Iraq

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الجمهورية العراقية
(Al-Jumhuriyah Al-Iraqiyah)</big> Template:Audio
كۆماری عێراق
Komara Iraqê
Flag of Iraq Iraq: Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: Allahu Akbar
(English: God is Great)
File:LocationIraq.png
Official languages Arabic, Kurdish Assyrian language [Assyrian]
Spoken languages Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkmen, Armenian
Capital Baghdad2
President Jalal Talabani
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari</small>
Area
- Total
- % water
Ranked 57th
437,072 square kilometers (168,754 square miles)
1.1%
Population
- Total (July 2005 est.)
- Density
Ranked 44th
26,074,906
62/km2
Independence 1 October 1919 from the Ottoman Empire

3 October 1932 from the British

28 June 2004 transfer of sovereignty from the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority .

GDP (PPP)
- Total (2003)
- GDP/head</td><td>Ranked 76th
$38.790 billion
$1,600</td></tr>
HDI (2003) NAunranked
Currency Iraqi dinar
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem Mawtini3
Internet TLD .iq
Calling Code 964
State religion Islam4
1 - First language in 3 Kurdish regions

2 - The capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region is Arbil
3 - The Kurds use Ey Reqîb
4 - Citizens have religious freedom

The Republic of Iraq (Arabic العراق; Kurdish Êraq) is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern Asia at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and also including southern Kurdistan. It shares borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the west, Syria to the north-west, Turkey to the north, and Iran (Persia) to the east. Iraq has a very narrow section of coastline at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.

The Republic of Iraq sits on land that is historically known as Mesopotamia (Assyrian: Bet Nahrain), which means 'land between the rivers' in Greek. This land was home to some of the world's first and most distinguished civilizations. These included Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and many other cultures, whose influence extended into neighbouring regions, certainly from around 5000 BCE. These civilizations produced some of the first writing, science, mathematics, law and philosophy known to man, making it the center of what is commonly called the "Cradle of Civilization". Ancient Mesopotamian civilization dominated other civilizations of its time.

Following the seventh century A.D., Islam became entrenched in what is now Iraq. Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate (Islamic Empire), was the leading city of the world for five centuries and was the acknowledged leader of the Arab and Muslim world. In 1258 Baghdad was devastated by the Mongols and was later occupied by the Ottoman Turks. After World War I, the Turks were driven from the area by the British. Britain then created a mandate from three former Ottoman provinces and called this new country Al Iraq (which means "the origin" in Arabic), the name formerly applied to only the southern region of the province of Basra. In 1932, Britain gave independence to this mandate and Iraq became a sovereign, independent state.

The modern state contains a mixture of various Arab, Muslim and Kurdish cultures, deeply influenced by Persian and Ottoman rule and societies. It also hosts three of the most important religious sites in Shia Islam - the Sacred Mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf and the mosques of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas in Karbala. Najaf and Karbala are cities in southern Iraq.

A transitional government of Iraq was elected in January 2005, following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by American and British military forces, which drove Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party from power. American offensives on such cities as Fallujah and Tal Afar, the continued lack of such basic services as electricity and clean water, and deep political division in the country, have continued to contribute to disenchantment and disorder in the country. Supporters of the Iraqi insurgency blame the occupying forces for the disorder, but others blame the insurgency itself. In the meantime, the country is still struggling to form stable democratic institutions.

On October 15, 2005, the people of Iraq approved a new Constitution of Iraq in a referendum. Though it received a 79% "yes" vote, it was opposed by a large majority of Sunni Arab Iraqis, and is considered to have "barely" passed (as a few more votes against it would have caused its defeat, due to three provinces rejecting it by more than 2/3).

On December 15, 2005, the people of Iraq voted for their first permanent National Assembly under the new constitution. The turnout was described by various media sources and official estimates as overwhelming, around 70%. A large number of Sunni Arabs voted in the election.

