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Top Ten Battles For The Control Of Iraq

Top Ten Battles For The Control Of Iraq

Iraq has been a war ground for over 4500 years. In this article we cover the top ten Iraqi battle sites

Iraq is a country that has been subjected to an ongoing battle for dominance for over 4500 years. Nestled between the Tigiris and Euphrates Rivers, Mesoptamia or modern day Iraq lies in the heart of the fabled Fertile Crescent. From the earliest times, the struggles for the region have often been dictated by the need for natural resources.

Currently the United States and its “coalition of the willing” occupies the country, however the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, and British – not to mention the indigenous peoples – have all buried their dead in this land.

Here are 10 key battles from the violent history of Iraq

Stele Of Vultures

Stele Of Vultures

2525 BC – Battle between Lagash and Umma

By 3000 BC, the Sumerians had developed into the earliest civilization of Mesopotamia. Societies were organized into city-states which warred constantly over the control of the most precious natural resource, water.

Two of the larger settlements know as Lagash and Umma, sat 18 miles apart and feuded for generations over the region known as Gu’edena. In 2525, King Eannatum of Lagash defeated Umma using armored soldiers in phalanx formations, and also chariots pulled by onagers (wild asses), an invention frequently credited to the Sumerians.

The battle was recorded by the King on a stone monument called the Stele of the Vultures. A fragment of the monument now sits on display at the Louvre Museum, Paris

Around 2300 BC – Military campaigns of Sargon the Great

Sargon the Great

Sargon the Great

Sargon of Akkad is hailed as one of the first to build an empire. Legend has it that he was found, floating in a basket, by a gardener who then raised him through childhood. Later he became a cup-bearer to King Ur-Zazaba of Kish in Sumer and surprising rose from obscurity to overthrow Lugalzaggisi of Uruk.

Sargon attacked a total of 34 Sumerian cities and in the process, tore down the walls of the vanquished, imprisoned 50 ensis (city-state rulers), and then “cleaned his weapons in the sea” (Persian Gulf).

Sargon overthrew the Sumerian king at Nippur to become king of Akkad, bringing forth the Akkadian empire and with it the birth of the Mesopotamian military traditions.

Around 1263 BC – Assyrian King Shalmaneser I defeated Shattuara II of Hanigalbat

Assyrian King Shalmaneser

Assyrian King Shalmaneser

Assyria developed around the city of Ashur on the upper Tigris River. Weaker than other states Assyria was long ruled by the Mitanni, but regained autonomy during the Middle Assyrian Empire.

In his second year of rule, Shalmaneser I attacked the breakaway state of Uruatru in southern Armenia. Shattuara II of Hanigalbat, leading the rebellion with the aid of the Hittites, blockaded the mountain passes and waterholes. With a desperation born of thirst, the Assyrians pounded the Mitanni kingdom into submission.

Afterwards, Shalmaneser claimed to have blinded 14,400 men, and his inscriptions also mention the utter devastation of nine fortified temples, 180 Hurrian cities, and the Hittite and Ahlamu armies.

Shalmaneser I was the king of Assyria. He restored the temple at Assur, established a royal residence at Nineveh, and removed the capital from Assur to Calah, just south of Nineveh.

331 BC – Battle of Gaugamela

Darius III Codomannus

Darius III Codomannus

In 334 BC, Alexander III (“The Great”) defeated the king of the Persian empire, Darius III. With 7000 cavalrymen and over 30,000 infantrymen Alexander crossed the Hellespont (Dardanelles)and defeated, Darius III, at the Battle of Issus. Darius retreated to the Plain of Gaugamela, near Arbela (Irbil), there he bgan to gather an enormous army and prepared a large flat battle ground to use his scythed chariots and war elephants.

Alexander’s Macedonian forces, largely outnumbered, managed to draw the Persians away from the prepared ground. As the Persians continued to attack, gaps opened up in their formation and Alexander led his troop’s right in. With the remaining Macedonian forces still holding off the Persian chariots with projectiles, Alexander’s personal cavalry attacked from behind. When Darius saw his troops in disarray, he fled, prompting a full retreat. Alexander had ended the Persian Empire founded by Cyrus II.

53 BC – Battle of Carrhae

Marcus Licinius Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus

In 55 BC Roman, Marcus Licinius Crassus famous for ordering the mass crucification of more than 6000 of Spartacus’ slave army – became governor of Syria. A triumvir with Pompey and Julius Caesar, he sought to increase his reputation by invading Parthian Mesopotamia.

