Iraq began the 20th century as a part of the Ottoman Empire. Following the Ottomans' defeat in World War I (1914-1918), the League of Nations made the region of Iraq a British mandate in 1920. Britain recognized Iraq as an independent Kingdom in 1932, under King Faisal I (1883-1933). Iraq was a founding member of the Arab League and joined other League members in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war against the newly-formed State of Israel.
In 1958, a military coup overthrew the monarchy and declared Iraq to be a Republic. After the 1967 Six Day War with Israel, the Ba'ath socialist political party took power. Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) assumed the office of President in 1979; at the same time, he took the office of Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. Tensions between Iraq and neighboring Iran led to an eight year war beginning in 1980 and lasting through 1988, which ended in a stalemate. During the war, Iraq was supported by the United States and NATO, while Iran was backed by Soviet Russia.
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading to UN sanctions and, in January 1991, the U.S.-led Operation Desert Storm and the First Persian Gulf War. After driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the UN enacted a disarmament policy under which weapons inspectors were to be allowed access to Iraqi facilities to verify compliance. Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones were also created, restricting Iraqi aircraft to the central part of the country. Breaches of these policies led to intermittent air strikes against Iraqi military sites during the 1990s. Economic sanctions imposed by the UN are also believed to have caused widespread starvation throughout Iraq.
In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a bill calling for a regime change in Iraq. This took place in 2003, when the US CIA reported the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in violation of UN disarmament policies. The U.S. and allies invaded Iraq, removing Saddam Hussein from power. Since that time, Iraq has been in a state of upheaval and transition, as various faction struggle for power. Militant insurgents have fought a guerilla war against both U.S. troops and Iraqi Army and police forces. Some consider a state of civil war to exist within the nation at this time.1