Continuing political instability led to a coup in 1968 which brought the Ba’ath party to power. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became president. He immediately consolidated his power by an extensive purge of opponents, inside and outside the Ba’ath party.
At the end of the 1970s, deteriorating relations between (secular, Sunni-led) Iraq and (religious, Shi’ite-led) Iran led to the Iran-Iraq War, one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the later 20th century (1980-88). This was not long ended (in stalemate) when, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The short, sharp First Gulf War that followed ended in heavy defeat for Saddam Hussein at the hands of a massive American- and Saudi-led coalition. Continuing tensions, mainly over the issue of his supposed stock of Weapons of Mass destruction, together with his oppression of Kurds and Shi’ites, led eventually to the Second Gulf War in 2003. In this, American and British forces toppled Saddam’s regime. However, this war was followed by a period of dreadful chaos. The general elections for a Transitional National Assembly in 2005 began the slow road towards some normality.
ORIGINAL SOURCE: timemaps.com