Republic of Iraq
(English: "My Homeland")
and largest city
|Government||Federal parliamentary constitutional republic|
|4000 B.C - 539 B.C|
|750 AD - 1258 AD|
|25 April 1920|
|3 October 1932|
|14 July 1958|
|15 October 2005|
|437,072 km2 (168,754 sq mi) (58th)|
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
|82.7/km2 (214.2/sq mi) (125th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
|$733.926 billion (34th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
|$250.070 billion (48th)|
• Per capita
|HDI (2017)|| 0.685|
medium · 120th
|Currency||Iraqi dinar (IQD)|
|Time zone||UTC+3 (AST)|
|ISO 3166 code||IQ|
Iraq (/ɪˈræk/, /ɪˈrɑːk/ (listen) or /aɪˈræk/; Arabic: العراق al-'Irāq; Kurdish: عێراق Eraq), officially the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جُمُهورية العِراق Jumhūrīyyat al-'Irāq; Kurdish: کۆماری عێراق Komari Eraq), is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land.
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which "Iraq" is derived. The area has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC. Iraq was the centre of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid and Ottoman empires.
The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman language: Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. In April 1920 the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was created under the authority of the League of Nations. A British-backed monarchy joining these vilayets into one Kingdom was established in 1921 under Faisal I of Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country. Out of the insurgency came a highly destructive group calling itself ISIL, which took large parts of the north and west. It has since been largely defeated. Disputes over the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan continue. A referendum about the full sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017. On 9 December 2017, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL after the group lost its territory in Iraq.
Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan). The country's official religion is Islam. Culturally, Iraq has a very rich heritage and celebrates the achievements of its past in both pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic times and is known for its poets. Its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class as well as producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets. Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.
The Arabic name العراق al-ʿIrāq has been in use since before the 6th century. There are several suggested origins for the name. One dates to the Sumerian city of Uruk (Biblical Hebrew Erech) and is thus ultimately of Sumerian origin, as Uruk was the Akkadian name for the Sumerian city of Urug, containing the Sumerian word for "city", UR. An Arabic folk etymology for the name is "deeply rooted, well-watered; fertile".
During the medieval period, there was a region called ʿIrāq ʿArabī ("Arabian Iraq") for Lower Mesopotamia and ʿIrāq ʿAjamī ("Persian Iraq"), for the region now situated in Central and Western Iran. The term historically included the plain south of the Hamrin Mountains and did not include the northernmost and westernmost parts of the modern territory of Iraq. Prior to the middle of the 19th century, the term Eyraca Arabic was commonly used to describe Iraq.
The term Sawad was also used in early Islamic times for the region of the alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, contrasting it with the arid Arabian desert. As an Arabic word, عراق means "hem", "shore", "bank", or "edge", so that the name by folk etymology came to be interpreted as "the escarpment", viz. at the south and east of the Jazira Plateau, which forms the northern and western edge of the "al-Iraq arabi" area.
The Arabic pronunciation is [ʕiˈrɑːq]. In English, it is either /ɪˈrɑːk/ (the only pronunciation listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and the first one in Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary) or /ɪˈræk/ (listed first by MQD), the American Heritage Dictionary, and the Random House Dictionary. The pronunciation /aɪˈræk/ is frequently heard in US media.
In accordance with the 2005 Constitution, the official name of the state is the "Republic of Iraq" (Jumhūrīyyat al-'Irāq).
Between 65,000 BC and 35,000 BC northern Iraq was home to a Neanderthal culture, archaeological remains of which have been discovered at Shanidar Cave This same region is also the location of a number of pre-Neolithic cemeteries, dating from approximately 11,000 BC.
Since approximately 10,000 BC, Iraq (alongside Asia Minor and The Levant) was one of centres of a Caucasoid Neolithic culture (known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The following Neolithic period (PPNB) is represented by rectangular houses. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used vessels made of stone, gypsum and burnt lime (Vaisselle blanche). Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidences of early trade relations.
Further important sites of human advancement were Jarmo (circa 7100 BC), the Halaf culture and Ubaid period (between 6500 BC and 3800 BC). These periods show ever-increasing levels of advancement in agriculture, tool-making and architecture.
The historical period in Iraq truly begins during the Uruk period (4000 BC to 3100 BC), with the founding of a number of Sumerian cities, and the use of Pictographs, Cylinder seals and mass-produced goods.
The "Cradle of Civilization" is thus a common term for the area comprising modern Iraq as it was home to the earliest known civilisation, the Sumerian civilisation, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq in the Chalcolithic (Ubaid period).
It was here, in the late 4th millennium BC, that the world's first writing system and recorded history itself were born. The Sumerians were also the first to harness the wheel and create City States, and whose writings record the first evidence of Mathematics, Astronomy, Astrology, Written Law, Medicine and Organised religion.
The language of the Sumerians is a language isolate. The major city states of the early Sumerian period were; Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, Shuruppak, Uruk, Kish, Ur, Nippur, Lagash, Girsu, Umma, Hamazi, Adab, Mari, Isin, Kutha, Der and Akshak.
The cities to the north like Ashur, Arbela (modern Erbil) and Arrapha (modern Kirkuk) were also extant in what was to be called Assyria from the 25th century BC; however, at this early stage, they were Sumerian ruled administrative centres.
In the 26th century BC, Eannatum of Lagash created what was perhaps the first empire in history, though this was short-lived. Later, Lugal-Zage-Si, the priest-king of Umma, overthrew the primacy of the Lagash dynasty in the area, then conquered Uruk, making it his capital, and claimed an empire extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. It was during this period that the Epic of Gilgamesh originates, which includes the tale of The Great Flood.
From the 29th century BC, Akkadian Semitic names began to appear on king lists and administrative documents of various city states. It remains unknown as to the origin of Akkad, where it was precisely situated and how it rose to prominence. Its people spoke Akkadian, an East Semitic language.
During the 3rd millennium BC, a cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influences between Sumerian and Akkadian are evident in all areas, including lexical borrowing on a massive scale—and syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This mutual influence has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian of the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund. From this period, the civilisation in Iraq came to be known as Sumero-Akkadian.
However, the Sumerians remained generally dominant until the rise of the Akkadian Empire (2335–2124 BC), based in the city of Akkad in central Iraq. Sargon of Akkad, originally a Rabshakeh to a Sumerian king, founded the empire, he conquered all of the city states of southern and central Iraq, and subjugated the kings of Assyria, thus uniting the Sumerians and Akkadians in one state. He then set about expanding his empire, conquering Gutium, Elam and had victories that did not result into a full conquest against the Amorites and Eblaites of Ancient Syria.
After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire in the late 22nd century BC, the Gutians occupied the south for a few decades, while Assyria reasserted its independence in the north. This was followed by a Sumerian renaissance in the form of the Neo-Sumerian Empire. The Sumerians under king Shulgi conquered almost all of Iraq except the northern reaches of Assyria, and asserted themselves over the Gutians, Elamites and Amorites, destroying the first and holding off the others.
An Elamite invasion in 2004 BC brought the Sumerian revival to an end. By the mid 21st century BC, the Akkadian speaking kingdom of Assyria had risen to dominance in northern Iraq. Assyria expanded territorially into the north eastern Levant, central Iraq, and eastern Anatolia, forming the Old Assyrian Empire (circa 2035–1750 BC) under kings such as Puzur-Ashur I, Sargon I, Ilushuma and Erishum I, the latter of whom produced the most detailed set of law yet written. The south broke up into a number of Akkadian speaking states, Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna being the major ones.
During the 20th century BC, the Canaanite speaking Amorites began to migrate into southern Mesopotamia. Eventually, they began to set up small petty kingdoms in the south, as well as usurping the thrones of extant city states such as Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna.
One of these small Amorite kingdoms founded in 1894 BC contained the then small administrative town of Babylon within its borders. It remained insignificant for over a century, overshadowed by older and more powerful states, such as Assyria, Elam, Isin, Ehnunna and Larsa.
In 1792 BC, an Amorite ruler named Hammurabi came to power in this state, and immediately set about building Babylon from a minor town into a major city, declaring himself its king. Hammurabi conquered the whole of southern and central Iraq, as well as Elam to the east and Mari to the west, then engaged in a protracted war with the Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan for domination of the region, creating the short-lived Babylonian Empire. He eventually prevailed over the successor of Ishme-Dagan and subjected Assyria and its Anatolian colonies. By the middle of the eighteenth century BC, the Sumerians had lost their cultural identity and ceased to exist as a distinct people. Genetic and cultural analysis indicates that the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq are probably their most direct modern descendants.
It is from the period of Hammurabi that southern Iraq came to be known as Babylonia, while the north had already coalesced into Assyria hundreds of years before. However, his empire was short-lived, and rapidly collapsed after his death, with both Assyria and southern Iraq, in the form of the Sealand Dynasty, falling back into native Akkadian hands. The foreign Amorites clung on to power in a once more weak and small Babylonia until it was sacked by the Indo-European speaking Hittite Empire based in Anatolia in 1595 BC. After this, another foreign people, the Language Isolate speaking Kassites, originating in the Zagros Mountains of Ancient Iran, seized control of Babylonia, where they were to rule for almost 600 years, by far the longest dynasty ever to rule in Babylon.
Iraq was from this point divided into three polities: Assyria in the north, Kassite Babylonia in the south central region, and the Sealand Dynasty in the far south. The Sealand Dynasty was finally conquered by Kassite Babylonia circa 1380 BC.
The Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC) saw Assyria rise to be the most powerful nation in the known world. Beginning with the campaigns of Ashur-uballit I, Assyria destroyed the rival Hurrian-Mitanni Empire, annexed huge swathes of the Hittite Empire for itself, annexed northern Babylonia from the Kassites, forced the Egyptian Empire from the region, and defeated the Elamites, Phrygians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Cilicians, Gutians, Dilmunites and Arameans. At its height, the Middle Assyrian Empire stretched from The Caucasus to Dilmun (modern Bahrain), and from the Mediterranean coasts of Phoenicia to the Zagros Mountains of Iran. In 1235 BC, Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria took the throne of Babylon, thus becoming the very first native Mesopotamian to rule the state.
During the Bronze Age collapse (1200–900 BC), Babylonia was in a state of chaos, dominated for long periods by Assyria and Elam. The Kassites were driven from power by Assyria and Elam, allowing native south Mesopotamian kings to rule Babylonia for the first time, although often subject to Assyrian or Elamite rulers. However, these East Semitic Akkadian kings, were unable to prevent new waves of West Semitic migrants entering southern Iraq, and during the 11th century BC Arameans and Suteans entered Babylonia from The Levant, and these were followed in the late 10th to early 9th century BC by the migrant Chaldeans who were closely related to the earlier Arameans.
After a period of comparative decline in Assyria, it once more began to expand with the Neo Assyrian Empire (935–605 BC). This was to be the largest empire the region had yet seen, and under rulers such as Adad-Nirari II, Ashurnasirpal, Shalmaneser III, Semiramis, Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, Iraq became the centre of an empire stretching from Persia, Parthia and Elam in the east, to Cyprus and Antioch in the west, and from The Caucasus in the north to Egypt, Nubia and Arabia in the south.
