|National motto: Allahu Akbar|
(English: God is Great)
|Official languages||Arabic, Kurdish1|
|Spoken languages||Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkmen, Armenian|
|Prime Minister||Ibrahim al-Jaafari|
- % water
|Ranked 57th |
437,072 square kilometers (168,754 square miles)
- Total (July 2005 est.)
|Independence||1 October 1919 from the Ottoman Empire|
- Total (2003)
|Time zone||UTC +3|
|1 - First language in 3 Kurdish regions|
The Republic of Iraq ( Arabic: العراق; Kurdish: Êraq) is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern Asia at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and also including southern Kurdistan. It shares borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the west, Syria to the north-west, Turkey to the north, and Iran (Persia) to the east. Iraq has a very narrow section of coastline at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.
The Republic of Iraq sits on land that is historically known as Mesopotamia, which means 'land between the rivers' in Greek. This land was home to some of the world's first and most distinguished civilizations. These included Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and many other cultures, whose influence extended into neighbouring regions, certainly from around 5,000 BCE. These civilizations produced some of the first writing, science, mathematics, law and philosophy known to man, making it the center of what is commonly called the "Cradle of Civilization".
The modern state contains a mixture of various Arab, Muslim and Kurdish cultures, deeply influenced by Persian and Ottoman rule and societies. It also hosts three of the most important religious sites in Shia Islam - the Sacred Mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf and the mosques of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas in Karbala. Najaf and Karbala are cities in southern Iraq.
A transitional government of Iraq was elected in January 2005, following the March 2003 occupation of Iraq, led by American and British military forces, which drove Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party from power. American offensives on such cities such as Fallujah and Tal Afar, the continued lack of such basic services as electricity and clean water, and deep political division in the country, have continued to contribute to disenchantment and disorder in the country. Supporters of the Iraqi insurgency blame the occupying forces for the disorder, but others blame the insurgency itself. In the meantime, the country is still struggling to form stable democratic institutions. On October 15, 2005, the people of Iraq approved a new Constitution of Iraq in a referendum, which, while receiving an overwhelming 79% "yes" vote, was opposed by a large majority of Sunni Arab Iraqis.
Main article: History of Iraq
Modern Iraq became a British mandate (the British League of Nations Trust Territory of Iraq) at the end of World War I and was granted independence from British control in 1932. It was formed out of three former Ottoman Willayats (regions): Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The British-installed Hashemite monarchy lasted until 1958, when it was overthrown through a coup d'etat by the Iraqi army, known as the 14 July Revolution. It brought Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qassim's leftist government to power (which withdrew from the Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union), from 1958 till 1963, when he was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. Salam Arif died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency. In 1968, Rahman Arif was overthrown by the right wing Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath's key figure became Saddam Hussein who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), Iraq's supreme executive decision making body, in July 1979, killing off many of his opponents in the process. Saddam's absolute and particularly bloody rule lasted throughout the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), which ended in stalemate; the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s, which led to the alleged gassing of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulting in the Gulf War; and the United Nations-imposed economic sanctions and no-fly zones which followed.
Main article: Politics of Iraq
Iraq was under Ba'ath Party rule from 1968 to 2003, in 1979 Saddam Hussein took leadership and became president until 2003, when he was unseated by a US-led invasion. The unicameral Iraqi parliament, the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani, had 250 seats and its members were elected for 4-year terms. No non-Ba'ath candidates were allowed to run.
In November 2003, the US-managed Coalition Provisional Authority announced plans to turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi Interim Government by mid-2004. The actual transfer of sovereignty occurred on 28 June 2004. The interim president was Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, and the interim prime minister Iyad Allawi.
- Serve as Iraq's national legislature. It has named a Presidency Council, consisting of a President and two Vice Presidents. (By unanimous agreement, the Presidency Council will appoint a Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, cabinet ministers.)
- Draft Iraq's new constitution. This constitution was presented to the Iraqi people for their approval in a national referendum in October 2005. Under the new constitution, Iraq would elect a permanent government in December 2005.
Under the Iraqi transitional constitution, signed March 2004, the country's executive branch is now led by a three-person presidential council. The election system for the council effectively ensures that all three of Iraq's major ethnic groups are represented. The constitution also includes basic freedoms like freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and is perceived by some to more progressive than the U.S. Constitution. Controversially, however, it states that all laws that were in effect on the transfer date cannot be repealed. Furthermore, since the coalition forces are currently working to maintain order and create a stable society under the United Nations, coalition troops can remain in control of the country indefinitely despite the transfer of sovereignty. Since Iraqi forces are currently considered not fully trained and equipped to police and secure their country, it is expected that coalition troops will remain until Iraqi forces no longer require their support. However, these rules will be set aside once the Transitional National Assembly is seated.