Contents

Modern history

Main article: History of Iraq

Modern Iraq became a British mandate (the British League of Nations Trust Territory of Iraq) at the end of World War I and was granted independence from British control in 1932. It was formed out of three former Ottoman Willayats (regions): Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The British-installed Hashemite monarchy lasted until 1958, when it was overthrown through a coup d'etat by the Iraqi army, known as the 14 July Revolution. It brought Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qassim's government to power (which withdrew from the Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union), from 1958 till 1963, when he was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. Salam Arif died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency. In 1968, Rahman Arif was overthrown by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath's key figure became Saddam Hussein who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), Iraq's supreme executive decision making body, in July 1979, killing off many of his opponents in the process. Saddam's absolute and particularly bloody rule lasted throughout the Iran-Iraq War (19801988), which ended in stalemate; the al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s, which led to the alleged gassing of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulting in the Gulf War; and the United Nations-imposed economic sanctions. The United States and Britain declared no-fly zones over Kurdish northern and Shiite southern Iraq. Iraq is currently in turmoil

Modern politics

Main article: Politics of Iraq

Iraq was under Ba'ath Party rule from 1968 to 2003, in 1979 Saddam Hussein took leadership and became president until 2003, when he was unseated by a US-led invasion. The unicameral Iraqi parliament, the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani, had 250 seats and its members were elected for 4-year terms. No non-Ba'ath candidates were allowed to run.

In November 2003, the US-managed Coalition Provisional Authority announced plans to turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi Interim Government by mid-2004. The actual transfer of sovereignty occurred on 28 June 2004. The interim president was Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, and the interim prime minister Iyad Allawi.

On January 30, 2005, a majority of the Iraqi people voted in an election conducted by their transitional government which elected a 275-member Transitional National Assembly. The election was seen by many as a victory for democracy in the Middle East, but that opinion is not shared by all. Seymour Hersh has reported that there was an effort by the United States Government to shift funds and other resources to Iyad Allawi and that there may have been similar under the table dealings by other parties. Although he did not get the most seats in the Iraqi Congress, Allawi's delegation jumped from a projected 3 to 4% of the vote to 14% of the vote giving him power in the writing of the Constitution.

The Iraqi Assembly would:

  • Serve as Iraq's national legislature. It has named a Presidency Council, consisting of a President and two Vice Presidents. (By unanimous agreement, the Presidency Council will appoint a Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, cabinet ministers.)
  • Draft Iraq's new constitution. This constitution was presented to the Iraqi people for their approval in a national referendum in October 2005. Under the new constitution, Iraq would elect a permanent government in December 2005.

Under the Iraqi transitional constitution, signed March 2004, the country's executive branch is now led by a three-person presidential council. The election system for the council effectively ensures that all three of Iraq's major ethnic groups are represented. The constitution also includes basic freedoms like freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and is perceived by some to be more progressive than the U.S. Constitution.[1] Controversially, however, it states that all laws that were in effect on the transfer date cannot be repealed. Furthermore, since the coalition forces are currently working to maintain order and create a stable society under the United Nations, coalition troops can remain in control of the country indefinitely despite the transfer of sovereignty. Since Iraqi forces are currently considered not fully trained and equipped to police and secure their country, it is expected that coalition troops will remain until Iraqi forces no longer require their support. However, these rules will be set aside once the Transitional National Assembly is seated.

On 5 April 2005, the Iraqi National Assembly appointed Jalal Talabani, a prominent Kurdish leader, President. It also appointed Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Shiite Arab, and Ghazi al-Yawar, the former Interim President and a Sunni Arab, as Vice Presidents. Ibrahim al-Jaafari a Shiite, whose United Iraq Alliance Party won the largest share of the vote, was appointed the new Prime Minister of Iraq. Most power is vested in him. The new government was faced with two major tasks. The first is to attempt to rein in a violent insurgency, which has blighted the country in recent months, killing many Iraqi civilians and officials as well as a number of U.S. troops. (As of mid-2005, approximately 135,000 American troops remain in Iraq.) The second major task was to re-engage in the writing of a new Iraqi constitution, as outlined above, to replace the Iraqi transitional constitution of 2004.

