Researching Iraq-Iran

The best part about doing hours of research is being able to share it with others. As mentioned in my post about being oblivious to Iran, I hope to understand what’s going on so that I know what I’m looking at. News outlets have the advantage of doing this kind of thing 24/7 with an army of people to collect all of the information. Well, we’re not like that, but we can share what we know anyway, right? So, here’s what I’ve gathered so far….

Current Event Timeline

December 27, 2019 There was a rocket attack of more than 30 rockets on an Iraqi air base in Kirkuk, Iraq where the United States is running an anti-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIL Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or simply called IS Islamic State) operation called Operation Inherent Resolve. The attack killed an American civilian and injured 4 US service members and 2 Iraqi security forces personnel. The United States blames the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia for the attack.

December 29, 2019 United States conducts airstrikes of weapons depots belonging to the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria. 25 die and 55 are hurt.  

December 31, 2019 Following the funeral of the men killed in the US airstrike on December 29th, there is an attack on the United States embassy. Various parts of the perimeter structures (like watch towers, security checkpoint reception areas) are damaged by rocks, fire, etc. The US security forces release tear gas. The embassy buildings are not breached and the protesters retreat and join other protesters in the street. Several groups of protesters set up tents around the embassy to send the message that they don’t want the United States in Iraq. 

January 1, 2020 Protests flare up again and fire is set to the roof of the reception area. Tear gas is fired into the crowd. PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) leaders as well as other Iraqi leaders tell demonstrators to go home. 

January 3, 2020 A convoy traveling near the Baghdad International airport is attacked by a US drone, killing a number of people including Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Quds Force in Iran and deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of the Popular Mobilization Forces of Iraq. 

January 8, 2020 Iran attacks two military bases in Iraq, bases that host United States troops. The United States reports that no one was wounded or killed during the attacks.


Popular Mobilization Forces (also Popular Mobilization Units or People’s Mobilization Committee) — The way Iraq attempts to communicate with, coordinate, and utilize the paramilitary forces that have naturally formed within their civil population. They do not directly command or have clear authority over these groups. It’s a way of trying to keep the peace within the country by recognizing and working with these military groups that have formed. (This is based on what I understand from my research. I do not have access to the official relationship between Iraq and these paramilitary groups.)

Kata’ib Hezbollah — An Iraq-based, Shia militia forces which are organized throughout Iraq and Syria. First established in 2003, it is known to be supported by Iran. One of many militias in the region.

Hezbollah – Party of God “Hizb Allah”. These groups have religious ties. 

Quds Force – A wing of the military coordination structure in Iran that coordinates efforts and groups housed outside of Iran. Because many of the forces in the region are organized by ethnicity, religion, or a combination of both, there are often militias that have ties to Iran across their national borders. The Quds Force helps organize, support, and keep tabs on these forces that operate outside of Iran.

Ayatollah – “Sign of God” – The title of a high-ranking Shiite religious leader

Shia Muslim / Shiite – A person who follows Shia Islam. While sharing Islamic roots with all Muslims, Shia Muslims have their own distinct religious beliefs and organizational structure from other non-Shia Muslims.

Sunni Muslim / Sunni – A person who follows Sunni Islam, which has distinct religious beliefs and organizational structure from other non-Sunni Muslims.

IS Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — A radical Sunni Muslim group that employs military force and terrorism in their efforts to establish an independent state that is governed by Islamic Shariah law.

Jihad – “struggle” which can be interpreted to mean an internal, personal struggle or struggling together to make things better. In the extreme sense, a jihad has been used to mean a holy war against infidels.

History of Iraq-Iran-USA relations

1953 — An Iranian Coup was orchestrated by the United Kingdom and the United States intelligence forces to overthrow the newly elected democratic government of Iran, placing the monarchical Shah back in power.

1978 – 1979 — There is a revolution in Iran against the Shah. The United States supports the Shah during the revolution.

1979 – 1981 — Iranian students take over the embassy and, under the approval of the Ayatollah, 52 American diplomats are held hostage for 444 days.

1980 – 1988 — Iraq invades Iran, taking advantage of the instability. Saddam Hussein is the leader of Iraq during this conflict. We declare neutrality, though relationships are complicated. The Iran-Contra Affair reveals that we may have been supplying weapons to Iran. We also seem to be supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein’s forces.

1990 – 1991 — Iraq invades Kuwait. We enter what is known as the Persian Gulf War. We support Kuwait and fight against Iraq. This conflict helps build some relations between Iraq and Iran, united in seeing the United States as a common enemy.

September 11, 2001 — Destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City, as well an attack on the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

2003 – 2011 US-led coalition forces invade Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein’s regime. The instability gives rise to civil paramilitary groups.

2011 – Present — US coalition troops withdraw from Iraq (beginning in 2011). The Islamic State (ISIS) forces take advantage of the fact that our troops are gone and start to take over certain cities in Iraq and Syria. In response to the surge of violence, the United States along with other partners and other anti-ISIS countries and groups (including Iran and groups they support) fight back against ISIS.


  1. I had to look up the Hostage Crisis that BAT mentioned above. Here’s a quick summary:

    “Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
    Result: Hostages released by Algiers Accords
    Date: November 4, 1979 – January 20, 1981
    Location: Tehran, Iran
    It was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran.” from Wikipedia

    All in all, Emily did a great job of trying to encapsulate the long-standing unrest between America and Iran/Iraq. I’m sure there were many times our government didn’t know which side to support…whether the current regime or the revolutionaries.

    I wonder how much of our rocky relations with these countries of the Middle East is attributable to our culture differences. However, I believe we can understand ‘where they’re coming from’ without letting them take over. I believe we’re involved in their countries because we don’t want innocent people getting hurt.

    I appreciate the Time Line that Emily put together. That’s a great way to clarify events.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When things started happening in December I had to look up the relationship between Iraq and Iran. They used to be enemies and I thought they still were, but they are buddies now (since 2003). They have many economic agreements in place, are trading partners, and both “operate on a Shi’ite system of governance”. (Wikipedia: Iran-Iraq relations). Thanks for more background information! I wonder what would have happened if we had let their democratic government stay in power clear back in 1953…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you being aware back in December!

      That is the question. How would things be different without our involvement in 1953? Makes me more curious how we should be shaping our foreign policy going forward… How do we make good decisions with limited information or when being pushed by hidden agendas?


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