prepared to fight rather than negotiate a peaceful surrender. To compound the surprise and shock, many members of the Muslim Iraqi army were preparing for morning prayers when the attack was launched. When the news reached the Grand Mufti in Baghdad, he immediately declared a jihad against the United Kingdom. In addition, the flow of Iraq Petroleum Company oil to Haifa was completely severed. [83]

On 3 May, the British bombing of the Iraqis continued troop and gun positions on the plateau were targeted as well as the supply line to Baghdad. The RIrAF base at Rashid was also attacked [82] and an Iraqi Savoia SM 79 bomber was intercepted and shot down heading for Habbaniya. [81] The following day further air attacks were carried out on RIrA troop positions and the RIrAF. A bombing raid was conducted by eight Wellington bombers on Rashid, which was briefly engaged by Iraqi fighters but no losses were suffered. Bristol Blenheims, escorted by Hurricanes, also conducted strafing attacks against airfields at Baghdad, Rashid and Mosul. [82]

On 5 May, due to a car accident, Air Vice-Marshal Smart was evacuated to Basra and then onward to India. Colonel Roberts assumed de facto command of the land operations at RAF Habbaniya after the departure of Smart. [84] Air Vice-Marshal John D'Albiac, from Greece, was to take command over aerial forces at Habbaniya [85] and of all RAF forces in Iraq. Further aerial attacks were conducted against the plateau during the day and following nightfall [82] Colonel Roberts ordered a sortie by the King's Own Royal Regiment (1st KORR) against the Iraqi positions on the plateau. The attack was supported by the Assyrian levies, some RAF armoured cars and two First World War-era 4.5-inch howitzers. The 4.5 in howitzers had been put in working order by some British gunners but had previously been decorating the entrance of the base's officers' mess. [64] [86]

Iraqis abandon escarpment Edit

Late on 6 May, the Iraqis besieging Habbaniya pulled out. By dawn on Wednesday 7 May, RAF armoured cars reconnoitred the top of the escarpment and reported it to be deserted. The Iraqi force had abandoned substantial quantities of arms and equipment the British garrison gained six Czechoslovakian-built 3.7 inch howitzers along with 2,400 shells, one 18-pounder gun, one Italian tank, ten Crossley armoured cars, 79 trucks, three 20 mm anti-aircraft guns with 2,500 shells, 45 Bren light machine-guns, eleven Vickers machine guns, and 340 rifles with 500,000 rounds of ammunition. [87]

The investment of Habbaniya, by Iraqi forces, had come to an end. The British garrison had suffered 13 men killed, 21 badly wounded, and four men were suffering battle fatigue. The garrison had inflicted between 500 and 1000 casualties on the besieging force, and numerous more men had been taken prisoner. On 6 May alone, 408 Iraqi troops were captured. [87] The Chiefs-of-Staff now ordered that it was essential to continue to hit the Iraqi armed forces hard by every means available but avoiding direct attacks on the civilian population. The British objective was to safeguard British interests from Axis intervention in Iraq, to defeat the rebels and discredit Rashid's government. [10]

Iraqi reinforcements attacked Edit

Meanwhile, Iraqi reinforcements were approaching Habbaniya. RAF armoured cars, reconnoitring ahead, soon discovered the village of Sin el Dhibban, on the Fallujah road, occupied by Iraqi troops. The 1st KORR and the Assyrian levies, supported by the RAF armoured cars, assaulted the position driving the Iraqis out and taking over 300 prisoners. The Iraqi force retreating from Habbaniya met with an Iraqi column moving towards Habbaniya from Fallujah in the afternoon. The two Iraqi forces met around 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Habbaniya on the Fallujah road. The reinforcing Iraqi column was soon spotted and 40 aircraft from RAF Habbaniya arrived to attack the two Iraqi columns were paralysed and within two hours, more than 1,000 Iraqi casualties were inflicted and further prisoners were taken. [64] [82] Later in the afternoon Iraqi aircraft carried out three raids on the airbase and inflicted some damage. [82]

Churchill praises Smart Edit

Also on 7 May, apparently unaware of Smart's injury, Churchill sent the following message to Smart:

Your vigorous and splendid action has largely restored the situation. We are all watching the grand fight you are making. All possible aid will be sent. Keep it up! [88]

Over the course of the next few days, the RAF, from Habbaniya and Shaibah, effectively eliminated the RIrAF. However, from 11 May, German Air Force (Luftwaffe) aircraft took the place of the Iraqi aircraft. [85] [nb 12]

Axis intervention Edit

During the time leading up to the coup d'état, Rashid Ali's supporters had been informed that Germany was willing to recognise the independence of Iraq from the British Empire. There had also been discussions on war material being sent to support the Iraqis and other Arab factions in fighting the British. [ citation needed ]

On 3 May, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop persuaded German dictator Adolf Hitler to secretly return Dr. Fritz Grobba to Iraq to head up a diplomatic mission to channel support to the Rashid Ali regime. The British quickly learned of the German arrangements through intercepted Italian diplomatic transmissions. [89]

Vichy France, which controlled neighbouring Syria, became keen to facilitate any agreement between Iraq, Italy and Germany. [90] Key Vichy figure Admiral Darlan was fully supportive of agreements with the Germans in order to promote long-term French aims, and had become increasingly incensed by British naval attacks on Vichy shipping, which sometimes brought the Royal Navy into direct confrontation with Vichy military forces. [91] It was therefore proposed that Axis access to Iraq would be facilitated via French-held Syria. [92]

