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January 2008

Iraq Country Profile, 2003

Iraq Country Profile, 2003

Iraq or Republic of Iraq, (area: 437,072 sq. km.; 2007 est. pop.27,499,638) covers 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, and Turkey. 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. Iraq is strategically located on the Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf.

The terrain consists of mostly desert, alluvial plains, and mountains along the borders with Iran and Turkey. Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq. 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.

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 was under Ottoman administration until the 19th century when it came to constitute the three 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 (5.7 million) slightly smaller than New York, NY (8.1 million).

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 12/2007; 06/2007; 2005

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