|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Government||Parliamentary Democracy (developing)|
|Language||Arabic, Kurdish (official)|
|Prime minister||Nouri al-Maliki|
|Area||169,234 sq. mi.|
|GDP 2006||$89.8 billion|
|GDP per capita||$2,900|
The modern country of Iraq corresponds with the ancient region of Mesopotamia - known by many as the cradle of civilization - where the first cities and classical civilizations developed in the fertile region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland. The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.
Average temperatures range from higher than 48°C (120°F) in July and August to below freezing in January. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4-7 in.) annually. The mountainous region of northern Iraq receives appreciably more precipitation than the central or southern desert region.
Almost 75% of Iraq's population live in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast from Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are in Iraq.
Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups are Turcoman, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.
The majority (60-65%) of Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a sect, but there is a large (32-37%) Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Small communities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language, dress, and customs.
- Population (July 2007 est.): 27,499,638.
- Population growth rate (2007 est.): 2.618%.
- Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurd 15%-20%, Assyrian 3%, Turcoman, Chaldean, or others less than 5%.
- Religions: Muslim 97%, Christian 3%, others less than 1%.
- Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish (official), Assyrian, Armenian.
- Education: Years compulsory--primary school (age 6 through grade 6). Literacy (2006 UNESCO est.)--74.1%.
- Health: Infant mortality rate--47.04 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--69.3 yrs. (2007 est.)
Iraq is a constitutional democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution guarantees all Iraqis basic rights in many areas. The executive branch is made up of the Presidency Council (one president, two deputy presidents) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 34 cabinet ministers). The President is the Head of State, protecting the Constitution and representing the sovereignty and unity of the state, while the Prime Minister is the direct executive authority and commander in chief. Beginning in 2006, the military and police began transitioning from being under the operational control of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq command to Iraqi command and control. The President and Vice Presidents are elected by the Council of Representatives (CoR). The Prime Minister is nominated by the largest bloc in the Council of Representatives. Upon designation, the Prime Minister names the members of his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which is then approved by the Council of Representatives. The Council of Representatives may withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister, in which case the Prime Minister and Cabinet are considered resigned. Under normal circumstances, the executive branch serves a four-year term concurrent with that of the Council of Representatives.
Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives and an as-yet unformed Federation Council. The Council of Representatives consists of 275 members, each of whom is elected to four-year terms of service. At least one-quarter of the members of the Council of Representatives must be female. The responsibilities of the Council of Representatives include enacting federal laws, monitoring the executive branch, and electing the President of the Republic. The Federal Council will be established, by law, as a representative for governorates and territories that are not organized in a region.
Iraq's judicial branch is independent, and is under no authority but that of the law. The federal judicial authority is comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts. The Higher Judicial Council supervises the affairs of the federal judiciary. The Federal Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and the final authority on legal decisions. The establishment of the federal courts, their types, and methods for judicial appointments will be set forth by laws enacted by the Council of Representatives.
Principal Officials of the Iraqi National Unity Government
- President--Jalal Talabani
- Prime Minister--Nuri al-Maliki
- Deputy Prime Minister for Energy-- Husayn al-Shahristani
- Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs-- Salih al-MUTLAQ
- Deputy Prime Minister for Services-- Rowsch Nuri SHAWAYS
- Minister of Agriculture--Izz al-Din al-Dawla
- Minister of Communications--Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi
- Minister of Defense-- Vacant
- Minister of Immigration & Displaced Persons-- Dindar Najam Shafiq DOSKI
- Minister of Education-- Mohammed Tamim
- Minister of Environment-- Sargon Lazar SULAYWAH
- Minister of Finance-- Rafi Hiyad al-ISSAWI
- Minister of Foreign Affairs-- Ali al-SAJRI
- Minister of Health-- Majid Hamad Amin JAMIL
- Minister of Higher Education-- Ali al-ADIB
- Minister of Human Rights-- Muhammad Shia al-SUDANI
- Minister of Interior-- Vacant
- Minister of Justice-- Hasan al-SHAMMARI
- Minister of Labor & Social Affairs-- Nasir al-RUBAI
- Minister of Oil--Abdul-Kareem Luaibi
- Minister of Trade-- Vacant
- Minister of State for Women's Affairs-- Hoshyar Mahmud ZEBARI
- Bushra Hussein Saleh is a minister without portfolio. A lone woman in Iraq's new cabinet.
