About the Country

Iraq is a nation of Southwest Asia, situated at the center of the region known as the Middle East. Its neighbors are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria on the west; Turkey on the north; Iran on the east; and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on the south. Iraq also has a short coastline on the Persian Gulf.

Nourished by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the area was once called Mesopotamia, meaning the "land between rivers." Although it was home to some of the world's earliest civilizations, the modern nation of Iraq has existed only since 1932, following a brief period of British administration after World War I (1914-18). Since then, Iraq has experienced several wars and political upheavals, most recently the overthrow of its dictator, Saddam Hussein, in the American-led Iraq War in 2003.

Facts and Figures

Republic of Iraq is the official name of the country.
Location: Southwest Asia.
Area: 168,754 sq mi (437,072 km2).
Population: 24,700,000.
Capital and Largest City: Baghdad.
Major Language(s): Arabic; Kurdish.
Major Religious Group(s): Muslim.
Government: Transitional. Head of state and government—to be determined. An interim governing council of 25 Iraqi leaders under U.S. administration will run the country until a more permanent government can be organized..
Chief Products: Agricultural—wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates and other fruits, cotton, livestock. Manufactured—refined petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, processed foods. Mineral—petroleum, sulfur, phosphate rock.
Monetary Unit: Iraqi dinar (1 dinar = 1,000 fils or 20 dirhams).

John R. Randall
Ohio State University

Reviewed by Arthur Campbell Turner
Coauthor, Power and Ideology in the Middle East