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Iraq

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Major Cities of Iraq in the continent of Asia

BaghdadBasraMosulSulaymaniyahErbilIrbilAz ZubayrKirkukKarbalaNasiriyahNajafRamadiBaqubahAl DiwaniyahAmarah

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THE IRAQ COAT OF ARMS
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Location Iraq AW.png
Location of Iraq within the continent of Asia
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Map of Iraq
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Flag Description of Iraq:In 2008, the current flag of Iraq was adopted as an interim measure until a permanent solution to the flag issue is found. The centered phrase in green Arabic script reads.... ALLAHU AKBAR (God is Great).

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Official name Al-Jumhūriyyah al-ʿIrāqiyyah (Republic of Iraq)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house (Council of Representatives of Iraq [3251])
Head of state President: Fuad Masum
Head of government Prime Minister: Haider al-Abadi
Capital Baghdad
Official languages Arabic; Kurdish
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit Iraqi dinar (ID)
Population (2013 est.) 34,776,0002COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 167,618
Total area (sq km) 434,128
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2011) 66.5%
Rural: (2011) 33.5%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2011) 69.2 years
Female: (2011) 72 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2010) 86%
Female: (2010) 70.6%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 5,870

1Includes 8 seats reserved for minorities.

2Includes some 2 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

About Iraq

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. The COR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half century. In January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all governorates except for the three governorates comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk Governorate. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010 - choosing 325 legislators in an expanded COR - and, after nine months of deadlock the COR approved the new government in December 2010. Nearly nine years after the start of the Second Gulf War in Iraq, US military operations there ended in mid-December 2011.


Geography of Iraq

The Land

Iraq is one of the easternmost countries of the Arab world, located at about the same latitude as the southern United States. It is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iran, to the west by Syria and Jordan, and to the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq has 12 miles (19 km) of coastline along the northern end of the Persian Gulf, giving it a tiny sliver of territorial sea. Followed by Jordan, it is thus the Middle Eastern state with the least access to the sea and offshore sovereignty.

Relief

Iraq’s topography can be divided into four physiographic regions: the alluvial plains of the central and southeastern parts of the country; Al-Jazīrah (Arabic: “the Island”), an upland region in the north between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; deserts in the west and south; and the highlands in the northeast. Each of these regions extends into neighbouring countries, although the alluvial plains lie largely within Iraq.

ALLUVIAL PLAINS

The plains of lower Mesopotamia extend southward some 375 miles (600 km) from Balad on the Tigris and Al-Ramādī on the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf. They cover more than 51,000 square miles (132,000 square km), almost one-third of the country’s area, and are characterized by low elevation, below 300 feet (100 metres), and poor natural drainage. Large areas are subject to widespread seasonal flooding, and there are extensive marshlands, some of which dry up in the summer to become salty wastelands. Near Al-Qurnah, where the Tigris and Euphrates converge to form the Shatt al-Arab, there are still some inhabited marshes. The alluvial plains contain extensive lakes. The swampy Lake Al-Ḥammār (Hawr al-Ḥammār) extends 70 miles (110 km) from Al-Baṣrah (Basra) to Sūq al-Shuyūkh; its width varies from 8 to 15 miles (13 to 25 km).

AL-JAZĪRAH

North of the alluvial plains, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, is the arid Al-Jazīrah plateau. Its most prominent hill range is the Sinjār Mountains, whose highest peak reaches an elevation of 4,448 feet (1,356 metres). The main watercourse is the Wadi Al-Tharthār, which runs southward for 130 miles (210 km) from the Sinjār Mountains to the Tharthār (Salt) Depression. Milḥat Ashqar is the largest of several salt flats (or sabkhahs) in the region.

DESERTS

Western and southern Iraq is a vast desert region covering some 64,900 square miles (168,000 square km), almost two-fifths of the country. The western desert, an extension of the Syrian Desert, rises to elevations above 1,600 feet (490 metres). The southern desert is known as Al-Ḥajarah in the western part and as Al-Dibdibah in the east. Al-Ḥajarah has a complex topography of rocky desert, wadis, ridges, and depressions. Al-Dibdibah is a more sandy region with a covering of scrub vegetation. Elevation in the southern desert averages between 300 and 1,200 feet (100 to 400 metres). A height of 3,119 feet (951 metres) is reached at Mount ʿUnayzah (ʿUnāzah) at the intersection of the borders of Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The deep Wadi Al-Bāṭin runs 45 miles (75 km) in a northeast-southwest direction through Al-Dibdibah. It has been recognized since 1913 as the boundary between western Kuwait and Iraq.

THE NORTHEAST

The mountains, hills, and plains of northeastern Iraq occupy some 35,500 square miles (92,000 square km), about one-fifth of the country. Of this area only about one-fourth is mountainous; the remainder is a complex transition zone between mountain and lowland. The ancient kingdom of Assyria was located in this area. North and northeast of the Assyrian plains and foothills is Kurdistan, a mountainous region that extends into Turkey and Iran.

The relief of northeastern Iraq rises from the Tigris toward the Turkish and Iranian borders in a series of rolling plateaus, river basins, and hills until the high mountain ridges of Iraqi Kurdistan, associated with the Taurus and Zagros mountains, are reached. These mountains are aligned northwest to southeast and are separated by river basins where human settlement is possible. The mountain summits have an average elevation of about 8,000 feet (2,400 metres), rising to 10,000–11,000 feet (3,000–3,300 metres) in places. There, along the Iran-Iraq border, is the country’s highest point, Ghundah Zhur, which reaches 11,834 feet (3,607 metres). The region is heavily dissected by numerous tributaries of the Tigris, notably the Great and Little Zab rivers and the Diyālā and ʿUẓaym (Adhaim) rivers. These streams weave tortuously south and southwest, cutting through ridges in a number of gorges, notably the Rū Kuchūk gorge, northeast of Barzān, and the Bēkma gorge, west of Rawāndūz town. The highest mountain ridges contain the only forestland in Iraq.

Drainage

THE TIGRIS-EUPHRATES RIVER SYSTEM

Iraq is drained by the Tigris-Euphrates river system, although less than half of the Tigris-Euphrates basin lies in the country. Both rivers rise in the Armenian highlands of Turkey, where they are fed by melting winter snow. The Tigris flows 881 miles (1,417 km) and the Euphrates 753 miles (1,212 km) through Iraq before they join near Al-Qurnah to form the Shatt al-Arab, which flows another 68 miles (109 km) into the Persian Gulf. The Tigris, all of whose tributaries are on its left (east) bank, runs close to the high Zagros Mountains, from which it receives a number of important tributaries, notably the Great Zab, the Little Zab, and the Diyālā. As a result, the Tigris can be subject to devastating floods, as evidenced by the many old channels left when the river carved out a new course. The period of maximum flow of the Tigris is from March to May, when more than two-fifths of the annual total discharge may be received. The Euphrates, whose flow is roughly 50 percent greater than that of the Tigris, receives no large tributaries in Iraq.

IRRIGATION AND CANALS

Many dams are needed on the rivers and their tributaries to control flooding and permit irrigation. Iraq has giant irrigation projects at Bēkma, Bādūsh, and Al-Fatḥah. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Iraq completed a large-scale project that connected the Tigris and Euphrates. A canal emerges from the Tigris near Sāmarrāʾ and continues southwest to Lake Al-Tharthār, and another extends from the lake to the Euphrates near Al-Ḥabbāniyyah. This connection is crucial because in years of drought—aggravated by more recent upstream use of Euphrates water by Turkey and Syria—the river level is extremely low. In 1990 Syria and Iraq reached an agreement to share the water on the basis of 58 percent to Iraq and 42 percent to Syria of the total that enters Syria. Turkey, for its part, unilaterally promised to secure an annual minimum flow at its border with Syria. There is no tripartite agreement.

Following the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi government dedicated considerable resources to digging two large canals in the south of the country, with the apparent goal of improving irrigation and agricultural drainage. There is evidence, however, that these channels were also used to drain large parts of Iraq’s southern marshlands, from which rebel forces had carried out attacks against government forces. The first was reportedly designed to irrigate some 580 square miles (1,500 square km) of desert. The vast operation to create it produced a canal roughly 70 miles (115 km) long between Dhī Qār and Al-Baṣrah governorates. The second, an even grander scheme, was reportedly designed to irrigate an area some 10 times larger than the first. This canal, completed in 1992, extends from Al-Yūsufiyyah, 25 miles (40 km) south of Baghdad, to Al-Baṣrah, a total of some 350 miles (565 km).

The two projects eventually drained some nine-tenths of Iraq’s southern marshes, once the largest wetlands system in the Middle East. Much of the drained area rapidly turned to arid salt flats. Following the start of the Iraq War in 2003, some parts of those projects were dismantled, but experts estimated that rehabilitation of the marshes would be impossible without extensive efforts and the expenditure of great resources.