- Ambassador to the US Samir Shakir al-SUMAYDI
- Permanent Representative to the UN, New York Hamid al-BAYATI
Major Political Parties and Organizations [Leaders]
Assyrian Democratic Movement [Yonadam Kanna]; Al-Da'wa [Ibrahim al-Ja'afari]; Badr Organization [Hadi al-Amiri]; Constitutional Monarchy Movement [Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein]; General Conference of Iraqi People [Adnan al-Dulaymi]; Hewar National Iraqi Front [Saleh al-Mutlaq]; Independent Iraqi Alliance [Falah al-Naqib]; Iraqi Hizballah [Karim Mahud al-Muhammadawi]; Iraqi Independent Democrats [Adnan Pachachi]; Iraqi Islamic Party [Muhsin Abd al-Hamid]; Iraqi National Accord (INA) [Ayad Allawi]; Iraqi National Congress (INC) [Ahmad Chalabi]; Iraqi National Unity Movement [Ahmad al-Kubaysi]; Iraqi Turkmen Front [Faruk Abdullah Abdurrahman]; Jama'at al-Fadilah [Ayatollah Muhammad 'Ali al-Yacoubi]; Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) [Massoud Barzani]; Kurdistan Islamic Union [Salaheddine Muhammad Bahaaeddin]; Mithal al-Alusi List [Mithal al-Alusi]; Muslim Ulama Council [Harith Sulayman al-Dari]; National Democratic Movement; Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) [Jalal Talabani]; Al-Risalyun [Muqtada al-Sadr]; Al-Sadr Movement [Muqtada al-Sadr]; Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, formerly the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI) [Abdul Aziz al-Hakim]; Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progress
Note: The Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan, the Iraqi List, and the United Iraqi Alliance were electoral blocs consisting of the representatives from the various Iraqi political parties. Alliances and Electoral blocs are subject to change.
Since March 2006, the Government of Iraq has been a broad coalition led by a Shi’ite legislative bloc known as the United Iraqi Coalition (UIC) or the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). The UIC currently holds 128 of 275 seats in the Council of Representatives. The UIC is currently composed of ISCI, the al-Sadr movement, al-Da’wa al-Islamiyya, Da’wa Tanzim al-Iraq, Jama’at al-Fadilah, and various independents. Politicians with Sunni religious affiliations, including the Tawaffuq and Hewar groups, presently hold 59 seats in the Council of Representatives. The Kurdish bloc known as the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (which includes the KDP & PUK) holds 53 legislative seats. Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiyya or Iraqi National List (INL) holds 25 seats. The remaining seats are composed of various independents.
With regard to the executive branch, much care has been given to ensure that there is proportionate distribution of ministerial positions among the major political groups. For example, in the Presidency Council, President Jalal Talabani is Kurdish, Deputy President ‘Adil ‘Abd al-Mahdi is a Shi’a Muslim, and Deputy President Tariq al-Hashimi is a Sunni Muslim. Additionally, the Council of Ministers consists of 18 Shi’a Muslims, 8 Sunni Muslims, 8 Kurds, and 5 members of Ayad Allawi’s secular INA.
The Government of Iraq is currently working toward reviewing the Constitution. The process is likely to be a long and careful one, as consideration needs to be given to the interests of each of the major political groups. Issues to be addressed include federalism, the sharing of oil revenues, de-Ba’thification reform, and provincial elections.
With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime, Iraq has taken steps toward re-engagement on the international stage. Iraq currently has diplomatic representation in 54 countries around the world, including 3 permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and the Arab League in Cairo. 48 countries have diplomatic representation in Iraq,
The Republic of Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: United Nations (UN); Arab League (AL); World Bank (WB); International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Nonaligned Movement (NAM); Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Interpol; World Health Organization (WHO); G-19; G-77; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA); Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD); Arab Monetary Fund (AMF); Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); International Community for Radionuclide Metrology (ICRM); International Development Association (IDA); International Development Bank (IDB); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Finance Corporation (IFC); International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS); International Labor Organization (ILO); International Maritime Organization (IMO); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); International Organization for Standardization (ISO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Universal Postal Union (UPU); World Customs Organization (WCO); World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); World Meteorological Organization (WMO); World Trade Organization (WTO) observer.
