Iraq ( Mesopotamia ) the Cradle of the Civilizations
The ancient name of Iraq was Mesopotamia, which in Greek means “between the rivers”. Mesopotamia has come to be known for the area bounded on the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and on the southwest by the edge of the Arabian Plateau and stretching from the Arabian Gulf in the southeast to the spurs of the Anti-Taurus Mountains in the northwest. This means the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. This area was named the cradle of the ancient civilizations.
The Sumerians (2900-1800 B.C.) were the first. They lived in the south of Mesopotamia , speaking a language unrelated to any other human language we know of. They lived in cities that were ruled by monarchs, and began to write. Around 2900 B.C. they began to form large city-states that controlled areas of several hundred sequare miles. The names of these cities speak from a distant and foggy past: Ur , Legash, Erido. The Sumerians are believed to have invented the early writings. Early writings were pictographic and renderings of symbols and rough sketches were used to denote meaning. The Sumerians also invented calendars, which they divided into twelve months based on the cycle of the moon. They also developed sophistication with mathematics that had never been seen before on the human landscape.
The Akkadians (2340-2125 B.C.) were a Semitic people living on the Arabian Peninsula during the great flourishing period of the Sumerian city-states. They migrated north and came in increasing conflict with the Sumerian city-states, and in 2340 B.C., the great Akkadian military leader, Sergon, conquered Sumer and built an Akkadian empire stretching over most of the Sumerian city-states. In 2125 B.C. the Sumerian city of Ur rose up in revolt, and the Akkadian empire fell before a renewal of Sumerian rule.
The Amorites and the Old Babylonian Period (1800-1530 B.C.). After the last Sumerian dynasty fell around 2000 B.C., Mesopotamia drifted into conflict and chaos for almost a century. Around 1900 B.C., a group of Semites called Amorites had managed to gain control of most of the Mesopotamia region. Like the Akkadians, the Amorites centralized the government over the individual city-states and based their capital in the city of Babylon , which was originally called Akkad and served as the center of the Amorite empire. For this reason, the Amorites are called the Old Babylonians.
The Assyrians (1170-612 B.C.) were a Semitic people living in the north reaches of Mesopotamia . The Assyrian dream of an empire began with the monarch, Tiglat-pilaser (1116-1090 B.C.), who extended Assyrian dominance to Syria and Armenia, but the greatest period of conquest occurred between 883 and 824 B.C., under the monarchies of Ashurnazirpal II (883-859 B.C.), Shalmenser III ( 858-824 B.C.) who conquered all of Syria and Palastine, all of Armenia and Babylon and south Mesopotamia. The last great Assyrian monarch was Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), who not only extended the empire, but also began a project of assembling a library of tablets of all the literature of Mesopotamia . Thirty thousand tablets still remain of Ashurbanipal’s great library in the city of Nineveh ; these tablets are the single greatest source of knowledge of Mesopotamian culture, myth and literature. The great Assyrian empire began to crumble; the greatest pressure came from the Babylonians.
The Chaldeans and the Neo-Babylonian Period (612-539 B.C.) The Babylonians led by Nabopolassar eventually conquered the Assyrian capital of Nineveh forever ending Assyrian dominance in the region. Nabopolassar was succeeded by his son Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.). Under his monarchy, the city of Babylon was rebuilt with great splendor; it would eventually become one of the most magnificent human cities in the Middle East and Mediterranean . Around 539 B.C., Cyrus the conqueror of Persia invaded the city of Babylon and forever ended Semitic domination of Mesopotamia . The center of the Middle Eastern world shifted to Cyrus’s capital, Susa , and it would shift again after the Greeks and then to Romans. For almost two and a half centuries, Mesopotamia and Babylon at its center, dominated the landscape of early civilization in the Middle East to be finally eclipsed by the rising sun of the Indo-European cultures.
The Arabic Period
The first conflict between the local Arabic tribes and Sasanian forces seems to have been in 634 A.D., when the Arabs were defeated at the battle of the Bridge. In 637 A.D. a much larger Muslim force under Sa’d ibn Abe Waqqas defeated the main Persian army at the battle of Al-Qadisiyya and moved on to Ctesiphon . By the end of the following year (638 A.D.), the Muslims had conquered almost all of Iraq .