Soils

The desert regions have poorly developed soils of coarse texture containing many stones and unweathered rock fragments. Plant growth is limited because of aridity, and the humus content is low. In northwestern Iraq, soils vary considerably: some regions with steep slopes are badly eroded, while the river valleys and basins contain some light fertile soils. In northwest Al-Jazīrah, there is an area of potentially fertile soils similar to those found in much of the Fertile Crescent. Lowland Iraq is covered by heavy alluvial soils, with some organic content and a high proportion of clays, suitable for cultivation and for use as a building material.

Salinity, caused in part by overirrigation, is a serious problem that affects about two-thirds of the land; as a result, large areas of agricultural land have had to be abandoned. A high water table and poor drainage, coupled with high rates of evaporation, cause alkaline salts to accumulate at or near the surface in sufficient quantities to limit agricultural productivity. Reversing the effect is a difficult and lengthy process.

Heavy soil erosion in parts of Iraq, some of it induced by overgrazing and deforestation, leaves soils exposed to markedly seasonal rainfall. The Tigris-Euphrates river system has thus created a large alluvial deposit at its mouth, so that the Persian Gulf coast is much farther south than in Babylonian times.

Climate

Iraq has two climatic provinces: the hot, arid lowlands, including the alluvial plains and the deserts; and the damper northeast, where the higher elevation produces cooler temperatures. In the northeast cultivation fed by precipitation is possible, but elsewhere irrigation is essential.

In the lowlands there are two seasons, summer and winter, with short transitional periods between them. Summer, which lasts from May to October, is characterized by clear skies, extremely high temperatures, and low relative humidity; no precipitation occurs from June through September. In Baghdad, July and August mean daily temperatures are about 95 °F (35 °C), and summer temperatures of 123 °F (51 °C) have been recorded. The diurnal temperatures range in summer is considerable.

In winter the paths of westerly atmospheric depressions crossing the Middle East shift southward, bringing rain to southern Iraq. Annual totals vary considerably from year to year, but mean annual precipitation in the lowlands ranges from about 4 to 7 inches (100 to 180 mm); nearly all of this occurs between November and April.

Winter in the lowlands lasts from December to February. Temperatures are generally mild, although extremes of hot and cold, including frosts, can occur. Winter temperatures in Baghdad range from about 35 to 60 °F (2 to 15 °C).

In the northeast the summer is shorter than in the lowlands, lasting from June to September, and the winter considerably longer. The summer is generally dry and hot, but average temperatures are some 5–10 °F (3–6 °C) cooler than those of lowland Iraq. Winters can be cold because of the region’s high relief and the influence of northeasterly winds that bring continental air from Central Asia. In Mosul (Al-Mawṣil), January temperatures range between 24 and 63 °F (−4 and 17 °C); readings as low as 12 °F (−11 °C) have been recorded.

In the foothills of the northeast, annual precipitation of 12 to 22 inches (300 to 560 mm), enough to sustain good seasonal pasture, is typical. Precipitation may exceed 40 inches (1,000 mm) in the mountains, much of which falls as snow. As in the lowlands, little rain falls during the summer.

A steady northerly and northwesterly summer wind, the shamāl, affects all of Iraq. It brings extremely dry air, so hardly any clouds form, and the land surface is thus heated intensively by the sun. Another wind, the sharqī (Arabic: “easterly”), blows from the south and southeast during early summer and early winter; it is often accompanied by dust storms. Dust storms occur throughout Iraq during most of the year and may rise to great height in the atmosphere. They are particularly frequent in summer, with five or six striking central Iraq in July, the peak of the season.

Plant and animal life

Vegetation in Iraq reflects the dominant influence of drought. Some Mediterranean and alpine plant species thrive in the mountains of Kurdistan, but the open oak forests that formerly were found there have largely disappeared. Hawthorns, junipers, terebinths, and wild pears grow on the lower mountain slopes. A steppe region of open, treeless vegetation is located in the area extending north and northeast from the Ḥamrīn Mountains up to the foothills and lower slopes of the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. A great variety of herbs and shrubs grow in that region. Most belong to the sage and daisy families: mugwort (Artemisis vulgaris), goosefoot, milkweed, thyme, and various rhizomic plants are examples. There also are many different grasses. Toward the riverine lowlands many other plants appear, including storksbill and plantain. Willows, tamarisks, poplars, licorice plants, and bulrushes grow along the banks of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The juice of the licorice plant is extracted for commercial purposes. Dozens of varieties of date palm flourish throughout southern Iraq, where the date palm dominates the landscape. The lakesides and marshlands support many varieties of reeds, sedges, pimpernels, vetches, and geraniums. By contrast, vegetation in the desert regions is sparse, with tamarisk, milfoil, and various plants of the genera Ziziphus and Salsola being characteristic.

Birds are easily the most conspicuous form of wildlife. There are many resident species, though the effect of large-scale drainage of the southern wetlands on migrants and seasonal visitors—which were once numerous—has not been fully determined. The lion, oryx, ostrich, and wild ass have become extinct in Iraq. Wolves, foxes, jackals, hyenas, wild pigs, and wildcats are found, as well as many small animals such as martens, badgers, otters, porcupines, and muskrats. The Arabian sand gazelle survives in certain remote desert locations. Rivers, streams, and lakes are well stocked with a variety of fish, notably carp, various species of Barbus, catfish, and loach. In common with other regions of the Middle East, Iraq is a breeding ground for the unwelcome desert locust.


Demography of Iraq

The People

Modern Iraq, created by combining three separate Ottoman provinces in the aftermath of World War I, is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse societies in the Middle East. Although Iraq’s communities generally coexisted peacefully, fault lines between communities deepened in the 20th century as a succession of authoritarian regimes ruled by exploiting tribal, sectarian, and ethnic divisions.

  • Ethnic groups

The ancient Semitic peoples of Iraq, the Babylonians and Assyrians, and the non-Semitic Sumerians were long ago assimilated by successive waves of immigrants. The Arab conquests of the 7th century brought about the Arabization of central and southern Iraq. A mixed population of Kurds and Arabs inhabit a transition zone between those areas and Iraqi Kurdistan in the northeast. Roughly two-thirds of Iraq’s people are Arabs, about one-fourth are Kurds, and the remainder consists of small minority groups.

ARABS

Iraq’s Arab population is divided between Sunni Muslims and the more numerous Shīʿites. These groups, however, are for the most part ethnically and linguistically homogenous, and—as is common throughout the region—both value family relations strongly. Many Arabs, in fact, identify more strongly with their family or tribe (an extended, patrilineal group) than with national or confessional affiliations, a significant factor contributing to ongoing difficulties in maintaining a strong central government. This challenge is amplified by the numerical size of many extended kin groups—tribal units may number thousands or tens of thousands of members—and the consequent political and economic clout they wield. Tribal affiliation among Arab groups has continued to play an important role in Iraqi politics, and even in areas where tribalism has eroded with time (such as major urban centres), family bonds have remained close. Several generations may live in a single household (although this is more common among rural families), and family-owned-and-operated businesses are the standard. Such households tend to be patriarchal, with the eldest male leading the family.


KURDS

Although estimates of their precise numbers vary, the Kurds are reckoned to be the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East, following Arabs, Turks, and Persians. There are important Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, and Iraq’s Kurds are concentrated in the relatively inaccessible mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is roughly contiguous with Kurdish regions in those other countries. Kurds constitute a separate and distinctive cultural group. They are mostly Sunni Muslims who speak one of two dialects of the Kurdish language, an Indo-European language closely related to Modern Persian. They have a strong tribal structure and distinctive costume, music, and dance.

The Kurdish people were thwarted in their ambitions for statehood after World War I, and the Iraqi Kurds have since resisted inclusion in the state of Iraq. At various times the Kurds have been in undisputed control of large tracts of territory. Attempts to reach a compromise with the Kurds in their demands for autonomy, however, have ended in failure, owing partly to government pressure and partly to the inability of Kurdish factional groups to maintain a united front against successive Iraqi governments. From 1961 to 1975, aided by military support from Iran, they were intermittently in open rebellion against the Iraqi government, as they were during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and again, supported largely by the United States, throughout the 1990s.

After its rise to power, the Baʿth regime of Ṣaddām Ḥussein consistently tried to extend its control into Kurdish areas through threats, coercion, violence, and, at times, the forced internal transfer of large numbers of Kurds. Intermittent Kurdish rebellions in the last quarter of the 20th century killed tens of thousands of Kurds—both combatants and noncombatants—at the hands of government forces and on various occasions forced hundreds of thousands of Kurds to flee to neighbouring Iran and Turkey. Government attacks were violent and ruthless and included the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians; such incidents took place at the village of Ḥalabjah and elsewhere in 1988.

Following a failed Kurdish uprising in the wake of the Persian Gulf War, the United States and other members of the coalition that it led against Iraq established a “safe haven” for the Kurds in an area north of latitude 36° N that was under the protection of the international community. Thereafter the Kurds were largely autonomous. Kurdish autonomy is upheld in the 2005 constitution, which designates Kurdistan as an autonomous federal region.

