Where Iraq is on the world map
Map of Iraq with cities. Where Iraq is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Iraq - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Iraq Fact File
Official name Republic of Iraq
Form of government Republic in transition with interim government
Area 437,072 sq km (168,753 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 3 hours
Projected population 2015 33,550,000
Population density 54.9 per sq km (142.2 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 67.4
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 57.6
Official languages Arabic
Other languages Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian
Literacy rate 58%
Religions Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%
Ethnic groups Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-200/ other (including Turkoman, Assyrian) 5%
Currency Iraqi dinar
Economy Services 48%, agriculture 30%, industry 22%
GNP per capita Est. US$ 2,500
Climate Mainly arid, with cold winters and hot summers; winter snows in northern mountains
Highest point Kuh-e HajT EbrahTm 3,600 m (11,811 ft)
Map reference Page 220
If any country has the right to call itself the cradle of Western civilization it is Iraq. The first city-states in the region date from nearly 3500 Be. The land "between the waters" of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers (the meaning of the old name Mesopotamia) has seen many empires come and go. Babylon defeated its old rival Assyria here in 612 вс, and in the seventh century вс the territory was seized by the Persians; Baghdad became the greatest commercial and cultural center of the Muslim world. The Persians held Iraq until they were conquered by Alexander the Great in 334 вс.
Part of the Ottoman Empire from 1534 to 1918, Iraq became independent in 1932.
Modern Iraq has been involved in three major conflicts in the space of twenty years: the First Gulf War between Iraq and Iran, 1980-88, the Second Gulf War in which it invaded Kuwait, 1990-91, and finally the Third Gulf War in 2003 that ended in the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime and the attempt to install a democratic form of government.
After the days of the early Mesopotamian empires, the Arab peoples brought Islam to Iraq in the seventh century ad. Like Iran, Iraq has a majority of Shi'ite Muslims. Unlike Iran, the ruling elite in Iraq are Sunni Muslims who fear their own Shi'ites are secretly loyal to Iran. This underlies the tension within Iraqi society and was the reason for the very restrictive politics of Saddam Hussein. The situation of the Kurds relates to an ethnic rather than a religious division. Distrusted and persecuted in every land in which they live (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Armenia) Iraq's Kurds were assaulted by Baghdad with chemical weapons in the 1980s.
In the far northeast Iraq shares part of the Zagros Mountains (Kuhha-ye Zagros) with Iran. In the west its territory includes a piece of the Syrian Desert. The rest of the country falls into two broad physiographic categories—the lowland desert to the west which makes up nearly forty percent of the total land area; and the Tigris-Euphrates basin known formerly as Mesopotamia. Here the two rivers flow southeast roughly parallel, before meeting in a vast swamp on their way to the Persian Gulf. In this swamp live communities of Marsh Arabs, Shi'ite Muslims targeted by the leadership in Baghdad after an attempted rebellion following the Second Gulf War. Most Iraqi agricultural activity takes place in the alluvial Tigris-Euphrates plain, where one-third of the farms are irrigated. Vegetables and cereals are the most important crops. In addition to the rice grown in warmer lowland areas, wheat and barley are cultivated in the temperate country near the Zagros Mountains. Exports have fallen sharply, but in better times Iraq's date crop met eighty percent of world demand.
View across the rooftops of Samarra', Iraq, to the River Tigris (left). A portion of the facade of the Imam Mosque in Esfahan, Iran (right page bottom).
Three wars, the second followed by international embargoes designed to force acceptance of UN inspection of weapons of mass destruction, have severely damaged the Iraqi economy. It was formerly dominated by the oil sector, but today oil exports are probably no more than ten percent of their former level. Agricultural development has been hampered by labor shortages, salinization, and the dislocation caused by earlier land reform and collectivization programs. Living standards continue to deteriorate. Shortages were exacerbated by the government's spending of huge sums on both its army and internal security. Presently it remains to be seen whether the efforts of the newly installed interim government, which works closely with the US- and UK-led forces, will manage to establish peace and promote economic development.
Middle East conflicts
1964 Iran: Ayatollah Khomeini exiled for criticism of Shah's secular state. 1967 Israel: Six Day War with Arab states; seizes the Gaza Strip, Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank of the Jordan River.
1972 Iraq: Nationalization of western-owned Iraq Petroleum Company.
1973 Egypt and Syria join in attack on Israel and fight 18-day war.
1979 Israel: Peace Treaty signed with Egypt. Iraq: Saddam Hussein takes over. Iran: Fall of the Shah. Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile. Iran declared an Islamic Republic.
1980 Iraqi invasion starts Iran-Iraq War. 1986 UN Security Council blames Iraq for war with Iran.
1988 Iran: US naval ship shoots down Iranian airliner, 290 killed. End of Iran-Iraq Gulf War. Iraqi troops use chemical weapons on Kurds.
1990 Iran and Iraq resume diplomatic relations. Iraq invades and annexes Kuwait.
1991 Western allies with UN mandate liberate Kuwait. UN requires Iraq to accept weapons monitoring and to destroy weapons of mass destruction.
1993 Israel: PLO recognizes Israel in return for Palestinian autonomy in Gaza Strip and Jericho.
1994 Iraq recognizes Kuwaiti sovereignty.
1995 Israel: Palestinian autonomy extended to much of West Bank. Prime Minister Rabin assassinated.
1997 UN charges Iraqi officials with blocking weapons inspections. Iran: Mohammed Khatami, more liberal than his predecessors, becomes president.
1998 Iraq: Obstruction of UN weapons inspectors and fear of Iraq's biological weapons program leads to heavy bombing by US and UK.
2003 Iraq: Saddam Hussein's regime is overthrown by US and UK forces and a small coalition; severe international criticism.
2004 Iraq: Administration handed over to an interim governing council in June