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Desert Storm, Rapparin and Genocide

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Desert Storm Begins

1991 01

Desert Storm begins, a campaign of air bombardment of Iraq by US-led allied forces. Result is liberation of Kuwait by allied forces in February.

Desert Storm Ceasefire

1991 02 28

Uprisings Begin in South

1991 02 28

Anti-government uprisings began in the south of Iraq in the Shi'i city of Basra on 28 February 1991, the day of the ceasefire, when a column of tanks fleeing from Kuwait rolled into Sa'ad Square and the commander at the head of the column stopped in front of a giant mural of Saddam and climbed onto the roof. He denounced the dictator as responsible for the humiliation and defeat of the Iraqi people, climbed back into the tank and began to blast the portrait with shells, to the delight of the assembled crowd.

Uprisings Spread in South

1991 03

Within days of the Gulf War ceasefire, spontaneous anti-government rapparin (uprisings) against the Iraqi regime had spread throughout the largest cities of the (predominantly Shi'i) south: Karbala, Najaf, Hilla, al-Nasiriya, al-Amara, Samawa, Kut and Diwaniya. The uprising was especially forceful due to disillusioned soldiers who joined forces with the rebels.

Uprisings Begin in North

1991 03 04

Rebellion erupted in the Kurdish north, beginning in the town of Ranya to the northwest of Sulaymaniyah. Many of the jash collaborator militia defected and fought alongside the peshmerga and the people. In both the north and south, rebels attacked security force headquarters, brutally killing large numbers of their personnel in revenge for the Iraqi government's countless victims. Prisons were sacked and many prisoners were released, many of whom had not seen the light of day for ten years or more.The uprising spread so rapidly that within 10 days the Kurds were in control of every city except Kirkuk and Mosul. The Kurds' greatest moment came on 20 March, when they succeeded in capturing Kirkuk.

Rebellions Squashed

1991 03

The uprisings were put down savagely by the Republican Guard. By the end of March the government regained control of all but a few areas in the south, inflicting tremendous suffering and seriously damaging the holy Shi'a sites at Karbala and Najaf. Next the government turned its attention to Kurdistan. Kirkuk was retaken by 28 or 29 March 1991; D'houk and Arbil on 30 March; Zakho on 1 April; and Sulaymaniyah by 3 April. Half of the population of Kurdistan fled to the mountainous Iranian and Turkish borders due to fear of renewed use of chemical weapons against them. By 5 April it was reported that up to three million Iraqi Kurds were fleeing.

Kirkuk Under Guard

1991 03 2nd Week

Suspecting that the Kirkuki Kurds might join the uprising, the Iraqi army increased street patrols in Kurdish neighborhoods and placed many of them under curfew. Ali Hassan al-Majid was put in charge of the city's security and a door-to-door operation began in which several thousand boys and men aged from their early teens to their fifties were arrested. They were transported to military camps and compounds outside the city, where they were held in appalling conditions for the next five weeks. When the majority of them were finally released, they were forbidden to return to Kirkuk.

Having put many of the men out of action, the army was then sent in to demolish large numbers of houses in the Kurdish neighborhoods, using dynamite and bulldozers and putting families out on the streets. Army patrols drove past houses that were still standing, calling out on megaphones to the 'heroic masses of Kirkuk' to surrender their weapons to the Ba'ath party.

Kikruk Seized by Kurds

1991 03 18

Thornhill (1997) writes,

Peshmerga were advancing on Kirkuk from the north and on 18 to 19 March Kurdish neighbourhoods began to fall under their control. By 20 March the peshmerga were in control of the entire city. Journalist Gwynne Roberts, who reached Kirkuk shortly afterwards, wrote in the Independent:

Kurdish rebels were using bulldozers to clear the streets of Kirkuk of Iraqi corpses … I saw several bodies of security officials sprawled in the mud, one of them with live rounds of ammunition jammed into his mouth. A local Kurd said: 'That bastard was a torturer, and God knows how many men, women and children he persecuted. He deserves what he got.'

