The airport is Iraq's largest air facility and is fit to receive planes of all sizes, yet this airport has been all but deserted since 1991. At that time, the United Nations imposed restrictions on Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Once the hub for Iraq's international airline, Iraqi Airways, and host to airplanes of a long list of international airlines, this airport has been able to receive only occasional charter flights with medicines.
The gigantic terminal, constructed in the 1980s, is currently only receiving charter flights for aid workers and other officials. Terminal C (one of three gate areas) has been spruced up with new potted plants and polished floors. As well, the duty free shop has reopened.
The No-Fly Zone imposed on Iraq by the United States and Great Britain has also been a problem for this airport, as the zone is the main reason Iraqi Airways has only been able to continue domestic flights for limited periods.
Some airlines have been known to bend the UN's restrictions and operate passenger flights there on occasion, but currently no international airline officially has flights there, and only Iraqi Airways operates occasional domestic flights.
On April 3, 2003, the airport was occupied by United States forces just prior to the invasion of Baghdad. After taking control of the airport, U.S. forces announced that they had renamed it from "Saddam International Airport" to "Baghdad International Airport". Allegedly, during this operation, US troops vandalized the terminal building substantially, including looting liquor and expensive watches from the then-closed duty free shops.