It was during this period that an Akkadian influenced form of Eastern Aramaic was adopted by the Assyrians as the lingua franca of their vast empire, and Mesopotamian Aramaic began to supplant Akkadian as the spoken language of the general populace of both Assyria and Babylonia. The descendant dialects of this tongue survive amongst the Mandaeans of southern Iraq and Assyrians of northern Iraq to this day.
In the late 7th century BC, the Assyrian Empire tore itself apart with a series of brutal civil wars, weakening itself to such a degree that a coalition of its former subjects; the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Parthians, Scythians and Cimmerians, were able to attack Assyria, finally bringing its empire down by 605 BC.
The short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire (620–539 BC) succeeded that of Assyria. It failed to attain the size, power or longevity of its predecessor; however, it came to dominate The Levant, Canaan, Arabia, Israel and Judah, and to defeat Egypt. Initially, Babylon was ruled by yet another foreign dynasty, that of the Chaldeans, who had migrated to the region in the late 10th or early 9th century BC. Its greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar II, rivalled another non native ruler, the ethnically unrelated Amorite king Hammurabi, as the greatest king of Babylon. However, by 556 BC, the Chaldeans had been deposed from power by the Assyrian born Nabonidus and his son and regent Belshazzar.
In the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great of neighbouring Persia defeated the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the Battle of Opis and Iraq was subsumed into the Achaemenid Empire for nearly two centuries. The Achaemenids made Babylon their main capital. The Chaldeans and Chaldea disappeared at around this time, though both Assyria and Babylonia endured and thrived under Achaemenid rule (see Achaemenid Assyria). Little changed under the Persians, having spent three centuries under Assyrian rule, their kings saw themselves as successors to Ashurbanipal, and they retained Assyrian Imperial Aramaic as the language of empire, together with the Assyrian imperial infrastructure, and an Assyrian style of art and architecture.
In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the region, putting it under Hellenistic Seleucid rule for over two centuries. The Seleucids introduced the Indo-Anatolian and Greek term Syria to the region. This name had for many centuries been the Indo-European word for Assyria and specifically and only meant Assyria; however, the Seleucids also applied it to The Levant (Aramea, causing both the Assyria and the Assyrians of Iraq and the Arameans and The Levant to be called Syria and Syrians/Syriacs in the Greco-Roman world.
The Parthians (247 BC – 224 AD) from Persia conquered the region during the reign of Mithridates I of Parthia (r. 171–138 BC). From Syria, the Romans invaded western parts of the region several times, briefly founding Assyria Provincia in Assyria. Christianity began to take hold in Iraq (particularly in Assyria) between the 1st and 3rd centuries, and Assyria became a centre of Syriac Christianity, the Church of the East and Syriac literature. A number of independent states evolved in the north during the Parthian era, such as Adiabene, Assur, Osroene and Hatra.
The Sassanids of Persia under Ardashir I destroyed the Parthian Empire and conquered the region in 224 AD. During the 240s and 250's AD, the Sassanids gradually conquered the independent states, culminating with Assur in 256 AD. The region was thus a province of the Sassanid Empire for over four centuries, and became the frontier and battle ground between the Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Empire, with both empires weakening each other, paving the way for the Arab-Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century.
The Arab Islamic conquest in the mid-7th century AD established Islam in Iraq and saw a large influx of Arabs. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, the prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, moved his capital to Kufa when he became the fourth caliph. The Umayyad Caliphate ruled the province of Iraq from Damascus in the 7th century. (However, eventually there was a separate, independent Caliphate of Córdoba in Iberia.)
The Abbasid Caliphate built the city of Baghdad in the 8th century as its capital, and the city became the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world for five centuries. Baghdad was the largest multicultural city of the Middle Ages, peaking at a population of more than a million, and was the centre of learning during the Islamic Golden Age. The Mongols destroyed the city and burned its library during the siege of Baghdad in the 13th century.
In 1257, Hulagu Khan amassed an unusually large army, a significant portion of the Mongol Empire's forces, for the purpose of conquering Baghdad. When they arrived at the Islamic capital, Hulagu Khan demanded its surrender, but the last Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta'sim refused. This angered Hulagu, and, consistent with Mongol strategy of discouraging resistance, he besieged Baghdad, sacked the city and massacred many of the inhabitants. Estimates of the number of dead range from 200,000 to a million.
The Mongols destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate and Baghdad's House of Wisdom, which contained countless precious and historical documents. The city has never regained its previous pre-eminence as a major centre of culture and influence. Some historians believe that the Mongol invasion destroyed much of the irrigation infrastructure that had sustained Mesopotamia for millennia. Other historians point to soil salination as the culprit in the decline in agriculture.
In 1401, a warlord of Mongol descent, Tamerlane (Timur Lenk), invaded Iraq. After the capture of Baghdad, 20,000 of its citizens were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur). Timur also conducted massacres of the indigenous Assyrian Christian population, hitherto still the majority population in northern Mesopotamia, and it was during this time that the ancient Assyrian city of Assur was finally abandoned.
During the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the Black Sheep Turkmen ruled the area now known as Iraq. In 1466, the White Sheep Turkmen defeated the Black Sheep and took control. From the earliest 16th century, in 1508, as with all territories of the former White Sheep Turkmen, Iraq fell into the hands of the Iranian Safavids. Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian rivalry between the Safavids and the neighbouring Ottoman Turks, Iraq would be contested between the two for more than a hundred years during the frequent Ottoman-Persian Wars.
With the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, most of the territory of present-day Iraq eventually came under the control of Ottoman Empire as the eyalet of Baghdad as a result of wars with the neighbouring rival, Safavid Iran. Throughout most of the period of Ottoman rule (1533–1918), the territory of present-day Iraq was a battle zone between the rival regional empires and tribal alliances.
By the 17th century, the frequent conflicts with the Safavids had sapped the strength of the Ottoman Empire and had weakened its control over its provinces. The nomadic population swelled with the influx of bedouins from Najd, in the Arabian Peninsula. Bedouin raids on settled areas became impossible to curb.
During the years 1747–1831, Iraq was ruled by a Mamluk dynasty of Georgian origin who succeeded in obtaining autonomy from the Ottoman Porte, suppressed tribal revolts, curbed the power of the Janissaries, restored order and introduced a programme of modernisation of economy and military. In 1831, the Ottomans managed to overthrow the Mamluk regime and imposed their direct control over Iraq. The population of Iraq, estimated at 30 million in 800 AD, was only 5 million at the start of the 20th century.
During World War I, the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. In the Mesopotamian campaign against the Central Powers, British forces invaded the country and initially suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Turkish army during the Siege of Kut (1915–1916). However, subsequent to this the British began to gain the upper hand, and were further aided by the support of local Arabs and Assyrians. In 1916, the British and French made a plan for the post-war division of Western Asia under the Sykes-Picot Agreement. British forces regrouped and captured Baghdad in 1917, and defeated the Ottomans. An armistice was signed in 1918. The British lost 92,000 soldiers in the Mesopotamian campaign. Ottoman losses are unknown but the British captured a total of 45,000 prisoners of war. By the end of 1918, the British had deployed 410,000 men in the area, of which 112,000 were combat troops.
The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman language: Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. These three provinces were joined into one Kingdom by the British after the region became a League of Nations mandate, administered under British control, with the name "State of Iraq". The British established the Hashemite king, Faisal I of Iraq, who had been forced out of Syria by the French, as their client ruler. Likewise, British authorities selected Sunni Arab elites from the region for appointments to government and ministry offices.
Faced with spiraling costs and influenced by the public protestations of the war hero T. E. Lawrence in The Times, Britain replaced Arnold Wilson in October 1920 with a new Civil Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox. Cox managed to quell a rebellion, yet was also responsible for implementing the fateful policy of close co-operation with Iraq's Sunni minority. The institution of slavery was abolished in the 1920s.
Britain granted independence to the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, on the urging of King Faisal, though the British retained military bases, local militia in the form of Assyrian Levies, and transit rights for their forces. King Ghazi ruled as a figurehead after King Faisal's death in 1933, while undermined by attempted military coups, until his death in 1939. Ghazi was followed by his underage son, Faisal II. 'Abd al-Ilah served as Regent during Faisal's minority.
On 1 April 1941, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani and members of the Golden Square staged a coup d'état and overthrew the government of 'Abd al-Ilah. During the subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War, the United Kingdom (which still maintained air bases in Iraq) invaded Iraq for fear that the Rashid Ali government might cut oil supplies to Western nations because of his links to the Axis powers. The war started on 2 May, and the British, together with loyal Assyrian Levies, defeated the forces of Al-Gaylani, forcing an armistice on 31 May.
A military occupation followed the restoration of the pre-coup government of the Hashemite monarchy. The occupation ended on 26 October 1947, although Britain was to retain military bases in Iraq until 1954, after which the Assyrian militias were disbanded. The rulers during the occupation and the remainder of the Hashemite monarchy were Nuri as-Said, the autocratic Prime Minister, who also ruled from 1930 to 1932, and 'Abd al-Ilah, the former Regent who now served as an adviser to King Faisal II.
In 1958, a coup d'état known as the 14 July Revolution was led by the Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim. This revolt was strongly anti-imperial and anti-monarchical in nature and had strong socialist elements. Numerous people were killed in the coup, including King Faysal II, Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Sa'id. Qasim controlled Iraq through military rule and in 1958 he began a process of forcibly reducing the surplus amounts of land owned by a few citizens and having the state redistribute the land. He was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif in a February 1963 coup. After the latter's death in 1966, he was succeeded by his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, who was overthrown by the Ba'ath Party in 1968. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became the first Ba'ath President of Iraq but then the movement gradually came under the control of Saddam Hussein, who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), then Iraq's supreme executive body, in July 1979.
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution took place. Following months of cross-border raids between the two countries, Saddam declared war on Iran in September 1980, initiating the Iran–Iraq War (or First Persian Gulf War). Taking advantage of the post-revolution chaos in Iran, Iraq captured some territories in southwest of Iran, but Iran recaptured all of the lost territories within two years, and for the next six years Iran was on the offensive. The war, which ended in stalemate in 1988, had cost the lives of between half a million and 1.5 million people. In 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed an Iraqi nuclear materials testing reactor at Osirak and was widely criticised at the United Nations. During the eight-year war with Iran, Saddam Hussein extensively used chemical weapons against Iranians. In the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War, the Ba'athist Iraqi regime led the Al-Anfal Campaign, a genocidal campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds, and led to the killing of 50,000–100,000 civilians. Chemical weapons were also used against Iraqi Shia civilians during the 1991 uprisings in Iraq.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. This subsequently led to military intervention by United States-led forces in the First Gulf War. The coalition forces proceeded with a bombing campaign targeting military targets and then launched a 100-hour-long ground assault against Iraqi forces in Southern Iraq and those occupying Kuwait.
Iraq's armed forces were devastated during the war. Shortly after it ended in 1991, Shia and Kurdish Iraqis led several uprisings against Saddam Hussein's regime, but these were successfully repressed using the Iraqi security forces and chemical weapons. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people, including many civilians were killed. During the uprisings the US, UK, France and Turkey, claiming authority under UNSCR 688, established the Iraqi no-fly zones to protect Kurdish and Shiite populations from attacks by the Saddam regime's fixed-wing aircraft (but not helicopters).