Peshmerga lined up government officials and security police against walls and machine-gunned them by the dozen. Regular soldiers were spared because it was known that they had been forced to serve in the army. (Thornhill 1997, p 106)

Ba'athists Retake Kirkuk

1991 03 21

Thornhill (1997) writes,

Few civilians had been hurt in the peshmerga seizure of the city, but a counter-offensive by government forces began almost immediately. By 21 March, tanks to the southwest of the city began shelling residential areas day and night, and helicopter gunships flew over the city firing rockets and dropping napalm. Scores of residents were killed dial and some began to flee the city.

After a week-long bombardment, Kirkuk fell to the government. On 27 March, loyalist troops including Republican Guard assault units, paratroopers and special forces entered the city. One of their first acts was to attack Saddam Hussein hospital with tanks and helicopters. They then entered the wards, which were crammed with injured peshmerga and civilians. Scores of patients and medical staff were shot dead and some patients were slashed with knives or thrown out of windows.

As they consolidated their hold on the city, the government troops ordered the remaining Kurdish population, which was predominantly women and children, to leave the city within 24 hours. Soon a stream of refugees was fleeing north and east in the directions of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah, while troops looted their abandoned homes. (Thornhill 1997, p 106-107)

R.G. Retakes Kirkuk

1991 03 28

Republican Guard retakes Kirkuk and peshmerga forces withdraw.

UN SCR 687

1991 04

UN Security Council Resolution 687 demands Iraqi recognition of Kuwait and destruction of all Iraq's non-conventional weapons, and affirms that economic sanctions would continue until full compliance. Safe haven established in northern Iraq, effectively placing most of Kurdistan under allied protection.

Safe Haven

1991 04

John Major's 'Safe Haven' set up via UN SCR 687. Many refugees came down from the mountains to return to Kurdish cities. The security personnel of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime were still present. By later summer, after failed negotiations between the Kurds and the regime, the latter withdrew from about 50% of the area and the Kurdistan Front was left largely in control of the area. Kurdish cities of Mosul and Kirkuk remained in government control while Sulaymaniyah, Arbil and Dohuk were in the liberated area.

UN SCR 688

1991 04

UN Security Council Resolution 688 calls on Iraqi government to stop oppressing its own people.

First UNSCOM Visit

1991 05

First visit of United Nations Special Commission on Disarmament (UNSCOM) weapons inspection team.

Kurdistan Blockade

1991 10

Iraqi armed forces blockade Kurdistan.

Kurdish Elections

1992 05

Kurdistan Front did not have a mandate to govern the area, so after some months it was decided to hold an election and when they occurred a Kurdish administration was formed. More or less equal balance between KDP and PUK. Iraqi Kurds claimed to not want an independent state, but rather part of a post-Saddam Iraq under a federal arrangement. The enclave soon became host to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a coalition of the Iraqi opposition.

KRG Formed

1992 07

Kurdish Regional Government formed by KDP and PUK, with essentially two parallel administrations ruling separate areas.

Belgian Killed

1993 03

Vincent Tollet, a young Belgian aid worker, killed near Sulaymaniyah. No successful assassinations until after September 1993.

Iraq-Kuwait Border

1993 05

UN Security Council approves demarcation of Iraq-Kuwait border in Kuwait's favor.

US Missile Strike

1993 06

United States launches missile strike on headquarters of Iraqi intelligence services in Baghdad in reprisal for Iraqi plot to kill US President Bush during his first visit to Kuwait.

Zakho & Dohuk Power Cut

1993 08

Saddam cuts off power to Zakho and Dohuk.

Anti-Marsh Campaign

1993 10-11

Iraqi forces launch campaign against inhabitants of marshes in south of Iraq and finalize plans for draining of marshes.

PUK-IMIK Fighting

12 1993

In the third week of December, fighting erupts between the PUK and the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. Clashes began in the Kifri region and spread to towns and cities in the governorates of Sulaymaniyah and Arbil. By the end of December the IMIK were forced to retreat to their bases near the Iranian border. Both sides had sustained heavy casualties; Amnesty International estimated as many as 500 civilians and combatants were killed. Each side took prisoners and they accused each other of torture.