In the meantime, the Iraqi government is considered by many international governments to be a legitimate government. According to the US administration, the judiciary in Iraq operates under the primacy of rule of law, so war criminals from the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein will get a fair and open trial, in which their rights will be subjected to due process and be protected by the scrutiny of a free press, the requirements of modern court proceedings.

On October 15, 2005, more than 63% of eligible Iraqis came out across the country to vote on whether to accept or reject the new constitution. On October 25, the vote was certified and the constitution passed with a 78% majority. [2] The new constitution had overwhelming backing among the Shia and Kurdish communities, as well as among a sizeable minority of the Sunni Arabs of Western Iraq. Three provinces rejected it (Salah ad Din with 82% against, Ninawah with 55% against, and Al Anbar with 97% against), but the final vote against the constitution was not 67%, which would have defeated the constitution. Although fraud is widely believed in the Ninawah results, the results are unlikely to be overturned.

Under the terms of the constitution, the country conducted fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on December 15 to elect a new, permanent government.

The most influencial Shia figures are: Ayatullah Sistani, Ayatullah Al-Modarresi, Sayed Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim & Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Governorates

Main article: Governorates of Iraq

File:IraqNumberedRegions.png
Governorates of Iraq

Iraq is divided into 18 governorates or provinces (Arabic: muhafadhat, singular - muhafadhah, Kurdish: پاریزگه Pârizgah). Particularly in Iraqi government documents the term governorate is preferred:

  1. Baghdad Arab
  2. Salah ad Din Arab
  3. Diyala Arab, Kurdish
  4. Wasit Arab
  5. Maysan Arab
  6. Al Basrah Arab
  7. Dhi Qar Arab
  8. Al Muthanna Arab
  9. Al Qadisyah Arab
  10. Babil Arab
  11. Al Karbala Arab
  12. An Najaf Arab
  13. Al Anbar Arab
  14. Ninawa Arab, Kurdish , Assyrian
  15. Dahuk Kurdish
  16. Arbil Kurdish ( also called Hewlêr in Kurdish)
  17. Kirkuk Kurdish
  18. As Sulaymaniyah Kurdish

The constitutionally recognized Kurdish Autonomous Region includes parts of a number of northern governorates, and is largely self-governing in internal affairs.

Geography

File:Iraq map.png
Map of Iraq

Main article: Geography of Iraq

Large parts of Iraq consist of desert, but the area between the two major rivers Euphrates and Tigris is fertile, with the rivers carrying about 60 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. The north of the country is largely mountainous, with the highest point being Haji Ibrahim at 3,600 m (11,811 ft). Iraq has a small coastline with the Persian Gulf. Close to the coast and along the Shatt al-Arab (known as arvandrūd: اروندرود among Iranians) there used to be marshlands, but many of these were drained in the 1990s.

The local climate is mostly a desert clime with mild to cool winters and dry, hot, cloudless summers. The northern mountainous regions experience cold winters with occasional heavy snows, sometimes causing extensive flooding. The capital Baghdad is situated in the centre of the country, on the banks of the Tigris. Other major cities include Basra in the south and Mosul in the north. Iraq is considered to be one of the cradles of human civilization.

Economy

File:Iraq 50 dinars Rewers.JPG
An old 50 dinar bill
File:Kerbela.JPG
Mosque in Kerbela

Main article: Economy of Iraq

Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s financial problems caused by massive expenditures in the eight-year war with Iran and damage to oil export facilities by Iran led the government to implement austerity measures, borrow heavily, and later reschedule foreign debt payments; Iraq suffered economic losses from the war of at least US$100 billion. After hostilities ended in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities. A combination of low oil prices, repayment of war debts (estimated at around US$3 billion a year) and the costs of reconstruction resulted in a serious financial crisis which, was the main short term motivation for the invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the Ba`ath Party government have hurt the economy, implementation of the United Nations' oil-for-food program, started in December 1996, was to have improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen.