On 6 May, in accordance with the Paris Protocols, Germany concluded a deal with the Vichy French government to release war materials, including aircraft, from sealed stockpiles in Syria and transport them to the Iraqis. The French also agreed to allow passage of other weapons and material as well as loaning several airbases in northern Syria, to Germany, for the transport of German aircraft to Iraq. [93] Between 9 May and the end of the month, about one-hundred German and about twenty Italian aircraft landed on Syrian airfields. [94] Darlan had actually ensured that the Protocols included a proposal that the French would launch an offensive against the British-held Iraqi oilfields and the oil would be made available to the Germans. [95]

Fliegerführer Irak Edit

Also on 6 May, the Luftwaffe ordered Colonel Werner Junck to take a small force to Iraq, to operate out of Mosul. Between 10 and 15 May the aircraft arrived in Mosul via Vichy French airbases, in Syria, and then commenced regular aerial attacks on British forces. The arrival of these aircraft was the direct result of fevered consultations between Baghdad and Berlin in the days following RAF strikes on the Iraqi forces above Habbaniya. The Luftwaffe force, under the direction of Lieutenant General Hans Jeschonnek, was named "Flyer Command Iraq" (Fliegerführer Irak) [nb 13] and was under the tactical command of Colonel Junck. On 11 May, the first three Luftwaffe planes arrived at Mosul via Syria. At least 20 bombers were initially promised however, in the end Junck's unit consisted of between 21 and 29 aircraft, all painted with Royal Iraqi Air Force markings. [5] [20] [89] [nb 14]

Major Axel von Blomberg was sent to Iraq with Sonderstab F ("Special Staff F"), the German military mission commanded by General Hellmuth Felmy. He was to command a Brandenburgers Commando reconnaissance group in Iraq that was to precede Fliegerführer Irak. [97] He was also tasked with integrating Fliegerführer Irak with Iraqi forces in operations against the British. [89] On 15 May, he flew from Mosul to Baghdad. On its approach to Baghdad, the aircraft was engaged by Iraqi ground fire, and von Blomberg was killed. [98]

At this time, Germany and the Soviet Union were still allies (due to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939) and this was reflected in Soviet actions regarding Iraq. On 12 May, the Soviet Union recognised Rashid Ali's "National Defence Government." [99] An Iraqi-Soviet exchange of notes established diplomatic relations between the two governments. [100]

Vichy French supplies from Syria Edit

On 13 May, the first trainload of supplies, from Syria, arrived in Mosul via Turkey. The Iraqis took delivery of 15,500 rifles, with six million rounds of ammunition, 200 machine guns, with 900 belts of ammunition, and four 75 mm field guns together with 10,000 shells. Two additional deliveries were made on 26 and 28 May, which included eight 155 mm guns, with 6,000 shells, 354 machine pistols, 30,000 grenades, and 32 trucks. [101]

On 14 May, according to Winston Churchill, the RAF was authorised to act against German aircraft in Syria and on Vichy French airfields. [102] On the same day, two over-laden Heinkel 111 bombers were left in Palmyra in central Syria because they had damaged rear wheels. British fighters entered French air space and strafed and disabled the damaged Heinkels. [101] On 15 May an attack was made on German aircraft on the ground at Damascus, killing a French officer in the process. [103]

By 18 May, Junck's force had been whittled down to 8 Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters, 4 Heinkel He 111 bombers, and 2 Junkers Ju 52 transports. This represented roughly a 30 percent loss of his original force. With few replacements available, no spares, poor fuel, and aggressive attacks by the British, this rate of attrition did not bode well for Fliegerführer Irak. Indeed, near the end of May, Junck had lost 14 Messerschmitts and 5 Heinkels. [104] On 18 May four Vichy Morane 406s chased British aircraft flying above Syria, and another three Moranes attacked British Bristol Blenheims near Damascus without causing damage. [105] On 19 May another British aerial attack near Damascus damaged several French aircraft and wounded a French soldier, while on 20 May British aircraft intentionally shot up six French aircraft and fifty vehicles. [106]

More dogfights between Vichy and British aircraft took place on 24 May, as well as a British sabotage mission by 13 sappers on the Aleppo-Mosul railway line, which led to a French armoured car firing on the British. [107] Further British-French aerial combat occurred on 28 May, in which a Blenheim was shot down by a French fighter, causing the death of all of its crew. [108] On the same day, French Morane fighters escorted four Nazi Ju52s near Nerab in eastern Syria. [109] More Vichy-British aerial combat occurred on 31 May. [110]

Britain was incensed that Vichy had assisted Italy and Germany in their attacks on the British in Iraq attacks that would not have been possible if it was not for the connivance of the Vichy French. [111] The Vichyite actions ensured Britain began preparing for an invasion of Syria, which ultimately led to the Syria-Lebanon campaign of June–July. [112]