OTHER MINORITIES

Small communities of Turks, Turkmen, and Assyrians survive in northern Iraq. The Lur, a group speaking an Iranian language, live near the Iranian border. In addition, a small number of Armenians are found predominantly in Baghdad and in pockets throughout the north.

  • Languages

More than three-fourths of the people speak Arabic, the official language, which has several major dialects; these are generally mutually intelligible, but significant variations do exist within the country, which makes spoken parlance between some groups (and with Arabic-speaking groups in adjacent countries) difficult. Modern Standard Arabic—the benchmark of literacy—is taught in schools, and most Arabs and many non-Arabs, even those who lack schooling, are able to understand it. Roughly one-fifth of the population speaks Kurdish, in one of its two main dialects. Kurdish is the official language in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north. A number of other languages are spoken by smaller ethnic groups, including Turkish, Turkmen, Azerbaijanian, and Syriac. Persian, once commonly spoken, is now seldom heard. Bilingualism is fairly common, particularly among minorities who are conversant in Arabic. English is widely used in commerce.

  • Religion

Iraq is predominantly a Muslim country, in which the two major sects of Islam are represented more equally than in any other state. Slightly more than half (and according to some sources as many as three-fifths) of the population are Shīʿite, and about two-fifths are Sunni. Largely for political reasons, the government has not maintained careful statistics on the relative proportion of the Sunni and Shīʿite populations. Shīʿites are almost exclusively Arab (with some Turkmen and Kurds), while Sunnis are divided mainly between Arabs and Kurds but include other, smaller groups, such as Azerbaijanis and Turkmen.

SUNNIS

From the inception of the Iraqi state in 1920 until the fall of the government of Ṣaddām Ḥussein in 2003, the ruling elites consisted mainly—although not exclusively—of minority Sunni Arabs. Most Sunni Arabs follow the Ḥanafī school of jurisprudence and most Kurds the Shāfiʿī school, although this distinction has lost the meaning that it had in earlier times.

SHĪʿITES

Iraq’s Shīʿites, like their coreligionists in Iran, follow the Ithnā ʿAsharī, or Twelver, rite, and, despite the preeminence of Iran as a Shīʿite Islamic republic, Iraq has traditionally been the physical and spiritual centre of Shīʿism in the Islamic world. Shīʿism’s two most important holy cities, Al-Najaf and Karbalāʾ, are located in southern Iraq, as is Al-Kūfah, sanctified as the site of the assassination of ʿAlī, the fourth caliph, in the 7th century. Sāmarrāʾ, farther north, near Baghdad, is also of great cultural and religious significance to Shīʿites as the site of the life and disappearance of the 12th, and eponymous, imam, Muḥammad al-Mahdī al-Ḥujjah. In premodern times southern and eastern Iraq formed a cultural and religious meeting place between the Arab and Persian Shīʿite worlds, and religious scholars moved freely between the two regions. Even until relatively recent times, large numbers of notable Iranian scholars could be found studying or teaching in the great madrasahs (religious schools) in Al-Najaf and Karbalāʾ; the Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for instance, spent many years lecturing at Al-Najaf while in exile. Although Shīʿites constituted the majority of the population, Iraq’s Sunnī rulers gave preferential treatment to influential Sunnī tribal networks, and Sunnīs dominated the military officer corps and civil service. Shīʿites remained politically and economically marginalized until the fall of Ṣaddām Ḥussein’s regime. Since the transition to elective government, Shīʿite factions have wielded significant political power.

RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

Followers of other religions include Christians and even smaller groups of Yazīdīs, Mandaeans, Jews, and Bahāʾīs. (See Mandaeanism; Bahāʾī faith.) The nearly extinct Jewish community traces its origins to the Babylonian Exile (586–516 bc). Jews formerly constituted a small but significant minority and were largely concentrated in or around Baghdad, but, with the rise of Zionism, anti-Jewish feelings became widespread. This tension eventually led to the massive Farhūd pogrom of June 1941. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, most Jews emigrated there or elsewhere. The Christian communities are chiefly descendants of the ancient population that was not converted to Islam in the 7th century. They are subdivided among various sects, including Nestorians (Assyrians), Chaldeans—who broke with the Nestorians in the 16th century and are now affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church—and members of the Syriac Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches. About one million Christians lived in Iraq when the Iraq War began. International organizations estimate that more than half have left the country since then, mostly to escape poverty and violence by Muslim extremists.

Iraq has a relatively low population density overall, but, in the fertile lowlands and the cities, densities are nearly four times the national average.--->>>>>Read On.<<<<

Iraq has the fourth largest population in the Middle East, after Iran, Egypt, and Turkey. Yet demographic information since 1980 has been difficult to obtain and interpret, and outside observers often have been forced to use estimates. From 1990 a UN embargo on Iraq, which made travel to and from the country difficult, contributed considerably to the lack of information, but most important was the rule of more than 30 years by the Baʿthist regime, which was intent on controlling the flow of information about the country. The former Iraqi government sought to downplay unflattering demographic shifts in its Kurdish and Shīʿite communities while highlighting the effects of the UN embargo on health, nutrition, and overall mortality—particularly among the country’s children.>>>>Read On.<<<<

Economy of Iraq

  • Overview

Iraq’s economy was based almost exclusively on agriculture until the 1950s, but after the 1958 revolution economic development was considerable. By 1980 Iraq had the second largest economy in the Arab world, after Saudi Arabia, and the third largest in the Middle East and had developed a complex, centrally planned economy dominated by the state. Although the economy, particularly petroleum exports, suffered during the Iran-Iraq War—gross domestic product (GDP) actually fell in some years—the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq’s subsequent defeat in the Persian Gulf War, and the UN embargo beginning in 1990 dealt a far greater blow to the financial system. Little hard evidence is available on Iraq’s economy after 1990, but the best estimates available indicate that, in the year following the Persian Gulf War, GDP dropped to less than one-fourth of its previous level. Under the UN embargo the Iraqi economy languished for the next five years, and it was not until the Iraqi government implemented the UN’s oil-for-food program in 1997 that Iraq’s GDP again began to experience positive annual growth.

Following the initial phase (2003) of the Iraq War, the oil-for-food program was ended, sanctions were lifted, and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), made up of civil administrators appointed by the United States, took over Iraq’s public sector. International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid for Iraq’s reconstruction at a donor conference in Madrid in October 2003. Iraq’s huge foreign debt, largely accumulated through heavy war expenditures under Ṣaddām Ḥussein, was reduced in 2004 when the Paris Club, a group of 19 wealthy creditor nations, agreed to cancel 80 percent of Iraq’s $40 billion debt to 19 members.

Oil production and economic development both declined after the start of the Iraq War, and the economy faced serious problems, including the negative impact of continuing violence; a high rate of inflation; an oil sector hampered by a shortage of replacement parts, antiquated production methods, and outdated technology; a high rate of unemployment; a seriously deteriorated infrastructure; and a private sector inexperienced in modern market practices. The CPA was largely unprepared to cope with these challenges, and its handling of the Iraqi economy was marred by mismanagement, poor planning, and waste. American administrators’ efforts to quickly implement liberal reforms did little to improve conditions for Iraqis or calm a growing insurgency against U.S. forces.

Under the Iraqi administrations that governed after the dissolution of the CPA in June 2004, reconstruction proceeded unevenly. Relatively secure areas such as the Kurdish region saw quick progress, while most of the country continued to suffer from high unemployment, soaring prices for basic goods, and inadequate access to services. Modest signs of improvement began to appear in 2007 as violence began to decrease. Inflation returned to manageable levels in that year, and in 2009 oil export revenues returned to prewar levels. However, crumbling infrastructure, violence, and corruption continued to weigh down Iraq’s recovery.--->>>>>Read On.<<<<

Government and Society of Iraq

Constitutional framework

From 1968 to 2003 Iraq was ruled by the Baʿth (Arabic: “Renaissance”) Party. Under a provisional constitution adopted by the party in 1970, Iraq was confirmed as a republic, with legislative power theoretically vested in an elected legislature but also in the party-run Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), without whose approval no law could be promulgated. Executive power rested with the president, who also served as the chairman of the RCC, supervised the cabinet ministers, and ostensibly reported to the RCC. Judicial power was also, in theory, vested in an independent judiciary. The political system, however, operated with little reference to constitutional provisions, and from 1979 to 2003 President Ṣaddām Ḥussein wielded virtually unlimited power.

Following the overthrow of the Baʿth government in 2003, the United States and its coalition allies established the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by a senior American diplomat. In July the CPA appointed the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which assumed limited governing functions. The IGC approved an interim constitution in March 2004, and a permanent constitution was approved by a national plebiscite in October 2005. This document established Iraq as a federal state in which limited authority—over matters such as defense, foreign affairs, and customs regulations—was vested in the national government. A variety of issues (e.g., general planning, education, and health care) are shared competencies, and other issues are treated at the discretion of the district and regional constituencies.

