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Iraq: Saddam Hussein's Biography

Saddam Hussein (left) drinks tea with elders in Mosul in 1993.
Saddam Hussein (left) drinks tea with elders in Mosul in 1993.

From Saddam Hussein's rise within the ranks of the Ba'ath Party and the Revolution Command Council, to his regime's ruthless persecution of perceived enemies at home and abroad.

1937: Saddam Hussein is born on April 28 in Al-Awja, about 15 kilometers from Tikrit, Iraq.

1947: At the age of 10, Hussein moves to Baghdad where he is raised by a maternal uncle. He attends a nationalist secondary school.

1957: At the age of 20, Hussein joins the pan-Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party (ABSP).

1958-59: Hussein spends six months in prison for political activities against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister and General Abd al-Karim Qassim.

1959-63: Hussein flees Iraq, going first to Damascus and later to Cairo after he participates in an assassination attempt against Qassim. In 1962, he studies briefly at the University of Cairo Law School.

1960: Hussein is sentenced to death in absentia.

1963: Qassim is ousted in a coup led by the ABSP with the backing of the CIA. Hussein returns to Iraq. The ABSP-led government is overthrown six months later by Colonel Abd al-Salam Muhammad Arif (a member of Qassim's government) and a group of military officers. Hussein is elected a member of the Ba'ath Party leadership.

1964: Hussein is jailed as a member of the Ba'ath Party.

1965: Hussein is elected a member of the Ba'ath Party's Pan-Arab National Leadership while in jail.

1966: Arif is killed in a helicopter crash on April 13; his brother, Major General Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, assumes the presidency. Hussein is elected deputy secretary-general of the Ba'ath Party leadership in Iraq in September.

1967: Hussein escapes from prison and quickly rises in the Ba'ath Party ranks.

1968: A Ba'ath-led coup deposes the Arif government. General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr becomes president. Hussein becomes vice president and deputy head of the Revolution Command Council. On July 30, Hussein leads an operation to purge figures from the Arif regime from the new Ba'ath government.

1971: Receives a law degree from Baghdad University.

1972: On June 1, Hussein oversees the nationalization of Iraq's oil sector, which had previously been controlled by international interests. The 1973 energy crisis led to a spike in oil prices and huge revenues for the Iraqi government.

1970s: The Ba'athist government pursues an ambitious social agenda that is unprecedented in the Arab world. Hussein establishes a campaign of compulsory free education. He creates one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East and gives generous subsidies to farmers. He develops the national infrastructure and brings electricity to most outlying areas of Iraq. The country undergoes massive urbanization. At the same time, Hussein is known as an enemy of both communism and radical Islam.

1977: Hussein is elected assistant secretary-general of the National Pan-Arab Leadership of the ABSP.

1979: On July 16, Hussein is elected secretary-general of the regional leadership of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq, chairman of the Revolution Command Council, and president of Iraq. Hussein carries out a purge of the Ba'ath Party leadership, removing 68 senior members, 22 of whom were later executed. On October 8, he is elected deputy secretary-general of the National Pan-Arab leadership of the ABSP.

1979: Hussein led Arab-world opposition to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Hussein steps up Iraq's nuclear program with French assistance. Construction of the Osirak experimental reactor begins near Baghdad.

1980: Iran-Iraq War begins on September 22 when Iraq invades the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan, which has a large Arab minority. Despite initial successes, Iraq found itself on the defensive by 1982 and the war evolved into a bloody stalemate. Iraq offered a cessation of hostilities in June 1982, but Iran refused. Iraq used chemical weapons -- chiefly mustard gas and sarin -- during the war, but was not condemned for it by the international community. Ultimately an estimated 1.7 million people on both sides were killed and both countries' economies were left in ruins.

1981: On June 7, a squadron of Israeli aircraft heavily damage the Osirak reactor. Israel suspected that the goal of the Iraqi nuclear program was to produce nuclear weapons. At the time, Iraq was a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its nuclear program was under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The site was finally destroyed by U.S. air strikes during the first Gulf War.

1988: Hussein's regime launches a chemical attack on the Kurds in Halabjah on March 16, killing some 5,000 civilians and injuring another 10,000.

Gravestones of Anfal victims in northern Iraq (epa)

The attack was part of the so-called Anfal campaign designed to secure central-government control over Kurdish areas in the north. Hussein initially said Iran was to blame for the Halabjah attack, a claim that was endorsed by the United States at the time.

1988: Iraq offers Iran another cease-fire and agrees to return to the 1975 border between the two countries. A cease-fire takes effect on August 20.

1990: Iraq invades Kuwait, and Hussein announces the merger of the two states on August 2.

1991: U.S. and coalition forces launch the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait on February 16. Iraq accepts the terms of a cease-fire on March 3. IAEA inspectors enter Iraq on May 15 under UN resolutions calling on Iraq to eliminate its weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs. UNSCOM inspectors begin inspections three weeks later.

1994: On November 10, Iraq recognizes the Iraq-Kuwait border as demarcated by the UN.

1998: UNSCOM inspectors withdraw from Iraq on December 15 after months of Iraqi obstruction.

2002: Hussein agrees to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq on September 17. On October 15, he is reelected president for a fifth five-year term, purportedly winning more than 99 percent of the vote in the noncompetitive poll. Iraq accepts UN Security Council Resolution 1441 on November 13 and weapons inspections resume on November 27.

2003: UNMOVIC and IAEA heads tell the UN Security Council on January 9 and 27 -- and again on February 14 and March 7 -- that Iraq needs to show greater cooperation to inspectors by providing more documentation on its WMD programs.

On February 5, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presents Washington's evidence on Iraq's WMD and terrorism links to the UN Security Council. As tensions mount, the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council issues a decree on March 15 dividing Iraq into four military command regions.

A nighttime air strike against Baghdad in March 2003 (CTK)

On March 17, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan orders all UN personnel out of Iraq following a statement by the United States and Britain that they "reserve the right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq." U.S. President George W. Bush gives Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, 48 hours to leave Iraq and avert a U.S.-led strike.

Hussein rejects U.S. ultimatum on March 18. Coalition forces launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in the early morning hours of March 20.

On April 9, Baghdad falls to coalition forces and Hussein flees the city.

In June, Uday and Qusay Hussein are killed in a shoot-out with coalition forces in Mosul.

On December 13, Hussein is captured by coalition forces near his hometown of Tikrit.

2004: In June, Hussein is legally (although not physically) turned over to Iraqi authorities for trial. In July, it is decided that his first trial will be for the deaths of 148 Shi'a in the town of Al-Dujayl following a failed 1982 assassination attempt against him.

On October 19, Hussein's trial opens in Baghdad. Hussein refuses to identify himself, to enter a plea, or to recognize the authority of the court. Seven other former Hussein-era officials stand trial with him, including his half-brother, former security services head Barzan al-Tikriti.

2006: On August 21, a second trial against Hussein opens on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for his Anfal campaign against the Kurds. On November 5, Hussein is convicted of crimes against humanity. He is sentenced to death by hanging, along with al-Tikriti and one other defendant. On December 26, the country's highest appeals court upholds Hussein's conviction and sentence and orders that he be executed within 30 days.

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