Iraq was ordered to destroy its chemical and biological weapons and the UN attempted to compel Saddam's government to disarm and agree to a ceasefire by imposing additional sanctions on the country in addition to the initial sanctions imposed following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi Government's failure to disarm and agree to a ceasefire resulted in sanctions which remained in place until 2003. The effects of the sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq have been disputed. Whereas it was widely believed that the sanctions caused a major rise in child mortality, recent research has shown that commonly cited data were fabricated by the Iraqi government and that "there was no major rise in child mortality in Iraq after 1990 and during the period of the sanctions." An oil for food program was established in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the George W. Bush administration began planning the overthrow of Saddam's government and in October 2002, the US Congress passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. In November 2002, the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 1441 and in March 2003 the US and its allies invaded Iraq.
On 20 March 2003, a United States-organized coalition invaded Iraq, under the pretext that Iraq had failed to abandon its weapons of mass destruction program in violation of UN Resolution 687. This claim was based on documents provided by the CIA and the British government and were later found to be unreliable.
Following the invasion, the United States established the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern Iraq. In May 2003 L. Paul Bremer, the chief executive of the CPA, issued orders to exclude Baath Party members from the new Iraqi government (CPA Order 1) and to disband the Iraqi Army (CPA Order 2). The decision dissolved the largely Sunni Iraqi Army and excluded many of the country's former government officials from participating in the country's governance, including 40,000 school teachers who had joined the Baath Party simply to keep their jobs, helping to bring about a chaotic post-invasion environment.
An insurgency against the US-led coalition-rule of Iraq began in summer 2003 within elements of the former Iraqi secret police and army, who formed guerilla units. In fall 2003, self-entitled 'jihadist' groups began targeting coalition forces. Various Sunni militias were created in 2003, for example Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The insurgency included intense inter-ethnic violence between Sunnis and Shias. The Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal came to light, late 2003 in reports by Amnesty International and Associated Press.
The Mahdi Army—a Shia militia created in the summer of 2003 by Muqtada al-Sadr—began to fight Coalition forces in April 2004. 2004 saw Sunni and Shia militants fighting against each other and against the new Iraqi Interim Government installed in June 2004, and against Coalition forces, as well as the First Battle of Fallujah in April and Second Battle of Fallujah in November. The Sunni militia Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became Al-Qaeda in Iraq in October 2004 and targeted Coalition forces as well as civilians, mainly Shia Muslims, further exacerbating ethnic tensions.
In January 2005, the first elections since the invasion took place and in October a new Constitution was approved, which was followed by parliamentary elections in December. However, insurgent attacks were common and increased to 34,131 in 2005 from 26,496 in 2004.
During 2006, fighting continued and reached its highest levels of violence, more war crimes scandals were made public, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed by US forces and Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity and hanged. In late 2006, the US government's Iraq Study Group recommended that the US begin focusing on training Iraqi military personnel and in January 2007 US President George W. Bush announced a "Surge" in the number of US troops deployed to the country.
In May 2007, Iraq's Parliament called on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal and US coalition partners such as the UK and Denmark began withdrawing their forces from the country. The war in Iraq has resulted in between 151,000 and 1.2 million Iraqis being killed.
In 2008, fighting continued and Iraq's newly trained armed forces launched attacks against militants. The Iraqi government signed the US–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which required US forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by 30 June 2009 and to withdraw completely from Iraq by 31 December 2011.
US troops handed over security duties to Iraqi forces in June 2009, though they continued to work with Iraqi forces after the pullout. On the morning of 18 December 2011, the final contingent of US troops to be withdrawn ceremonially exited over the border to Kuwait. Crime and violence initially spiked in the months following the US withdrawal from cities in mid-2009 but despite the initial increase in violence, in November 2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion.
Following the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, the insurgency continued and Iraq suffered from political instability. In February 2011, the Arab Spring protests spread to Iraq; but the initial protests did not topple the government. The Iraqi National Movement, reportedly representing the majority of Iraqi Sunnis, boycotted Parliament for several weeks in late 2011 and early 2012, claiming that the Shiite-dominated government was striving to sideline Sunnis.
In 2012 and 2013, levels of violence increased and armed groups inside Iraq were increasingly galvanised by the Syrian Civil War. Both Sunnis and Shias crossed the border to fight in Syria. In December 2012, Sunni Arabs protested against the government, whom they claimed marginalised them.
During 2013, Sunni militant groups stepped up attacks targeting the Iraq's Shia population in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Nouri al-Maliki-led government. In 2014, Sunni insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group seized control of large swathes of land including several major Iraqi cities, like Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul creating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons amid reports of atrocities by ISIL fighters.
After an inconclusive election in April 2014, Nouri al-Maliki served as caretaker-Prime-Minister.
On 11 August, Iraq's highest court ruled that PM Maliki's bloc is biggest in parliament, meaning Maliki could stay Prime Minister. By 13 August, however, the Iraqi president had tasked Haider al-Abadi with forming a new government, and the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and some Iraqi politicians expressed their wish for a new leadership in Iraq, for example from Haider al-Abadi. On 14 August, Maliki stepped down as PM to support Mr al-Abadi and to "safeguard the high interests of the country". The US government welcomed this as "another major step forward" in uniting Iraq. On 9 September 2014, Haider al-Abadi had formed a new government and became the new prime minister. Intermittent conflict between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions has led to increasing debate about the splitting of Iraq into three autonomous regions, including Sunni Kurdistan in the northeast, a Sunnistan in the west and a Shiastan in the southeast.
In response to rapid territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the first half of 2014, and its universally-condemned executions and reported human rights abuses, many states began to intervene against it in the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017). Since the airstrikes started, ISIL has been losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Iraq in ISIL-linked violence. The genocide of Yazidis by ISIL has led to the expulsion, flight and effective exile of the Yazidis from their ancestral lands in Northern Iraq. The 2016 Karrada bombing killed nearly 400 civilians and injured hundreds more. On 17 March 2017, a US-led coalition airstrike in Mosul killed more than 200 civilians.
Since 2015, ISIL lost territory in Iraq, including Tikrit in March and April 2015, Baiji in October 2015, Sinjar in November 2015, Ramadi in December 2015, Fallujah in June 2016 and Mosul in July 2017. By December 2017, ISIL had no remaining territory in Iraq, following the 2017 Western Iraq campaign.
In September 2017, a referendum was held regarding Kurdish independence in Iraq. 92% of Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence. The referendum was regarded as illegal by the federal government in Baghdad. In March 2018, Turkey launched military operations to eliminate the Kurdish separatist fighters in northern Iraq. Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political coalition won Iraq's parliamentary election in May 2018.
Iraq lies between latitudes 29° and 38° N, and longitudes 39° and 49° E (a small area lies west of 39°). Spanning 437,072 km2 (168,754 sq mi), it is the 58th-largest country in the world. It is comparable in size to the US state of California, and somewhat larger than Paraguay.
Iraq mainly consists of desert, but near the two major rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) are fertile alluvial plains, as the rivers carry about 60,000,000 m3 (78,477,037 cu yd) of silt annually to the delta. The north of the country is mostly composed of mountains; the highest point being at 3,611 m (11,847 ft) point, unnamed on the map opposite, but known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). Iraq has a small coastline measuring 58 km (36 mi) along 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 were drained in the 1990s.
Most of Iraq has a hot arid climate with subtropical influence. Summer temperatures average above 40 °C (104 °F) for most of the country and frequently exceed 48 °C (118.4 °F). Winter temperatures infrequently exceed 21 °C (69.8 °F) with maxima roughly 15 to 19 °C (59.0 to 66.2 °F) and night-time lows 2 to 5 °C (35.6 to 41.0 °F). Typically, precipitation is low; most places receive less than 250 mm (9.8 in) annually, with maximum rainfall occurring during the winter months. Rainfall during the summer is extremely rare, except in the far north of the country. The northern mountainous regions have cold winters with occasional heavy snows, sometimes causing extensive flooding.
The federal government of Iraq is defined under the current Constitution as a democratic, federal parliamentary republic. The federal government is composed of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as numerous independent commissions. Aside from the federal government, there are regions (made of one or more governorates), governorates, and districts within Iraq with jurisdiction over various matters as defined by law.
The National Alliance is the main Shia parliamentary bloc, and was established as a result of a merger of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's State of Law Coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance. The Iraqi National Movement is led by Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia widely supported by Sunnis. The party has a more consistent anti-sectarian perspective than most of its rivals. The Kurdistan List is dominated by two parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masood Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Jalal Talabani. Both parties are secular and enjoy close ties with the West.
In 2018, according to the Failed States Index, Iraq was the world's eleventh most politically unstable country. The concentration of power in the hands of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and growing pressure on the opposition led to growing concern about the future of political rights in Iraq. Nevertheless, progress was made and the country had risen to 11th place by 2013. In August 2014, al-Maliki's reign came to an end. He announced on 14 August 2014 that he would stand aside so that Haider Al-Abadi, who had been nominated just days earlier by newly installed President Fuad Masum, could take over. Until that point, al-Maliki had clung to power even asking the federal court to veto the president's nomination describing it as a violation of the constitution.
Transparency International ranks Iraq's government as the eighth-most-corrupt government in the world. Government payroll have increased from 1 million employees under Saddam Hussein to around 7 million employees in 2016. In combination with decreased oil prices, the government budget deficit is near 25% of GDP as of 2016.
In October 2005, the new Constitution of Iraq was approved in a referendum with a 78% overall majority, although the percentage of support varying widely between the country's territories. The new constitution was backed by the Shia and Kurdish communities, but was rejected by Arab Sunnis. Under the terms of the constitution, the country conducted fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on 15 December 2005. All three major ethnic groups in Iraq voted along ethnic lines, as did Assyrian and Turcoman minorities.
Law no. 188 of the year 1959 (Personal Status Law) made polygamy extremely difficult, granted child custody to the mother in case of divorce, prohibited repudiation and marriage under the age of 16. Article 1 of Civil Code also identifies Islamic law as a formal source of law. Iraq had no Sharia courts but civil courts used Sharia for issues of personal status including marriage and divorce. In 1995 Iraq introduced Sharia punishment for certain types of criminal offences. The code is based on French civil law as well as Sunni and Jafari (Shi'ite) interpretations of Sharia.
In 2004, the CPA chief executive L. Paul Bremer said he would veto any constitutional draft stating that sharia is the principal basis of law. The declaration enraged many local Shia clerics, and by 2005 the United States had relented, allowing a role for sharia in the constitution to help end a stalemate on the draft constitution.
The Iraqi Penal Code is the statutory law of Iraq.
Iraqi security forces are composed of forces serving under the Ministry of Interior (which controls the Police and Popular Mobilization Forces) and the Ministry of Defense, as well as the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Bureau, reporting directly to the Prime Minister of Iraq, which oversees the Iraqi Special Operations Forces. Ministry of Defense forces include the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Navy. The Peshmerga are a separate armed force loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The regional government and the central government disagree as to whether they are under Baghdad's authority and to what extent.
