(April 3) UN sets terms for lifting economic sanctions against Iraq. Sanctions are originally applied after Iraq invades Kuwait. One month after Iraq agrees to the ceasefire ending the first Iraq War, a UN resolution is adopted indicating the conditions Iraq must meet before economic sanctions can be removed. They include destruction of all chemical and biological weapons along with ballistic missiles, a halt to all work on developing nuclear weapons programs, an international inspection regime to ensure compliance, and acceptance of liability for all damages caused by the invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq frustrates UN inspectors. The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) is set up to inspect Iraq's non-nuclear weapons compliance, as well as assist the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with nuclear weapons inspections. Over the next seven years, Iraq frustrates the efforts of inspection teams to make a complete assessment of its compliance, with tactics that range from stalling to restrictions on inspectors' access to sensitive areas within the country to an eventual total lack of cooperation.
(October 31) Iraq decides to end all interaction with UNSCOM. Iraq refuses to cooperate and forces all UN inspectors to leave. Two weeks later the country makes a U-turn and allows inspectors to return. Ten days after that, Iraq returns to its initial pose, and by mid-December the UN Security Council is informed that the country is still blocking inspections.
(December 17) The UN creates a new inspection commission. The United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is created to replace UNSCOM. As the resolution bringing it to life makes clear, the Iraq government must give the commission's inspectors unfettered access to all weapons sites and facilities—much as it was supposed to do before. Proving that nothing has changed on their side, Iraq rejects the terms.
Iraq maintains its stance that UN inspectors will not be permitted to return.UNMOVIC continues to press Iraq on the resumption of weapons inspections, but the Iraqi government refuses to allow any members of the inspection commission to return and completely rejects new proposals presented by the UN in February and November of 2000. The situation remains deadlocked through early September of 2001.
(September 11) World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks. The United States responds to the hijacking of four U.S. airliners and subsequent destruction of New York City's World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon by declaring a global "war on terror."
(January 22) President George W. Bush describes an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address. The president lists Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Syria as the "axis of evil," and describes their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction as a "grave and growing danger." He pledges that America will do whatever is needed to ensure that the country remains safe and secure. While not eliminating terrorist organizations from the picture, the president's speech changes U.S. foreign policy focus from terror groups to governments.
(February–July) The UN again fails in an attempt to resume inspections. UN Secretary General Kofi Anann tries in vain to reach an agreement with Iraq that will allow weapons inspectors to return. During this time the U.S. is gathering intelligence concerning the state of Iraq's weapons programs, with sometimes contradictory conclusions coming from various arms of the government on such issues as Iraqi connections to Al Qaeda, Iraq's purchase of yellowcake uranium from Niger, and the country's attempt to buy aluminum tubes for use in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Saddam Hussein's refusal to cooperate on inspections prevents a clear resolution of these matters.
(September 12) President Bush addresses the UN. On the day after the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Bush tells the General Assembly that Iraq must comply with UN resolutions to confirm it has dismantled and destroyed its weapons programs. The president makes it clear that if Iraq continues to resist these terms, the U.S. will lead a multilateral "response."
(October 11) Congress approves a resolution for war. The Bush Administration gains the legal basis it needs to bring force against Iraq when both the Senate and the House of Representatives approve a joint resolution. In addition to authorizing the president to command the military and defend the United States against the "continuing threat" posed by Iraq, the resolution also calls for the replacement of Saddam Hussein's government with a democratic replacement.
(November 8) A final UN resolution. The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1441, which offers Iraq a final opportunity to meet the disarmament obligations of previous resolutions by allowing inspection teams back in to the country. Iraq agrees and UNMOVIC inspectors reenter the country as the year comes to a close.
(January 27–28) UNMOVIC issues a report; President Bush reiterates the U.S. position regarding Iraq. The UNMOVIC account notes that Iraq's "full disclosure" report of December 2002 doesn't include for large amounts of forbidden weapons and materials already listed in previous UN reports. It also states that Iraq continued to import missile components in December. Hans Blix, UNMOVIC's chairman, requests more time for further inspections. In his State of the Union address the next day, President Bush reaffirms America's determination to disarm Iraq if Saddam Hussein does not decide to do so.
(February 3) U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presents evidence of Iraqi weapons to the UN. Powell's presentation details the various weapons systems that Iraq is still thought to possess, including data that indicates Iraq has the ability to attack America's East Coast with chemical and biological agents delivered by unmanned aerial vehicles. The intelligence gathered to back up this conclusion, along with others made by Powell during his appearance, is later shown to be inaccurate, and the Secretary of State acknowledges that it was deliberately misleading in some cases, although he was not aware of it at the time.
