The ancient Iraq was called Mesopotamia. It was widely considered to be the cradle of civilization in the west, a time when its intellect society and prosperity highlighted the bronze era in the human history. But now, things could not have been any more different. Iraq has been heading in the news among the International community since a few decades and it has been for all the wrong reasons. Even if we start from the Pre-World War 2 era, any possibility of peace and tranquility in Iraq has been marred with recurring wars, coups and bloodshed. All these biggest wars and the regressive mentalities of different people who led the Iraqi government at different times has taken any hopes of progress to tethers. Here is a list of top 10 extremely dangerous wars in Iraq that shook the nation in the middle east time and again.
10. Iraqi Shia Revolts (1935-36)
The Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq have a history of conflicts since ages. But things took an uglier turn in the 1935-36 revolts that saw a series of Shia tribal uprisings in against the Sunni dominated authority of the then Kingdom of Iraq. Albeit, this was not the first time that such an uprising had taken place, and each time, the Iraqi Government would respond by crushing the rebels with heavy military force.
Amid continuous Sunni oppression, the Shia tribes saw themselves repeatedly marginalized in the government. But the final nail in the coffin was stuck when the key Shia Sheikhs were excluded from the Iraqi parliament in 1935. The Shia rebels rose and spread in areas of Iraq, the leaders attempting to achieve a better representation in return for reconciliation. But against the full might of Iraqi air power and military, the rebels eventually had to face the brunt of defeat. 90 Iraqi troops were killed in action, along with the downing of two military aircraft. The rebels, on the other hand, had to sit through even harsher consequences – homes were destroyed, civilians were imprisoned for treason and scores of men were hanged publicly.
Result: Uprising Quelled Casualties: 500+
9. Anglo-Iraqi War (1941)
In the waging years of the Second World War, the British started a campaign against the rebel government in the Kingdom of Iraq from May 2nd till May 31st, 1941. The British wanted to see through the return of the ousted pro-British regent of Iraq, Prince ‘Abd al-Ilah. Even though the Kingdom of Iraq was declared independent after the Anglo-Iraq treaty on October 3rd, 1932, terms like presence of British military in Iraq had angered a large mass of Iraqi population.
The war saw a coalition of consisting of the Britain and the then British Empire go against the Iraqi government who were being aided by the Nazi Germany and Italy. Even though the war lasted only for a few days, the British were able to make a resounding impact upon the rebel government with a victory. The Iraqi side had to bear through much more damage and loss of lives in comparison to the British.
Result: Defeat Casualties: 500+
8. Ramadan Revolution war (1963)
Also referred to as 8 February Revolution and the February 1968 Coup d’état in Iraq, this revolution is the reminiscence of a three day conflict that rocked the Iraqi nation right after the then Iraqi government was overthrown in a military coup. The revolution toppled the government under Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim, put him on a very short trail over the Baghdad radio and then executed him.
The removal took place on the 14th day of the holy festival of Ramadan, hence it is also called the 14 Ramadan Coup. It was no the first time such an coup was attempted, it had been on the plans since 1962, but the people behind the wheels had been passive in fear of being caught and killed. A huge number of Iraqis were killed in the fighting from 8–10 February 1963, and in the house-to-house hunt for “communists” that immediately followed.
Result: Regime Change Casualties: 1000+
7. First Arab Israel war (1948-1949)
This was the first major dispute between the Arab nations and the newly born state of Israel. This conflict gained momentum in the backdrop of the 1948 Palestine War which saw violent clashes between Jewish and Arab communities in the then Palestine. Then on May 15, Egypt and Jordan, together with military supports from Iraq and Syria, invaded Palestine, which just a day before was known as Mandatory Palestine under the British rule.
Even though Israel was seemingly the underdog at the beginning of conflict, it emerged as the clear victor and dealt a decisive blow to the Arab Coalition. This also led to a major demographic change in Palestine, with around 600,000 to 760,000 Arab Palestinians having to flee or being expelled from areas that Israel that took control of. This also led to a massive Jews immigration to Israel from surrounding Arab areas.
Result: Defeat Casualties: 20000+
6. Six day war (1967)
The Arab nations and Israel have a history marred with conflicts for various reasons, and as it is clear from the list, this was not the first time that avoidable circumstances well let to be escalated into a full throttle war. Surprisingly, Iraq played a supporting role this time, sending in its troop on the request of Jordan. Also known as the third Arab-Israel war, it was fought in between June 5th and June 10th, 1967.
Even though the Arab league consisted of military powers like Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, Israel came out as the ultimate winner. To put it straight, Israel gained a lot out of the six day war – it captured the still controversial Gaza strip, Sinai, the West Bank and Golan heights. By the end of sixth day, Israel was now three times the earlier size. Most scholarly accounts of the crisis attribute the drift to war to an escalation that was unwanted, however despite a desire to avoid war on all sides, everyone was in the end responsible for making the escalation unavoidable. And even though it was fought for a mere 6 days, both sides suffered heavy casualties and destruction.