Italy Edit

On 27 May, after being invited by Germany, 12 Italian Fiat CR.42s of the 155. a Squadriglia (renamed Squadriglia speciale Irak) of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana (Royal Italian Air Force) arrived at Mosul to operate under German command. [6] Also present were a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 acting as pathfinder aircraft, which were stationed in Aleppo personnel and equipment were brought in on three Savoia-Marchetti SM.82s. [113] By 29 May, Italian aircraft were reported in the skies over Baghdad. [114] Churchill claimed that the Italian aircraft accomplished nothing, [115] but on 29 May near Khan Nuqta the Italians intercepted a flight of Hawker Audaxes escorted by Gloster Gladiators of No. 94 Squadron. In the resulting combat, two Gladiators were lost for one CR.42 shot down by Wing Commander Wightman. This was the final aerial battle of the Anglo-Iraqi War. [113] The SM.79 was destroyed on the ground in Aleppo by RAF bombers. Three CR.42s were damaged and had to be abandoned during the Axis withdrawal from Iraq. The remaining Italian aircraft were evacuated at the end of May and used to defend Pantelleria. [116]

Plans were drawn up to supply troops but the German high command was hesitant and required the permission of Turkey for passage. In the end the Luftwaffe found conditions in Iraq intolerable, as spare parts were not available and even the quality of aircraft fuel was far below the Luftwaffe's requirements. With each passing day fewer aircraft remained serviceable and ultimately, all Luftwaffe personnel were evacuated on the last remaining Heinkel He 111. [ citation needed ]

Advance from Palestine Edit

On 2 May, the day AVM Smart launched his airstrikes, Wavell continued to urge for further diplomatic action to be taken with the Iraqi government to end the current situation and accept the Turkish government's offer of mediation. He was informed by the Defence Committee that there would be no accepting the Turkish offer and that the situation in Iraq had to be restored.

Rutbah Edit

Before Smart launched his airstrikes on 2 May, members of the Iraqi Desert Police had seized the fort at Rutbah for the "National Defence Government." [117] On 1 May, the police opened fire on British workers in Rutbah. [118] In response to these Iraqi actions, Major-General Clark had ordered the mechanised squadron of the Transjordan Frontier Force (TJFF), which was based at H4 pumping station, to seize the fort for the British. When the members of the TJFF refused, they were marched back to H3 and disarmed. [117]

By the end of the first day of airstrikes, there had been reports that elements of the Royal Iraqi Army (RIrA) were advancing on the town of Rutbah. [66] C Company of the 1st Battalion The Essex Regiment were ordered to travel from Palestine to H4, between Haifa and Iraq from here the company would join a detachment of RAF armoured cars and defend the position from the Iraqi rebels. [119]

On 4 May, Churchill ordered Wavell to dispatch a force from Palestine. [120] On 5 May, Wavell was placed in command of operations in northern Iraq and General Maitland Wilson was called back from Greece to take command of forces in Palestine and Transjordan. The Defence Committee and chiefs-of-staff rationale for taking military action against the Iraqi rebels was that they needed to secure the country from Axis intervention and considered Rashid Ali to have been conspiring with the Axis powers. [121] The Chiefs-of-Staff accepted full responsibility for the dispatch of troops to Iraq. [10]

On 8 May a column of the Arab Legion, under Glubb Pasha, reached the fort at Rutbah. [1] They picketed the ground surrounding the fort, to wait the RAF bombardment. The fort was defended by approximately 100 policemen, the majority of them being Iraqi Desert Police. [122] The H4-based Blenheims of 203 Squadron arrived and bombed the fort, and thinking that they had surrendered, left. The fort did not surrender and the RAF returned twice that day to bomb the fort without success.

The next day, the RAF continued to bomb the fort at intermittent intervals. One plane sustained such heavy small-arms fire that it crashed on the way home, killing the pilot. That evening, 40 trucks armed with machine guns arrived at the fort to reinforce the garrison. Half of the trucks were irregulars under the command of Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the other half were Iraqi Desert Police. Glubb decided to withdraw the troops back to H3 to await the reinforcement of the main column.

The Arab Legion returned to H3 on the morning of 10 May, and found No. 2 Armoured Car Company RAF under Squadron Leader Michael Casano waiting there. They had been sent up ahead of the main column to assist the Arab Legion in taking Rutbah. Casano took his RAF armoured cars to Rutbah whilst the Arab Legion replenished their supplies at H3. Casano's armoured cars fought an action against al-Qawuqji's trucks for most of the rest of the day, and although the result was not decisive the trucks retired to east under the cover of dark to leave the garrison to its fate. That night the RAF succeeded in a night bombing, with several bombs landing inside the fort.

Following the withdrawal of al-Qawuqji's trucks and the successful bombing by the RAF, the garrison withdrew from the fort under the cover of dark. In the morning, the Arab Legion column arrived and garrisoned the fort whilst Casano's armoured cars continued to fight remnants of the Iraqi Desert Police's forces. [123]

Habbaniya Force Edit

The force put together in Palestine by Wavell was codenamed Habforce, short for Habbaniya Force. [124] The force was placed under the command of Major-General George Clark, who was the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. After Wavell complained that using any of the force stationed in Palestine for service in Iraq would put Palestine and Egypt at risk, Churchill wrote Hastings Ismay, Secretary of the Chiefs-of-Staff Committee, and asked: "Why would the force mentioned, which seems considerable, be deemed insufficient to deal with the Iraq Army?" Concerning the 1st Cavalry Division specifically, he wrote: "Fancy having kept the cavalry division in Palestine all this time without having the rudiments of a mobile column organised!" [125] On balance, Wavell wrote that the 1st Cavalry Division in Palestine had been stripped of its artillery, its engineers, its signals, and its transport to provide for the needs of other formations in Greece, North Africa, and East Africa. While one motorised cavalry brigade could be provided, this was only possible by pooling the whole of the divisional motor transport. [126]