The Iraqi Army is an objective counter-insurgency force that as of November 2009 includes 14 divisions, each division consisting of 4 brigades. It is described as the most important element of the counter-insurgency fight. Light infantry brigades are equipped with small arms, machine guns, RPGs, body armour and light armoured vehicles. Mechanized infantry brigades are equipped with T-54/55 main battle tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. As of mid-2008, logistical problems included a maintenance crisis and ongoing supply problems.
The Iraqi Air Force is designed to support ground forces with surveillance, reconnaissance and troop lift. Two reconnaissance squadrons use light aircraft, three helicopter squadrons are used to move troops and one air transportation squadron uses C-130 transport aircraft to move troops, equipment, and supplies. It currently has 3,000 personnel. It is planned to increase to 18,000 personnel, with 550 aircraft by 2018.
The Iraqi Navy is a small force with 1,500 sailors and officers, including 800 Marines, designed to protect shoreline and inland waterways from insurgent infiltration. The navy is also responsible for the security of offshore oil platforms. The navy will have coastal patrol squadrons, assault boat squadrons and a marine battalion. The force will consist of 2,000 to 2,500 sailors by year 2010.
On 17 November 2008, the US and Iraq agreed to a Status of Forces Agreement, as part of the broader Strategic Framework Agreement. This agreement states "the Government of Iraq requests" US forces to temporarily remain in Iraq to "maintain security and stability" and that Iraq has jurisdiction over military contractors, and US personnel when not on US bases or on–duty.
On 12 February 2009, Iraq officially became the 186th State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Under the provisions of this treaty, Iraq is considered a party with declared stockpiles of chemical weapons. Because of their late accession, Iraq is the only State Party exempt from the existing timeline for destruction of their chemical weapons. Specific criteria is in development to address the unique nature of Iraqi accession.
Iran–Iraq relations have flourished since 2005 by the exchange of high level visits: Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki made frequent visits to Iran, along with Jalal Talabani visiting numerous times, to help boost bilateral co-operation in all fields. A conflict occurred in December 2009, when Iraq accused Iran of seizing an oil well on the border.
Relationships with Turkey are tense, largely because of the Kurdistan Regional Government, as clashes between Turkey and the PKK continue. In October 2011, the Turkish parliament renewed a law that gives Turkish forces the ability to pursue rebels over the border in Iraq."
Relations between Iraq and its Kurdish population have been sour in recent history, especially with Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against them in the 1980s. After uprisings during the early 90s, many Kurds fled their homeland and no-fly zones were established in northern Iraq to prevent more conflicts. Despite historically poor relations, some progress has been made, and Iraq elected its first Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, in 2005. Furthermore, Kurdish is now an official language of Iraq alongside Arabic according to Article 4 of the constitution.
LGBT rights in Iraq remain limited. Although decriminalised, homosexuality remains stigmatised in Iraqi society. Targeting people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation is not uncommon and is usually carried out in the name of family honour. People who dress in emo style are mistakenly associated with homosexuality and may suffer the same fate. Investigations by the BBC and other western media in 2008 and 2009, including interviews of homosexual and transgender Iraqis, showed that violence against LGBT people had significantly increased since Saddam Hussein was toppled.
Iraq is composed of nineteen governorates (or provinces) (Arabic: muhafadhat (singular muhafadhah); Kurdish: پارێزگا Pârizgah). The governorates are subdivided into districts (or qadhas), which are further divided into sub-districts (or nawāḥī). Iraqi Kurdistan (Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja) is the only legally defined region within Iraq, with its own government and quasi-official army Peshmerga.
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. The lack of development in other sectors has resulted in 18%–30% unemployed and a depressed per capita GDP of $4,000. Public sector employment accounted for nearly 60% of full-time employment in 2011. The oil export industry, which dominates the Iraqi economy, generates very little employment. Currently only a modest percentage of women (the highest estimate for 2011 was 22%) participate in the labour force.
Prior to US occupation, Iraq's centrally planned economy prohibited foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, ran most large industries as state-owned enterprises, and imposed large tariffs to keep out foreign goods. After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority quickly began issuing many binding orders privatising Iraq's economy and opening it up to foreign investment.
On November 20, 2004, the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to write off 80% ($33 billion) of Iraq's $42 billion debt to Club members. Iraq's total external debt was around $120 billion at the time of the 2003 invasion, and had grown another $5 billion by 2004. The debt relief will be implemented in three stages: two of 30% each and one of 20%.
The official currency in Iraq is the Iraqi dinar. The Coalition Provisional Authority issued new dinar coins and notes, with the notes printed by De La Rue using modern anti-forgery techniques. Jim Cramer's October 20, 2009 endorsement of the Iraqi Dinar on CNBC has further piqued interest in the investment.
Five years after the invasion, an estimated 2.4 million people were internally displaced (with a further two million refugees outside Iraq), four million Iraqis were considered food-insecure (a quarter of children were chronically malnourished) and only a third of Iraqi children had access to safe drinking water.
According to the Overseas Development Institute, international NGOs face challenges in carrying out their mission, leaving their assistance "piecemeal and largely conducted undercover, hindered by insecurity, a lack of coordinated funding, limited operational capacity and patchy information". International NGOs have been targeted and during the first 5 years, 94 aid workers were killed, 248 injured, 24 arrested or detained and 89 kidnapped or abducted.
With its 143.1 billion barrels (2.275×1010 m3) of proved oil reserves, Iraq ranks third in the world behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia in the amount of oil reserves. Oil production levels reached 3.4 million barrels per day by December 2012. Only about 2,000 oil wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with about 1 million wells in Texas alone. Iraq was one of the founding members of OPEC.
During the 1970s Iraq produced up to 3.5 million barrels per day, but sanctions imposed against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 crippled the country's oil sector. The sanctions prohibited Iraq from exporting oil until 1996 and Iraq's output declined by 85% in the years following the First Gulf War. The sanctions were lifted in 2003 after the US-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein from power, but development of Iraq's oil resources has been hampered by the ongoing conflict.
As of 2010, despite improved security and billions of dollars in oil revenue, Iraq still generates about half the electricity that customers demand, leading to protests during the hot summer months.
The Iraq oil law, a proposed piece of legislation submitted to the Iraqi Council of Representatives in 2007, has failed to gain approval due to disagreements among Iraq's various political blocs.
According to a US Study from May 2007, between 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d) and 300,000 barrels per day (48,000 m3/d) of Iraq's declared oil production over the past four years could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling. In 2008, Al Jazeera reported $13 billion of Iraqi oil revenues in US care was improperly accounted for, of which $2.6 billion is totally unaccounted for. Some reports that the government has reduced corruption in public procurement of oil; however, reliable reports of bribery and kickbacks to government officials persist.
In June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced plans to go ahead with small one- or two-year no-bid contracts to Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP—once partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company—along with Chevron and smaller firms to service Iraq's largest fields. These plans were cancelled in September because negotiations had stalled for so long that the work could not be completed within the time frame, according to Iraqi oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani. Several United States senators had also criticised the deal, arguing it was hindering efforts to pass the hydrocarbon law.
On 30 June and 11 December 2009, the Iraqi ministry of oil awarded service contracts to international oil companies for some of Iraq's many oil fields. Oil fields contracted include the "super-giant" Majnoon Field, Halfaya Field, West Qurna Field and Rumaila Field. BP and China National Petroleum Corporation won a deal to develop Rumaila, the largest Iraqi oil field.
On 14 March 2014, the International Energy Agency said Iraq's oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country hadn't pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. However, on 14 July 2014, as sectarian strife had taken hold, Kurdistan Regional Government forces seized control of the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields in the north of the country, taking them from Iraq's control. Baghdad condemned the seizure and threatened "dire consequences" if the fields were not returned.
The UN estimates that oil accounts for 99% of Iraq's revenue.
Water supply and sanitation in Iraq is characterized by poor water and service quality. Three decades of war, combined with limited environmental awareness, have destroyed Iraq's water resources management system. Access to potable water differs significantly among governorates and between urban and rural areas. 91% of the entire population has access to potable water. But in rural areas, only 77% of the population has access to improved drinking water sources compared to 98% in urban areas. Large amounts of water are wasted during production.
Although many infrastructure projects are underway, Iraq remains in deep housing crisis, with the war-ravaged country likely to complete only 5 percent of the 2.5 million homes it needs to build by 2016 to keep up with demand, the Minister for Construction and Housing said in September 2013.
|Historical populations in millions|
The 2016 estimate of the total Iraqi population is 37,202,572. Iraq's population was estimated to be 2 million in 1878. In 2013 Iraq's population reached 35 million amid a post-war population boom.
According to the CIA World Factbook, citing a 1987 Iraqi government estimate, the population of Iraq is formed of 75-80% Arabs followed by 15% Kurds. In addition, the estimate claims that other minorities form 5% of the country's population, including the Turkmen/Turcoman, Yezidis, Shabak, Kaka'i, Bedouins, Roma, Assyrians, Circassians, Sabaean-Mandaean, and Persians. However, the International Crisis Group points out that figures from the 1987 census, as well as the 1967, 1977, and 1997 censuses, "are all considered highly problematic, due to suspicions of regime manipulation" because Iraqi citizens were only allowed to indicate belonging to either the Arab or Kurdish ethnic groups; consequently, this skewed the number of other ethnic minorities, such as Iraq's third largest ethnic group – the Turkmens/Turkomans.
A report published by the European Parliamentary Research Service suggests that in 2015 there was 24 million Arabs (15 million Shia and 9 million Sunni); 4 million Sunni Kurds (plus 500,000 Shia Faili Kurds and 200,000 Kaka'i); 3 million Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman; 1 million Black Iraqis; 500,000 Christians (including Assyrians and Armenians); 500,000 Yazidis; 250,000 Shabaks; 50,000 Roma; 3,000 Sabean-Mandaeans; 2,000 Circassians; 1,000 Baha'i; and a few dozen Jews.
Iraq has a community of 2,500 Chechens. In southern Iraq, there is a community of Iraqis of African descent, a legacy of the slavery practised in the Islamic Caliphate beginning before the Zanj Rebellion of the 9th century, and Basra's role as a key port. It is the most populous country in the Arabian Plate.
The main languages spoken in Iraq are Mesopotamian Arabic and Kurdish, followed by the Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialect of Turkish, and the Neo-Aramaic languages (specifically Chaldean and Assyrian). Arabic and Kurdish are written with versions of the Arabic script. Since 2005, the Turkmen/Turkoman have switched from the Arabic script to the Turkish alphabet. In addition, the Neo-Aramaic languages use the Syriac script.
Prior to the invasion in 2003, Arabic was the sole official language. Since the new Constitution of Iraq approved in June 2004, both Arabic and Kurdish are official languages, while Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and the Turkmen/Turkoman dialect of Turkish (referred to as respectively "Syriac" and "Turkmen" in the constitution) are recognised regional languages. In addition, any region or province may declare other languages official if a majority of the population approves in a general referendum.
According to the Iraqi constitution:
The Arabic language and the Kurdish language are the two official languages of Iraq. The right of Iraqis to educate their children in their mother tongue, such as Turkmen, Assyrian, and Armenian shall be guaranteed in government educational institutions in accordance with educational guidelines, or in any other language in private educational institutions.
Religions in Iraq are dominantly Abrahamic with Muslim (official) 99% (Shia 55-60%, Sunni 40%), Christian <.1%, Yazidi <.1%, Sabean Mandaean <.1%, Baha'i <.1%, Zoroastrian <.1%, Hindu <0.1%, Buddhist <0.1%, Jewish <0.1%, folk religion <0.1, unafilliated 0.1%, other <0.1% It has a mixed Shia and Sunni population. The CIA World Factbook estimates that around 65% of Muslims in Iraq are Shia, and around 35% are Sunni. A 2011 Pew Research Center estimates that 51% of Muslims in Iraq are Shia, 42% are Sunni, while 5% identify themselves as "Just a Muslim". The Sunni Muslims, 12-13 million in a population of 36 million, include Arabs, most Turkomen, and Kurds.
The Sunni population complains of facing discrimination in almost all aspects of life by the government. However, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denied that such discrimination occurs. Christians have lived in the area for about 2,000 years, and many descend from the pre-Arab ancient Mesopotamians-Assyrians. They numbered over 1.4 million in 1987 or 8% of the estimated population of 16.3 million and 550,000 in 1947 or 12% of the population of 4.6 millions.
Indigenous Neo Aramaic-speaking Assyrians, most of whom are adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Syriac Orthodox Church and Syriac Catholic Church account for most of the Christian population. Estimates for the numbers of Christians suggest a decline from 8–12% in the mid-20th century to 5% in 2008 or 1.6 million. More than half of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighbouring countries since the start of the war, and many have not returned, although a number are migrating back to the traditional Assyrian homeland in the Kurdish Autonomous Region.
There are also small ethno-religious minority populations of Mandaeans, Shabaks, Yarsan and Yezidis remaining. Prior to 2003 their numbers together may have been 2 million, the majority Yarsan, a non-Islamic religion with roots in pre-Islamic and pre-Christian religion. There are reports of over 100.000 conversions to Zoroastrianism in recent years. The Iraqi Jewish community, numbering around 150,000 in 1941, has almost entirely left the country.
The dispersion of native Iraqis to other countries is known as the Iraqi diaspora. The UN High Commission for Refugees has estimated that nearly two million Iraqis have fled the country after the multinational invasion of Iraq in 2003, mostly to Syria and Jordan. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates an additional 1.9 million are currently displaced within the country.
In 2007, the UN said that about 40% of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled and that most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return. Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries. In recent years the diaspora seems to be returning with the increased security; the Iraqi government claimed that 46,000 refugees have returned to their homes in October 2007 alone.
As of 2011, nearly 3 million Iraqis have been displaced, with 1.3 million within Iraq and 1.6 million in neighbouring countries, mainly Jordan and Syria. More than half of Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the 2003 US-led invasion. According to official United States Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics, 58,811 Iraqis have been granted refugee-status citizenship as of May 25, 2011.
To escape the civil war, over 160,000 Syrian refugees of varying ethnicities have fled to Iraq since 2012. Increasing violence during the Syrian civil war led to an increasing number of Iraqis returning to their native country.
In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 6.84% of the country's GDP. In 2008, there were 6.96 physicians and 13.92 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 68.49 years in 2010, or 65.13 years for males and 72.01 years for females. This is down from a peak life expectancy of 71.31 years in 1996.
Iraq had developed a centralised free health care system in the 1970s using a hospital based, capital-intensive model of curative care. The country depended on large-scale imports of medicines, medical equipment and even nurses, paid for with oil export income, according to a "Watching Brief" report issued jointly by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2003. Unlike other poorer countries, which focused on mass health care using primary care practitioners, Iraq developed a Westernized system of sophisticated hospitals with advanced medical procedures, provided by specialist physicians. The UNICEF/WHO report noted that prior to 1990, 97% of the urban dwellers and 71% of the rural population had access to free primary health care; just 2% of hospital beds were privately managed.
Before Iraq faced economic sanctions from the UN, it already had an advanced and successful Arab education system. However, it has now been “de-developing” in its educational success. Some say that the sanctions, whether intentionally or not, hurt the education system because of how it affected the children. Whether or not this is true, UNICEF's statistics and numbers show how Iraq's education system has room for improvement.
At the turn of the millennium, many countries, including Iraq, attempted to take part in the Millennium Development Goals as a way to help underdeveloped countries prosper. In Iraq, one of the goals was for education to be universally available for both boys and girls at the primary level. UNICEF collected several pieces of data that indicate whether or not, Iraq has been accomplishing this goal.
In general, the education of Iraq has been improving since the MDGs were implemented. For example, enrollment numbers nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012. It went from 3.6 million to six million. The latest statistic from 2015-2016 showed that almost 9.2 million children were in school. Enrollment rates continue to be on a steady increase at about 4.1% each year. The sheer increase in numbers shows that there are clearly improvements of children in Iraq having access to education.
However, the dramatic increase of the number of students in primary education has had some negative and straining effects for the education system. The budget for education makes up about only 5.7% of government spending and continues to stay at or below this percentage. Investments for schools has also been on the decline. As a result, the country now ranks at the bottom of Middle East countries in terms of education. The little funding for education makes it more difficult to improve the quality and resources for education.
At the same time, UNICEF investigated portions of spending for education and found that some of the money has gone to waste. They found that dropout rates are increasing as well as repetition rates for children. In both Iraq Centre and KRI, the rates for dropouts are about 1.5% to 2.5%. Within these dropout rates, there is also an uneven number among boys and girls who dropout. While the rate for dropouts for boys was around 16.5%, girls were at 20.1% where it could be due to economic or family reasons. For repetition rates, percentages have almost reached 17% among all students. To put the money loss in perspective, about $1,100 is spent on each student. For each student who drops out or repeats a grade, $1,100 is lost. As a result, almost 20% of the funding for education was lost to dropouts and repetition for the year 2014-2015.
Many of those people who dropout or have to repeat a grade do not see the economic cost for long term results. UNICEF takes note of how staying in school can in fact, increase wealth for the person and their family. While it may put a strain on the education system, it will also hinder the chances of a person receiving higher earnings in whatever career they go into.
Other statistics show that regional differences can attribute to lower or higher enrollment rates for children in primary education. For example, UNICEF found that areas with conflict like Salah al-Din have “more than 90% of school-age children” not in the education system. In addition, some schools were converted into refugee shelters or military bases in 2014 as conflict began to increase. The resources for education become more strained and make it harder for children to go to school and finish receiving their education. However, in 2017, there were efforts being made to open up 47 schools that had previously been closed. There has been more success in Mosul where over 380,000 are going to school again. Depending on where children live, they may or may not have the same access to education as other children.
There are also the differing enrollment rates between boys and girls. UNICEF found that in 2013-2014, enrollment numbers for boys was at about five million while girls were at about 4.2 million. While the out-of-school rate for girls is at about 11%, boys are at less than half of that. There is still a gap between boys and girls in terms of educational opportunities. However, the rate of enrollments for girls has been increasing at a higher rate than for boys. In 2015-2016, the enrollment numbers for girls increased by 400,000 from the previous year where a large number of them were located in Iraq Centre. Not only that, UNICEF found that the increase of girls going to school was across all levels of education. Therefore, the unequal enrollment numbers between boys and girls could potentially change so that universal education can be achieved by all at equal rates.
Although the numbers suggest a dramatic increase of enrollment rates for primary education in total, a large number of children still remain out of the education system. Many of these children fall under the category of internally displaced children due to the conflict in Syria and the takeover by ISIL. This causes a disruption for children who are attempting to go to school and holds them back from completing their education, no matter what level they are at. Internally displaced children are specifically recorded to track children who have been forced to move within their country due to these types of conflicts. About 355,000 of internally displaced children are not in the education system. 330,000 of those children live in Iraq Centre. The rates among internally displaced children continue to remain higher in Iraq Centre than other areas such as the KRI.
With the overall increase of enrollment rates, there continues to be a large strain on the resources for education. UNICEF notes that without an increase on expenditures for education, the quality of education will continue to decrease. Early in the 2000s, the UNESCO International Bureau of Education found that the education system in Iraq had issues with standard-built school buildings, having enough teachers, implementing a standardized curricula, textbooks and technologies that are needed to help reach its educational goals. Teachers are important resources that are starting to become more and more strained with the rising number of students. Iraq Centre has a faster enrollment growth rate than teacher growth. Teachers begin to have to take in more and more students which can produce a bigger strain on the teacher and quality of education the children receive. Another large resource for education is libraries that can increase literacy and create a reading culture. However, this can only be improved through a restructuring of the education system.
UNICEF provides more details, regarding the actions needed to help Iraq reach its MDG goal of education being attainable by all children at the primary level. Much of it has to do with the restructuring of the education system, research into improving the quality of education, and discovering ways on how to better suit the needs of girls and children with disabilities in the education system.
The CIA World Factbook estimates that, in 2000, the adult literacy rate was 84% for males and 64% for females, with UN figures suggesting a small fall in literacy of Iraqis aged 15–24 between 2000 and 2008, from 84.8% to 82.4%. The Coalition Provisional Authority undertook a complete reform of Iraq's education system: Baathist ideology was removed from curricula and there were substantial increases in teacher salaries and training programs, which the Hussein regime neglected in the 1990s. In 2003, an estimated 80% of Iraq's 15,000 school buildings needed rehabilitation and lacked basic sanitary facilities, and most schools lacked libraries and laboratories.
Education is mandatory only through to the sixth grade, after which a national examination determines the possibility of continuing into the upper grades. Although a vocational track is available to those who do not pass the exam, few students elect that option because of its poor quality. Boys and girls generally attend separate schools beginning with seventh grade.
In 2005, obstacles to further reform were poor security conditions in many areas, a centralised system that lacked accountability for teachers and administrators, and the isolation in which the system functioned for the previous 30 years. Few private schools exist. Prior to the invasion of 2003, some 240,000 persons were enrolled in institutions of higher education.
According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are the University of Dohuk (1717th worldwide), the University of Baghdad (3160th) and Babylon University (3946th).
Iraq is known primarily for its rich maqam heritage which has been passed down orally by the masters of the maqam in an unbroken chain of transmission leading up to the present. The maqam al-Iraqi is considered to be the most noble and perfect form of maqam. Al-maqam al-Iraqi is the collection of sung poems written either in one of the sixteen meters of classical Arabic or in Iraqi dialect (Zuhayri). This form of art is recognised by UNESCO as "an intangible heritage of humanity".
Early in the 20th century, many of the most prominent musicians in Iraq were Jewish. In 1936, Iraq Radio was established with an ensemble made up entirely of Jews, with the exception of the percussion player. At the nightclubs of Baghdad, ensembles consisted of oud, qanun and two percussionists, while the same format with a ney and cello were used on the radio.
The most famous singer of the 1930s–1940s was perhaps the Jew Salima Pasha (later Salima Murad). The respect and adoration for Pasha were unusual at the time since public performance by women was considered shameful, and most female singers were recruited from brothels.
