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Iraq

Note: Information in this article may no longer be entirely accurate due to current developments. For more background on this see related articles Iraq disarmament crisis, Military preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq, 2003 invasion of Iraq and 2003 occupation of Iraq. Please update if necessary.


The Republic of Iraq is a nation in the Middle East in the southwest of Asia. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to the south, Turkey to the north, Syria to the north-west, Jordan to the west and Iran to the east. Once known as Mesopotamia and a cradle of human civilisation, the country is currently in a state of flux following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Jumhuriyah Al-Iraqiyah
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Arabic
Capital Baghdad
Civil Administrator L. Paul Bremer
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 57th
437,072 km²
1.1%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 44th
24,001,816
55/km²
IndependenceOctober 3, 1932
Currency Iraqi dinar
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem Ardulfurataini Watan
Internet TLD.IQ
Calling Code964

Table of contents

History

Main article: History of Iraq

The fertile area of Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, was the birth place of several of the world's oldest civilisations, such as the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. After being part of Persia for a long time, it was conquered by the Arabs in 656, and in 762 the Caliphate was moved to the new city of Baghdad (near ancient Babylon). This city remained the centre of the Arab world until it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1534.

In 1915, British troops occupied Iraq and established a League of Nations mandate, which ended with independence in 1932. The socialist Ba'ath Party gained control in 1968, and established a strict rule, notably after the ascent to power of Saddam Hussein in 1979. In the 1980s, Iraq was involved in a long war with neighbour Iran, ending in 1988.

Following Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1990, and the subsequent expulsion by international troops, Iraq was internationally isolated until the spring of 2003, when the United States and the United Kingdom controversially invaded and removed the Ba'ath Party from leadership, and who are currently attempting to restore order and stability to the country.

Politics Main article: Politics of Iraq

Nominally a democracy, power in Iraq was until 2003 completely in the hands of the repressive Ba'ath Party, under the leadership of president Saddam Hussein. During the last presidential elections, he received 99% of the votes; no other candidates were running. The unicameral Iraqi parliament, the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani, had 250 seats and its members were elected for 4-year terms.

Iraq is currently under a US-led occupation following the ousting of the Ba'ath Party in April. The political future is uncertain and detailed plans remain to be developed. Rampant looting and crime, coupled with infrastructural problems continue to plague the country at the moment and the initial US interim civil administrator, Jay Garner, was replaced in May by L. Paul Bremer.

Provinces Main article: Provinces of Iraq

Iraq is divided into 18 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah):

Geography Main article: Geography of Iraq

Large parts of Iraq consist of desert, but the area between the two major rivers Euphrates and Tigris is fertile, with the rivers carrying about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. The north of the country is largely mountainous, with the highest point being Haji Ibrahim[?] at 3,600 m. Iraq has a small coastline with the Persian Gulf. Close to the coast and along the Shatt al-Arab there used to be marshlands, but many of these were drained in the 1990s.

The local climate is mostly a desert clime with mild to cool winters and dry, hot, cloudless summers. The northern mountainous regions experience cold winters with occasional heavy snows, sometimes causing extensive flooding. The capital Baghdad is situated in the centre of the country, on the banks of the Tigris. Other major cities include Basra in the south and Mosul in the north.

Economy Main article: Economy of Iraq

Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s financial problems caused by massive expenditures in the eight-year war with Iran and damage to oil export facilities by Iran led the government to implement austerity measures, borrow heavily, and later reschedule foreign debt payments; Iraq suffered economic losses from the war of at least $100 billion. After hostilities ended in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities.

Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the regime have hurt the economy, implementation of the United Nations' oil-for-food programme in December 1996 has helped improve conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. For the first six, six-month phases of the programme, Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts.

In December 1999 the UN Security Council authorised Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Oil exports were more than three-quarters of the prewar level. However, 28% of Iraq's export revenues under the programme are deducted to meet UN Compensation Fund and UN administrative expenses. The drop in GDP in 2001 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq the economy has to a great extent shut down and attempts are underway to revive it from the damages of the war and rampant crime.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Iraq

Almost 75% of Iraq's population consists of Arabs, the other major ethnic group are the Kurds (20%), who live in the north and northeast of the country. Other distinct groups are Turkomans[?], Chaldeans, Assyrians, Iranians, Lurs, and Armenians. Arabic is the official language, although Kurdish has an official status in the North and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.

Most Arab Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shiite sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Small communities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language, dress, and customs.

Miscellaneous topics

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