It was after the TJFF refused to enter Iraq that Clark decided to divide Habforce into two columns. [117] [127] The first column was a flying column [118] codenamed Kingcol. Kingcol was named after its commanding officer, Brigadier James Kingstone, [124] and was composed of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, two companies of the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment, the Number 2 Armoured Car Company RAF, and 237 Field Battery of 25 pounder howitzers from 60th (North Midland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. [128] The second column, the Habforce main force, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Nichols, was composed of the remaining elements of the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment, the remainder of the 60th Field Regiment, RA, one anti-tank battery, and ancillary services. In addition to Kingcol and the Habforce main force, there was available to Major-General Clark a 400-man strong detachment of the Arab Legion (al-Jaysh al-Arabī) [1] [129] in the Emirate of Transjordan. The Arab Legion consisted of three mechanised squadrons [74] transported in a mixture of civilian Ford trucks and equipped with home-made armoured cars. [130] Unlike the TJFF, the Arab Legion was not part of the British Army. Instead, the Arab Legion was the regular Army of Transjordan and it was commanded by Lieutenant-General John Bagot Glubb, also known as "Glubb Pasha." [131]

Kingcol Edit

During the morning of 11 May, Kingcol departed from Haifa [129] with orders to reach Habbaniya as quickly as possible. [118] The occasion was the last all-horse operation in British military history. [132] On 13 May, Kingcol arrived in Rutbah but found no military presence there. Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion had already moved on. The flying column under Brigadier Kingstone then conducted maintenance at Rutbah before moving on themselves. On 15 May, the first contact was made with the Iraqi military when a Blenheim bomber strafed the column and dropped a bomb no damage was inflicted and no casualties were sustained. [133] [nb 15] On 16 May, further bombing attacks were made against the column when it was attacked by the Luftwaffe, again no damage was sustained but there were a few casualties. [85] [134]

Also on 15 May, Fraser went sick and was replaced as the commander of the 10th Indian Division. [135] His illness had led to him losing the confidence of his own staff and he was replaced by the newly promoted Major-General William Slim. Slim would go on to show himself as one of the most dynamic and innovative British commanders of the war. [65] Also in early May, Longmore was replaced as Air Officer Commanding in the Middle East by his deputy, Sir Arthur Tedder. [31]

Arrival at Habbaniya Edit

During the late evening of 17 May, Kingcol reached the vicinity of Habbaniya. The next morning the column entered the RAF base [134] [136] and throughout the day the remainder of the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment were airlifted into the base. [137] The force dispatched from Palestine to relieve the Iraqi siege of RAF Habbaniya arrived about 12 days after the siege was lifted. [114]

Battle of Fallujah Edit

With Habbaniya secure, the next objective for British forces was to secure the town of Fallujah as a preliminary objective before being able to march on Baghdad. [85] An Iraqi Brigade group was holding the town and bridge of Fallujah denying the road to Baghdad a further Brigade group was holding the town of Ramadi, west of Habbaniya, barring all movement westwards. [138] Colonel Roberts dismissed the idea of attacking Ramadi because it was still garrisoned heavily by the Iraqi Army and was largely cut off by self-imposed flooding. Roberts would leave Ramadi isolated and, instead, secure the strategically important bridge over the Euphrates at Fallujah. [139]

In the week following the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces near Habbaniya, Colonel Roberts formed what became known as the Habbaniya Brigade. The brigade was formed by grouping the 1st battalion The Essex Regiment from Kingcol with further infantry reinforcements that had arrived from Basra, the 2nd battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles, and some light artillery. [137] [140]

During the night of 17–18 May, elements of the Gurkha battalion, a company of RAF Assyrian Levies, RAF Armoured Cars and some captured Iraqi howitzers crossed the Euphrates using improvised cable ferries. [nb 16] They crossed the river at Sin el Dhibban and approached Fallujah from the village of Saqlawiyah. During the early hours of the day, one company of the 1st battalion KORR were air transported by 4 Valentias and landed on the Baghdad road beyond the town near Notch Fall. A company of RAF Assyrian Levies, supported by artillery from Kingcol, was ordered to secure the bridge across the river. Throughout the day the RAF bombed positions in the town and along the Baghdad road, avoiding a general bombardment of the town because of the civilian population. On 19 May 57 aircraft began bombarding Iraqi positions within and around Fallujah before dropping leaflets requesting the garrison to surrender no response was given and further bombing operations took place. The RAF dropped ten tons of bombs on Fallujah in 134 sorties. [142]

During the afternoon a ten-minute bombardment of Iraqi trenches near the bridge was made before the Assyrian Levies advanced, covered by artillery fire. Facing little opposition they captured the bridge within 30 minutes they were then met by an Iraqi envoy who offered the surrender of the garrison and the town. 300 prisoners were taken and no casualties had been sustained by the British force. [143] [144] [145] The Luftwaffe responded to the British capture of the city by attacking the Habbaniya airfield, destroying and damaging several aircraft and inflicting a number of casualties. [146] On 18 May, Major-General Clark and AVM D'Albiac arrived in Habbaniya by air. They determined not to interfere with the ongoing operations of Colonel Roberts. [140] On 21 May, having secured Fallujah, Roberts returned to Shaibah and to his duties with the 10th Indian Infantry Division. [142]