(March 7) UNMOVIC issues another report; the U.S. and Britain seek another UN resolution authorizing war. UNMOVIC's Hans Blix offers a generally optimistic take on the latest weapons inspections, reporting that UN personnel have had fewer difficulties in carrying out their work than those faced by UNSCOM between 1991 and 1998. Blix also notes that evidence of proscribed activities regarding biological weapons has not been found, and predicts that key remaining disarmament tasks can be completed within months. Many countries, including France, Germany, Russia, and Arab nations, oppose the resolution reiterating the case for war against Iraq.
(March 17) The "Coalition of the Willing." The resolution is withdrawn after it doesn't garner enough support in the UN Security Council. President Bush gives Saddam Hussein 48 hours to resign or face an invasion of Iraq. The State Department issues a list of 30 countries willing to be associated with the use of force, calling it the "Coalition of the Willing." Although these nations are said to be providing troops, logistical support, or reconstruction assistance, the State Department admits that in addition to America, only Britain and Australia are providing a sizeable military presence.
THE WAR ERUPTS (2003–2010)
(March 19) The invasion of Iraq begins. Land-based troops start their movement into Iraqi territory, and two days later a massive aerial assault by the U.S. and its allies is launched against targets in Iraq. American troops make good progress at first, find greater resistance from Iraqi troops that slow them down for a short time, and then make their way close to Baghdad by early April.
(April 9) Baghdad is taken by U.S. troops. Iraqi citizens cheer U.S. forces as they arrive in Baghdad. The troops help some Iraqis pull down an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein in the city's main square. While this is happening, other Iraqis participate in massive looting of public and government buildings. Vast amounts of weaponry are also taken, and much of this material makes its way into the hands of future Iraqi insurgents.
(May 1) President Bush declares victory. After making a dramatic entrance via Navy fighter jet onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the president announces that major combat operations in Iraq have ended while standing in front of a large banner that reads "Mission Accomplished."
(April–July) The Coalition Provisional Authority assumes control of Iraq.Created by the U.S. Department of Defense, the CPA under chief administrator L. Paul Bremer creates the Iraqi Governing Council, which meets for the first time on July 13 in Baghdad. The council is a combination of Iraqi expatriates who fled Saddam Hussein's regime and dissidents who had been persecuted by Hussein. Although Bremer has the final say on all Iraqi affairs, over succeeding months the Governing Council fills vacant ministry offices with interim appointees and drafts a temporary constitution for Iraq.
(July–August) Resistance to coalition forces increases. Groups of Iraqis, ranging from old Baath party loyalists to religious radicals to citizens angered by the chaos created by the invasion, begin to fight back. Most tactics involve small but deadly attacks using a variety of weapons, such as mortars, suicide bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and car bombs. However, there are also larger-scale attacks, including a massive car bomb that explodes outside the Imam Ali Mosque in Najif, killing the Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim and more than 100 other people.
(December 13) Saddam Hussein is captured. Having slipped out of Baghdad before U.S. troops arrived in April, Saddam Hussein has been on the run ever since. Using intelligence provided by family members and former bodyguards, American soldiers track Hussein to a farm near Tikrit, where he is captured alive.
(April 4–10) The First Battle of Fallujah. After insurgents kill four U.S. private military contractors, an angry mob drags their bodies through the streets of Fallujah, sets them on fire, and hangs them from a bridge over the Euphrates River. In an attempt to pacify the city, coalition troops attack insurgent forces, but after a week, a ceasefire is declared when little progress is made. U.S. forces decide to withdraw from the city by the end of the month, handing the reins to local forces called the Fallujah Brigade.
(April 28) Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse is detailed on 60 Minutes II. Although the U.S. Army had announced in March that soldiers at the Baghad Central Detention Center (formerly Abu Ghraib prison) were being investigated for allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners being held there, it is not until the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes II runs a segment at the end of April that this issue causes international outrage. The graphic images of abuse further poison the atmosphere for many Iraqis concerning the continued occupation of their country, which adds to the increase in insurgent activities over the next several years.
(June 28) The Iraqi interim government takes over. The Coalition Provisional Authority steps aside and is replaced by an interim Iraqi government, with Iyad Allawi serving as prime minister. This follows a UN endorsement of Iraqi sovereignty earlier in the month, and sets the stage for elections to create a new government early the next year. A dozen former high-ranking government officials, including Saddam Hussein, are handed over to the interim government.
(September 30) No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Iraq Survey Group (ISG), created after the 2003 ceasefire to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), concludes that none are present. Some 18 months later the final ISG report states that in 1991 Saddam Hussein had shut down chemical, biological, and nuclear programs in Iraq, but would have restarted them had the UN lifted the economic sanctions put in place after Operation Desert Storm.
(November–December) The Second Battle of Fallujah. It is believed the number of insurgents in Fallujah has doubled to approximately 5,000 in the months following the April battle. Many of these are non-Iraqis operating under Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Seeking to capture Zarqawi and irrevocably cripple Al Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. forces attack on November 7. Although most of the city is secured by November 16, it is not until December 23 that final pockets of resistance are overcome. Zarqawi, however, manages to escape.
