Education Resources


The Iraq Crisis, Past to Present

All definitions are from Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, except where noted.

ayatollah. A leader of the Shiite sect of the Muslim religion, serving as teacher, judge, and administrator.

Baath Party. Arab political party advocating the formation of a single Arab socialist nation. It has branches in many Middle Eastern countries and has been the ruling party in Syria and Iraq. Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

biological weapons. Any infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus when used intentionally to inflict harm upon others. This definition is often expanded to include biologically-derived toxins and poisons. Biological warfare agents include both living microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa, rickettsia, viruses, and fungi), and toxins (chemicals) produced by microorganisms, plants, or animals. (Some authors classify toxins as chemical rather than biological agents, but most do not, and they were included within the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention — as reflected in its formal title, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction). Source:

Camp David peace accords (Sept. 17, 1978), two agreements between Israel and Egypt that led in the following year to a negotiated peace between those two nations, the first between Israel and any of its Arab neighbors. The accords were negotiated at Camp David between Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and were witnessed by U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

chemical weapons. Weapons charged with toxic chemical substances — whether gaseous, liquid or solid — which are used for their direct toxic effects on man, animals or plants. Source: Educational Module on Chemical & Biological Weapons (non)-Proliferation

conventional weapons. Nonnuclear, nonbiological, nonchemical weapons, include artillery, nonnuclear bombs, explosives, firearms, landmines, naval mines, etc. Source: Encarta

embargo. Any restriction or restraint, especially one imposed on commerce by law; specifically (a) a prohibition of trade in a particular commodity (b) a prohibition or restriction of freight transportation.

ethnic. Designating or of a population subgroup having a common cultural heritage or nationality, as distinguished by customs, characteristics, language, common history, etc.

fundamentalism. A strict adherence to or interpretation of a doctrine, set of principles, etc., as of a social, legal, political or religious group or system.

Geneva Protocol. At the 1925 Geneva Conference for the Supervision of the International Traffic in Arms, the United States … took the initiative of seeking to prohibit the export of gases for use in war. At French suggestion it was decided to draw up a protocol on non-use of poisonous gases and at the suggestion of Poland the protocol was extended to include bacteriological [biological] weapons. It was signed on June 17, 1925 and entered into force in 1928. It now has 135 signatory states. The United States ratified the Protocol in 1975. Source: Federation of American Scientists

infidel. A person who does not believe in a particular religion, especially the prevailing religion; specifically, (a) among Christians, a non-Christian (b) among Muslims, a non-Muslim.

Iran-Iraq War (1980–90), prolonged military conflict between Iran and Iraq during the 1980’s. The war began on Sept. 22, 1980, when Iraqi armed forces invaded western Iran along the countries’ joint border. It ended in July 1988, with Iran forced to accept the terms of a United Nations-mandated cease-fire. Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

mullah. A Muslim teacher or interpreter of the religious law: used as a general title of respect for a learned man.

NATO. North Atlantic Treaty Organization: military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949, which sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in central and eastern Europe after World War II. Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Since 1952, the Czech Republic, Germany (West Germany 1955-1990), Greece, Hungary, Poland, Spain, and Turkey have joined the organization. Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

nonaligned. Not aligned with either side in a conflict of power, especially power politics (during the Cold War, the nonaligned states were those that chose not to side with either the United States or the Soviet Union).

political prisoner. Somebody who is imprisoned because his or her political actions or beliefs are regarded as unacceptable or subversive. Source: Encarta

sanction. A coercive measure, as a blockade of shipping, usually taken by several nations together, for forcing a nation considered to have violated international law to end the violation.

secular. Of or relating to worldly things as distinguished from things relating to church and religion; not sacred and religious; temporal; worldly (secular music, secular schools).

Shiite. A member of one of the two great sects of Muslims: Shiites consider Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law and the fourth of the caliphs, as the first Imam and the rightful successor of Mohammed, and do not accept the Sunna as authoritative.

caliph. Supreme ruler: the title taken by Mohammed’s successors as secular and religious heads of Islam.

imam. (a) The leader of prayer in a Muslim mosque. (b) [often I-] Any of various Muslim leaders and rulers; often used as a title.

Sunna. Muslim law based, according to tradition, on the teachings and practices of Mohammed and observed by orthodox Muslims: a supplement to the Koran.

sovereignty. Supreme and independent political authority.

United Nations. The United Nations was established on October 24, 1945, by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the U.N.: membership totals 191 countries. When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the U.N. Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the U.N. has four purposes: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The United Nations is not a world government and it does not make laws. It does, however, provide the means to help resolve international conflicts and formulate policies on matters affecting all of us. At the U.N., all the Member States — large and small, rich and poor, with differing political views and social systems — have a voice and a vote in this process. The United Nations has six main organs. Five of them — the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat — are based at U.N. Headquarters in New York. The sixth, the International Court of Justice, is located at The Hague in the Netherlands. Source: The United Nations

United Nations Security Council. The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the U.N. Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council has 15 members: five permanent members and 10 elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Each Council member has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. This is the rule of “great Power unanimity,” often referred to as the “veto” power. Under the Charter, all Members of the U.N. agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the U.N. make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to take decisions which Member States are obligated under the Charter to carry out. Source: The United Nations

Warsaw Pact. Political and military alliance of the Soviet Union and East European socialist states … formed in 1955 as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created in 1949. On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union institutionalized its East European alliance system, henceforth known as the Warsaw Pact, when it met with representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania in Warsaw to sign the multilateral Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which was identical to their existing bilateral treaties with the Soviet Union. Source: Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Studies