PUK, KDP and IMIK Fight

01 05 1994

Fighting was intense throughout the month of May, followed by sporadic clashes in June and July and further fighting in August until a ceasefire was eventually agreed and observed. The May 1994 fighting began with a conflict over ownership of a small piece of land in Qala Diza, in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. This sparked local fighting between the KDP and PUK< and before long KDP personnel in Dohuk overtook the PUK office there. PUK personnel in Sulaymaniyah similarly interfered with the KDP office there and fighting spread throughout the region. This was the beginning of the division of Iraqi Kurdistan into zones: the northwest under KDP control; the southeast under PUK control; and the Iranian border region intermittently controlled by IMIK. This led to a blockade established by the KDP whereby food supplies from Turkey into Kurdistan never reached the PUK-controlled areas. Both KDP and PUK tried to seize Arbil, but the PUK was more successful and for much of the summer controlled Arbil. Parliamentary sessions ceased altogether. The Iraqi National Congress saw the inter-Kurdish fighting as an opportunity to show they had something to offer; INC militias were major in keeping the PUK and KDP peshmerga separate. Amnesty International estimated between 600 and 2,000 combatants and civilians were killed; on 1 June 1994, Amnesty called on leaders of the political parties involved in the conflict to 'stop deliberately killing and mutilating prisoners in their custody, and abducting, killing and torturing civilians based on their political ties' (Amnesty International 1995, Human Rights Abuses in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991).

Women Protest Fighting

06 1994

300 women marched from Sulaymaniyah to Arbil to protest against the fighting and the disastrous effect it was having on the lives of ordinary people, many of whom had been killed or injured or had lost their livelihoods. The women, from across the political spectrum, marched for five days and nights; when they arrived in Arbil they camped out in the parliament building.

KDP-PUK Ceasfire

08 1994

Iraq Recognizes Kuwait

1994 10-11

Iraqi threats to Kuwait lead to crisis and eventual Iraqi recognition of Kuwait as an independent state.

KDP-PUK Fighting

12 1994

A further round of fighting began when the PUK accused the KDP, who controlled the broder with Turkey, of embezzling tax money levied on lorries entering the enclave at Khabur. The PUK seized control of Arbil. A deadlock ensued whereby the KDP refused to hand over tax money until the PUK evacuated Arbil, and the PUK refused to do so until it received the money.

Turkey Invades

03 1995

Turkish army launched a massive incursion over the border into the KDP part of Iraqi Kurdistan, allegedly in pursuit of PKK fighters.

KDP-PUK Meet in Tehran

Early 1995

The KDP and PUK met in Tehran for discussions; meanwhile, Baghdad was making overtures and it was a topic of interest which party would first reach a deal with Saddam.

US-Broked KDP-PUK Talks

08 1995

Talks were help between the PUK and KDP in the Republic of Ireland. Deadlock ensued over Arbil and tax money. There was at least no fighting amidst the stalemate but much vitriol was exchanged.

Iraq Accepts UN SCR 986

1996 02

Iraq accepts UN SCR 986, allowing limited Iraqi oil sales for purchase of vital civillian supplies.

Iran Shuts Kurdistan Border

2-16 07 1996

Iran closed its border with Iraqi Kurdistan in an attempt to thwart cross-border activities of an Iranian Kurdish opposition group, the KDP-I, which was then encamped outside Koysanjaq. the PUK claimed to have lost 50 million Iraq dinars (USD 50,000) as a result, its main income being taxes levied on illicit traders moving between Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

PUK Guides Iran into Iraq

28 07 1996

PUK forces guided the Iran government's Islamic Guards into Iraqi Kurdistan to launch an attack on the KDP-I bases. The PUK's collusion with Iran was widely condemned by Kurds and PUK lost much popular support.

PUK-KDP Fighting

08 1996

In early August, fightin between PUK and KDP broke out as kasnazan near Arbil. US-brokered talks were held in London but were fruitless. The KDP had apparently been negotiating with Baghdad for some time because later that month the Iraqi government stepped in to help the KDP.

Iraq Aids KDP Take Arbil

1996 08 31

450 Iraqi government tanks enter the Kurdish region at invitation of KDP and help to capture Arbil from PUK. Republican Guards raised the national flag on the Kurdish parliament building alongside the KDP's yellow flag. The US responds by launching missile attacks on southern Iraq and extending the southern no-fly zone north to the 33rd parallel. However, cruise missile attacks by the US were ineffective and confused and ended amidst the aeasy excuse of Arab and Western pressure.