The constitution is in many ways the framework for a fairly typical parliamentary democracy. The president is the head of state, the prime minister is the head of government, and the constitution provides for two deliberative bodies, the Council of Representatives (Majlis al-Nawwāb) and the Council of Union (Majlis al-Ittiḥād). The judiciary is free and independent of the executive and the legislature.

The president, who is nominated by the Council of Representatives and who is limited to two four-year terms, holds what is largely a ceremonial position. The head of state presides over state ceremonies, receives ambassadors, endorses treaties and laws, and awards medals and honours. The president also calls upon the leading party in legislative elections to form a government (the executive), which consists of the prime minister and the cabinet and which, in turn, must seek the approval of the Council of Representatives to assume power. The executive is responsible for setting policy and for the day-to-day running of the government. The executive also may propose legislation to the Council of Representatives.

The Council of Representatives does not have a set number of seats but is based on a formula of one representative for every 100,000 citizens. Ministers serve four-year terms and sit in session for eight months per year. The council’s functions include enacting federal laws, monitoring the performance of the prime minister and the president, ratifying foreign treaties, and approving appointments; in addition, it has the authority to declare war.

The constitution is very brief on the issue of the Council of Union, the structure, duties, and powers of which apparently will be left to later legislation. The constitution only notes that this body will include representatives of the regions and governorates, suggesting that it will likely take the form of an upper house.

  • Local government

Iraq is divided for administrative purposes into 18 muḥāfaẓāt (governorates), 3 of which constitute the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Each governorate has a governor, or muḥāfiẓ, appointed by the president. The governorates are divided into 91 aqḍiyyah (districts), headed by district officers, and each district is divided into nāḥiyāt (tracts), headed by directors. Altogether, there are 141 tracts in Iraq. Towns and cities have their own municipal councils, each of which is directed by a mayor. Baghdad has special status and its own governor. The Kurdish Autonomous Region was formed by government decree in 1974, but in reality it attained autonomy only with the help of coalition forces following the Persian Gulf War. It is governed by an elected 50-member legislative council. The Kurdistan Region was ratified under the 2005 constitution, which also authorizes the establishment of future regions in other parts of Iraq as part of a federal state.

  • Justice

Judicial affairs in Iraq are administered by the Supreme Judicial Council, which nominates the justices of the Supreme Court, the national prosecutor, and other high judicial officials for approval by the Council of Representatives. Members of the Supreme Court are required to be experts in civil law and Muslim canon law and are appointed by two-thirds majority of the legislature. In addition to interpreting the constitution and adjudicating legal issues at the national level, the Supreme Court also settles disputes over legal issues between national government and lower jurisdictions. During the Baʿth era the judiciary was generally bypassed, and the regime instituted a wide variety of exceptional courts whose authority circumvented the constitution. The establishment of such courts is clearly proscribed under the 2005 constitution. All additional courts are to be established by due process of law.

  • Political process

The Baʿth Party was a self-styled socialist and Arab nationalist party once connected with the ruling Baʿth Party in Syria, although the two parties were often at odds. After the Baʿth Party came to power, Iraq became effectively a one-party state, with all governing institutions nominally espousing the Baʿth ideology. In 1973 the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) agreed to join a Baʿth-dominated National Progressive Front, and in 1974 a group of Kurdish political parties, including the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), joined. In 1979, after the ICP had suffered serious disagreements with the Baʿth leadership and a bloody purge, it left the Front, and it was subsequently outlawed by the government. In addition to the ICP, several other opposition parties were outlawed by the Baʿth. The best known among them are the KDP, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and two religious Shīʿite parties: the Daʿwah (“Call”) Islamic Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (known since 2007 as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq). Another group, the Iraqi National Congress, received strong, albeit intermittent, support of the U.S. government during the 1990s. All operated outside Iraq or in areas of the country not under government control.

Following the Persian Gulf War, the KDP and the PUK, although often at odds with one another, operated in the Kurdish Autonomous Region with relative freedom and remained largely unhindered by the government. In the rest of Iraq, however, isolation and the UN embargo further consolidated power in the hands of the government. Following the overthrow of the Baʿthists in 2003, a number of small political parties arose, and the major expatriate parties resumed operations domestically. The Ṣaḍrist Movement, led by Muqtadā al-Ṣaḍr, a Shiʿīte cleric strongly opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, emerged as another powerful Shiʿīte party.

  • Security

The Iraqi armed forces have often intervened in the country’s political life. There were numerous military coups between 1936 and 1968, and though the Baʿth regime depended heavily on military support for its survival, its mistrust of the military caused it to distance the armed forces from politics. There were frequent purges of the officer corps in order to root out those suspected of disloyalty, and security duties were divided between a complex network of military, paramilitary, and intelligence services, many of which reported directly to the president and all of which were commanded by individuals whose allegiance to him was without question.

In the 1970s Iraq began a systematic buildup of its armed forces, and by 1990 it had the most powerful army in the Arab world—and perhaps the fourth or fifth largest in the world. More than one million soldiers were under arms and had access to a plentiful supply of sophisticated weaponry. During the Persian Gulf War, the army suffered heavy losses in troops and matériel, and afterward it was trimmed to roughly one-third of its previous size. Remaining units were badly equipped, morale was low, and desertion was common. By the early 21st century, the regular army could still suppress internal revolts but was no match for the armies of neighbouring countries.

Iraq had a small but growing navy that was designed primarily for river and coastal defense. A once larger naval force was completely paralyzed by Iranian superiority at sea during the Iran-Iraq War and was virtually destroyed during the Persian Gulf War. New ships purchased abroad never arrived owing to the UN embargo, under which Iraq was not allowed to rebuild naval forces. The Iraqi air force was formerly large and well-equipped, but roughly half of its combat aircraft either were destroyed or were flown into hiding (many to Iran, which has since refused to return them) during the Persian Gulf War. Half of Iraq’s remaining aircraft were rendered inoperable owing to poor maintenance and a lack of spare components during the 1990s. However, Iraq devoted significant resources to air defense.

Under Ṣaddām Ḥussein, major military programs centred on stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, developing a nuclear weapons program (or obtaining completed nuclear weapons), and creating a missile system capable of delivering chemical, biological, and nuclear warheads a distance of 600 to 800 miles (950 to 1,300 km). After the Persian Gulf War, the international community attempted to compel Iraq to stop developing such weapons, and reports that the country continued to stockpile those weapons and obtain associated matériel and technology served as the casus belli for the Iraq War. After the overthrow of the Ba’thists, members of paramilitary groups fled into hiding, and the CPA disbanded the armed forces. A new army of much smaller dimensions was recruited soon after.

  • Health and welfare

Between 1958 and 1991 health care was free, welfare services were expanded, and considerable sums were invested in housing for the poor and for improvements to domestic water and electrical services. Almost all medical facilities were controlled by the government, and most physicians were (and still are) employed by the Ministry of Health. Shortages of medical personnel were felt only in rural areas. Cities and towns had good hospitals, and clinics and dispensaries served most rural areas. Still, Iraq had a high incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria and typhoid, caused by rural water supplies contaminated largely by periodic flooding. Substantial progress, however, was made in controlling malaria.

The Persian Gulf War greatly damaged components of the infrastructure, which had the immediate effect of higher rates of mortality and increased instances of malnutrition (especially among young children). However, by 1997 overall levels of health care had begun to increase as the oil-for-food program began to generate revenue for food and medicine. By the early 21st century, medical care, though no longer free, was still affordable for most citizens and was much more readily available than it had been since the start of the embargo. Shortages remained, especially of medicine, potable water, and trained medical staff. There is a severe shortage of physicians—as many as half of all physicians in Iraq left the country after 2003, and most have not returned.

Health care in most parts of the Kurdish Autonomous Region actually improved during the 1990s, and child mortality fell significantly. Malnutrition was much less common than in the remainder of Iraq, and by the 21st century potable water was available to four-fifths of the rural population (up from three-fifths in the mid-1990s). After 2003 the health care system relied heavily on donations from abroad and the efforts of international aid organizations.

  • Housing

The availability of adequate housing remained a problem in Iraq at the beginning of the 21st century. This was partly attributable to the major demographic shifts that had occurred in preceding decades, with large numbers of Shīʿites fleeing the south to overcrowded Baghdad and large groups of Kurds, Turkmens, and Assyrians being displaced by government policy in the north. Access to adequate water, electricity, and sanitation remained a problem both for new housing constructions and for existing residences. Many new immigrants to the city have been forced to reside in urban slums lacking all modern conveniences, and internally displaced persons in the north have had to live for times in tents, shantytowns, and other temporary residences.

Domestic architecture shows distinct regional variations, but the basic house types are similar to those of neighbouring countries. Mud brick is common throughout the south, while more stone is used in the north. Some of the larger villages are surrounded by mud-brick walls. The traditional reed houses of the marsh dwellers of the Al-ʿAmārah area, with their remarkable barrel-vaulted roofs, are unique to Iraq.

