The country also charged that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In 2003, coalition forces quickly toppled Saddam. However, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

Saddam Hussein was later tried for war crimes by an elected Iraqi government. He was executed in 2006.

Iraq Continues to Struggle

After Saddam's overthrow, Iraq became a bloody battleground as rival factions fought for power. Insurgents, or rebels, from Shiite and Sunni groups targeted civilians and government workers along with coalition forces. The death toll grew to over 162,000 Iraqis. The United States sent more troops in a “surge” to end the fighting.

The United States worked to convince moderate Sunnis, who had prospered under Saddam, to back the newly elected Iraqi government. It also tried to improve Iraqi security forces. In 2011, the last American troops withdrew, leaving a Shiite-led government in control.

Iraq still faced steep hurdles. Car bombings, suicide attacks, and assassinations continued to plague the country. The main political parties, representing Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, were often deadlocked over key issues.

The ongoing violence hurt efforts to rebuild Iraq's once-prosperous economy. Although Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, decades of conflict had left much of the country, and its oil fields, in ruins. In addition, corruption and sabotage slowed oil exports.

During the fighting, millions of Iraqis fled the country. Many more were displaced within Iraq. Some refugees returned, but others were unwilling to risk moving back until security and stability were assured.

The Rise of ISIL

Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites burst into fierce fighting in 2014. An Al Qaeda breakaway group, known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), seized control of parts of northern and eastern Iraq. They won support from some Sunnis who felt oppressed by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. ISIL militants were also involved in Syria's civil war. They called for an Islamic state to be set up in the region of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.

ISIL militants were known for their brutality in the areas they controlled. They targeted Shiite Muslims, Armenian Christians, and others groups. They also publicly executed several hostages, including American journalists.

The United States launched air strikes to protect various Iraqi minority groups from ISIS atrocities and to destroy weapons and equipment ISIL fighters had seized from the Iraqi army. A new government came to power in Baghdad, hoping to ease tensions with Sunnis and regain control of lost territories.

Infographic titled the Iraq war. Sources: Brookings institution; brown university; business insider.
Image Long Description

Analyze Charts

The Iraq War succeeded in its immediate objective, including deposing Saddam Hussein, but the costs were high. How does the information shown here support this generalization?


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments