Oil-rich Iraq is situated in the central Middle East. The last 50 years have been dominated by dictatorship, war, and civil strife. A US-led Coalition ousted Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
Geography: Mainly desert. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers water fertile regions and create the southern marshland. Mountains along northeast border.
Climate: Southern deserts have hot, dry summers and mild winters. North has dry summers, but winters can be harsh in the mountains. Rainfall is low.
People and Society: Carved out of remnants of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq is home to Arab Muslims (mainly Shi’a, some Sunni), northern Kurds (who were persecuted under Saddam’s regime), and smaller minorities. Since Saddam’s removal, sectarian violence has overshadowed the new democratic state. Now that security is improving, Coalition forces are pulling out. After years of war and sanctions, poverty is widespread.
The Economy: Economy and infrastructure have been destroyed. Given stability and aid for reconstruction, hopes of recovery rest on massive oil reserves.
Insight: As Mesopotamia, Iraq was the site where the Sumerians
Official Name: Republic of Iraq
Date of Formation: 1932
Population: 30.7 million
Total Area: 168,753 sq. miles (437,072 sq. km)
Density: 182 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, Kurdish, Turkic languages, Armenian, Assyrian
Religions: Shi’a Muslim 60%, Sunni Muslim 35%, other 5%
Ethnic Mix: Arab 80%, Kurdish 15%, Turkmen 3%, other 2%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: New Iraqi dinar = 1000 fils