The Iraqi Civil War was a period of great civil unrest and sectarian violence that lasted from early to mid 2012. After American forces left the country, conflict between the nation's Sunni and Shia population intensified. Iraq's armed forces were unable to maintain order as violent conflict spread throughout the nation. Following a devastating terrorist attack against the country's government, the unstable Iraqi government collapsed completely. The conflict that followed resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 Iraqis and would prompt military intervention by Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It was quite clear even before the withdraw of American troops that Iraq was a heavily divided nation. In addition to the animosity between Iraq's Shia and Sunni population,there was also growing tension between Baghdad and Kurdistan. The Kurdish government was growing increasingly displeased with Baghdad's policies regarding oil revenue. Talks of independence began to intensify. After the withdraw of American forces in December of 2011, Iraq was hit by a wave of sectarian violence. Just days after the withdraw, hundreds were killed by a series of blasts that rocked downtown Baghdad. Within the coming months, the conflict would continue to worsen and would eventually culminate into a civil war.
On April 2nd, 2012 Kurdish President Masud Barzani declared independence from Iraq. Kurdish militias seized the oil rich Kirkuk region shortly afterwards. The Iraqi government responded by deploying three regiments to the troubled region. The Iraqi military was met with violent attacks from Kurdish insurgent groups. Several intense exchanges would claim hundreds of lives on both sides.
Meanwhile, the situation in central and southern Iraq was no better. A devastating attack against a Shia mosque by the Islamic Army in Iraq worsened already tense relations between the Sunni and Shia population. This set off a spree of violent clashes between Sunni and Shia militias.
Concerned with the growing violence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of martial law on June 18th. However, this did little to deter the insurgents, and open warfare between the Sunnis and Shias continued. On June 25th, the Iraqi Army launched a massive counterinsurgency campaign throughout Baghdad. Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoon Al-Dulaimi claimed that hundreds of insurgents were killed during the offensive.
On June 31st, Prime Minister al-Maliki claimed that Baghdad was secure and had become an "impenetrable fortress". Just days later on July 4th, several high yield explosive devices detonated in Baghdad's heavily fortified 'Green Zone'.
Throughout central and southern Iraq, Iraqi security forces struggled to maintain order. Stretched thin and demoralized, the Iraqi military was unable to prevent the spread of lawlessness.
Following the July 4th terror attack, Prime Minister al-Maliki became increasingly concerned with his personal safety. He implemented increased security measures in light of the attack. Despite his precautions, al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and several members of his cabinet were assassinated when explosives were detonated outside of the 'Green Zone' Convention Center.
After their assassinations, there was a heated dispute regarding the line of succession. Both Defense Minister Al-Dulaimi and Vice President Khodair al-Khozaei attempted to seize power. This led to a schism with the Iraqi Armed Forces. Conflict arose between pro Al-Dulaimi and pro al-Khozaei supporters.
By late July, the Iraqi Armed Forces had degenerated into unorganized rabble. Mass defections became increasingly common. During early August, many government services ceased to function entirely.
Anarchy swept through major cities as both Shia and Sunni militias continued to vie for political power.
The worsening situation caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran. The deteriorating conditions caught the eye of the Saudi government. On August 18th, several thousand Saudi troops entered Iraq to protect Sunni Muslim refugees and to restore order. Saudi Arabia sought to guide the unstable nation with the aid of its allies.
This outraged Iran, and on August 20th Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would not tolerate "unacceptable Saudi interference". He also vowed to defend Iraq's Shi'ite population at all costs.
This turn of events would lead to the Saudi-Iranian war.