  • Education

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research have been responsible for the rapid expansion of education since the 1958 revolution. The number of qualified scientists, administrators, technicians, and skilled workers in Iraq traditionally has been among the highest in the Middle East. Education at all levels is funded by the state. Primary education (ages 6 to 12) is compulsory, and secondary education (ages 12 to 18) is widely available. At one time many Iraqi students went abroad, particularly to the United States and Europe, for university and graduate training, but this became rare following the Persian Gulf War. Iraqi girls have also been afforded good opportunities in education, and at times the rate of female university graduates has exceeded that of males.

Beginning in the early 1990s, however, enrollment, for both boys and girls, fell considerably at all levels as many were forced to leave school and enter the workforce. Moreover, lacking access to the latest texts and equipment, Iraqi schools slowly fell behind those of other countries in the region in terms of the quality of education they offered. The educational system had formerly been highly politicized, and, following the fall of the Baʿth Party, an entirely different approach was encouraged by the new government. The educational system still suffers from personnel and funding shortages.

Culture Life of Iraq

Cultural milieu

The fundamental cultural milieu of Iraq is both Islamic and Arab and shares many of the customs and traditions of the Arab world as a whole. Within Iraq, however, there is rich cultural diversity. A variety of peoples were embraced by Iraq when it was carved out of the Ottoman Empire in 1920. These included the nomadic tribes of the arid south and west (related to the Bedouin of neighbouring states), the peasant farmers of central Iraq, the marsh dwellers of the south, the dryland cultivators of the northeast, and the mountain herders of Kurdistan. Adaptations to these contrasting environments have generated a mosaic of distinctive regional cultures manifested in folk customs, food, dress, and domestic architecture. Such regional differences are reinforced by the ethno-religious contrasts between Kurds and Arabs and by the fundamental division within Islam between Shīʿites and Sunnis. These divisions are less marked than they were in the early 20th century but are still evident in the human geography of Iraq.


Daily life and social customs

War always ravages daily life, and, following the start of the Iraq War, there were few aspects of daily social interaction that were unaffected by the shortages of water and electricity, damaged infrastructure, soaring unemployment, collapse of government facilities, or violence of postwar guerrilla action. In broader terms, however, over the course of the 20th century, one development was evident: rapid urban growth accelerated social change in Iraq as a higher proportion of the population was exposed to modern, largely Westernized, lifestyles. Traditional social relationships, in which the family, the extended family, and the tribe are the prime focus, have remained fundamentally important in rural areas but are under pressure in the towns. Alcoholic beverages and Western-style entertainment have become freely available, a circumstance much deplored by devout Muslims. Although the number of Muslims in Iraq embracing a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has grown—as it has elsewhere in the Middle East—Islamic extremism has not presented a major social or political problem, given the nature of the former regime. The role of women has been changing, with a higher proportion participating in the labour force in spite of encouragement from the government to stay at home and raise large families.

Although Iraqis generally are a religious and conservative people, there are strong secular tendencies in the country. This is reflected in the dress, which, while conservative by Western standards (short or revealing clothes for men or women are considered inappropriate), is quite relaxed by the standards of the region, particularly compared with neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. Men will frequently wear Western-style suits or, in more casual surroundings, the long shirtlike thawb. The traditional chador and veil, the ḥijāb, is common among conservative women—especially those from rural areas—but Western attire is common.

Iraqi cuisine mirrors that of Syria and Lebanon, with strong influences from the culinary traditions of Turkey and Iran. As in other parts of the Middle East, chicken and lamb are favourite meats and are often marinated with garlic, lemon, and spices and grilled over charcoal. Flatbread is a staple that is served, with a variety of dips, cheeses, olives, and jams, at every meal. Fruits and vegetables are also staples, particularly the renowned Iraqi dates, which are plentiful, sweet, and delicious and, along with coffee, are served at the end of almost every meal.


The arts

Despite Iraq’s political hardships, literary and artistic pursuits flourish, especially in Baghdad, where Western artistic traditions—including ballet, theatre, and modern art—are juxtaposed with more traditional Middle Eastern forms of artistic expression. Poetry thrives in Iraq; 20th-century Iraqi poets, such as Muḥammad Mahdī al-Jawāhirī, Nāzik al-Malāʾika (one of the Arab world’s most prominent woman poets), Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb, and ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayatī, are known throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Iraqi painters and sculptors are among the best in the Middle East, and some of them, such as Ismāʿīl Fattāḥ Turk, Khālid al-Raḥḥāl, and Muḥammad Ghanī, have become world renowned. The Ministry of Culture and Information has endeavoured to preserve traditional arts and crafts such as leatherworking, copper working, and carpet making.

From 1969 the Baʿth Party made a concentrated effort to create a culture designed to establish a new national identity that reflected the territorial roots of the Iraqi people. Independent Iraqi artists and intellectuals had started a trend similar to this in the 1950s, and Iraq’s leader during the latter part of that decade and in the early 1960s, General ʿAbd al-Karīm Qāsim, encouraged it during his rule. The Baʿth regime, however, assumed full control of the program and took it to its zenith: playwrights, novelists, film producers, poets, and sculptors were encouraged to demonstrate the historical and cultural connection between the modern Iraqi people and the ancient peoples and civilizations of Mesopotamia. Archaeological museums were built in every governorate, and a European-style version of Babylon was built on its ancient ruins. A plethora of “territorial” cultural festivals were introduced, the most important of which was the Babylon International Festival, held in September in a reconstructed Hellenistic theatre on the ancient city site.

The regime also encouraged a return to tribal values and affinities and supported a return to Islamic tradition and law. Every aspect of this cultural rebirth, of course, was deeply penetrated by Ṣaddām’s personality cult (not unlike the personalismo of Latin America). Images of the ruler, whether statues, photos, or portraits (his likeness adorned the national currency), were omnipresent, and his name was invoked at every public ceremony.


Cultural institutions

The Iraq Museum (founded 1923), with its collection of antiquities, and the National Library (1961) are located in Baghdad. The city also has some fine buildings from the golden age of ʿAbbāsid architecture in the 8th and 9th centuries and from the various Ottoman periods. In the 1970s the government made an effort to renovate some of Baghdad’s historical buildings and even whole streets, with partial success. A number of renowned archaeological sites are located in Iraq, and artifacts from these sites are displayed in excellent museums such as the aforementioned Iraq Museum and the Mosul Museum (1951). The Iraq Museum was extensively looted in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Several thousand of the estimated 15,000 items taken from the museum’s collection have since been recovered.

In less-troubled times more than a million tourists would visit Iraq each year, many of them Shīʿites visiting much-revered shrines at Karbalāʾ and Al-Najaf. Tourism was severely limited after the international embargo was initiated in 1991. After 1998 Iranian pilgrims were again allowed into the Shīʿite holy cities, and since 2003 virtually all limits have been removed from such travel.


Sports and recreation

As it is in most other Arab countries, football (soccer) is Iraq’s national passion. It became increasingly popular as a means of coping with the political and economic turmoil after 1980. A popular venue in Baghdad is Al-Shaʿb (“People’s”) Stadium, where throngs of Iraqis wait outside the gates even after the stadium has filled. Millions more watch via television throughout the country. In 2006 the national football team participated in the Asian Cup finals for the first time in more than two decades; in 2007 they won the title.

The Iraqi National Olympic Committee (INOC) was formed in 1948, and later that year the country made its Olympic debut in London. However, Iraq did not return to Olympic competition until the 1960 Summer Games, when it won its first medal (in weight lifting). Since missing the 1972 and 1976 Games, Iraqi athletes have consistently attended the Olympics, though they have not competed at the Winter Games.

Under the Baʿth Party, sports were highly politicized. ʿUdayy Ḥussein, one of Ṣaddām’s sons, was both the chairman of the INOC and the president of the Iraqi Football Federation. Iraq was suspended from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) after the OCA president was killed by Iraqi troops during the Persian Gulf War. The country did not attend the Pan-Arab Games in 1992 or in 1997, and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at times boycotted games in which Iraq participated.


Media and publishing

The media in Iraq are well developed, though they have traditionally been conservative and conformist in nature. There are a national television service and a number of regional television stations, including a Kurdish-language station. Under the Baʿth regime, newspapers such as Al-Thawrah (“The Revolution”), Al-ʿIrāq, and Al-Jumhūriyyah (“The Republic”) functioned as official mouthpieces. After the start of the Iraq War in 2003, an explosion of new publications of all types occurred, and diverse political views began to be aired.

History of Iraq

Early History through British Influence

Iraq is a veritable treasure house of antiquities, and recent archaeological excavations have greatly expanded the knowledge of ancient history. Prior to the Arab conquest in the 7th cent. A.D., Iraq had been the site of a number of flourishing civilizations, including the Sumer, which developed one of the earliest known writing systems, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria. The capital of the Abbasid caliphate was established at Baghdad in the 8th cent. and the city became a famous center for learning and the arts.

Despite fierce resistance, Mesopotamia fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th cent. and passed under direct Ottoman administration in the 19th cent. (see Ottoman Empire, 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, especially the Germans, who wanted to extend the Berlin-Baghdad railroad all the way to the port of Kuwait.