The most famous early composer from Iraq was Ezra Aharon, an oud player, while the most prominent instrumentalist was Daoud Al-Kuwaiti. Daoud and his brother Saleh formed the official ensemble for the Iraqi radio station and were responsible for introducing the cello and ney into the traditional ensemble.
Important cultural institutions in the capital include the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra – rehearsals and performances were briefly interrupted during the Occupation of Iraq but have since returned to normal. The National Theatre of Iraq was looted during the 2003 invasion, but efforts are underway to restore it. The live theatre scene received a boost during the 1990s when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 cinemas were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions.
Institutions offering cultural education in Baghdad include the Academy of Music, Institute of Fine Arts and the Music and Ballet school Baghdad. Baghdad also features a number of museums including the National Museum of Iraq – which houses the world's largest and finest collection of artefacts and relics of Ancient Iraqi civilisations; some of which were stolen during the Occupation of Iraq.
The capital, Ninus or Nineveh, was taken by the Medes under Cyaxares, and some 200 years after Xenophon passed over its site, then mere mounds of earth. It remained buried until 1845, when Botta and Layard discovered the ruins of the Assyrian cities. The principal remains are those of Khorsabad, 16 km (10 mi) N.E. of Mosul; of Nimroud, supposed to be the ancient Calah; and of Kouyunjik, in all probability the ancient Nineveh. In these cities are found fragments of several great buildings which seem to have been palace-temples. They were constructed chiefly of sun-dried bricks, and all that remains of them is the lower part of the walls, decorated with sculpture and paintings, portions of the pavements, a few indications of the elevation, and some interesting works connected with the drainage.
After the end of the full state control in 2003, there were a period of significant growth in the broadcast media in Iraq. Immediately, and the ban on satellite dishes is no longer in place, and by mid-2003, according to a BBC report, there were 20 radio stations from 0.15 to 17 television stations owned by Iraqis, and 200 Iraqi newspapers owned and operated. Significantly, there have been many of these newspapers in numbers disproportionate to the population of their locations. For example, in Najaf, which has a population of 300,000, is being published more than 30 newspapers and distributed.
Iraqi media expert and author of a number of reports on this subject, Ibrahim Al Marashi, identifies four stages of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 where they had been taking the steps that have significant effects on the way for the later of the Iraqi media since then. Stages are: pre-invasion preparation, and the war and the actual choice of targets, the first post-war period, and a growing insurgency and hand over power to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Iraqi cuisine can be traced back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Ancient Persians. Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to many sophisticated and highly advanced civilisations, in all fields of knowledge – including the culinary arts. However, it was in the medieval era when Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate that the Iraqi kitchen reached its zenith. Today the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Turkey, Iran and the Greater Syria area.
Some characteristic ingredients of Iraqi cuisine include – vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, okra, onion, potato, courgette, garlic, peppers and chilli, cereals such as rice, bulgur wheat and barley, pulses and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and cannellini, fruits such as dates, raisins, apricots, figs, grapes, melon, pomegranate and citrus fruits, especially lemon and lime.
Similarly with other countries of Western Asia, chicken and especially lamb are the favourite meats. Most dishes are served with rice – usually Basmati, grown in the marshes of southern Iraq. Bulgur wheat is used in many dishes – having been a staple in the country since the days of the Ancient Assyrians.
Football is the most popular sport in Iraq. Football is a considerable uniting factor in Iraq following years of war and unrest. Basketball, swimming, weightlifting, bodybuilding, boxing, kick boxing and tennis are also popular sports.
The Iraqi Football Association is the governing body of football in Iraq, controlling the Iraqi National Team and the Iraqi Premier League (also known as Dawri Al-Nokba). It was founded in 1948, and has been a member of FIFA since 1950 and the Asian Football Confederation since 1971. The biggest club in Iraq is Al-Shorta, who won back-to-back league titles in 2013 and 2014 and were the first ever winners of the Arab Champions League. The Iraqi National Football Team were the 2007 AFC Asian Cup champions after defeating Saudi Arabia in the final by 1–0 thanks to a goal by captain Younis Mahmoud and they have participated in two FIFA competitions (the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup).
Despite having mobile phones in the Middle East since 1995, Iraqis were only able to use mobile phones after 2003. Mobile phones were banned under Saddam's rule. In 2013, it was reported that 78% of Iraqis owned a mobile phone.
According to the Iraqi Ministry of Communication, Iraq is now in the second phase of building and launching a multipurpose strategic satellite.
On 18 January 2012, Iraq was connected to the undersea communications network for the first time.
This had an immense impact on internet speed, availability and usage in Iraq.
In October 2013, the Iraqi Minister for Communication ordered internet prices to be lowered by a third. This is an attempt to boost usage and comes as a result of significant improvements in Internet infrastructure in the country.
The name of the very ancient city of URUK- City of Gilgamesh is made up from the UR-city and UK- thought to mean existence (a-ku, a-Ki & a-ko. The Aramaic and Arabic root of IRQ and URQ denotes rivers or tributaries at the same times referring to condensation (of water).
The term Iraq did not encompass the regions north of the region of Tikrit on the Tigris and near Hīt on the Euphrates.
The exploits of T.E. Lawrence as British liaison officer in the Arab Revolt, recounted in his work Seven Pillars of Wisdom, made him one of the most famous Englishmen of his generation. This biography explores his life and career including his correspondence with writers, artists and politicians.
Sunni control over the levels of power and the distribution of the spoils of office has had predictable consequences- a simmering resentment on the part of the Shi'a...
The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War (also called Operation Iraqi Freedom by western politicians). The invasion phase began on 19 March 2003 and lasted just over one month, including 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq. This early stage of the war formally ended on 1 May 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared the "End of Major Combat Operations", after which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established as the first of several successive transitional governments leading up to the first Iraqi parliamentary election in January 2005. U.S. military forces later remained in Iraq until the withdrawal in 2011.The American-led coalition sent 177,194 troops into Iraq during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 1 May 2003. About 130,000 arrived from the U.S. alone, with about 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers, and 194 Polish soldiers. 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops assembled in Kuwait by 18 February. The coalition forces also received support from the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan.
According to U.S. President George W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition aimed "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." Others place a much greater emphasis on the impact of the September 11 attacks, on the role this played in changing U.S. strategic calculations, and the rise of the freedom agenda. According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq's failure to take a "final opportunity" to disarm itself of alleged nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace.In a January 2003 CBS poll, 64% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq; however, 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism directed against the U.S. would increase due to war. The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading that country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's 12 February 2003 report. And while hundreds of chemical weapons were found in Iraq after the invasion, they determined to be produced before the 1991 Gulf War, from years earlier in Saddam Hussein's rule and were unusable. About 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs were discovered during the Iraq War.On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which the Guinness Book of Records listed as the largest ever anti-war rally. According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.The invasion was preceded by an airstrike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on 20 March 2003. The following day, coalition forces launched an incursion into Basra Province from their massing point close to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. While special forces launched an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf to secure Basra and the surrounding petroleum fields, the main invasion army moved into southern Iraq, occupying the region and engaging in the Battle of Nasiriyah on 23 March. Massive air strikes across the country and against Iraqi command-and-control threw the defending army into chaos and prevented an effective resistance. On 26 March, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was airdropped near the northern city of Kirkuk, where they joined forces with Kurdish rebels and fought several actions against the Iraqi Army to secure the northern part of the country.
The main body of coalition forces continued their drive into the heart of Iraq and met with little resistance. Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and the coalition occupied Baghdad on 9 April. Other operations occurred against pockets of the Iraqi Army, including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk on 10 April, and the attack on and capture of Tikrit on 15 April. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On 1 May President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations: this ended the invasion period and began the period of military occupation.Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi (; Arabic: أبو بكر البغدادي; born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri, إبراهيم عواد إبراهيم علي محمد البدري السامرائي, 1971) is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant terrorist organisation. ISIL has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, European Union and many individual states, while al-Baghdadi is considered a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States. In June 2014, he was chosen by the majlis al-shura (consultative council or Shura council), representing the ahl al-hall wal-aqd of the Islamic State as their caliph.Since 2016, the U.S. State Department has offered a reward of up to $25 million for information or intelligence leading to his capture or death.Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
During the war in Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These violations included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder. The abuses came to widespread public attention with the publication of photographs of the abuse by CBS News in April 2004. The incidents received widespread condemnation both within the United States and abroad, although the soldiers received support from some conservative media within the United States.The administration of George W. Bush asserted that these were isolated incidents, not indicative of general U.S. policy. This was disputed by humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. These organizations stated that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not isolated incidents, but were part of a wider pattern of torture and brutal treatment at American overseas detention centers, including those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Several scholars stated that the abuses constituted state-sanctioned crimes.The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, these soldiers were convicted in courts-martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner and PFC Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten and three years in prison, respectively. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer of all detention facilities in Iraq, was reprimanded and demoted to the rank of colonel. Several more military personnel who were accused of perpetrating or authorizing the measures, including many of higher rank, were not prosecuted. It was reported that most inmates were innocent of the crimes they were accused of and were simply detained due to their being in the wrong place at the wrong time.Documents popularly known as the Torture Memos came to light a few years later. These documents, prepared shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States Department of Justice, authorized certain enhanced interrogation techniques, generally held to involve torture of foreign detainees. The memoranda also argued that international humanitarian laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, did not apply to American interrogators overseas. Several subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), have overturned Bush administration policy, and ruled that Geneva Conventions apply.
Many of the torture techniques used were developed at Guantánamo detention center, including prolonged isolation; the frequent flyer program, a sleep deprivation program whereby people were moved from cell to cell every few hours so they couldn't sleep for days, weeks, even months; short shackling in painful positions; nudity; extreme use of heat and cold; the use of loud music and noise and preying on phobias.Ba'athist Iraq
Ba'athist Iraq, formally the Iraqi Republic, covers the history of Iraq between 1968 and 2003, during the period of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party's rule. This period began with high economic growth and soaring prosperity, but ended with Iraq facing social, political, and economic stagnation. The average annual income decreased because of several external factors, and several internal policies of the government.
Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif, and Iraqi Prime Minister Tahir Yahya, were ousted during the 17 July coup d'état led by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Ba'ath Party, which had previously held power in 1963 and was led primarily by al-Bakr, its leader, and Saddam Hussein. Saddam through his post as de facto chief of the party's intelligence services, became the country's de facto leader by the mid-1970s, and became de jure leader in 1979 when he succeeded al-Bakr in office as President. During al-Bakr's de jure rule, the country's economy grew, and Iraq's standing within the Arab world increased. However, several internal factors were threatening the country's stability, among them the country's conflict with Iran and factions within Iraq's own Shia Muslim community. An external problem was the border conflict with Iran, which would contribute to the Iran–Iraq War.
Saddam became the President of Iraq, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Regional Command of the Ba'ath Party in 1979, during a wave of anti-government protests in Iraq led by Shias. The Ba'ath Party, which was officially secular in nature, harshly repressed the protests. Another policy change was Iraq's foreign policy towards Iran, a Shia Muslim country. Deteriorating relations eventually led to the Iran–Iraq War, which started in 1980 when Iraq launched a full-scale invasion of Iran. Following the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Iraqis believed the Iranians to be weak, and thus an easy target for their military. This notion proved to be incorrect, and the war lasted for eight years. Iraq's economy deteriorated during the war, and the country became dependent on foreign donations to fund their war effort. The war ended in a stalemate when a ceasefire was reached in 1988, which resulted in a status quo ante bellum.