(January 31) Iraqis go to the polls. The Iraqi Transitional Government is elected and given the task of drafting a permanent constitution. Although the election is boycotted by much of the minority Sunni Muslim population, turnout for Iraq's first competitive election in 50 years is strong among Shiites and Kurds.
(May 29) Iraqi soldiers fight back against insurgent groups. Some 40,000 troops are sent in to Baghdad in an effort to beat back the growing insurgency in the capital city. This is the largest use of Iraqi forces to date, and is meant to be the first step in a nationwide program that will put Iraqis in the forefront of the fight to overcome the insurgent problem.
(October–December) Iraqis return to the polls. Voters approve a new constitution on October 15, and two months later a 275-member Iraqi national assembly is elected—this time with participation of the Sunnis along with the Shi'as and the Kurds. The many responsibilities of this new group include choosing the first full-term government of the new Iraq.
(February 22) Sectarian violence increases further after a Shiite mosque is bombed. Although no one is injured, the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra is severely damaged when a bomb believed to have been planted by Al Qaeda explodes. As a result of this attack on one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, bloodshed between Sunni and Shia factions jumps dramatically, and the UN declares that civil war-like conditions now exist in Iraq.
(May 20) The new Iraqi government convenes. The elections of last December leave no political party with a majority, which means months of deadlock ensue before re-elected President Jalal Talabani turns to Shia compromise candidate Nouri al-Maliki in April. The government that Al-Maliki creates is ratified by the National Assembly and takes office.
(June 7) The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq is killed. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi dies when he is caught in an air attack north of Baghdad. Zarqawi was responsible for hundreds of assaults in Iraq, including bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings, and his demise is a major victory in the U.S. effort to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.
(November–December) Saddam Hussein is executed. The deposed Iraqi leader is sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity in November, more than a year after his trial begins. His execution takes place at an Iraqi military facility in the early morning hours of December 30.
(January 23) President Bush announces a troop surge. During his State of the Union address the president tells the country that more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines will be sent to Iraq in the coming months. These reinforcements will be part of a renewed effort to combat the ever-growing violence in Iraqi cities by various insurgent groups. The term "civil war" crops up again, this time in a February National Intelligence Estimate that says it "accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict."
(May 1) Timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals. President Bush vetoes legislation that includes a start date of no later than October 1 for troop withdrawals from Iraq. One week later, more than half the members of Iraq's Parliament sign a legislative petition requiring the government to get Parliament's approval before requesting an extension of the UN mandate that foreign troops remain in Iraq. The petition also calls for a troop withdrawal timetable and a freeze on the level of foreign troops.
(December 18) TheUN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations is renewed. President Bush and Prime Minister Al-Maliki push a resolution through the Security Council that extends the legal grounds for foreign troops to remain in Iraq for another year. They do so in the face of polls showing 80 percent of Iraqis favor troop withdrawals, and without consulting Parliament, despite the law passed earlier in the year requiring that the elected representatives of the people be consulted on this issue.
(March) TheIraqi Army launches an offensive against Shia militias. The fighting begins after a militia controlled by radical Shiite Moslem cleric Muqtada al Sadr shuts down neighborhoods in West Baghdad. Fighting breaks out simultaneously in Basra as the central government sends in troops to secure the area. After a week of intense fighting, a ceasefire is brokered and government forces take control of vital services from the militias. The end result is improvements in the everyday lives of Iraqis in these areas.
(November 27) Parliament ratifies the Status of Forces Agreement. This security pact sets new terms going forward for the United States and Iraq. It states that U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and that all U.S. forces must be out of the country by the end of 2011.
(February 27) President Barack Obama announces new troop withdrawal date.The recently inaugurated Obama sets August 31, 2010, as the date by which all U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraq. As many as 50,000 other U.S. troops will remain until the end of 2011 to maintain counterterrorism measures and continue training Iraqi security forces.
(June 30) U.S. combat troops leave Iraqi cities. Following the terms set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. troops withdraw from the country's urban areas, leaving them in the hands of Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi government declares the date to be a national holiday, and in a televised ceremony, Prime Minister Al-Maliki guarantees that Iraq's citizens will be safe.
(July 31) The Coalition of the Willing is down to one. The few remaining British and Australian troops leave Iraq, leaving the United States as the last nation from the original coalition with troops still in the country. Iraqi forces continue to play an increasing role in the country's security affairs.
(March 7–8) Parliamentary elections show progress of Iraqi security forces.Elections for a new Iraqi parliament take place despite insurgent attacks intended to disrupt the process. General Ray Odierno, the top commander of U.S. forces, praises the massive Iraqi security presence for the elections, and says the performance shows that Iraq's forces will be ready to take complete responsibility for security in Iraq by the end of 2011, when the final U.S. troops will leave.