On 5 April 2005, the Iraqi National Assembly appointed Jalal Talabani, a prominent Kurdish leader, President. It also appointed Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Shiite Arab, and Ghazi al-Yawar, the former Interim President and a Sunni Arab, as Vice Presidents. Ibrahim al-Jaafari a Shiite, whose United Iraq Alliance Party won the largest share of the vote, has been appointed the new Prime Minister of Iraq. Most power is vested in him. The new government was faced with two major tasks. The first is to attempt to rein in a violent insurgency, which has blighted the country in recent months, killing many Iraqi civilians and officials as well as a number of U.S. troops. (As of mid-2005, approximately 135,000 American troops remain in Iraq.) The second major task was to re-engage in the writing of a new Iraqi constitution, as outlined above, to replace the Iraqi transitional constitution of 2004.
In the meantime, the Iraqi government is considered by many international governments to be a legitimate government. According to the US administration, the judiciary in Iraq operates under the primacy of rule of law, so war criminals from the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein will get a fair and open trial, in which their rights will be subjected to due process and be protected by the scrutiny of a free press, the requirements of modern court proceedings.
On October 15, 2005, more than 63% of eligible Iraqis came out across the country to vote on whether to accept or reject the new constitution. On October 25, the vote was certified and the constitution passed with a 78% majority.  The new constitution had overwhelming backing among the Shia and Kurdish communities, as well as among a sizeable minority of the Sunni Arabs of Western Iraq.
Under the terms of the constitution, the country will conduct fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on December 15 to elect a new, permanent government.
Main article: Governorates of Iraq
- Baghdad Arab, Assyrian, Turkman, Kurdish
- Salah ad Din Arab, Kurdish,Turkman
- Diyala Arab, Kurdish,Turkman
- Wasit Arab
- Maysan Arab
- Al Basrah Arab
- Dhi Qar Arab
- Al Muthanna Arab
- Al Qadisyah Arab
- Babil Arab
- Al Karbala Arab
- An Najaf Arab
- Al Anbar Arab
- Ninawa Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish
- Dahuk Kurdish
- Arbil Kurdish ( also called Hewlêr in Kurdish)
- At Ta'mim Arab, Turkman, Kurdish
- As Sulaymaniyah Kurdish
The constitutionally recognized Kurdistan Autonomous Region includes parts of a number of northern governorates, and is largely self-governing in internal affairs.
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 60 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 (known as arvandrūd: اروندرود among Iranians) 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. Iraq is considered to be the cradle of human civilization.
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 US$100 billion. After hostilities ended in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities. A combination of low oil prices, onerous repayment of the war debts (at around US$3 billion a year) and the costs of reconstruction resulted in a serious financial crisis which was the main short term motivation for the invasion of Kuwait.
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 Ba`ath Party government have hurt the economy, implementation of the United Nations' oil-for-food program, started in December 1996, was to have improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. For the first six phases of the program (each phase lasting six months), Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts. Subsequent investigation of the program has revealed significant corruption, with highly-placed U.N. officials being bribed, Ba'ath Party officials receiving lucrative kickbacks, and much of the money from oil sales being redirected into weapons research and acquisition by the Iraqi military.
In December 1999, the UN Security Council authorised Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Iraq changed its oil reserve currency from US dollar to euro in 2000. Oil exports were more than three-quarters of the pre-war level. However, 28% of Iraq's export revenues under the program were 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 to a great extent shut down; attempts are underway to revive it from the damages of war and rampant crime.
During his year as the chief executive of Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer issued a series of orders designed to restructure Iraq's broadly socialist economy in line with neo-liberal thinking. Order 39 laid out the framework for the privatization of everything in Iraq aside from the "primary extraction and initial processing" of the oil reserves themselves, and permitted 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi assets. Other orders established a flat tax of 15% and permitted foreign corporations to repatriate 100% of profits earned in Iraq. Opposition from senior Iraqi officials, together with the poor security situation meant that Bremer's privatization plan was not implemented during his tenure, though his orders remain in place. Privatization of the oil industry, in addition to around 200 other state-owned businesses, is currently scheduled to begin sometime in late 2005. 
The second attempt to liberalize Iraq's economy is linked to the Iran-Iraq war debt. The creditors who financed the Iran-Iraq war had presented post-Saddam Iraq with a bill of nearly US$130 billion of debt and past-due-interest, which had not been serviced during the 13 years of sanctions. The Jubilee Iraq campaign argued that these debts were odious (or illegitimate) given that they came from loans to a dictator fighting a war which caused the Iraqi people a great deal of harm, and should therefore be written off unconditionally. The creditors, however, offered only a partial reduction and rescheduling of their claims in return for an Iraqi commitment to implement an International Monetary Fund economic program. This deal, with the Paris Club cartel of creditors including the U.S. and Britain, was signed on 20 November 2004. The following day the interim Iraqi National Assembly issued a strongly worded resolution rejecting the Paris Club's terms and declaring that the debt was odious.