Iraqi counterattack Edit

On 22 May, the Iraqi 6th Infantry Brigade, of the Iraqi 3rd Infantry Division, conducted a counter-attack against the British forces within Fallujah. The Iraqi attack started at 02:30 hours supported by a number of Italian-built L3/35 light tanks. By 03:00 the Iraqis reached the north-eastern outskirts of the town. Two light tanks, which had penetrated into the town, were quickly destroyed. By dawn British counter-attacks had pushed the Iraqis out of north-eastern Fallujah. The Iraqis now switched their attack to the south-eastern edge of the town. But this attack met stiff resistance from the start and made no progress. By 10:00 Kingstone arrived with reinforcements, from Habbaniya, who were immediately thrown into battle. The newly arrived infantry companies, of the Essex Regiment, methodically cleared the Iraqi positions house-by-house. By 18:00 the remaining Iraqis had fled or were taken prisoner, sniper fire was silenced, six Iraqi light tanks were captured, and the town was secure. [147] On 23 May, aircraft of Fliegerführer Irak made a belated appearance. British positions at Fallujah were strafed on three separate occasions. But, while a nuisance, the attacks by the Luftwaffe accomplished little. Only one day earlier an air assault coordinated with Iraqi ground forces might have changed the outcome of the counter-attack. [148]

Jezireh Edit

During this period of time, Glubb Pasha's Legionnaires dominated the tribal country north of Fallujah between the Euphrates and the Tigris, an area known as Jezireh. Lieutenant-General Glubb had been instructed to persuade the local tribes to stop supporting Rashid Ali's government. Using a combination of propaganda and raids against Iraqi government posts, his actions proved to be remarkably successful. [149] The British also used this period of time to increase air activity against the northern airfields of the Luftwaffe and to finally crush the German effort to support the Iraqis. [150]

Basra Edit

In response to the initial Iraqi moves, the 10th Indian Infantry Division, under Major-General Fraser, occupied Basra airport, the city's docks, and the power station. [70] Elements of the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier Powell, were used to occupy these sites. Between 18 and 29 April, two convoys had landed this brigade in the Basra area. 2nd battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles guarded the RAF airfield at Shabaih, 3rd battalion 11th Sikh Regiment secured the Maqil docks, and 2nd battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles were held in reserve. [151] Otherwise, no major operations took place in the Basra area. The principal difficulty was that there were insufficient troops to take over Maqil, Ashar, and Basra City concurrently. While the Iraqi troops in Basra agreed to withdraw on 2 May, they failed to do so. [114] On 6 May, the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade under the command of Brigadier Charles Joseph Weld arrived and disembarked at Basra. This was the 10th Indian Infantry Division's second brigade to arrive in Iraq. [151] The 21st Indian Infantry Brigade included 4th battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles, [nb 17] 2nd battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles, and 2nd battalion 10th Gurkha Rifles.

Ashar Edit

Starting on 7 May and ending 8 May, elements of the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade and the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade captured Ashar, near Basra. Ashar was well defended and the Iraqi defenders inflicted a number of casualties on the British attackers. The British units involved were A, B, C, and D companies of 2nd battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles and a half section of Rolls Royce armoured cars from 4th battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles. 2nd battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles were held in reserve. As a result of the successful action against Ashar, Basra City was secured without a fight. However, armed resistance from Iraqi police and Army units continued until 17 May. [152] While the Basra area was now secured, it was flood season in Iraq, and the difficulty of northward movement from Basra by rail, road, or river towards Baghdad stifled further operations. In addition, Iraqi forces occupied points along the Tigris and along the railway to further discourage northward movement. [50]

On 8 May, operations in Iraq were passed, from under the control of Auchinleck's India Command, to the command of Wavell's Middle East Command. [10] [153] Lieutenant-General Edward Quinan arrived from India to replace Fraser as commander of Iraqforce. Quinan's immediate task was to secure Basra as a base. He was ordered by Wavell not to advance north until the co-operation of the local tribes was fully assured. Quinan could also not contemplate any move north for three months on account of the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates. [10] [154] Directives were issued to Quinan prior to his assuming command. On 2 May, he had been directed as follows: "(a) Develop and organise the port of Basra to any extent necessary to enable such forces, our own or Allied, as might be required to operate in the Middle East including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, to be maintained. (b) Secure control of all means of communication, including all aerodromes and landing grounds in Iraq, and develop these to the extent requisite to enable the Port of Basra to function to its fullest capacity." Quinan was further instructed to "begin at once to plan a system of defences to protect the Basra Base against attack by armoured forces supported by strong air forces, and also to be ready to take special measures to protect: (i) Royal Air Force installations and personnel at Habbaniya and Shaiba. (ii) The lives of British subjects in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. (iii) The Kirkuk oilfields and the pipe line to Haifa." Lastly, Quinan was directed "to make plans to protect the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's installations and its British employees in South West Iran if necessary." Quinan was informed that "it was the intention to increase his force up to three infantry divisions and possibly also an armoured division, as soon as these troops could be despatched from India." [2]