Iraq now became a province of the Muslim Caliphate. At first the capital of the Caliphate was at Madinah, but after the murder of the third Calipha Uthman, in 656 A.D., his successor, Ali, made Iraq his base. In 661 A.D., however, Ali was murdered in Al-Kufah, and the Caliphate passed to the Umayyad family in Syria . Iraq became a subordinate province.
The Abbasid Caliphate (749- 1258 A.D. ) Opposition to the Umayyads finally came to a head in northeastern Iran (Khorasan). In 749 A.D. the armies from the east reached Iraq and the first Abbasid Calipha, As-Saffah was proclaimed in the mosque at Al-Kufah. In 762 A.D., the Abbasid Calipha Al-Mansur founded a new capital on the site of the old village of Baghdad . It was officially known as Madinat as-Salam (City of Peace ). The high point of prosperity was reached in the reign of Harun ar-Rashid (786-809 A.D.), when Iraq was very much the center of the empire and riches flowed into the capital from all over the Muslim world. In 819-833 A.D., during the Abbasid Calipha Al-Ma’mun, Baghdad became the center of remarkable cultural activity, notably the translation of Greek science and philosophy into Arabic. The Calipha established an academy in Baghdad , the Bayt al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) with a library and an observatory.
Around 1227 A.D. the Mongols under Genghis Khan had already conquered much of northern Iraq . In 1258 A.D. Baghdad was invaded by a major Mongol force commanded by Hulegu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, who had been sent from Mongolia expressly to deal with the Abbasids. Baghdad fell on February 10, 1258 A.D. and the last Abbasid Calipha, al-Must’asim, was executed shortly thereafter.
The Fall of Baghdad …Aftermath
After the fall of Baghdad in 1258 A.D., Iraq was dominated by the Mongol tribes until 1432 A.D., and then by the Turkmen tribal federation (Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu) that ruled Azerbaijan, Anatolia, and Iraq until 1508 A.D.
In 1508, Shah Isma’il I, founder of the Safvid dynasty in Iran , entered Baghdad . In 1534 the Ottoman sultan Suleyman I (also known as Suleyman the Magnificent) took Baghdad from the Safavids. Baghdad was integrated into the Ottoman Empire until 1918, except for a brief Safavid reoccupation from 1623 to 1638.
The Modern History of Iraq
At the end of World War I, the League of Nations gave the United Kingdom a mandate to administer Iraq until it established its own government. Many Iraqis resented the British, and public rebellions broke out in Iraq in 1920. The British reacted by setting up a new government. King Faisal I became the first king of Iraq . In 1930, the United Kingdom and Iraqi government signed a treaty which stated that the British government would provide military protection and eventual independence and Iraq would continue to allow the United Kingdom to use the British air bases in Iraq . Iraq became an independent state in 1932. King Faisal I died and his son Ghazi ascended to the throne.
In 1939 king Ghazi was killed in a car accident. His three-year old son Faisal II became the king, but his uncle ruled for him. In 1958 Army officers overthrew the kingdom system and proclaimed Iraq a republic. General Abdul Karim Kassem became the president of the Republic. In 1963 General Kassem was assassinated by army officers and members of the Baath party and General Abdul Salam Arif became the President. In 1966 Abdul Salam was killed in a helicopter accident. His brother Abdul Rahman became the new President. In 1968, the Baath party aided by military officers took control of the Iraqi government and General Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr became the President.
In 1979 Al-Bakr resigned the presidency and Saddam Hussein became the president of Iraq . Since 1979 and for over three decades, Iraq ‘s standing in the international community has been steadily eroded by the disastrous foreign policy of the former regime. The tyranny Saddam Hussein inflicted upon the Iraqi people extended to Iraq ‘s international relations through catastrophic wars, a blatant disregard for international law, support for international terrorism and proliferation of WMDs. In the Middle East, Saddam Hussein agitated violence, intimidated Iraq ‘s neighbours, fomented regional instability and continued to pose a dangerous threat to the rest of the world. Continued Saddam noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years resulted in the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime. Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 28, 2004.