Even before the United States set its sights on Baghdad, people began to note its decline. Long considered to be the intellectual capital of the Islamic world, in the early 1900s the Iraqi city had already begun its transformation into a “once was”.
Centuries of Ottoman rule and over a decade of British occupation allowed sectarian divides to fester, and would only culminate following the country’s 1932 independence and exploitation of oil. Around a century later, the formerly sophisticated center of Mesopotamia is embroiled ceaseless conflict, war and strife. Looking back to its days of normalcy makes present-day Baghdad all the more haunting. These 1932 photos courtesy of Foreign Policy show a Baghdad before the turmoil of the past half century.