Relations with the United States
The focus of United States policy in Iraq remains on helping the Iraqi people build a constitutional, representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis and has security forces capable of maintaining order and preventing the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and foreign fighters. The ultimate goal is an Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, with institutions capable of providing just governance and security for all Iraqis and is an ally in the war against terrorism. U.S. forces remain in Iraq as part of the Multi-National Force-Iraq to assist the Government of Iraq in training its security forces, as well as to work in partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat forces that seek to derail Iraq's progression toward full democracy. The U.S. Government is carrying out a multibillion-dollar program to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The Iran-Iraq War ended with Iraq sustaining the largest military structure in the Middle East, with more than 70 divisions in its army and an air force of over 700 modern aircraft. Losses during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 by a UN coalition resulted in the reduction of Iraq's ground forces to 23 divisions and air force to less than 300 aircraft.
When major combat operations ended in April 2003, the Iraqi Army disintegrated, and its installations were destroyed by pilfering and looting. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officially dissolved the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defense on May 23, 2003. On August 7, 2003, the CPA established the New Iraqi Army as the first step toward the creation of the national self-defense force of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Support for the manning, training, and equipping of Iraq's security forces is led by the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I). In addition to defense forces, the Ministry of Interior, with the help of the MNSTC-I, is training and equipping civilian police forces to establish security and stability, primarily through combating the nation-wide insurgency. Initially under the command and control of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) command, in 2006 police and Iraqi Army units began to transition to Iraqi civilian control.
Historically, Iraq's economy was characterized by a heavy dependence on oil exports and an emphasis on development through central planning. Prior to the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, Iraq's economic prospects were bright. Oil production had reached a level of 3.5 million barrels per day, and oil revenues were $21 billion in 1979 and $27 billion in 1980. At the outbreak of the war, Iraq had amassed an estimated $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
- GDP (2006 est.): $50.93 billion (official exchange rate).
- GDP per capita (2006 est.): $1,771.
- GDP real growth rate (2006 est.): 3.0%.
- Rate of inflation (2006): 64.8%
- Unemployment rate (2005 estimate): 27%.
- Budget (FY 2007): Revenues--$33.4 billion (est.); expenditures--$41 billion (est.)
- Public debt (2006 est.): $72.9 billion.
- Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.
- Agriculture: Products--wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, cotton, dates, cattle, sheep.
- Industry: Types--petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing.
- Trade: Exports (2006 est.)--$29.34 billion. Export commodities (2006 est.)--crude oil (97%), other exports (3%). Export partners (2005)--U.S. 49.7%, Jordan 20%, Canada 13%, Italy 10.4%. Imports (2006 est.)--$22.96 billion. Import commodities--food, medicine, manufactured goods, refined petroleum products. Import partners (2005)--Turkey 23.4%, Syria 23.1%, U.S. 11.7%, Jordan 6.3%.
The Iran-Iraq war depleted Iraq's foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with a foreign debt of more than $40 billion. After hostilities ceased, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991, and neglect of infrastructure drastically reduced economic activity. Government policies of diverting income to key supporters of the regime while sustaining a large military and internal security force further impaired finances, leaving the average Iraqi citizen facing desperate hardships.
Implementation of a UN Oil-For-Food (OFF) program in December 1996 improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. In December 1999, Iraq was authorized to export unlimited quantities of oil through OFF to finance essential civilian needs including, among other things, food, medicine, and infrastructure repair parts. The drop in GDP in 2001-02 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Per capita food imports increased significantly, while medical supplies and health care services steadily improved. The occupation of the U.S.-led coalition in March-April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic administrative structure. The rebuilding of oil infrastructure, utilities infrastructure, and other production capacities has proceeded steadily since 2004 despite attacks on key economic facilities and continuing internal security incidents. Despite uncertainty, Iraq is making progress toward establishing the laws and institutions needed to make and implement economic policy.
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. Current estimates show that oil production averages 2.0 million bbl/day,
One key issue that currently confronts economic policymakers in Iraq is inflation. The year-on-year inflation rate for 2006 was 64.8%, a significant increase over the 2005 rate of 31.6% and well above the IMF target rate of 30% annual inflation. In an effort to infuse some stability in prices in Iraq, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) began to appreciate the Iraqi Dinar (ID) relative to the U.S. Dollar (USD) in November 2006. As of June 7, the CBI had appreciated the ID by 17%. It has also accelerated interest rate increases; the deposit rate is currently 20%. Inflation in Iraq, however, is only partly a monetary problem, and is more strongly related to real sector effects, particularly bottlenecks resulting from the security situation.
