Background: Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of strongmen ruled the country until 2003. The last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. US forces remained in Iraq under a UNSC mandate through 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to train and mentor Iraqi security forces. In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) in December 2005. After the election, Ibrahim al-JAFARI was selected as prime minister; he was replaced by Nuri al-MALIKI in May 2006. The CoR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half century. On 31 January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk province. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010, and after nine months of deadlock the CoR approved the new government in December.
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Area land: 437,367 sq km
Area water: 950 sq km
Coastline: 58 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Iraq
Country name conventional short form: Iraq
Country name former: Republic of Iraq
Population: 30,399,572 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38% (male 5,882,682/female 5,678,741); 15-64 years: 58.9% (male 9,076,558/female 8,826,545); 65 years and over: 3.1% (male 435,908/female 499,138) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 2.399% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 28.81 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 4.82 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female; total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 41.68 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 45.93 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 37.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.55 years; male: 69.15 years; female: 72.02 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 3.67 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: fewer than 500 (2003 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA;
Nationality: noun: Iraqi(s); adjective: Iraqi;
Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%;
Religions: Muslim 97% (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%;
Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Turkoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic), Armenian;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 74.1%; male: 84.1%; female: 64.2% (2000 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $117.7 billion (2010 est.); $111.5 billion (2009 est.); $106.7 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $84.14 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 5.5% (2010 est.); 4.5% (2009 est.); 7.8% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $3,600 (2010 est.); $3,600 (2009 est.); $3,500 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 9.7%; industry: 63%; services: 27.3% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 25% (2008 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%; highest 10%: NA%;
Labor force: 8.5 million (2009 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 21.6%; industry: 18.7%; services: 59.8% (2008 est.);
Unemployment rate: 15.3% (2009 est.); 15.2% (2008 est.);
Budget: revenues: $52.8 billion; expenditures: $72.4 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: petroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing;
Industrial production growth rate: 4.8% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 46.39 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 52 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - imports: 5.6 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
(Arab nationalist), Baghdad
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Robert Bensh discusses the myriad ways that ISIS and the Paris attack impact global energy security and geopolitics in the Middle East.
Sectarian warfare in Iraq and a brutal regime in Syria have led to a level of violence and chaos that is extreme even by the Middle East's standards.
The Western strategy of fighting warfare with warfare has only perpetuated sectarian divides, creating the very environment that fostered ISIS.
With ISIS continuing to terrorize and control broad swaths of the country, and with international intervention now underway, Iraq also faces a potential political crisis.