Operations Regulta and Regatta Edit

On 23 May, Wavell flew to Basra to discuss further reinforcements and operations in Iraq with Auchinleck. Additionally, he instructed Quinan, commanding the Indian forces there, to make plans for an advance from Basra towards Baghdad. [50] On 27 May, the forces from Basra started to advance northwards. In Operation Regulta, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, known as the "Euphrates Brigade", advanced along the Euphrates by boat and by road. In Operation Regatta, the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade, known as the "Tigris Brigade", advanced up the Tigris by boat to Kut. [43] [155] On 30 May, the 10th Indian Infantry Division's third brigade, 25th Indian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier Ronald Mountain, arrived and disembarked at Basra. The 25th Indian Infantry Brigade included 3rd battalion 9th Jat Regiment, 2nd battalion 11th Royal Sikh Regiment, and 1st battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry. [156] In June 1941, additional British forces arrived in Basra from India. On 9 June, the 17th Indian Infantry Brigade arrived and, on 16 June, the 24th Indian Infantry Brigade arrived. [43]

Iraqi collapse Edit

The British forces from Habbaniya pressed on to Baghdad after the defence of Fallujah. Major-General Clark decided to maintain the momentum because he expected that the Iraqis did not appreciate just how small and just how vulnerable his forces actually were. Clark had a total of about 1,450 men to attack at least 20,000 Iraqi defenders. However, Clark did enjoy an advantage in the air. [157]

Baghdad Edit

On the night of 27 May, the British advance on Baghdad began. The advance made slow progress and was hindered by extensive inundations and by the many destroyed bridges over the irrigation waterways which had to be crossed. [115] Faced with Clark's advance, the government of Rashid Ali collapsed. On 29 May, Rashid Ali, the Grand Mufti, and many members of the "National Defence Government" fled to Persia. After Persia, they went on to Germany. On the morning of 31 May, the Mayor of Baghdad and a delegation approached British forces at the Washash Bridge. With the Mayor was Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, the British Ambassador, who had been confined to the British Embassy in Baghdad for the past four weeks. [21] Terms were quickly reached and an armistice was signed. [158] [159] The Iraqi armed forces in the vicinity of Baghdad still greatly outnumbered the British and the British decided not to occupy Baghdad immediately. This was done partly to disguise the weakness of British forces outside the city. [160] On 1 June, Prince 'Abd al-Ilah returned to Baghdad as the Regent and the monarchy and a pro-British government were put back in place. On 2 June, Jamil al-Midfai was named Prime Minister. [160]

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Rashid Ali's "National Defence Government" and the armistice, Baghdad was torn apart by rioting and looting. [114] Much of the violence was channelled towards the city's Jewish Quarter. Some 120 Jewish residents lost their lives and about 850 were injured before the Iraqi police were ordered to restore order with live ammunition. [160]

At least two British accounts of the conflict praised the efforts of the air and ground forces at RAF Habbaniya. According to Churchill, the landing of the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade at Basra on 18 April was "timely." In his opinion, the landing forced Rashid Ali into premature action. However, Churchill added that the "spirited defence" of Habbaniya by the Flying School was a "prime factor" in British success. [161] Wavell wrote that the "gallant defence" of Habbaniya and the bold advance of Habforce discouraged the Iraqi Army, while the Germans in their turn were prevented from sending further reinforcements by "the desperate resistance of our troops in Crete, and their crippling losses in men and aircraft." [21]

On 18 June, Lieutenant-General Quinan was given command of all British and Commonwealth forces in Iraq. Before this, Iraqforce was more or less limited to the forces landed at and advancing from Basra. [114]

After the Anglo-Iraq War, elements of Iraqforce (known as Iraq Command from 21 June) were used to attack the Vichy French-held Mandate of Syria during the Syria-Lebanon campaign, which started 8 June and ended 14 July. Iraq Command (known as Persia and Iraq Force (Paiforce from 1 September) was also used to attack Persia during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia, which took place in August to September 1941. Forward defences against a possible German invasion from the north through the Caucasus were created in 1942, and the strength of Paiforce peaked at the equivalent of over 10 brigades before the Russians halted the German threat at the Battle of Stalingrad. After 1942, Iraq and Persia were used to transit war material to the Soviet Union and the British military presence became mainly lines of communication troops.

On 20 June, Churchill told Wavell that he was to be replaced by Auchinleck. [162] Of Wavell, Auchinleck wrote: "In no sense do I wish to infer that I found an unsatisfactory situation on my arrival – far from it. Not only was I greatly impressed by the solid foundations laid by my predecessor, but I was also able the better to appreciate the vastness of the problems with which he had been confronted and the greatness of his achievements, in a command in which some 40 different languages are spoken by the British and Allied Forces." [163]

British forces were to remain in Iraq until 26 October 1947 and the country remained effectively under British control. [ citation needed ] The British considered the occupation of Iraq necessary to ensure that access to its strategic oil resources be maintained. On 18 August 1942, General Maitland Wilson was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Persia and Iraq Command. By 15 September, he was headquartered in Baghdad. Wilson's primary task was "to secure at all costs from land and air attack the oil fields and oil installations in Persia and Iraq." His secondary task was "to ensure the transport from the Persian Gulf ports of supplies to Russia to the maximum extent possible without prejudicing [his] primary task." [164]

While Rashid Ali and his supporters were in alliance with the Fascist Regime in Italy [165] the war demonstrated that Iraq's independence was at best conditional on British approval of the government's actions. [ citation needed ] Rashid Ali and the Mufti of Jerusalem fled to Persia, then to Turkey, then to Italy, and finally to Berlin, Germany, where Ali was welcomed by Hitler as head of the Iraqi government-in-exile. [ citation needed ]

The British and Commonwealth system of battle honours recognised participation in the Anglo-Iraq War by the award to 16 units of the battle honour Iraq 1941, for service in Iraq between 2–31 May 1941. The award was accompanied by honours for three actions during the war: Defence of Habbaniya awarded to one unit for operations against the Iraqi rebels between 2–6 May, Falluja awarded to two units for operations against the Iraqi rebels between 19–22 May, and Baghdad 1941 awarded to two units for operations against the Iraqi rebels between 28–31 May. [166]

History Bytez

The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 20 March to 1 May 2003 and signalled the start of the Iraq War, which was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States (prior to 19 March, the mission in Iraq was called Operation Enduring Freedom, a carry over from the War in Afghanistan). The invasion consisted of 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and deposed the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. The invasion phase consisted primarily of a conventionally fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad by American forces.