Iraq Withdraws

1996 09 04

Iraqi troops withdrew to southeast of the city, leaving behind many mukhaberaat, government secret police. People of Arbil described seeing men dressed in sharwal and who did not speak Kurdish accompanying the peshmerga of the KDP as they patrolled the city. Then, using information given to them by the KDP, the secret police began making house-to-house searches and arrested over 2,000 people from the Iraqi opposition, the Turkoman community and the PUK. Political offices were ransacked and records and information seized. Ninety-six Iraqi government deserters who had been living in a camp outside Arbil for several years were among those executed. The Kurdish parliament building became secret police headquarters.

Iraq Seizes Sulaymaniyah

1996 09 09

After Arbil, Koysanjaq then (on 1996 09 09) the city of Sulaymaniyah fell to the KDP. Many PUK had already fled and the capture was met with little resistance.

Iraqi Oil Flows

1996 12

Iraqi oil flows again through pipeline to Turkey. Iraq returns to world oil market as a producer.

Washington Agreement

1998 09

The Washington Agreement ends fighting between KDP and PUK.

Iraq Liberation Act

1998 11

Iraq Liberation Act passed by US Congress.

Operation Desert Fox

1998 12

Operaration Desert Fox, air bombardment of Iraq by US Air Force and Royal Air Force in retaliation for Iraqi non-cooperation with weapons inspections. Iraq ceases al cooperation forthwith.

Weekly Allied Bombardment

1999 01-12

American and British planes bombar Iraqi forces weekly, challenging their right to overfly Iraqi territory in southern and northern no-fly zones.

UN SCR 1284

1999 12

UN SCR 1284 offers to suspend sanctions if Iraq cooperates with UNMOVIC, a a new weapons agency. Iraq rejects the resolution and refuses to allow UNMOVIC into Iraq.

Iraq Begins Civil Flights

2000 03

Iraq defies a UN ban on civil air flights and organizes flights of pilgrims to Mecca.

Uday Husain Elected

2000 05

Uda Husain is elected to Iraqi National Assembly.

Baghdad Airport Reopens

2000 09

Baghdad airport reopens. Much-publicized flights arrive from Russia, France, Syria and other countries.

Domestic Flights Resume

2000 11

Domestic civil flights resume within Iraq.

KDP-PUK Relations Improve

2001 01

Masoud Barzani (KDP and Jalal Talabani (PUK) meet for the first time in three years. Some improvement in relations follows.

Extensive US & UK Strikes

2001 02

Extensive American and British air strikes against air defense systems around Baghdad.

Ba'ath Party Regional Congress

2001 05

12th Ba'ath Party Regional Congress occurs. Qusay Husain is elected to the Regional Command of the Ba'ath party.

Failed UN Sanctions Reform

2001 05-07

UK and US try to persuade UN SC to adopt 'smart sanctions' resolution aimed at allowing greater freedom for Iraq to import civilian items, while tightening import of military and dual-use items. Attempt eventually abandoned in face of Russian opposition.

Extensive US & UK Strikes

2001 08

Extensive US and UK air strikes against air defense systems in southern Iraq.

KDP-PUK Reconciliation

2001 10

KDP and PUK reconcile and cooperation proceeds.

PUK Fights Jund al-Islam

2001 10

PUK fights Kurdish Islamist group Jund al-Islam.

UN SCR 1382

2001 11

UN SCR 1382 renews six-month oil for foor arrangement and opens way for sanctions reform and return of weapons inspectors in May 2002.

US Identifies Iraq as Evil

2002 01

US President Bush identifies Iraq as part of an axis of evil.

Iraq Reconciles with Saudi Arabia

2002 03

Iraq publicly reconciles with Saudi Arabia at Arab League Summit in Beirut.


Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq: New Edition.

Student Reader  |  FD7R75BS4T

Marr, Phoebe. The Modern History of Iraq, 2nd Edition. 2004. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado.

Student Reader  |  KLSKRRLR3Q
2007 September 18th

Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq: New Edition.