Iraq or Republic of Iraq, (area:167,924 sq. mi./434,924 sq. km.; 2003 est. pop. 24,683,313) covering a land area slightly smaller than the state of Texas with a population slightly larger than that state, Iraq is bordered by the countries of Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf.
Contemporary Iraq occupies territory traditionally considered the site of the earliest civilizations of the ancient Near East. This ancient fertile region known as Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers), was the site of a number of flourishing civilizations including the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians. Mesopotamia fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century and fell under Ottoman administration until the 19th century when it came to constitute the 3 Turkish provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. At this time the area became of great interest to the European powers and by the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) Iraq was established as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration. One year later, in 1921, the country was made a kingdom headed by Faisal I and Iraq was officially admitted to the League of Nations in 1932. In 1958, following a military coup, Iraq proclaimed itself a republic and Islam was declared the national religion. During the 1960's the Baath party emerged as the ruling political power and in 1979 Saddam Hussein assumed control of the government. Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq from 1979 to 2003. Baghdad, the capital, is located in central Iraq on the banks of the Tigris River and has a population (5.6 million) slightly smaller than New York , NY (8.1 million).
CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 8/2003; 10/2000; 1998