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On this day March 19, 2003

President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office to announce the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”

The Senate committee found that many of the administration’s pre-war statements about Iraqi WMD were not supported by the underlying intelligence.

Approximately 148,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from the special forces unit GROM were sent to Kuwait for the invasion. The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 70,000.

Saudi Arabian women gain right to vote

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has announced women will be allowed to vote in the country and run for municipal elections there. The modifications will apply from 2012.

Abdullah made this announcement at the start of a new Shura Council term. In a speech, the king said “we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia” and so made the decision “to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term”.

Abdullah clarified that female adults “will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.” Such changes are to be put in place “according to Islamic principles,” he said. Muslim women, he continued, “must not be marginalised in opinion or advice”.

Activists have sought women’s right to vote in Saudi Arabia for years. As it stands, women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive, nor travel without male permission, based on Sunni Islam principles.

US hikers freed after two years in Iran

Two US hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, have been freed from Tehran’s Evin prison in Iran after $1 million bail was paid.

Accused of spying, the men were arrested when they apparently strayed along the unmarked Iran–Iraq border in July 2009, and were recently sentenced to eight years in prison. Arrested with them was a third US hiker, Sarah Shourd, released in 2010 on medical grounds. All three have denied the charges.

The two hikers were bailed and their sentences commuted. Their Iranian attorney, Masoud Shafiei, stated Oman provided the bail.

The two arrived in Muscat, Oman late Wednesday, where they were met by waiting family members as well as fellow hiker Sarah Shourd.

On this day May 20, 1927

By the Treaty of Jeddah, the United Kingdom recognized the sovereignty of King Ibn Saud over Hejaz and Nejd, which later merged to become Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Following the defeat of Hussein, the British government signed the treaty which abolished the Darin protection agreement and recognized the independence of the Hejaz and Najd, covering much of what is today Saudi Arabia, with the Al Saud as its rulers.

At this point, Ibn Saud changed his title from Sultan of Nejd to King of Nejd. Initially the two parts of his dominion (Nejd in the east and Hejaz in the west) were administered separately.

From 1927 to 1932 Ibn Saud continued to consolidate power throughout the Arabian Peninsula. In March 1929 he defeated elements of the Ikhwan, which had disobeyed his orders to cease raiding and had invaded Iraq against his wishes, at the Battle of Sbilla. In 1932, having conquered most of the Peninsula, Ibn Saud renamed his dominions “Saudi Arabia” and proclaimed himself “King of Saudi Arabia”.

On this day August 23, 1921

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Faisal I as King of Iraq

The British install the son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali (leader of the Arab Revolt of 1916 against the Ottoman Empire) as King Faisal I of Iraq.

The British government, mandate holders in Iraq, were concerned at the unrest in the colony. They decided to step back from direct administration and create a monarchy to head Iraq while they maintained the mandate. Following a plebiscite showing 96% in favor, Faisal agreed to become king. In August 1921 he was made king of Iraq.

The image is a Photo Post_Card of the Coronation of Emir (Prince) Faisal I as King of Iraq on 23 of August 1921. Emir Faisal has already served as King of Syria from March to July. The event was conducted, a t six A.M., in the court-yard of the Ottoman built Serai, his temporary headquarters upon arriving in Baghdad.

On the extreme Lt is Sir Percy Cox, the British High-Commisioner, and to his Lt. is Kinahan Cornwallis, King Faisal is seated, and to his Lt. is Sir Aylmer Haldane, the British Commandig Officer. Behind the King is his ADC Tahsin Qadri and to extreme Lt. is Sayied Hussein Afnan, Secretary of the Council of Ministers. Sir Percy Cox proclaimed that 99% of the Iraqis have voted for the new King’s accession to the throne.

On this day July 24, 1977

The Libyan–Egyptian War, a short border war between Libya and Egypt over political conflicts, ended after the combatants agreed to a ceasefire organized by Algeria.

Mediation by Algeria and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yassir Arafat finally led to a ceasefire. Egyptian President Sadat gave his forces instructions to stop all attacks on 24 July 1977 and agreed upon an armistice.

Even after the fighting ended, the rift between Arab states remained, however. Many conservative Arab countries had sympathy for Egypt and Sadat, while the so-called social revolutionary–progressive Arab states endorsed Libya and Gaddafi. An editorial in The New York Times summed up an American perspective of the war by quoting a Palestinian: “If the Arabs haven’t got Israel to fight, they will be fighting each other.” Read More…

On this day July 15, 1099

Christian soldiers take the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem after a week siege.

Throughout the siege, attacks were made on the walls, but each one was repulsed. The Genoese troops, led by commander Guglielmo Embriaco, had previously dismantled the ships in which the Genoeses came to the Holy Land; Embriaco, using the ship’s wood, made some siege towers.

These were rolled up to the walls on the night of July 14 much to the surprise and concern of the garrison. On the morning of July 15, Godfrey’s tower reached his section of the walls near the northeast corner gate, and according to the Gesta two Flemish knights from Tournai named Lethalde and Engelbert were the first to cross into the city, followed by Godfrey, his brother Eustace, Tancred, and their men. Raymond’s tower was at first stopped by a ditch, but as the other crusaders had already entered, the Muslim guarding the gate surrendered to Raymond. Read More…