In World War I the British invaded Iraq in their war against the Ottoman Empire; Britain declared then that it intended to return to Iraq some control of its own affairs. Nationalist elements, impatient over delay in gaining independence, revolted in 1920 but were suppressed by the British. Late that year the Treaty of Sèvres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 the country was made a kingdom headed by Faisal I. With strong reluctance an elected Iraqi assembly agreed in 1924 to a treaty with Great Britain providing for the maintenance of British military bases and for a British right of veto over legislation. By 1926 an Iraqi parliament and administration were governing the country. The treaty of 1930 provided for a 25-year alliance with Britain. The British mandate was terminated in 1932, and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations.

In 1933 the small Christian Assyrian community revolted, culminating in a governmental military crackdown and loss of life and setting a precedent for internal minority uprisings in Iraq. Meanwhile, the first oil concession had been granted in 1925, and in 1934 the export of oil began. Domestic politics were turbulent, with many factions contending for power. Late in 1936, the country experienced the first of seven military coups that were to take place in the next five years.

In Apr., 1941, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, leader of an anti-British and pro-Axis military group, seized power and ousted Emir Abd al-Ilah, the pro-British regent for the child king, Faisal II (who had succeeded his father, Ghazi, ruler from Faisal I's death in 1933 to his own death in 1939). The British reinforced their garrisons by landing troops at Basra, and in May, al-Gaylani, with some German and Italian support, opened hostilities. He was utterly defeated by June, and Emir Abd al-Ilah was recalled. On Jan. 16, 1943, Iraq declared war on the Axis countries. Anti-British sentiment was reasserted after the war, and in 1948 a British-sponsored modification of the treaty of 1930 was defeated by the Iraqi parliament because of animosity arising over the Palestine problem.

  • Iraq at Mid-Century

Iraq, with other members of the Arab League, participated in 1948 in the unsuccessful war against Israel. Premier Nuri al-Said dissolved all political parties in 1954, and a new parliament was elected. A national development program, financed mostly by oil royalties, was undertaken; the United States extended technical aid, and after 1956, military assistance. In external affairs, Iraq continued adamant opposition to Israel and pledged loyalty to the Arab League. The USSR's support of Kurdish nationalism caused a break in relations in 1955. Later that year Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and Britain formed the Baghdad Pact. In Feb., 1958, following announcement of the merger of Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic, Iraq and Jordan announced the federation of their countries into the Arab Union.

In a swift coup on July 14, 1958, the army led by Gen. Abd al-Karim Kassem seized control of Baghdad and proclaimed a republic, with Islam declared the national religion. King Faisal, Crown Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Said were killed, and the Arab Union was dissolved. Iraq's activity in the Baghdad Pact ceased, and the country formally withdrew in 1959. Diplomatic relations were restored with the USSR, but Iraq pursued a policy of nonalignment in the cold war. Relations with neighbors became antagonistic when Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait and over Iranian territory along the Shatt al Arab. In 1962 the chronic Kurdish problem flared up when tribes led by Mustafa al-Barzani revolted, demanded an autonomous Kurdistan, and gained control of much of N Iraq; fighting continued throughout the 1960s and 70s.

  • Coups and Conflicts

In Feb., 1963, Col. Abd al-Salam Aref led a coup that overthrew the Kassem regime. The new regime was dominated by members of the Iraqi Ba'ath party, a socialist group whose overall goal was Arab unity. In Nov., 1963, however, the party's members in the governing council were expelled by an army coup engineered by President Aref. In 1966, the president and two cabinet members died in a helicopter crash. Aref's brother, Gen. Abd al-Rahman Aref, assumed office; he was overthrown by a bloodless coup in 1968. Maj. Gen. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr of the Ba'ath party became president and began a purge of opponents. Espionage trials in 1969 led to the execution of more than 50 persons.

Relations with Syria soured in 1970 when a younger generation of Ba'ath party members took control there, creating a rivalry between Syrian and Iraqi Ba'athists. Relations with the USSR improved, however, and in 1972 a 15-year friendship treaty was signed. The Communist party in Iraq was also legalized. In 1973, another coup was foiled; the internal security chief was blamed, and he and 35 others were executed. Iraq took an active part in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War; it also participated in the oil boycott against nations supporting Israel. In early 1974, years of border conflicts with Iran culminated in heavy armed clashes along the entire length of their border. A year later some agreement between Iraq and Iran over the Shatt al Arab waterway was reached. At this time, Iraq's acquired wealth from its oil revenues enabled the establishment of modernization programs and improved public services throughout the country.

In 1975 the Kurds once again fought for their independence in N Iraq, but they suffered heavily when Iran withdrew support. Fighting led to the Iraqi bombing of Kurdish villages in parts of Iran, which again exacerbated tensions between the two countries. Opposition within Iraq grew among the Shiites, who were the majority of the population yet were excluded from political power. As the Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran grew in the late 1970s, Iraqi leaders recognized its threat.

  • The Presidency of Saddam Hussein

In 1979, President Bakr resigned, and Saddam Hussein Takriti assumed control of the government. He immediately purged the Ba'ath party after an unsuccessful coup, killing leftist members. War between Iran and Iraq, primarily over the Shatt al Arab waterway, erupted full-scale in 1980 (see Iran-Iraq War). The eight-year war became a series of mutual attacks and stalemates, as both countries' oil production fell drastically, the death toll rose, and great mutual destruction was inflicted. Poison gas was used by Iraq against Iran, and by Iraq on Kurdish villages as the Kurdish rebellion continued. Eventually, a cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations led to the war's end in 1988. Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic relations in 1990.

Throughout 1989 and into 1990, Hussein's repressive policies and continued arms buildup caused international criticism, particularly in the United States, which had favored Iraq during the war with Iran. Hostility against Israel increased, particularly after Israel's bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Hussein accused neighboring Kuwait in July, 1990, with flooding world oil markets, causing oil prices to decrease and threatening Iraq's attempts to boost its war-torn economy. On Aug. 2, 1990, some 120,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, and Hussein declared its annexation (see Persian Gulf War). Foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait were held hostage but released after a few months.

The United Nations established international trade sanctions against Iraq, but Hussein did not withdraw his troops. U.S.-led coalition forces began air attacks on Iraq on Jan. 16, 1991, which led to a ground invasion to retake Kuwait. During this time, Iraq launched Scud missiles against both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iraqi forces quickly succumbed to coalition troops and were forced out of Kuwait. While suffering heavy casualties, Iraq retained its elite Republican Guard, and Hussein remained in power. UN inspections imposed as part of the conditions for ending the war found evidence of chemical warheads and of a program to produce materials for nuclear weapons; Iraq destroyed some chemical weapons under UN supervision.

The war left huge amounts of wreckage in the country's major cities and ports and created hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, who fled to Turkey, Iran, and Jordan. Iraq's major problems were feeding its population and rebuilding its war-torn country. These problems were aggravated by crippling trade sanctions. The Kurds again rose in revolt despite heavy-handed Iraqi military attacks, and in S Iraq, Shiites also lashed out against the government. In 1992 the Kurds established an "autonomous region" in N Iraq. Two rival factions, the Kurdistan Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, engaged in sporadic warfare during the 1990s; in 1999 the two groups agreed to end hostilities.

Confrontations with the United Nations and former coalition members, especially the United States, continued to flare. In 1993, after Hussein had repeatedly violated terms of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire, bombers from the United States and other coalition members twice struck Iraqi targets. In Oct., 1994, Iraq massed troops on the Kuwaiti border; the United States and other coalition members increased their forces in the area, and Iraq withdrew the troops.

In May, 1996, Iraq reached an accord with the United Nations allowing it to sell $1 billion worth of oil every 90 days, with the money set aside for food and medicine, compensation to Kuwaitis, and other purposes. The program was subsequently renewed (it ended only in Nov., 2003), and many restrictions on civilian trade were removed, but it also became a means (through the use of illicit surcharges) for funneling money to Hussein's government.

In Oct., 1997, the UN disarmament commission concluded that Iraq was continuing to hide information on biological arms and was withholding data on chemical weapons and missiles. U.S. weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq in Nov., 1997, and a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf ensued. As Iraq ceased cooperating with UN inspectors, the United States and Britain began a series of air raids against Iraqi military targets and oil refineries in Dec., 1998; raids against military targets continued until the 2003 war. In Jan., 1999, the United States admitted that American spies had worked undercover on the inspection teams while in Iraq, gathering intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs.

A new UN arms inspection plan that could have led to a suspension of the sanctions in place since the end of the war was devised by the Security Council in Dec., 1999, but Iraq rejected that plan and subsequent attempts to restore inspections. Efforts in 2001 to ease the sanctions on civilian trade further (in exchange for tighter controls on oil smuggling and a ban on weapons purchases) proved unsuccessful when Russia, which had close ties with Iraq, objected. Iraq continued to insist on an end to all sanctions, but in May, 2002, the UN Security Council agreed on revised sanctions that focused on military goods and goods with potential military applications, greatly expanding the range of consumer goods that could be readily imported into Iraq.

