|Background: Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by
Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations
mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained
its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958,
but in actuality a series of military strongmen ruled the country, the latest was
SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly
eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by
US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following
Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons
of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections.
Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years resulted
in the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn
regime. Coalition forces remain in Iraq, helping to restore degraded infrastructure
and facilitating the establishment of a freely elected government, while
simultaneously dealing with a robust insurgency. The Coalition Provisional Authority
transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government (IG) in June 2004. Iraqis
voted on 30 January 2005 to elect a 275-member Transitional National Assembly that
will draft a permanent constitution and pave the way for new national elections at the
end of 2005.
Government type: republic
Currency: 1 Iraqi dinar (IQD) = 1,000 fils
Geography of Iraq
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
People of Iraq
Almost 75% of Iraq's population live in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast toward Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are here.
Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups are Turkomans, Assyrians, Iranians, Lurs, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.
Most Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a 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.
Population: 26,074,906 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Iraq > Map Economy History