Main article: Demographics of Iraq
Between 75-80% of Iraq's population consists of Arabic speakers (mainly Iraqi but some Hejazi); the other major ethnic groups are the Kurds (15-20%), Assyrians (4%), and Turkomans (3%) who mostly live in the north and north-east of the country. The Assyrians, Kurds and Turkomans differ from Arabs in many ways including culture, history, clothing, and language.The Assyrians also refer themselves as the original people of Iraq. Other distinct groups are Persians, Lurs, Armenians (possible descendants of the ancient Mesopotamian culture). About 2,500 Jews and 20,000 - 50,000 Marsh Arabs live in Iraq.
There are more Arab Iraqi Muslim members of the Shiite sect than there are Arab Iraqi Muslim of the Sunni sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of mostly Arabs, Kurds. (Shiite 60% of total population made up of mostly Arabs). There is a sizeable ammount of Christians in Iraq who number some 750,000 people mostly of those of the Chaldean rite. Bahá'ís, Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
Demographic information from the 2004 edition of the CIA's The World Factbook:
- Ethnic groups: Arab 75-80%, Kurdish 15-25%, Assyrian or other 5%
- Religions: Muslim 93-95% (Shi'ite 60%, Sunni 40%), Christian, Yezidi or other 5-7%
Main article: Culture of Iraq
- Economy: Iraq Stock Exchange, Iraqi Dinar, Economy of Iraq
- Events: 2005 in Iraq, 2004 in Iraq, 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Post-invasion Iraq, 2003-2005, Iraqi insurgency
- Geography: List of places in Iraq, Communications of Iraq, Transportation in Iraq, Arab Tribes in Iraq
- Politics: Politics of Iraq, New Iraqi Army, Foreign relations of Iraq, Human rights violations in Iraq, Iraqi insurgency, M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Religion and Politics in Iraq. Shiite Clerics between Quietism and Resistance, with a foreword by Professor Hamid Algar of the University of California at Berkeley. Singapore: Pustaka Nasional, 2004 (ISBN 9971775131)
- History: List of Kings of Iraq, List of Presidents of Iraq, List of Prime Ministers of Iraq, British Mandate of Iraq, History of the Jews in Iraq
- Others: Postage stamps and postal history of Iraq gay rights in Iraq
- Mourningthevote.com Information on US troops in Iraq
- Iraqi Interim Government official government site
- Kurdistan Regional Government
- Arab Gateway: Iraq
- / H-Museum Iraq site
- BBC News Country Profile - Iraq
- CIA World Factbook - Iraq
- Library of Congress Country Study - Iraq data from May 1988
- Future of Iraq Portal directory
- LookSmart - Iraq directory category
- Open Directory Project - Iraq directory category
- Yahoo! - Iraq directory category
- Yahoo! News Full Coverage - Iraq news headline links
- Iraq - News and Rss-feed by NewsXS
- News on the Iraq Constitution
- News on Saddam's Trial
- Iraq News
- Lawk Salih News on Iraq, Iraqi Music, Kurdish News
- Schema-root.org: Iraq 300 Iraq related topics, each with its own current news feed
- Informed Comment Commentary on war in Iraq from Middle East scholar Juan Cole
- Dahr Jamail Iraq Dispatches News From Inside Iraq
- Indepth Analysis of the Gulf War
- Iraqi civilian deaths since start of war in 2003
- International Freedom of Expression eXchange monitors attacks on journalists in Iraq
- A DWELLER IN MESOPOTAMIA, being the adventures of an official artist in the garden of Eden, by Donald Maxwell, 1921. (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
- BY DESERT WAYS TO BAGHDAD, by Louisa Jebb (Mrs. Roland Wilkins) With illustrations and a map, 1908 (1909 ed). (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
- Iraq: Relief and Recovery Development Gateway's knowledge sharing community on Iraq's development needs and efforts.
- Sourcewatch on reconstruction of Iraq contractors.
- Iraq Wiki
- Iraq Analysis Information Source Listings and analysis on post-invasion Iraq
- Jubilee Iraq Campaign to eliminate Iraq's pre-war debt and reparations
- Amnesty International Report on Iraq
- Coalition Provisional Authority Now-defunct occupation authority; site is archived
- US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq
- Iraq the Model Pro-American Iraqi blog
- The Baghdad Blog
- Postcolonial Iraq Blog
- AME Info - Country Guide: Iraq
- Pictures of Iraq (Mespotamia) during World War One, showing the peoples, Red Cross River Ambulances and British Army/Indian taken by Captain Weaver
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