Suggestions by U.S. government officials that the "war on terrorism" might be expanded to include operations against Iraq as well as in Afghanistan were publicly rejected by Arab League nations in Mar., 2002, but increasing threats of a U.S. invasion to end what Americans asserted was Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction led Iraq to announce in September that UN inspectors could return. Iraqi slowness to agree on the terms under which inspections could take place and U.S. insistence on new, stricter conditions for Iraqi compliance stalled the inspectors' return.

In October, President Hussein won a referendum on a seven-year extension of his presidency, receiving 100% of the vote according to Iraqi officials. The same month the U.S. Congress approved the use of force against Iraq, and in November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a "final opportunity" to cooperate on arms inspections. A strict timetable was established for the return of the inspectors and resumption of inspections, and active Iraqi compliance was insisted on. The Iraqi parliament rejected the terms of the resolution, but inspectors were permitted to return, and inspections resumed in late November.

An official Iraqi declaration (December) that it had no weapons of mass destruction was generally regarded as incomplete and uninformative. By Jan., 2003, UN inspectors had found no evidence of forbidden weapons programs, but they also indicated that Iraq was not actively cooperating with their efforts to determine if previously known or suspected weapons had been destroyed and weapons programs had been ended. Meanwhile, the United States and Britain continued preparations for possible military action against Iraq.

  • Iraq after Saddam Hussein's Ouster

Continued U.S.-British insistence on complete Iraqi cooperation with the UN inspections, and continued Iraqi resistance to doing so, led the United States and Britain to demand (Mar., 2003) that Hussein step down or face an invasion. On Mar. 19, 2003, the Anglo-American attack began with an airstrike aimed at Hussein personally. Sizable ground forces began invading the following day, surging primarily toward Baghdad, the southern oil fields, and port facilities; a northern front was opened by Kurdish and Anglo-American forces late in March. After less than a month of fighting, Hussein's rule had collapsed, and U.S. and British forces were established in major urban areas.

Hussein survived the war and went into hiding, and guerrilla attacks by what were believed to be Ba'ath loyalists and Islamic militants became an ongoing problem in the following months, largely in Sunni-dominated central Iraq. The Kurdish-dominated north and Shiite-dominated south were generally calmer. L. Paul Bremer 3d was appointed as civilian head of the occupation. UN economic sanctions were lifted in May, 2003 (U.S. sanctions were not ended, however, until July, 2004), and in mid-July an interim Governing Council consisting of representatives of Iraqi opposition groups was established. Nonetheless, civil order and the economy were restored at a slow pace. The cost for rebuilding Iraq was estimated by Bremer in late 2003 to be as much as $100 billion over three years.

In Oct., 2003, the UN Security Council passed a British-American resolution calling for a timetable for self-rule in Iraq to be established by mid-December. Events, however, led the United States to speed up the process, and in November the Governing Council endorsed a U.S.-proposed plan that called for self-rule in mid-2004 under a transitional assembly, which would be elected by a system of caucuses. However, many Shiites objected to this because it would not involve elections; they feared a diminished voice in the government and greater U.S. influence if caucuses were used to choose the assembly. Hussein was finally captured by U.S. forces in Dec., 2003.

In Jan., 2004, U.S. arms inspectors reported that they had found no evidence of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons stockpiles prior to the U.S. invasion; the asserted existence of such stockpiles had been a main justification for the invasion. Subsequently, a Senate investigation criticized the CIA for providing faulty information and assessments concerning Iraq's weapons. In addition, U.S. inspectors concluded in Oct., 2004, that although Hussein never abandoned his goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, Iraq had halted its nuclear program after the first Persian Gulf War. U.S. quietly abandoned their search for weapons of mass destruction by the end of 2004.

An interim constitution was signed by the Governing Council in Mar., 2004, but many Shiites, including nearly all those on the council, objected to clauses that would restrict the power of the president and enable the Kurds potentially to veto a new constitution. At the end of March, Sunni insurgents in Falluja attacked a convoy of U.S. civilian security forces, killing four and desecrating the corpses, which prompted a U.S. crackdown on the town, a center of Sunni insurgency. The fighting there in April resulted in the most significant casualties since since the end of the invasion; the conflict ended with the insurgents largely in place. At about the same time, U.S. moves against the organization of a radical Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, led him to call for an uprising. There was unrest in a number of cities in S central and S Iraq, but by mid-April al-Sadr's forces were in control only in the area around An Najaf, a city holy to Shiites, and a cease-fire took effect in June.

Revelations in May of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003 and early 2004 sparked widespread dismay and outrage in Iraq, the United States, and the world. The treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was termed "tantamount to torture" in some cases by the International Committee of the Red Cross in a report leaked in 2004, and in 2005 Amnesty International accused the U.S.-led forces of using torture in Iraq.

The president of the Governing Council was assassinated in May, 2004. In June, the United Nations endorsed the reestablishment of Iraqi sovereignty, and at the end of the month, Iyad Allawi, a Shiite, became prime minister and Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, a Sunni, president as the interim constitution took effect. Saddam Hussein and 11 other former high-ranking Iraqi officials were formally turned over to the new government and were arraigned. Two trials, involving atrocities against Shiites and Kurds, were brought against Hussein and others in 2005 and 2006, and in Nov., 2006, he was convicted in the first trial and sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, large-scale fighting with al-Sadr's militia occurred again in Aug., 2004, centered on An Najaf and, to a lesser degree, Sadr City, a Shiite section of Baghdad, but the militia subsequently abandoned An Najaf and fighting ceased. By October al-Sadr had shifted to converting his movement into a political force. Also in August, a 100-member National Council, responsible for overseeing the interim government and preparing for elections in 2005, was established. In central Iraq, where a number of Sunni urban areas had been all but ceded to insurgents, U.S. forces began operations to establish control in the fall of 2004. Although U.S. forces regained control of Falluja in November, the insurgents subsequently shifted their attacks elsewhere, including Mosul, which had been relatively peaceful. Shiite targets were also increasingly subject to attack. Estimates of the insurgents' numbers, including foreign guerrillas, ranged from 8,000 to 12,000; by the end of 2004 the most violent anti-U.S., anti–interim government fighters were Sunni forces, which were increasingly dominated by Islamic militants. The ongoing violence in Iraq continued to hamper reconstruction in the following, as a lack of security hindered rebuilding and security needs diverted money away from rebuilding; corruption was also a problem.

In the Jan., 2005, elections for the transitional National Assembly, which would write a new constitution, the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite coalition supported by Ayatollah Sistani, won nearly half the vote. The main Kurdish alliance took more than a quarter. Sunni participation in the vote was, in most areas, very low as a result of boycott and intimidation, leading some Sunni clerics to denounce the balloting as illegitimate. The main Shiite and Kurdish coalitions agreed to form an alliance, but it was not until early April that the choices for the top national leadership posts were finalized. A Sunni, Hajim al-Hassani, became speaker of the National Assembly; a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, became president; and a Shi'a, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was chosen as prime minister.

Hopes for the constitutional process strengthened in July when Sunni membership on the parliamentary committee drafting it was greatly expanded, but the draft that was adopted had only limited Sunni support. Many Sunnis particularly objected to provisions that would permit autonomous regions in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, which could limit national access to future oil revenues from those areas, and that would ban the Ba'ath party and could affect its former members. A referendum in Oct., 2005, however, approved the document. A simple majority was required for approval, unless three provinces rejected it by a two-thirds vote. The constitution was strongly endorsed by Shiites and Kurds and as strongly rejected by Sunnis, who voted in larger numbers this time. Three provinces voted against the constitution, but in one of the provinces the no vote was less than two thirds. Although there were concerns about possible irregularities in the vote after preliminary counts were completed, a partial audit of the vote uncovered no evidence of fraud.

Despite these mixed political successes, the insurgency remained largely undiminished, as foreign Islamic militants continued to infiltrate into Iraq. Ongoing U.S. attempts to eliminate insurgent strongholds were frustrated by the ability to the insurgents to regroup elsewhere and a lack of sufficient U.S. forces to maintain control throughout Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq. Prior to the referendum on the constitution coalition forces mounted several offensives against insurgents in Sunni-dominated W and NW Iraq in an attempt to diminish terror attacks prior to the vote.

In the Dec., 2005, elections for the National Assembly the Sunni turnout was again higher, but when initial results showed that the Shiite religious parties were unexpectedly successful in the Baghdad area, the Sunni alliance and the secular party alliance accused the Shiites and electoral authorities of fraud. Final results, released in Jan., 2006, gave a near majority of the seats to the Shiite religious parties, with the Kurdistan alliance and the Sunni alliance placing second and third. International monitors said there had been some irregularities and fraud, but they did not call into question the final overall result.