The Iraqi Government is seeking to pass and implement laws to strengthen the economy, including a hydrocarbon law to encourage development of this sector, a revenue sharing law to equitably divide oil revenues within the nation in line with the Iraqi constitution, and writing regulations to implement a new foreign investment law. Controlling inflation, reducing corruption, and implementing structural reforms such as bank restructuring and private sector development will be key to Iraq's economic growth.
Foreign assistance has been an integral component of Iraq's reconstruction efforts over the past three years. At a Donors Conference in Madrid in October 2003, more than $33 billion was pledged to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. Out of that conference, the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank launched the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) to administer and disburse about $1.4 billion of those funds. The rest of the assistance is being disbursed bilaterally. To date $13.5 billion has been pledged in foreign aid for 2004-2007 from outside of the U.S.
The Government of Iraq has also made an agreement with the Paris Club to reduce some of its debt service obligations. This three-stage agreement will allow for the reduction of over $34 billion in Iraqi debt. Also, in December 2005, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to extend a stand-by agreement (SBA) to the Government of Iraq in the amount of SDR 475.4 million (about U.S. $685 million).
In July 2006, the Government of Iraq and the UN began work to formulate the International Compact with Iraq (ICI), a five-year framework for Iraq to achieve economic self-sufficiency within its region and the world. On May 3, 2007 in Sharm el-Sheikh the ICI was formally launched by more than 70 countries and international organizations, many represented at the ministerial level.
The Compact aims to create a mutually reinforcing dynamic of national consensus and international support. Domestically the aim is to build a national Compact around the government's political and economic program and to restore the Iraqi people's trust in the state and its ability to protect them and meet their basic needs. Internationally, the Compact establishes a framework of mutual commitments to provide financial and technical assistance and debt relief needed to support Iraq and strengthen its resolve to address critical reforms and policies.
Despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Under the UN Oil-For-Food program, Iraq imported large quantities of grains, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Obstacles to agricultural development during the previous regime included labor shortages, inadequate management and maintenance, salinization, urban migration, and dislocations resulting from previous land reform and collectivization programs. A Ba'ath regime policy to destroy the "Marsh Arab" culture by draining the southern marshes and introducing irrigated farming to this region destroyed a natural food-producing area, while concentration of salts and minerals in the soil due to the draining left the land unsuitable for agriculture. Through assistance from USAID and USDA, targeted efforts have begun to overcome the damage done by the Ba'ath regime in ways that will rehabilitate the agricultural sector and confront environmental degradation. These efforts include infrastructure development, private sector development, veterinary clinic restoration, increased wheat production, and training and technical assistance in developing policies on sustainable water resources management and building Iraqi natural resources management.
The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Under the Oil-For-Food program Iraq was allowed to export oil and use the proceeds to purchase goods to address essential civilian needs, including food, medicine, and infrastructure spare parts. With the lifting of UN sanctions after the Ba'ath regime was removed in 2003, Iraq is gradually resuming trade relations with the international community, including with the U.S. The U.S. designated Iraq as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program in September 2004. Iraq was granted observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in February 2004, and began its WTO accession process in December 2004. On May 25, 2007, Iraq participated in its first Working Party meeting in Geneva. The meeting, in which Trade Minister al-Sudani participated, was characterized as a successful start to the WTO accession process, one that is crucial to Iraq's integration into the international economy. Dependent upon Iraqi progress on relevant issues, the next Working Party meeting could take place as early as spring 2008.
Iraq has a had a long history of Christianity in its nation dating back before the conquest of Islam in the 7th century. The Chaldean Christians have come under increasing persecution since the recent Iraq War as the insurgency after the war has targeted Christian churches and communities on more than one occasion. Many Christians have been forced to flee the country. Approximately three-quarters of a million remain. The United States will not recognize them as political refugees since they consider the country to have been 'liberated'. Many of these Christians have fled to Syria, where Christians account for more than 10% of the population.
The U.S. government set up a proposal that 12 of Iraq's 440 government seats be set aside for Christians. The Iraqi government decided to half this to 6, far underrepresenting the percentage of the Christian community by population. While it is possible for Christians to win seats on their own, Iraq's strongly sectarian voting based upon religion makes this a virtual impossibility.
Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq was the site of flourishing ancient civilizations, including the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Parthian cultures.
The first of these was the Sumerian civilization that arose in southern Mesopotamia around 4,500 BC. The Sumerians grew barley, chickpeas, lentils, millet, wheat, turnips, dates, onions, garlic, lettuce, leeks and mustard and raised cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The fertility of the flood plains they farmed and their extensive use of irrigation created surplus food which supported the populations of their cities and a system of government - which stored and distributed food and created the first system of laws. In order to administer this the Sumerians developed the earliest known form of writing - cuneiform - much of which survives as they wrote on clay tablets which were dried in the sun and many of which have survived. The Sumerians worshiped many gods. They also built large mud brick pyramids known as ziggurats as funerary monuments to commemorate the dead.
In 2371 BC King Sargon of Akkad established the Assyrian dynasty which conquered the region covered by the modern countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Israel. The Assyrian Empire collapsed with the fall of its capital Nineveh (the modern Iraqi town of Mosul)in 612 BC and was replaced by the Babylonian Empire - Babylon was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world and home to the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon built by King Nebuchadnezzar the second. Mesopotamian dominance of the region ended when the Persian king Cyrus the Great invaded in 539 BC. It remained part of the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great's conquest in 331 BC. It was ruled by the Hellenic descendants of Alexander's army - the Seleucids - until the Persians regained control, in around 150 BC, and made Mesopotamia part of the Parthian Empire - the only civilization to halt Roman expansionism.
Rise of Islam
In the 7th Century AD Mesopotamia was incorporated into the vast Muslim Arab empire that covered most of the middle east, north Africa and Spain. In the 8th century the capital of this empire was moved to Baghdad which at a time when Europe was in the dark ages became the greatest center for science and art since the time of the ancient Greeks. It was here that Astronomy and Algebra (both Arab words) were studied and advanced, and many familiar stories were first told, like those of Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and the thousand and one Arabian nights. By the twelfth century this great empire was in serious decline due to the Crusades, breakaway Muslim states in north Africa, the Mongols in the east and from its own rebellious mercenary soldiers - the Mamalukes and the Turks. Following the assassination of the last Caliph of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 there were nearly four centuries of conquest and chaos as Mesopotamia was invaded by Seleucids, Turks, Ottomans, Mongols (under Ghengis Khan), Turkoman, Tartars and Kurds.
In the early 20th Century Arab nationalists including Iraqis began rebelling against their Turkish rulers. With the outbreak of the First World War they fought alongside the Allies against the Turks in the hope of gaining their independence. France and Britain would control the Arab lands and Iraq came under the British mandate. When Iraqi tribesmen rebelled against British rule, the rebellion was put down using aerial bombardment - the first time air power had been used in such a way. In 1932 Iraq was granted independence although Britain still exercised considerable control over the country and had retained Kuwait for its oil.
In the years following the Second World War Iraq was allied to Britain, the United States and Turkey, and Britain continued to exert considerable influence over the country. In 1958 an "anti-imperialists" military coup overthrew and executed the British-installed royal family. The coup leader Abd al-Quassim banned all political parties and declared that Kuwait was part of Iraq. The Arab League then asked Britain to send troops to Kuwait to prevent an Iraqi invasion of a one of its member states. The troop deployment prevented a war but al-Quassim responded by allying Iraq with the Soviet Union and communist China. Quassim used money taken from the western owned Iraq Petroleum Company to carry out economic reforms in Iraq. Western governments were becoming concerned Iraq could become the "new Cuba" and in 1963 they supported a pro-western coup that overthrew Quassim. Between 1963 and 1968 there was a period of political instability with several failed governments and attempted coups.
In 1968 the Ba'ath Party seized power in a coup lead by General Bakr. The Ba'ath Party believes in the creation of a single, socialist pan-Arab state that would replace all existing Arab countries. During the cold war it was strongly aligned with the Soviet Union. In 1970 all foreign businesses including the Iraq Petroleum Company were seized and Iraq declared oil would be used as "a political weapon in the struggle against imperialism and Zionism". In 1979 Saddam Hussein replaced Bakr as president of Iraq. Saddam was a particularly brutal ruthless man, he attempted to assassinate Qassim in 1959, played a major role in 1968 coup and under Bakr he had led the much feared Ba'athist secret police. One of his first acts as President was to call a Ba'ath Party assembly where he declared his main political rivals to be traitors and spies; they were led from the assembly one by one to be tried and executed.