Result: Defeat Casualties: 20000+
5. Gulf war (1990-91)
It all started when Iraq attacked the Kuwait capital on August 2, 1990 with the desire to annex the entire nation after several economic and geographical standoffs. In the face of massive Iraqi firepower, the might of Kuwait’s military was indeed a fickle. That is when a coalition consisting of America, Great Britain and a number of other countries joined in the conflict to aid Kuwait. It was the biggest coalition of armed nations since the Second World War.
With much of the Kuwaiti lands captured by the Iraqi military, the coalition force begin their mission of thwarting back the Iraqi threat with an aerial bombardment on January 17, 1991. The ground assault soon gained momentum on February 24th, and British and American armored forces crossed the Iraq-Kuwait border and entered Iraq in large numbers, taking hundreds of prisoners. By the time the coalition scored a decisive victory, Iraq had already withdrawn from Kuwait and some major International sanctions were dealt upon it.
Result: Defeat Casualties:25000-40000
4. First Kurdish-Iraq war (1961-70) Iraqi history has been marred with a number of internal disputes that, more often than not, turned into major conflicts. The first Kurdish-Iraq War, also known as the Barazani Rebellion that lasted from 1961 to 1970, was one such event. Mustafa Barzani led the struggle in an attempt to establish an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. What started out as a trivial uprising was suddenly turned into a full-blown and long war throughout the 1960s.
Even though the conflict kept on raging for a 9 long years, and even though there were some major internal power shifts within the Iraqi Kingdom, it failed to find any resolution and ended in a stalemate. A 9 year long stalemate in that such 75,000-105,000 casualties and much more destruction of infrastructure and property. After the war, a series of negotiations were tried out in an attempt to resolve the conflict.
Result: Stalemate Casualties: 75,000-105,000
3. Shabaan Intifada (1991 )
Also known as the 1991 Iraqi Uprisings, these were a series of popular rebellions that took place in Northern and Southern Iraq for a duration of 1 month and 4 days in March and April, 1991. These uprisings took place right after the Gulf war. A general impression that the entire regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had become vulnerable then ever, and the frustration among people after having fought two big wars in a single decade gave a much louder voice to the rebels.
Within 2 weeks, the rebels had taken down some of the major Iraqi cities, the Iraqi government retaliated against them by spearheading their attacks using the elite Republican Guards. During these few weeks of unrest, tens of thousands of people died. Nearly two million people became refugees. By the end of the revolution, the number of losses of lives and property was inconceivably high and a new Kurdish Autonomous Area in the Iraqi Kurdistan was created.
Result: Uprising Supressed Casualties: 80,000-230,000
2. Iraq war (2003-2011)
This war single-handedly crippled an already battered countries both economically and politically. After the 9/11 incident, there had been a growing hostility from America and Britain toward Iraq claiming it was possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that posed a threat to their security and that of their coalition/regional allies. The Iraq War was fought in two phases – First was the invasion of Iraq that started on March 20, 2003, led by a coalition force headed by America. The second and longer phase dealt with thwarting the insurgency emerged to oppose the coalition occupation and the new Iraqi government.
The entire period of the war was full of incidents. The coalition troops declared victory after the defeat of Iraq’s conventional forces by May 1, 2003, the infamous dictator Saddam Hussein was captured, trailed and executed, the Iraqi people voted for a new government for the first time in years, insurgents kept of targeting the coalition forces, new government officials and civilians throughout the period. The entire event faced much criticism from the international community since no known WMDs were found after extended search. Even though U.S. completed the withdrawal of its force from Iraq by December 2011, to this day, a number of fatalities occur due to the insurgency.
Result: Regime Change Casualties: 600,000+
1. Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988)
Also popularly known as the First Persian Gulf War, this gruesome conflict between the neighbors Iran and Iraq lasted for almost 8 years, making it the longest conventional war of the 20th century. Those 8 long years saw such horrid and ghastly incidents that this war is considered one of the most violent conflicts since the Second World War. Following a long history of border disputes and tense relations, an inevitable war was a mere provocation away.
And then it began when Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980 via both air and land. Iraq hoped to make most out of the Iranian Revolution chaos and attack without any formal declaration. But the early Iraqi progress was soon halted with Iranian force taking back the captured lands by 1982. For the next 6 years, Iran was on rapid offence using all its firepower in crushing the Iraqi military. The most horrendous moments in the war came when the Iraqis extensively used the mustard gas against Iranian troops, rebel Kurds and even on their own civilians. The war finally ceased after the United Nations brokered a resolution that was accepted by both sides on August 1988. But by then, the damages suffered by both sides were inconceivably high.
Result: Stalemate Casualties: 1,250,000+
The country of Iraq has been through such devastating and violent wars, any chances of a tranquil society seems like an unattainable dream. The number of wars that had been visibly avoidable but Iraq decided to be a part of them anyways are not limited to this list, Iraq took part in way too many disputes and conflicts for its good. At a time when the insurgents are actively participating in wrecking havoc throughout the nation against the present governmental establishment, the only hope for a long lasting peace among the Iraqi people is to avoid any more conflicts for the longest period of time.
Pawan is a budding programmer who loves to write about anything he finds interesting. He is a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and loves reading spy novels in his leisure time.