For the first six phases of the program (each phase lasting six months), Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts. Subsequent investigation of the program has revealed significant corruption, with highly-placed U.N. officials being bribed, Ba'ath Party officials receiving lucrative kickbacks, and much of the money from oil sales being redirected into weapons research and acquisition by the Iraqi military.

In December 1999, the UN Security Council authorised Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Iraq changed its oil reserve currency from US dollar to euro in 2000. Oil exports were more than three-quarters of the pre-war level. However, 28% of Iraq's export revenues under the program were deducted to meet UN Compensation Fund and UN administrative expenses. The drop in GDP in 2001 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the economy to a great extent shut down; attempts are underway to revive it from the damages of war and rampant crime.

During his year as the chief executive of Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer issued a series of orders designed to restructure Iraq's broadly socialist economy in line with neo-liberal thinking. Order 39 laid out the framework for the privatization of everything in Iraq aside from the "primary extraction and initial processing" of the oil reserves themselves, and permitted 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi assets. Other orders established a flat tax of 15% and permitted foreign corporations to repatriate 100% of profits earned in Iraq. Opposition from senior Iraqi officials, together with the poor security situation meant that Bremer's privatization plan was not implemented during his tenure, though his orders remain in place. Privatization of the oil industry, in addition to around 200 other state-owned businesses, is currently scheduled to begin sometime in late 2005. [3]

One of the key economic challenges was what to do about Iraq's immense foreign debt. Although some of this debt was derived from normal export contracts that Iraq had failed to pay for, some was due as a result of military and financial support during Iraq's war with Iran. The Jubilee Iraq campaign argued that much of these debts were therefore odious (or illegitimate). However,as the concept of odious debt is not accepted, attempting to deal with the debt on those terms would simply have embroiled Iraq in legal disputes for years. Iraq decided to deal with its debt more pragmatically and opted to approach the Paris Club of official creditors.

On 20 November 2005, the Paris Club of official creditors agreed with the Iraqi government to write off 80% (or up to $100 billion) of Iraq's external debt. This reduction will be implemented over three years in line with delivery by Iraq on economic reform. By the end of 2005, some $75 billion of Iraq's debt should have been cancelled.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Iraq

72 to 75 percent of Iraq's population (mainly Iraqi but some Hejazi) speaks Arabic; the other major ethnic groups are the Kurds (15–20%), Assyrians (4%), and Turkomans (3%), who mostly live in the north and north-east of the country. The Assyrians, Kurds, and Turkomans differ from Arabs in many ways, including culture, history, clothing, and language. Other distinct groups are Persians, Lurs, and Armenians (possible descendants of the ancient Mesopotamian culture). About 2,500 Jews and 20,000–50,000 Marsh Arabs live in Iraq.

Arabic and Kurdish are official languages; English is the most commonly spoken Western language. Assyrian is also used by the country's Assyrian population.

There are more Arab Iraqi Muslim members of the Shiite sect than there are Arab Iraqi Muslims of the Sunni sect; but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of mostly Arabs and Kurds. (Shiite 60% of total population made up of mostly Arabs). Iraq's sizable Christian population numbers some 750,000, most of them of the Chaldean rite. Bahá'ís, Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

Demographic information from the 2004 edition of the CIA's The World Factbook:

  • Ethnic groups: Arab, 75–80%; Kurdish, 15–20%; Assyrian or other, 5%
  • Religions: Muslim, 93–95% (Shi'ite, 60%; Sunni 40%); Christian, Yezidi, or other, 5–7%

Culture

Main article: Culture of Iraq

Miscellaneous topics

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