- Today, many television commercials and billboards in Baghdad make reference to Iraq's ancient heritage. But modern Iraqi culture is also marked by tribalism and violence. 
Absolute rule of Saddam
Saddam's next major initiative as President of Iraq was to invade Iran in September 1980, coinciding with the Iranian hostage crisis. At first, he experienced a high degree of success, overrunning most of Khorramsharr province, Iran's only Arab-majority province. His stated war aim was to seize exclusive control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway for Iraq.
The war ultimately ground on for eight years, killing over a million people total on both sides. During this time Iraq was taken off the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism, relations with the West were normalized, and various Western countries including the United States entered into various lucrative deals with Iraq. In the case of the United States this principally consisted of agricultural credits, but other countries liberally supplied Iraq with whatever Saddam believed it needed. The war machine's principal need was cash, and even Iraq's significant oil revenues did not bring in enough, so Saddam borrowed scores of billions of dollars from other Arab countries.
Iran sued for peace following the failure of a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq in the winter of 1988 which Saddam ruthlessly suppressed in the Anfal campaign, turning the chemical weapons he had long used against Iran on his own citizens. Throughout the period of absolute rule a few hundred people every year were executed, frequently by torture, but this was the crescendo of repression as Saddam seemed to be endeavoring to wipe out the Kurds of Iraq. The memory of this repression gave rise to a phrase frequently repeated in the United States following the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when that country was overrun in 2003: "Saddam was a weapon of mass destruction."
Iraq enjoyed technical peace (justice being utterly absent) for only two years, after which Saddam invaded Kuwait, the smallest of Iraq's six neighbors, which was unable to offer significant resistance. There were a mixed bag of motivations, but probably the primary one was the debt Saddam had incurred from other Arab nations of the Persian Gulf during the war. The debt was so overwhelming that it made the invasion almost rational; Saddam hoped to be able to frighten his local creditors into writing off his debts and pay down his debts to more distant creditors with Kuwait's oil revenues, which have always been somewhat higher than those of Iraq, although it is a much smaller country. Accordingly, Saddam announced that Kuwait would become permanently a province of Iraq.
The United States and particularly the United Kingdom, whose policy it had always been to protect Kuwait from Iraq, took an exceedingly dim view of these events. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher persuaded U. S. President George H. W. Bush that Saddam's action, despite his previously close relationship with the West, was a violation of the Carter Doctrine, which stated more or less that the U. S. would not allow ownership of Persian Gulf oil fields to be changed by force. The two countries obtained several resolutions from the United Nations Security Council to the effect that Iraq would have to withdraw and began with their allies, both European, Arab, and across the broader world, a military build-up in preparation to liberate Kuwait. A worldwide economic blockade was imposed on Iraq in the hopes that this would persuade it to withdraw without bloodshed. The only goods Iraq could legally buy were food and medicine.
The sanctions failing to bring about the desired end, the U. S.-led coalition was obliged to begin Operation Desert Storm on January 17 local time. After almost six weeks of continuous bombing, most Iraqi troops in the Kuwait theatre of operations had deserted. The only offensive they launched managed to take the Saudi Arabian town of Khafji, but Saddam's attempt to send reinforcements resulted in the destruction of several Iraqi divisions, demonstrating that air supremacy forced a conventional army to remain essentially immobile and unable to concentrate forces to repel attacks. On February 25, a ground offensive was launched resulting in the destruction of numerous additional divisions and the flight of others back to Basra, the second-largest and southernmost city in Iraq.
The coalition in the Gulf War did not have the authorization to force a regime change in Baghdad in 1992, neither was it ever a stated objective of the coalition.
Not only the Republican Guard, considered Saddam's most loyal and elite troops, but also the regular army's officer corps, however, was made up principally of Sunnis, who perceived the ensuing simultaneous rebellions by Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south of Iraq as an existential threat rather than as something which, in a more ethnically homogeneous country, they could have joined. The army therefore remained loyal to Saddam and crushed the Shiite rebellion. The U. S., United Kingdom and France intervened in the north through Operation Provide Comfort, which ended Iraqi control of the three Kurdish majority provinces until 1996, when Saddam was able to exploit a split between the two largest Kurdish militias. They also established no-fly zones in both the north and the south, not only reserving the right but considering it a duty to shoot down any fixed-wing Iraqi aircraft which might fly over those parts of Iraq.
