The legacy of colonialism, three gulf wars (1980-88,1990, 2003 - ) and long-term international economic sanctions has created a divided and conflict-torn state in Iraq.
Ostensibly, the administration of US President George W. Bush initiated the invasion of Iraq in 2003 over the reported threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and Saddam Hussein's failure to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors.
US and allied forces managed to oust the Iraqi government by May 2003, but no WMD were discovered, and the occupation continued until 2011.
This provoked a Sunni-led insurgency composed of Ba'athists, ex-military, and nationalists, resulting in a complex polarisation of ethnic and political identities. By 2006, this had turned into civil war.
By the end of 2014, under the elected Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, ISIS had begun to emerge and establish itself in the north of the country.
The fight against ISIS began in October 2016, with an international coalition including the US – which has so far launched 13,049 airstrikes – the Iraqi national army, Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen and Shi’a militia on the ground.
The battle against IS in Iraq has been devastating, with enormous violence. 3.4 million people have been displaced countrywide. With the battle for the key city of Mosul now declared over, there are calls for comprehensive accountability and reconciliation efforts.
Last updated: September 2017