With his seven legions consisting of about 44,000 men he began to cross the Euphrates. However, he strayed from the river into the open desert where the Romans lacked warfare experience. The Parthian’s approached with 10,000 mounted archers and 1000 camels to re-supply the archers and the battle simply became dusty target practice for General Suren’s army.

Only 10,000 Gauls were reported to survive and in an attempt to surrender, Crassus was also killed.

637 AD – Battle of Al-Qadisiyah

Arabs COnquer Persian Empire

Arabs COnquer Persian Empire

The Persian Sasanians thrived for centuries from 224 AD. Eventually they became distracted by fighting the Romans and amongst themselves. However it was unlikely force that was to over throw the Sasanians.

The new religion of Islam, founded by Muhammad, united tribes and sa campaign against the Sasanians began. 18,000 Arab tribesmen, led by General Khalid ibn al Walid (“The Sword of Islam”) reached the Euphrates delta and began battling the Iranians (Persians).

The decisive battle occurred at Al-Qidisiyah, a village south of Baghdad and though the Arbas were out nunmbered six to one, they managed to defeat Iranians. The Arabs shortly captured the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon, ending their dynasty and introducing Islam to the region.

1258 AD – Mongols besiege Baghdad

Hulagu Khan

Hulagu Khan

Mesopotamia had become known as “Iraq” and the center of a large Muslim caliphate. The ruling family, the Abbasid’s had established a new capital at Baghdad which prospered.

Early in the 13th Century AD, the Mongol leader Temujin, formed an army of Mongol tribes over 700,000 strong and began conquests of China, Persia, and Eastern Europe. Temujin later renamed himself Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, the World Conquerer.

It was Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hulagu, who was dispatched in 1258 to besiege Baghdad. He slaughtered nearly 800,000 of Baghdad’s population, killing scholars, erecting pyramids of their skulls, and also executing the caliph, al-Musta’sim, the final Abbisid ruler of a line that had lasted 500 years.

1534 AD – Capture of Baghdad by Suleyman the Magnificent

Suleiman The Magnificent

Suleiman The Magnificent

The Ealry 1500’s saw the rise of the next great Islamic state. The Ottomans lead by their first ruler Sultan Selim I (“The Grim”) took victory in 1514 at the battle of Chaldiran. The Safavids had conquered Iraq in 1509 and with them defeated Ottoman expansion spilled into northern Iraq.

Son of Selim, Suleyman I (“the Magnificent”) succeeded to the throne in 1520, and by 1522 turned his attention to the Safavids, first negotiating a truce with Archduke Ferdinand of Hungary, leaving himself free to wage the first of three major campaigns against Persia

In 1534, he took the cities of Baghdad and most of Iraq from the Persians, an enormous success, leading to almost four centuries of Ottoman rule in Iraq.

1915 AD – Siege of Kut-al-Amara

Ctesiphon Ancient City

Ctesiphon Ancient City

During WWI England released the importance of protecting Iraqi oil production against the German-Turkish alliance In 1914, British forces began the Mesopotamian campaign at Al Faw. After several easy victories, an attempt on Baghdad was launched.

Sir Charles Townshend commanded the Anglo-Indian forces who were undermanned and poorly rationed toward the ruins of Ctesiphon, on the Tigris 20 miles SE of modern Baghdad.

The Turks led by Nur-ud-Din, had positioned 18,000 experienced men in two trenches on either side of the river. When the British arrived the better-prepared Turks fended them off with ease, the Turks continued to besiege the city for another 143 days. The

British were forced to retreat, 10,000 were brutally captured and the remaing troops dragged themselves back to occupied Kut-al-Amara.

2003 AD – Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Saddam Hussein’s presidency of Iraq included a fierce and failed invasion of Kuwait which prcipitated the Persian gulf war follow. Following the war, US officials suspected Iraq of cease-fire violations, including the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Hussein proved intractable for more than 12 years and following the suspicions of Iraq’s WMD’s, a combined military force consisting of 300,000 primarily US and British troops entered the country through Kuwait, on March 20, 2003.

Baghdad fell on April 9 however to date, no WMDs have been found. President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1 but coalition forces remain to stabilize the country, experiencing frequent insurgent attacks.

On December 13, Hussein was captured near his home town of Tikrit. Coalition fighters continue to encounter fierce resistance. By May 10, 2007, more than 3382 American and coalition troops had died in Iraq with the civilian casualties estimated at about 62,570.


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