In the following years the use of force against Iraq was only sporadic and limited mostly to cruise missile attacks until Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, undertaken in retaliation for the ejection of the United Nations Special Commission sent to dismantle any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. At the time, UNSCOM, as it was known, was credited with destroying more knwon stockpiles than had been destroyed during the war. Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Ali Kamel defected to Jordan in 1995 and claimed that Iraq still possessed substantial stocks of nerve gas and possibly biological weapons. The following year, without explanation, Kamel returned to Iraq, where he was killed.
It cannot be said for certain what Saddam possessed in 1995, but the stocks Kamel claimed existed were not found either by UNSCOM or by U. S. forces following the 2003 invasion. Little is known of ongoing programs to disseminate WMD manufacturing knowhow, or to whom the knowledge may have been disseminated to. The Iraqis behaved as though they had something to hide, resisting unannounced weapons inspections with all means short of armed force, denying UNSCOM the right to inspect Saddam's various Presidential palaces (mostly built after the war while the sanctions were impoverishing his people), and finally throwing UNSCOM out. If Hussein Kamel were a plant all along, it would be consistent with Saddam's policy of creating the belief in his opponents that he did possess WMD, as a means of deterring them from attacking. The Duelfer Report, based upon interrogations of high Ba'athist officials, states Saddam believed WMD had saved the regime in the Iran-Iraq War, and the threat of WMD saved him again during the Gulf War. However Saddam's chief aim was to get UN sanctions lifted, after which the WMD program would be restarted in full capacity, and generated by the new revenues and trade lifting the sanctions would bring.
By 1996, the unrelieved economic blockade of Iraq was severely affecting its ability to purchase food and medicine on the world market, as it like most Arab countries had little besides oil to export. Various claims were made to the effect that Iraq's infant mortality was now the highest in the Arab world or even that hundreds of thousands of people had starved to death. For the purpose of purchasing food and medicine, the United Nations agreed to permit Iraq to resume oil exports in what became known as the oil-for-food (OFF) program (see below). The Iraq economy finally recovered from the Gulf War with the OFF. This is now generally considered a major error by conservatives which will not be repeated should the current sanctions against Iran be toughened to what they were against Iraq.
Operation Desert Fox was preceded by the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which passed Congress with a veto-proof margin just as the impeachment inquiry against President Bill Clinton was shifting into high gear. The act could be considered a repudiation of Clinton's policy or lack of a policy toward Iraq up to that point. This made it U. S. policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power, which could be considered a declaration of war. However, not until March 2003 did Clinton's successor George W. Bush actually order Saddam and his brutal sons Uday and Qusay Hussein to step down and flee Iraq on pain of invasion. When Saddam refused, Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced on March 19, 2003; U. S. troops reached Baghdad three weeks later.
Oil for Food Scandal
In 2003 Ba'athist party dictator Saddam Hussein, accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction, was removed from power by a US-led coalition of forces. Saddam had effectively stopped previous attempts at enforcement of UN resolutions by essentially bribing  several Security Council members, namely the Russian Federation and France  through the corrupt Oil for food (OFF) program managed by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan's son. 
The Duelfer Report found,
- Iraq pursued its related goals of ending UN sanctions and the UN OFF program by enlisting the help of three permanent UNSC members: Russia, France and China. ... Iraq’s economic “carrots” included offering companies from those countries lucrative oil, reconstruction, agricultural and commercial goods, and weapon systems contracts. ...Saddam’s Regime needed both Moscow’s political clout in the UN and its economic expertise and resources to sustain his Regime from the 1990s until [Operation Iraqi Freedom] (OIF) ... Iraq promised to economically reward Russia’s support by placing it at the head of the list for receiving UN contracts under the UN OFF program....throughout the 1990s, the [Peoples Republic of China] consistently advocated lifting Iraqi sanctions while privately advising Baghdad to strengthen cooperation with the UN.
- In early July 2001, the US and the UK withdrew their joint-proposal to revamp the UN existing sanctions Regime, called “Smart Sanctions,” because of Russian, Chinese, and French opposition. The US/UK proposal attempted to restructure two key elements of the existing sanctions Regime: illicit procurement of weapons and dual-use goods and illicit generation of revenue from Iraqi oil sales outside the UN’s OFF program. In contrast, the Russian draft resolution proposed to reduce the current percentage to the Compensation fund another 5 percent to 20 percent of total value of Iraqi oil exports – and increase the total amount in Iraq’s escrow account to $600 million to pay other expenses ... The UN estimated that each 5 percent reduction in payments to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) added about $275 million in Iraq’s coffers per each UN OFF six month phase.
