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Iraq: Iraq Under Saddam Hussein
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > Iraq Under Saddam Hussein


In the 1970s, Saddam Hussein was able to patch relations with most Arab states, substantially improve economic conditions, and in 1979 replace al Bakr as president of Iraq. Internally, he began a pattern of ruthless manipulation and extermination of enemies that would continue throughout his regime. In 1980 long-standing territorial disputes and the perception of Iran’s weakness following its 1979 fundamentalist revolution led Iraq to invade Iran. Despite international mediation efforts, the ensuing war lasted until 1988 and killed between 500,000 and 1 million people. In the same period, Kurdish insurgents in northeastern Iraq took advantage of the war to press militarily and diplomatically for Kurdish autonomy. Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait precipitated the Gulf War of early 1991 in which a United Nations (UN) force led by the United States defeated Iraq decisively. Withdrawal of that force from Iraq was followed by long-term arms restrictions, protected autonomous status for Iraq’s Kurds, and economic sanctions. Iraq’s observance of arms restrictions became the subject of international controversy in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The 1990s were marked by new moves toward autonomy by the Kurds, periodic Iraqi resistance to arms inspections and “no-fly” restrictions in northern and southern Iraq, and progressive deterioration of living standards in Iraq because of international sanctions. A UN Oil-for-Food Program, established in 1997, did not relieve the domestic crisis. The terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 brought a reassessment of U.S. policy toward Iraq as a threat to international stability. Although Iraq agreed to unconditional arms inspections in 2002, in March 2003 a coalition force led by the United States invaded Iraq on the grounds that the regime was concealing weapons of mass destruction and had supported the attacks of 2001. The invasion quickly toppled Saddam Hussein from power.

Data as of August 2006

Last Updated: August 2006

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iraq was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 21 of 128


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