When the war ended, Iraq found itself in the midst of an economic depression, owed millions of dollars to foreign countries, and was unable to repay its creditors. Kuwait, which had deliberately increased oil output following the war, reducing international oil prices, further weakened the Iraqi economy. In response to this, Saddam threatened Kuwait that, unless it reduced its oil output, Iraq would invade. Negotiations broke down, and on 2 August 1990, Iraq launched an invasion of Kuwait. The resulting international response led to the Persian Gulf War, which Iraq lost. The United Nations (UN) initiated economic sanctions in the war's aftermath to weaken the Ba'athist Iraqi regime. The country's economic conditions worsened during the 1990s, and at the turn of the 21st century, Iraq's economy started to grow again as several states ignored the UN's sanctions. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001, the United States initiated a Global War on Terrorism, and labelled Iraq as a part of an "Axis of Evil". In 2003, U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq, and the Ba'athist Iraqi regime was deposed less than a month later.Babylon
Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC.
The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Babylonian dynasty in the 19th century BC. After the Amorite king Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th century BC, he built Babylon up into a major city and declared himself its king, and southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as its holy city. The empire waned under Hammurabi's son Samsu-iluna and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt by the Assyrians, Babylon became the capital of the short lived Neo-Babylonian Empire from 609 to 539 BC. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although a number of scholars believe these were actually in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rule of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman, and Sassanid empires.
It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world c. 1770 – c. 1670 BC, and again c. 612 – c. 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares (2,200 acres).The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.
The main sources of information about Babylon—excavation of the site itself, references in cuneiform texts found elsewhere in Mesopotamia, references in the Bible, descriptions in classical writing (especially by Herodotus), and second-hand descriptions (citing the work of Ctesias and Berossus)—present an incomplete and sometimes contradictory picture of the ancient city even at its peak in the sixth century BC.Baghdad
Baghdad (; Arabic: بغداد [baɣˈdaːd] (listen)) is the capital of Iraq. The population of Baghdad, as of 2016, is approximately 8,765,000, making it the largest city in Iraq, the second largest city in the Arab world (after Cairo, Egypt), and the second largest city in Western Asia (after Tehran, Iran).
Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (e.g., House of Wisdom), as well as hosting multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Centre of Learning".
Baghdad was the largest city of the Middle Ages for much of the Abbasid era, peaking at a population of more than a million. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires. With the recognition of Iraq as an independent state (formerly the British Mandate of Mesopotamia) in 1938, Baghdad gradually regained some of its former prominence as a significant center of Arab culture.
In contemporary times, the city has often faced severe infrastructural damage, most recently due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent Iraq War that lasted until December 2011. In recent years, the city has been frequently subjected to insurgency attacks. The war had resulted in a substantial loss of cultural heritage and historical artifacts as well. As of 2018, Baghdad was listed as one of the least hospitable places in the world to live, ranked by Mercer as the worst of 231 major cities as measured by quality-of-life.Gulf War
The Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Shield (2 August 1990 – 17 January 1991) for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes. The war is also known under other names, such as the Persian Gulf War, First Gulf War, Gulf War I, Kuwait War, First Iraq War or Iraq War, before the term "Iraq War" became identified instead with the 2003 Iraq War.
On 2 August 1990 the Iraqi Army invaded and occupied Kuwait, which was met with international condemnation and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. Together with the UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who had resisted the invasion by Argentina of the Falkland Islands a decade earlier, American President George H. W. Bush deployed US forces into Saudi Arabia, and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War II. The great majority of the coalition's military forces were from the US, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid around US$32 billion of the US$60 billion cost.The war marked the introduction of live news broadcasts from the front lines of the battle, principally by the US network CNN. The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast of images from cameras on board US bombers during Operation Desert Storm.The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment on 17 January 1991, continuing for five weeks. This was followed by a ground assault on 24 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased its advance and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on Saudi Arabia's border. Iraq launched Scud missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel.International military intervention against ISIL
In response to rapid territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the first half of 2014, and its universally-condemned executions, reported human rights abuses and the fear of further spillovers of the Syrian Civil War, many states began to intervene against it in both the Syrian Civil War and the Iraqi Civil War. Later, there were also minor interventions by some states against ISIL-affiliated groups in Nigeria and Libya.
In mid-June 2014, Iran, according to American and British information, started flying drones over Iraq, and, according to Reuters, Iranian soldiers were in Iraq fighting ISIL. Simultaneously, the United States ordered a small number of troops to Iraq and started flying crewed aircraft over Iraq.
In July 2014, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran sent Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft to Iraq, and Hezbollah purportedly sent trainers and advisers to Iraq to monitor ISIL's movements. In August 2014, the US and Iran separately began a campaign of airstrikes on ISIL targets in Iraq. Since then, fourteen countries in a US-led coalition have also executed airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq and in Syria.
In September 2015, Russian forces, with the permission of the Syrian government, began thousands of bombing raids against ISIL, al-Nusra Front, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).In the months following the beginning of both air campaigns, ISIL began to lose ground in both Iraq and Syria. Civilian deaths from airstrikes began to mount in 2015 and 2016. In mid-2016, the US and Russia planned to begin coordinating their airstrikes; however, this coordination did not materialize.As of December 2017, ISIL was estimated to control no territory in Iraq, and 5% of Syrian territory, after prolonged actions. On 9 December 2017, Iraq declared victory in the fight against ISIL and stated that the war in Iraq was over. On 23 March 2019, ISIL was completely defeated territorially in Syria after losing the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani.Invasion of Kuwait
The Invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 was a two-day operation conducted by Iraq against the neighboring State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month-long Iraqi occupation of the country. This invasion and Iraq's subsequent refusal to withdraw from Kuwait by a deadline mandated by the United Nations led to military intervention by a United Nations-authorized coalition of forces led by the United States. These events came to be known as the first Gulf War and resulted in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the Iraqis setting 600 Kuwaiti oil wells on fire during their retreat.
In early 1990 Iraq was accusing Kuwait of stealing Iraqi petroleum through slant drilling, although some Iraqi sources indicated Saddam Hussein's decision to attack Kuwait was made a few months before the actual invasion. Some feel there were several reasons for the Iraqi move, including Iraq's inability to pay the more than US$14 billion that it had borrowed to finance the Iran–Iraq War, and Kuwaiti high petroleum production levels which kept revenues down for Iraq. The invasion started on 2 August 1990, and within two days most of the Kuwait Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or fell back to neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Iraq set up a puppet government known as the "Republic of Kuwait" to rule over Kuwait and then annexed it outright, when Saddam Hussein announced a few days later that it was the 19th province of Iraq.Iran–Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between Iran and Iraq, beginning on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and ending on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. Iraq wanted to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state, and was worried that the 1979 Iranian Revolution would lead Iraq's Shi'ite majority to rebel against the Ba'athist government. The war also followed a long history of border disputes, and Iraq planned to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province and the east bank of the Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab).
Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of Iran's post-revolutionary chaos, it made limited progress and was quickly repelled; Iran regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive until near the end of the war. There were a number of proxy forces—most notably the People's Mujahedin of Iran siding with Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish militias of the KDP and PUK siding with Iran. The United States, Soviet Union, France, and most Arab countries provided support for Iraq, while Iran was largely isolated. After eight years, war-weariness, economic problems, decreased morale, repeated Iranian military failures, recent Iraqi successes, Iraqi use of weapons of mass destruction and lack of international sympathy, and increased U.S.–Iran military tension all led to a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations.
The conflict has been compared to World War I in terms of the tactics used, including large-scale trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across fortified defensive lines, manned machine guns posts, bayonet charges, Iranian human wave attacks, extensive use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and, later, deliberate attacks on civilian targets.
An estimated 1,000,000 Iraqi and Iranian soldiers died, in addition to a smaller number of civilians. The end of the war resulted in neither reparations nor border changes.Iraq War
The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 or more Iraqis were killed in the first three to four years of conflict. In 2009, official US troops were withdrawn, but American soldiers continued to remain on the ground fighting in Iraq, hired by defence contractors and private military companies. The U.S. became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition; the insurgency and many dimensions of the civil armed conflict continue. The invasion occurred as part of a declared war against international terrorism and its sponsors under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush following the unrelated September 11 terrorist attacks.In October 2002, President Bush obtained congressional approval from a Democrat-led Senate and Republican-led House authorizing war-making powers. The Iraq war began on 19 March 2003, when the U.S., joined by the U.K. and several coalition allies, launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S. forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba'athist government; Saddam was captured during Operation Red Dawn in December of that same year and executed by a military court three years later. However, the power vacuum following Saddam's demise and the mismanagement of the occupation led to widespread sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis, as well as a lengthy insurgency against U.S. and coalition forces. Many violent insurgent groups were supported by Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq. The United States responded with a troop surge in 2007, a build up of 170,000 troops. The surge in troops gave greater security to Iraq’s government and military, and was largely a success. The winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq accelerated under President Barack Obama. The U.S. formally withdrew all combat troops from Iraq by December 2011. However, with no stay-behind agreement or advisers left in Iraq, a new power vacuum was created and led to the rise of ISIS. Nine months after President Trump was elected, U.S.-backed forces captured Raqqa, which had served as the ISIS capital.The Bush administration based its rationale for the war principally on the assertion that Iraq, which had been viewed by the U.S. as a rogue state since the 1990–1991 Gulf War, possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), along with concerns about an active WMD program, and that the Iraqi government posed a threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Select U.S. officials accused Saddam of harbouring and supporting al-Qaeda, while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of chemical weapons were found in Iraq, which were determined to be produced before the 1991 Gulf War, and intelligence officials determined they were "so old they couldn't be used as designed." From 2004 to 2011, US troops and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on six reported occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons from years earlier in Saddam Hussein's rule. Roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs were discovered. The rationale of U.S. pre-war intelligence faced heavy criticism both domestically and internationally. From 2009 to 2011, the UK conducted a broad inquiry into its decision to go to war chaired by Sir John Chilcot. The Chilcot Report, published in 2016, concluded military action may have been necessary but was not the last resort at the time and that the consequences of invasion were underestimated.In the aftermath of the invasion, Iraq held multi-party elections in 2005. Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006 and remained in office until 2014. The al-Maliki government enacted policies that were widely seen as having the effect of alienating the country's Sunni minority and worsening sectarian tensions. In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a military offensive in Northern Iraq and declared a worldwide Islamic caliphate, eliciting another military response from the United States and its allies. The Iraq War caused over a hundred thousand civilian deaths and tens of thousands of military deaths (see estimates below). The majority of deaths occurred as a result of the insurgency and civil conflicts between 2004 and 2007.Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
The Iraqi Civil War was an armed conflict which began in January 2014 and ended in December 2017. In 2014, the Iraqi insurgency escalated into a civil war with the conquest of Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit and in the major areas of northern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS). At its height, ISIL held 56,000 square kilometers of Iraqi territory, containing 4.5 million citizens. This resulted in the forced resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as well as a massive airstrike campaign by the United States and at least a dozen other countries, participation of American and Canadian troops (predominantly special forces) in ground combat operations, a $3.5 billion U.S.-led program to rearm the Iraqi Security Forces, a U.S.-led training program that provided training to nearly 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, the participation of Iranian troops including armored and air elements, and military and logistical aid provided to Iraq by Russia. On 9 December 2017, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced victory over ISIL, though others warned that they expected ISIL to fight on via an insurgency, and by other means. ISIL switched to guerrilla 'hit and run' tactics in an effort to undermine the Iraqi government's effort to eradicate them.Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan, officially called the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Kurdish: ههرێمی کوردستان, translit. Herêmî Kurdistan) by the Iraqi constitution, is an autonomous region located in northern Iraq. It is also referred to as Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان, translit. Başûrê Kurdistanê), as Kurds generally consider it to be one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Syria (Rojava or Western Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with the capital being Erbil. Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with its own regional Parliament that consists of 111 seats. Masoud Barzani, who was initially elected as president in 2005, was re-elected in 2009. In August 2013 the parliament extended his presidency for another two years. His presidency concluded on 19 August 2015 after the political parties failed to reach an agreement over extending his term.
