Our deeds still travel with us from afar, and what we have been makes us what we are.
— George Eliot, 1819 - 1880
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Iraq

Background

Iraq

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 strongmen ruled the country until 2003. The last 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 led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. US forces remained in Iraq under a UNSC mandate through 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to train and mentor Iraqi security forces. In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) in December 2005. After the election, Ibrahim al-JAFARI was selected as prime minister; he was replaced by Nuri al-MALIKI in May 2006. The CoR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half century. On 31 January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk province. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010, and after nine months of deadlock the CoR approved the new government in December.

About

WARNING: Iraq is presently a war zone. Traveling there is extremely unsafe and strongly discouraged. All foreigners are in danger of kidnapping, murder, and general armed violence. Tourism visas for Iraq are not granted at the moment.

Although the northeast provinces which comprise Iraqi Kurdistan can be considered safe for foreigners, the margins for errors are small. While no foreign deaths have occurred in the province since the 2003 Iraq invasion, many foreign deaths have occurred elsewhere in Iraq. Note that citizens of Iraqi Kurdistan themselves generally do not leave the province, as their lives are also in danger (although citizens of Kirkuk are an exception).

If it is necessary to visit, then remain cautious at all times, and consult your embassy before you leave. For further information, see war zone safety.

The bottom line: do your research and be careful.

Iraq (Arabic: العراق Al-Irāq) is a country in the Middle East. It lies at the north end of the Persian Gulf and has a small (58 km) coastline in the southeast of the country. It is surrounded by Iran to the east, Kuwait to the south, Saudi Arabia to the southwest, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, and Turkey to the north.

Read more about Iraq in our Iraq travel guide »

A travel warning has been issued for Iraq

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Iraq

Full name
Republic of Iraq
Capital
Baghdad
Location

Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait

Geographic coordinates

33 00 N, 44 00 E

Area comparative

slightly more than twice the size of Idaho

Border countries

Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km

Coastline

58 km

Climate

mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq

Terrain

mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey

Lowest point

Persian Gulf 0 m

Highest point

unnamed peak; 3,611 m; note - this peak is neither Gundah Zhur 3,607 m nor Kuh-e Hajji-Ebrahim 3,595 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur

Population

29,671,605 (July 2010 est.)

Ethnic groups

Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%

Religions

Muslim 97% (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%

Languages

Arabic (official), Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Turkoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic), Armenian

Government type

parliamentary democracy

Independence

3 October 1932 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration); note - on 28 June 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi-controlled Government

National holiday

Republic Day, July 14 (1958); note - the Government of Iraq has yet to declare an official national holiday but still observes Republic Day

Chief of state

President Jalal TALABANI (since 6 April 2005)

Head of government

Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI (since 20 May 2006)

Internet country code

.iq

Internet users

325,900 (2009)

Airports

104 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Al Basrah, Khawr az Zubayr, Umm Qasr

Other countries in the region