The formation of a government, however, became protracted, when Sunnis and Kurds objected to the Shiite religious parties' selection of Jaafari as prime minister. Finally, in Apr., 2006, Jaafari stepped aside, and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a long-time aide of Jaafari's, was chosen for the post. Meanwhile, the devastating Feb., 2006, terror bombing of a Shiite holy site in Samarra provoked a spasm of sectarian attacks, largely by Shiites against Sunnis, throughout Iraq. Maliki undertook a number of measures intended to reassert government control and pacify some urban areas, and moved to foster an end to the Sunni insurgency and sectarian violence generally by releasing prisoners, offering a limited amnesty, seeking to disarm militias, and other measures. The killing, in June, of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda–aligned foreign insurgents, was a notable success for U.S. forces, but did little to diminish the violence in Iraq. Some 1.2 million Iraqis were estimated to have fled the country by mid-2006, seeking refuge in Jordan, Syria, and other nations.

By late 2006, with roughly 3,000 Iraqis dying every month, worry over mounting sectarian violence and fear of civil war began to outweigh concerns over insurgents; Sunni-Shiite revenge attacks and clashes had become increasingly common in ethnically mixed Baghdad and urban areas N of Baghdad, while in Shiite-dominated S Iraq rival Shiite militias fought each other for control in some cities. There was increasing doubt on the part of the United States over the ability of Maliki's government to deal with the rising sectarian violence, and a strain in the relations between the governments of the two nations was evident publicly. In Oct., 2006, the parliament passed legislation establishing a process by which provinces could join together, beginning in 2008, to form autonomous regions; the law was opposed by the Sunni parties and Shiite parties based predominantly in central Iraq.

In Dec., 2006, the U.S. Iraq Study Group, established by the Congress to review the war, called the situation in Iraq grave and deteriorating, and recommended, among its many suggestions, seeking the aid of Syria and Iran in resolving the conflict and shifting the burden of the fighting to Iraqi government forces. The success of the plan, however, depending on the willingness of the Iraqi government to work toward national reconciliation, despite the fact that its Shiite leaders seemed increasingly focused on consolidating Shiite rule. At the end of Dec., 2006, Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity; the undignified circumstances surrounding his execution provoked outrage from many Sunnis in Iraq and dismay from the U.S. and other nations. Two of his close aides were hanged on the same charges in Jan., 2007.

Also in January, U.S. President Bush announced that he would send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, beginning that month, with the primary goals of bring security to Baghdad and establishing control in Anbar prov. (a major Sunni insurgent base in W Iraq). The operation in Baghdad in particular was to be conducted in conjunction with Iraqi government forces and was aimed at controlling sectarian forces and their attacks. The "surge," which reached its plateau in June and also focused on Baquba and Diyala prov., appeared to have suppressed Sunni and Shiite death squads, but suicide bombings continued, aimed mainly at Shiite populations. Demonstrations in April by al-Sadr's supporters called for U.S. forces to leave Iraq, and his party subsequently withdrew from the cabinet. Other parties, however, generally rejected setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal.

In Aug., 2007, there was an outbreak of fighting between Shiite militias that was generally blamed on Moktada al-Sadr's Madhi Army; it was especially deadly in Karbala. Sadr's party withdrew from the governing coalition in September. Despite these events and other continuing violence, the overall level of violence decreased significantly in much of Iraq as the second half of 2007 progressed. The political and economic measures, however, that were intended to accompany the surge were largely unaccomplished at year's end.

Also in the second half of 2007, Turkey became increasingly confrontational in its calls for an end to the presence of Turkish Kurdish (PKK) rebel bases in N Iraq. The PKK forces, whose presence was, at a minimum, tolerated by Iraqi Kurds, had mounted increasing attacks in Turkey. Both the Iraqi and U.S. governments pressured Iraqi Kurds to close the bases; Turkey mounted raids and shelled N Iraq beginning in October, and mounted a more significant ground incursion in Feb., 2008.

In Mar., 2008, Maliki attempted to establish central government control over Basra by using Iraqi troops to disarm militias there. Sadr's militia resisted, and fighting erupted in Basra and spread to Sadr City in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. Several hundred died in the strife before Sadr declared a cease-fire after mediation by Iran; the resolution of the conflict offered new evidence of Iran's influence among Shiites in Iraq. Control over Basra was established in April with U.S. and British help, and that month Iraqi and U.S. troops mounted a new effort to establish government control over Sadr City that ended successfully in May after a cease-fire agreement was reached. The U.S. troop surge officially ended in July, although an increased number of support troops remained in Iraq. Violence had decreased, and the Iraqi army was proving increasingly effective and confident. In addition, the cease-fire by Sadr's militia (extended indefinitely in Aug., 2008) and increasing Sunni rejection of Al Qaeda contributed to improved security in many parts of Iraq. Also by July, U.S.-led coalition forces had turned over control of more than half Iraq's 18 provinces to the Iraqi government; additional provinces came under Iraqi control in the following months, and by the end of 2008 more than two thirds were under government control.

July was marked as well, however, by dissension over a new provincial election law because it treated the ethnic groups in Kirkuk's province equally for the purposes of interim governing. The Kurds objected that the law diminished their influence in the province compared to their numbers there, and President Talabani (a Kurd) and one of the country's two vice presidents vetoed the law. Not until September was an election law passed. The difficulties over the law were part of the increasing tensions between Kurds and the central government over the status of Kirkuk, control of the income from oil in the Kurdish region, and other issues.

An agreement concerning the terms under which U.S. forces would remain in Iraq after the end of 2008 was rejected by the Iraqi cabinet in Oct., 2008, but the cabinet approved the agreement with modifications the following month. In Dec., 2008, that agreement and one concerning allied troops in Iraq were finalized; under the agreements U.S. forces would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and other foreign forces by mid-2009. (In Feb., 2009, U.S. President Obama said that most U.S. forces would be withdrawn from Iraq by Aug., 2010.) The agreements were seen as strengthening Prime Minister Maliki and further undermining Moktada al-Sadr, and in the Jan., 2009, provincial elections, Maliki's coalition emerged as the strongest political grouping.

Iraqi forces assumed responsibility for security in urban areas in June, 2009; the process had begun in Jan., 2009. The government in August postponed for a year the census planned for Oct., 2009, out of fear that it would inflame ethnic tensions. A parliamentary election law was finally approved in Dec., 2009, after much difficulty, including a veto by the Sunni vice president in order to secure greater representation for (the largely Sunni) Iraqi refugees.

The elections themselves, originally slated for Jan., 2010, were rescheduled for March; Allawi's secular coalition narrowly placed first, followed by Maliki's nominally secular nationalist coalition and Jaafari's Shiite coalition (with Sadr's party forming the principal component of the last); Maliki's grouping subsequently alleged that there had been significant irregularities. A large number of candidates were disqualified because of alleged links to the Ba'ath party, but in at least some instances those links were old and tenuous. Sunnis, who voted in much greater numbers than in 2005, largely supported Allawi's grouping; no coalition secured enough seats to rule alone. The Maliki and Jaafari groupings subsequently formed a coalition but remained short of an absolute majority. A new government was slow to be formed. In November, Talabani was reelected president, and not until Dec., 2010, was a broadly based government with Maliki as prime minister approved in parliament. In Aug., 2010, U.S. combat operations officially ended. Some 50,000 U.S. troops remained, but all U.S. forces were withdrawn by the end of 2011. In early 2011 Iraq, like other Arab nations, experienced large antigovernment demonstrations, as Iraqis in a number of cities protested against corruption and a lack of jobs.

In Dec., 2011, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, was accused by Maliki's government with having overseen a death squad involving his bodyguards that had targeted (2005–11) Shiite officials. Hashemi denied the charges and fled to the Kurdish north, where officials resisted turning him over to the central government. The allegations contributed to increased tensions between Maliki's government and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. A judicial panel investigation reaffirmed the charges in Feb., 2012; Hashemi said the charges were politically motivated and that his bodyguards had been tortured. Hashemi left Iraq in April, and subsequently was charged with murder. Divisions within the governing coalition and unhappiness with Maliki's dominance of the government led in June to an unsuccessful attempt to oust Maliki, but his opponents narrowly failed to secure a confidence vote. In September and October, Hashemi was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death on the death-squad and other charges. The end of the year saw increasing tensions between Maliki's government and both Sunnis, who accused Maliki of a political crackdown after raids and arrests involving the finance minister's staff, and Kurds.

Beginning in Dec., 2012, Sunnis mounted protests against perceived mistreatment; in a number of instances protesters were killed by government troops. As tensions escalated in 2013, aggravated in part by Shiite support for Syria's government and Sunni support for Syria's rebels, the number of deadly ethnic attacks and clashes increased; the year proved to be the most deadly in five years. Maliki's coalition won the largest number of seats in the April provincial elections but failed to win a majority in any province. In June, a law was passed transferring a number of powers from the central government to the provinces; the law and another allowing many former members of the Ba'ath party to serve in the government were enacted in response to Sunni protest demands. Clashes over the army's removal of a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi in late December led to the occupation of Ramadi, Falluja, and other towns in Anbar prov. by Al Qaeda–aligned militants.

Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.