The new Constitution of Iraq defines the Kurdistan Region as a federal entity of Iraq, and establishes Kurdish and Arabic as Iraq's joint official languages. The four governorates of Duhok, Erbil, Silemani, and Halabja comprise around 46,861 square kilometres (18,093 sq mi) and have a population of 5.9 million (2018 estimate). In 2014, during the 2014 Iraq Crisis, Iraqi Kurdistan's forces also took over much of the disputed territories of Northern Iraq; the total area under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government contains some 8 million inhabitants.
The establishment of the Kurdistan Region dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. However, that agreement failed to be implemented and by 1974 Northern Iraq plunged into the Second Iraqi–Kurdish War, another part of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict between the Kurds and the Arab-dominated government of Iraq. Further, the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq War, especially the Iraqi Army's Al-Anfal Campaign, devastated the population and environment of Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprising of Kurds in the north and Shia Arabs in the south against Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurdistan's military forces, the Peshmerga, succeeded in pushing out the main Iraqi forces from the north.
Despite significant casualties and the crisis of Kurdish refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey, the Peshmerga success and the Western establishment of the northern Iraqi no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991 created the basis for Kurdish self-rule and facilitated the return of refugees. As Kurds continued to fight government troops, Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan in October 1991, leaving the region with de facto autonomy. In 1992, the major political parties in the region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, established the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent political changes led to the ratification of a new constitution in 2005.Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL ), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS ), officially as the Islamic State (IS) and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh (Arabic: داعش, translit. dāʿish, IPA: [ˈdaːʕɪʃ]), is a Salafi jihadist militant group and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.The group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings and other types of executions of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites. The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes. ISIL also committed ethnic cleansing on an historic scale in northern Iraq.ISIL originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces at the behest of the United States. In June 2014 the group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate and began referring to itself as the Islamic State (الدولة الإسلامية ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah; IS). As a caliphate, it claimed religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. Its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been widely criticised, with the United Nations, various governments and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting its statehood.In Syria, the group conducted ground attacks on both government forces and opposition factions and by December 2015, it held a large area extending from western Iraq to eastern Syria, containing an estimated 8 to 12 million people, where it enforced its interpretation of sharia law. ISIL is believed to be operational in 18 countries across the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with "aspiring branches" in Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines. In 2015, ISIL was estimated to have an annual budget of more than US$1 billion and a force of more than 30,000 fighters.In July 2017, the group lost control of its largest city, Mosul, to the Iraqi army. Following this major defeat, ISIL continued to lose territory to the various states and other military forces allied against it, until it controlled no meaningful territory by November 2017. U.S. military officials and simultaneous military analyses reported in December 2017 that the group retained a mere 2 percent of the territory they had previously held. On 10 December 2017, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory. By 23 March 2019, ISIL lost one of their last significant territories in the Middle East, surrendering their "tent city" and pockets in Al-Baghuz Fawqani near the end of the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani.Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.The Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.
Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, the eastern regions of Mesopotamia fell to the Sassanid Persians. The division of Mesopotamia between Roman (Byzantine from AD 395) and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines. A number of primarily neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene, Osroene, and Hatra.
Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture".Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (; Arabic: صدام حسين عبد المجيد التكريتي Ṣaddām Ḥusayn ʿAbd al-Maǧīd al-Tikrītī; 28 April 1937 – 30 December 2006) was President of Iraq from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organization the Iraqi Ba'ath Party—which espoused Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and socialism—Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup (later referred to as the 17 July Revolution) that brought the party to power in Iraq.
As vice president under the ailing General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, and at a time when many groups were considered capable of overthrowing the government, Saddam created security forces through which he tightly controlled conflicts between the government and the armed forces. In the early 1970s, Saddam nationalized oil and foreign banks leaving the system eventually insolvent mostly due to the Iran–Iraq War, the Gulf War, and UN sanctions. Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the apparatus of government as oil money helped Iraq's economy to grow at a rapid pace. Positions of power in the country were mostly filled with Sunni Arabs, a minority that made up only a fifth of the population.Saddam formally rose to power in 1979, although he had already been the de facto head of Iraq for several years. He suppressed several movements, particularly Shi'a and Kurdish movements which sought to overthrow the government or gain independence, respectively, and maintained power during the Iran–Iraq War and the Gulf War. Whereas some in the Arab world lauded Saddam for opposing the United States and attacking Israel, he was widely condemned for the brutality of his dictatorship. The total number of Iraqis killed by the security services of Saddam's government in various purges and genocides is conservatively estimated to be 250,000. Saddam's invasions of Iran and Kuwait also resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. He acquired the title "Butcher of Baghdad".In 2003, a coalition led by the United States invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, in which U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair falsely accused him of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. Saddam's Ba'ath party was disbanded and elections were held. Following his capture on 13 December 2003, the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi Interim Government. On 5 November 2006, Saddam was convicted by an Iraqi court of crimes against humanity related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'a, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on 30 December 2006.Syrian Civil War
The Syrian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية السورية, al-ḥarb al-ʾahlīyah as-sūrīyah) is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Syrian government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad's removal were violently suppressed. The war, which began on 15 March with major unrest in Damascus and Aleppo, is being fought by several factions: The Syrian government's Armed Forces and its international allies, a loose alliance of majorly Sunni opposition rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front), the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved or providing support to one or another faction (Iran, Russia, Turkey, the United States, as well as others).
Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah support the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Armed Forces militarily, with Russia conducting airstrikes and other military operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. They have also deployed special forces and artillery units to engage ISIL on the ground. Since 2015, the U.S. has supported the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and its armed wing, the SDF, materially, financially, and logistically. Turkey, on the other hand, has become deeply involved against the Syrian government since 2016, not only participating in airstrikes against ISIL alongside the U.S.-led coalition, but also actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat with ISIL, the SDF, and the Syrian government. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian Civil War spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian government traveled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil, with ISIL and Al-Nusra also engaging the Lebanese Army. Furthermore, while officially neutral, Israel has conducted airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian forces, whose presence in southwestern Syria it views as a threat.International organizations have accused virtually all sides involved, including the Ba'athist Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, Russia, and the U.S.-led coalition of severe human rights violations and massacres. The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting continues.War on Terror
The War on Terror, also known as the Global War on Terrorism, is an international military campaign that was launched by the United States government after the September 11 attacks against the United States. The naming of the campaign uses a metaphor of war to refer to a variety of actions that do not constitute a specific war as traditionally defined. U.S. president George W. Bush first used the term "war on terrorism" on 16 September 2001, and then "war on terror" a few days later in a formal speech to Congress. In the latter speech, George Bush stated, "Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them." The term was originally used with a particular focus on countries associated with al-Qaeda. The term was immediately criticised by such people as Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and more nuanced terms subsequently came to be used by the Bush administration to publicly define the international campaign led by the U.S.; it was never used as a formal designation of U.S. operations in internal government documentation.U.S. President Barack Obama announced on 23 May 2013 that the Global War on Terror was over, saying the military and intelligence agencies will not wage war against a tactic but will instead focus on a specific group of networks determined to destroy the U.S. On 28 December 2014, the Obama administration announced the end of the combat role of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan. However, the unexpected rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terror group—also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—led to a new operation against terror in the Middle East and South Asia, Operation Inherent Resolve.
Criticism of the War on Terror focused on morality, efficiency, economics; some, including later president Barack Obama, objected to the phrase itself as a misnomer. The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven contentious, with critics charging that it has been exploited by participating governments to pursue long-standing policy/military objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. Critics also assert that the term "war" is not appropriate in this context (much like the term "War on Drugs") since there is no identifiable enemy and it is unlikely that international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.Yazidis
The Yazidis (also written as Yezidis) ( (listen) yə-ZEE-deez, Kurmanji: Êzîdî, IPA: [eːzɪˈdiː]) or the Yazidi people (also Yezidi nation) (Kurmanji: Miletê Êzîdî) are a mostly Kurmanji (or Ezdiki) speaking minority ethnoreligious group, indigenous to a region of northern Mesopotamia (northern Iraq, northern Syria and southeastern Turkey) who are strictly endogamous. Some of them identify themselves as ethnic Kurds but most of them identify themselves as a distinct ethno-religious group, and they are recognized as a distinct ethnic group in Iraq and Armenia.Many Yazidis consider Yazidism both an ethnic and a religious identity. Their religion, Yazidism, is also called Sharfadin by Yazidis. It is a monotheistic religion and has elements of ancient mesopotamian religions and also combines aspects of Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Yazidism is not linked to Zoroastrianism. They speak Kurmanji and it is called Ezdiki (meaning: "the Yazidi language") by Yazidis. The Yazidis in Bashiqa and Bahzani speak Arabic as their mother language. Yazidis who marry non-Yazidis are automatically considered to be converted to the religion of their spouse and therefore are not permitted to call themselves Yazidis. The Yazidis in Iraq live primarily in the Nineveh Province, part of the disputed territories of northern Iraq.Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s as a result of significant migration to Europe, especially to Germany. According to the UNCHR reports, it is disputed, even within the community, as well as among Kurds, whether Yazidis are ethnically Kurds or form a distinct ethnic group.The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals. Some Western scholars erroneously linked this ambivalent character to a myth of his temporary fall from God's favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. However, it is not Melek Taus, but Azazil, who was banished to hell, who is different from Melek Taus for most Yazidis. Such legends might be introduced by foreign scholars, who misinterpreted the Yazidi faith.This belief has been linked by some people to Sufi mystical reflections on Iblis, who also refused to prostrate to Adam, despite God's express command to do so. Because of this similarity to the Sufi tradition of Iblis, some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region identify the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan, which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as "devil worshippers". Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq.Beginning in August 2014, the Yazidis were violently targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in its campaign to rid Iraq and its neighbouring countries of non-Islamic influences.