- French oil companies wanted to secure two large oil contracts; Russian companies not only wanted to secure (or lock in) oil contracts, but also sought other commercial contracts covering agricultural, electricity, machinery, food, and automobiles and trucks products...France competed with Russian agricultural products for Iraqi contracts....In May 2002, a representative from a French water purification company requested projects for his company in Iraq.
After two years in interrogation, Saddam was hanged by the new Iraqi regime. Iraq is currently plagued by insurgents who are against the new Iraqi government's alliance with the United States, and have reacted violently to Iraq's new government. Their efforts have destabilized the country enough that some consider Iraq to be headed towards civil war.
The Iraq War
- Main article : Operation Iraqi Freedom
After the US government decided that Iraq was in defiance of Security Council directives on weapons of mass destruction, President Bush decided to invade and occupy the nation. A US/UK coalition invaded (mostly from the southeast), and a brief shooting war ensued. Iraqi forces gave up fighting (without surrendering) shortly after US forces entered Baghdad (see Iraq War).
The Democratic Leadership in Congress wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq,  however Congress voted overwhelmingly to reject the idea in May of 2007, 280 -142 in the House and 80-14 in the Senate.  U.S. support for the infant Iraqi democracy continues.
On May 10, 2007, 144 Iraqi Parliamentary lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. On June 3, 2007, the Iraqi Parliament voted 85 to 59 to require the Iraqi government to consult with Parliament before requesting additional extensions of the UN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations in Iraq. The current UN mandate expires in December 2007.
According to the failed state index, which is based on economic, social, and political indicators, Iraq is the second least stable nation for 2007 (out of 177 nations rated). Only Sudan scored lower.
In September, 2007, the Government Accountability Office announced that the Iraqi government had failed to meet 11 out of 18 non-binding benchmarks set by the United States congress in May. They partially met four benchmarks, and completely met three. Top U.S. officials, including Bush, said they are disappointed by the Iraqi government's slow rate of progress.
The Surge: 2007-8
In late 2006 President Bush removed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and tried the warfighting strategy proposed by General David Petraeus, who was given additional forces. Petraeus sent in 30,000 additional combat troops under Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who contained the insurgency and cleared the enemy out of the belts surrounding Baghdad. Sunni leaders and tribal chiefs, fed up with al Qaeda atrocities, set up militias in tactical alliance with coalition and Iraqi government forces, The long ceasefire of Moqtada al Sadr's Shia extremists helped to reduce sectarian tension. Within a few months, Baghdad had been transformed: attacks were down by 60%, civilian deaths had dropped 70% and sectarian attacks of one sort and other had fallen by a staggering 90%. The succwess of "The Surge" strategy made possible the achievement of Bush's timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq's major cities in summer 2009.
- Dawisha, Adeed. Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation (2009), good scholarly history 1920-2009. [Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation (Hardcover excerpt and text search]
- Christian Evangelism in Iraq, Marie Jon, New Media Journal, March 24, 2007.
- An “Assyrian ghetto” in the Plains of Niniveh to save Iraq’s Christians, AsiaNews.it, 06/06/2007.
- Christian Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq, Translated from Swedish by EasternStar News Agency, 6-8-2007.
- Iraq, Ten Years Later
- The Snake Behind the Arab Spring.
- The San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper, Nov. 9th, 2008
- The Saddam Oil Bribes: The Complete al-Mada List, al-Mada, January 25, 2004.
- Duelfer Report, Regime Finance and Procurement, Vol. 1, p. 55-56.
- Annan 'disappointed' son didn't tell all, CNN, November 30, 2004.
- Congress OKs war bill sans timeline, By S.A. Miller, The Washington Times, May 25, 2007.
- Iraq Bill Demands U.S. Troop WithdrawAssociated Press, Fox News, May 10, 2007
- Iraqi parliament wants say in extension of US-led forcesAssociated Press, The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 2007
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1723 (2006)
- Failed State Index
- Report Finds Little Progress in Iraq
- Kimberly Kagan, The Surge: A Military History (2009)
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