160,000 troops were sent by the Coalition into Iraq, during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 9 April 2003. About 130,000 were sent from the USA alone, with about 28,000 British Soldiers, Australia (2,000), and Poland (194). 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops were assembled in Kuwait by 18 February. The coalition forces also received support from Kurdish irregulars in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme NATO Allied Commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Strategy and Policy, describes in his 2003 book, Winning Modern Wars, his conversation with a military officer in the Pentagon shortly after the 11 September attacks regarding a plan to attack seven Middle Eastern countries in five years:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”

Others place a much greater emphasis on the impact of the 11 September 2001 attacks, and the role this played in changing U.S. strategic calculations, and the rise of the freedom agenda. According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq’s failure to take a “final opportunity” to disarm itself of alleged nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace.

In a January 2003 CBS poll, 64% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq however, 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism directed against the U.S. would increase due to war. The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC’s 12 February 2003 report. On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally. According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.


There were no WMD’s. I would argue that (in the future, if not now) the actions of the US and its allies will be seen as one of the great foreign policy disasters of the 21st Century. The world is arguably a much more dangerous and unstable place than it was before the US reacted to the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Opening the Pandora’s box of violence

While there can be no doubt that the Ba’athist regime in Iraq was violent and oppressive, what replaced it proved to be even worse. It was post-invasion Iraq where groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL really flourished.

Al-Qaeda was perceived to be an existential threat in Ba’athist Iraq and was hunted down, but the group found fertile recruitment ground in the country following the invasion. It used George Bush’s characterisation of the so-called “war on terror” as a “crusade” as a rallying cry, inviting fighters across to world to join their fight. Al-Qaeda was almost non-existent in Iraq prior to 2003, but it became a powerful force following the invasion and increased its global recruitment rate substantially. It was the power vacuum created by the invasion that allowed people like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to become powerful warlords almost overnight.

Although Zarqawi was killed in 2006, his rabidly anti-Shia ideology clashed with anti-Sunni zealotry of hard line Shia outfits active in Iraq, and created a vortex of violent sectarianism in the country that persists to this day. Of course, all this happened against the backdrop of the US-led occupation, which produced its own extraordinary levels of violence while allowing sectarian violence to prosper.

The Lancet published a study that showed that, up until 2006, approximately 655,000 Iraqis had been killed as a direct result of the invasion. The British defence ministry’s then-chief scientific adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, praised the study as “robust“, lending even further credibility to the findings demonstrating the catastrophic loss of life suffered by Iraqis in the first three years following the invasion.

The death toll is, by now, significantly higher than was recorded in 2006. The violence accelerated and human rights abuses worsened during the sectarian civil war that followed the invasion, setting the foundations for ISIL’s rapid spread accross the country and its conquest of Mosul in 2014.

Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqis were forced to leave their broken country to seek safety and security elsewhere, with some finding refuge in neighbouring Syria, Jordan and Turkey, while others making their way into Europe, settling in towns like Sweden’s Malmo, facing a new myriad of difficulties and abuse.

Postwar reconstruction and social upheavals, 1945–58

During World War II, liberal and moderate Iraqi elements began to play an active political role. The entry of the United States and the Soviet Union into the war and their declarations in favour of democratic freedoms greatly enhanced the position of the Iraqi democratic elements. The people endured shortages and regulations restricting personal liberty and the freedom of the press, trusting that the end of the war would bring the promised better way of life. The government, however, paid no attention to the new spirit, and the wartime regulations and restrictions continued after the war. The regent, ʿAbd al-Ilāh, called a meeting of the country’s leaders in 1945 and made a speech in which he attributed public disaffection to the absence of a truly parliamentary system. He called for the formation of political parties and promised full freedom for their activities and the launching of social and economic reforms.

The immediate reactions to the regent’s speech were favourable, but, when political parties were formed in 1946 and certain regulations were abolished, the older politicians and vested interests resisted. The new government formed in January 1946 was overthrown within a few months of its inception. Nūrī al-Saʿīd then became prime minister and tried to enlist the cooperation of political parties, but the general elections held under his government’s supervision were no different from previous controlled elections. The parties boycotted the elections. Nūrī al-Saʿīd resigned in March 1947, and Ṣāliḥ Jabr formed a new government.

Jabr, the first Shiʿi politician to become a prime minister, included in his cabinet a number of young men, but he himself was unacceptable to some liberal and nationalist elements who had been roughly handled when he was wartime minister of interior. Jabr tried to help the Arabs in Palestine in order to improve his image in nationalist circles, but he mishandled opposition leaders. Most damaging was his attempt to replace the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930 without consulting with Iraqi leaders. When he was asked to consult with others, he called in only older politicians and excluded the younger leaders.

Jabr entered into negotiations with Britain with the intention of enhancing his own position. When he found that Britain wanted to retain control of its air bases in Iraq, he insisted that Britain accept the principle of Iraqi control of the bases Iraq would allow Britain to use them in the event of war. He threatened to resign if Britain refused his proposals.

It was with this understanding that Jabr proceeded to London early in 1948 to negotiate a new treaty. He and Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, quickly came to an agreement and signed a 20-year treaty at Portsmouth on January 15, 1948. It provided for a new alliance between Iraq and Britain on the basis of equality and complete independence and required that “each of the high contracting parties undertake not to adopt in foreign countries an attitude which is inconsistent with the alliance or which might create difficulties for the other party.” An improvement of the 1930 treaty, this document sought an alliance on the basis of mutual interests. The two air bases, which were often the subject of criticism, were returned to Iraq. British forces were to be evacuated, and Iraq would be supplied with arms and military training. The annex to the treaty stressed the importance of the air bases as “an essential element in the defense of Iraq.” Britain’s use of the bases in the event of war, or threat of war, would depend on Iraq’s invitation. The treaty also provided for the establishment of a joint defense board for common defense and consultation. Both parties agreed to grant each other necessary facilities for defense purposes.

Despite these advances, the treaty was repudiated immediately in a popular uprising. Street demonstrations had occurred before the treaty was signed, in defense of Arab rights in Palestine, but, when the news of the signing of the new treaty was broadcast in London, rioting and demonstrations in Baghdad followed. Within a week of the signing, the regent called a meeting at the royal household that was attended by both older and younger leaders. After deliberations, they decided to repudiate the treaty. Jabr returned to Baghdad to defend his position but to no avail. Rioting and demonstrations increased, and Jabr was forced to resign.

The new treaty was not the root cause of the uprising. It was the culmination of a struggle between the young, liberal leaders who wanted to participate in political activities and the older leaders who insisted on excluding them. This conflict continued after the treaty was rejected. The older politicians returned to power under Nūrī al-Saʿīd’s leadership.

In 1952 another popular uprising flared, stirred by opposition leaders and carried out by students and extremists. The police were unable to control the mob, and the regent called on the army to maintain public order. The chief of the general staff governed the country under martial law for more than two months. Civilian rule was restored at the beginning of 1953, but there was no sign that the country’s older leaders were prepared to share authority with their opponents.

Meanwhile, King Fayṣal II, who had come of age, began to exercise his formal powers, and the period of regency came to an end. It was hoped that ʿAbd al-Ilāh would withdraw from active politics and allow the political forces of the country to create a new order. The former regent, who became the crown prince, continued to control political events from behind the scenes, however, and the struggle for power among the leaders continued with increasing intensity until the downfall of the monarchy in 1958.

Despite political instability, Iraq achieved material progress during the 1950s, thanks to a new oil agreement that increased royalties and to the establishment of the Development Board. The original oil agreement between the Iraqi government and the IPC had heretofore yielded relatively modest royalties, owing to certain technical limitations (such as the need for pipelines) and to war conditions. It was not until 1952 that construction of pipelines to Bāniyās was completed.

Some points of dispute between the government and the IPC were not entirely resolved. The nationalization of the oil industry in Iran and the announcement of the 1950 agreement between Saudi Arabia and Aramco ( Arabian American Oil Company, later Saudi Aramco), on a half-and-half basis of payment, induced the Iraqi government and the IPC to negotiate a new agreement on the division of profits. Some opposition leaders demanded that the oil industry be nationalized, but the Iraqi government and the IPC, forestalling any serious move for nationalization, agreed to negotiate on the basis of the fifty-fifty formula, to the mutual advantage of Iraq and the company. The new agreement was signed in 1952 it allowed Iraq to take part of its share of the profits in kind and to receive an increasing amount of royalties specifically agreed upon between the two parties. It was stated that Iraq would receive a set minimum amount of the proceeds in 1953 and all subsequent years.

In 1950 the government had created an independent Development Board, an agency immune from political pressures and responsible directly to the prime minister. The board had six executive members, three of whom had to be experts in some branch of the development program. The prime minister, as chairman, and the minister of finance were ex officio members. An amendment to the law increased membership by two and provided for a minister of development responsible directly to the head of the cabinet. These members were appointed by the cabinet, had equal voting rights, and were not permitted to hold any other official position. Two foreign members held positions as experts, and the Iraqi members were selected on merit and past experience. The board was composed of a council and ministry. Its staff was divided into technical sections and the ministry into a number of departments. The technical sections were for irrigation, flood control, water storage, drainage, transportation, and industrial and agricultural development. The board was financed from 70 percent of oil royalties and from loans and revenues from the board’s own projects.

In 1950 the World Bank provided a loan for the Wadi Al-Tharthār flood-control project, and other flood-control plans were constructed. Extensive work on bridges and public buildings—including schools, hospitals, a new Parliament building, and a royal house—was started. This work, especially the work on dams and irrigation projects, was a long-term investment, and many short-term projects of more direct benefit to the population were neglected. Opposition leaders attacked the Development Board for the stress on long-term projects that they claimed benefited only the vested interests—landowners and tribal chiefs. Despite criticism, the board maintained an independent status rarely enjoyed by any other government department. Nevertheless, the public remained unaware of the far-reaching effects of the projects undertaken, while the opposition attacked the board for squandering funds on contracts given to wealthy landlords and influential politicians.

Watch the video: 2003 Invasion of Iraq 12. Animated History


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