For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

Flag of Iraq is three equal horizontal bands of red at top, white, and black, with three green five-pointed stars and Arabic script in horizontal line centered in white band. 2004.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Iraq

Geography
Area: 437,072 sq. km.; about the size of California.
Cities: Capital--Baghdad (pop. 3.8 million 1986 est.). Other cities--Basrah, Mosul, Karkuk, As Sulaymaniyah, Irbil.
Terrain: Alluvial plains, mountains, and desert.
Climate: Mostly hot and dry.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Iraqi(s).
Population (2002 est.): 24,011,816.
Annual growth rate (2002 est.): 2.82%.
Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurd 15%-20%, Turkman, Chaldean, Assyrian, or others less than 5%.
Religions: Shi'a Muslim 60%, Sunni Muslim 32%-37%, Christian 3%, Yezidi less than 1%.
Languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian.
Education: Years compulsory--primary school (age 6 through grade 6). Literacy--58%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2002 est.)--57.61 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy--67.38 yrs.
Work force (2000, 4.4 million): Agriculture--44%; industry--26%; services--31% (1989 est.).

Government
The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) assumed sovereign authority for governing Iraq on June 28, 2004. The IIG consists of the Presidency of the State (comprised of a President and two Deputy Presidents), a Council of Ministers, including a Prime Minister, an Interim National Council, and the Judicial Authority.
Independence: 1932.
Administrative subdivisions: 18 provinces.
Political parties: The Iraqi people are forming political parties and interest groups to represent the interests of the people. Former opposition groups are transitioning into political parties. The Ba'ath Party was abolished on May 16, 2003.
Suffrage: Universal adult.
National holidays: April 9, anniversary of the 2003 fall of the Ba'ath regime.

Economy
GDP (2003 est.): $38.79 billion.
Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 20%.
GDP per capita (2003 est.): $1,600.
Inflation rate (2003 est.): 27.5%.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.
Agriculture (% of GNP unspecified): Products--wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, cotton, dates, cattle, sheep
Industry: (% GNP unspecified): Types--petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing.
Trade: Exports--$ 7.542 billion f.o.b (2003 est). Major markets--US 37.4%, Taiwan 7.7%, Canada 7.5%, France 7.5%, Jordan 6.9%, Netherlands 5.8%, Italy 4.9%, Morocco 4.3%, Spain 4.1% (2002). Imports--$6.521 billion f.o.b (2003 est): food, medicine, manufactures. Major suppliers--Jordan 10.4%, France 8.4%, China 7.9%, Vietnam 7.9%, Germany 7.2%, Russia 6.9%, Australia 6.8%, Italy 6.1%, Japan 5.3% (2002).

GEOGRAPHY
Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level, reedy marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland. The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.

Average temperatures range from higher than 48oC (120oF) in July and August to below freezing in January. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4-7 in.) annually. The mountainous region of northern Iraq receives appreciably more precipitation than the central or southern desert region.

PEOPLE
Almost 75% of Iraq's population live in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast toward Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are in Iraq.

Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups are Turkomans, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.

Most Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Small communities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language, dress, and customs.

HISTORY
Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq was the site of flourishing ancient civilizations, including the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Parthian cultures. Muslims conquered Iraq in the seventh century A.D. In the eighth century, the Abassid caliphate established its capital at Baghdad, which became a frontier outpost of the Ottoman Empire.

At the end of World War I, Iraq became a British-mandated territory. When it was declared independent in 1932, the Hashemite family, which also ruled Jordan, ruled as a constitutional monarchy. In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League. In 1956, the Baghdad Pact allied Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom, and established its headquarters in Baghdad.

Gen. Abdul Karim Qasim took power in July 1958 coup, during which King Faysal II and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said were killed. Qasim ended Iraq's membership in the Baghdad Pact in 1959. Qasim was assassinated in February 1963, when the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Ba'ath Party) took power under the leadership of Gen. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as prime minister and Col. Abdul Salam Arif as president.

Nine months later, Arif led a coup ousting the Ba'ath government. In April 1966, Arif was killed in a plane crash and was succeeded by his brother, Gen. Abdul Rahman Mohammad Arif. On July 17, 1968, a group of Ba'athists and military elements overthrew the Arif regime. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr reemerged as the President of Iraq and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).

In July 1979, Bakr resigned, and his chosen successor, Saddam Hussein, assumed both offices.
The Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) devastated the economy of Iraq. Iraq declared victory in 1988 but actually achieved a weary return to the status quo antebellum. The war left Iraq with the largest military establishment in the Gulf region but with huge debts and an ongoing rebellion by Kurdish elements in the northern mountains. The government suppressed the rebellion by using weapons of mass destruction on civilian targets, including a mass chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja that killed several thousand civilians.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, but a U.S.-led coalition acting under United Nations (UN) resolutions expelled Iraq from Kuwait in February 1991. After the war, the UN Security Council required the regime to surrender its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and submit to UN inspections. When the Ba'ath regime refused to fully cooperate with the UN inspections, the Security Council employed sanctions to prevent further WMD development and compel Iraqi adherence to international obligations. Coalition forces enforced no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq to protect Iraqi citizens from attack by the regime and a no-drive zone in southern Iraq to prevent the regime from massing forces to threaten or again invade Kuwait.

A U.S.-led coalition removed the Ba'ath regime in March and April 2003, bringing an end to more than 12 years of Iraqi defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. The coalition, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations quickly established aid systems, preventing any general humanitarian crisis. The coalition formed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to provide for the effective administration of Iraq during the period of transitional administration, restore conditions of security and stability, and create conditions in which the Iraqi people can freely determine their own political future. The UN Security Council acknowledged the authorities of the coalition and provided for a role for the UN and other parties to assist in fulfilling these objectives.

The CPA disbanded on June 28, 2004, transferring sovereign authority for governing Iraq to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). Based on the timetable laid out in the Law of Administration for the Transitional Period (TAL), the IIG will govern Iraq until a government elected in national elections to be held no later than January 31, 2005 takes office.

GOVERNMENT
The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) assumed sovereign authority for governing Iraq on June 28, 2004. The IIG consists of the Presidency of the State (comprised of a President and two Deputy Presidents), a Council of Ministers, including a Prime Minister, an Interim National Council, and the Judicial Authority.

Principal Officials of the Iraqi Interim Government
President--Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar
Deputy President--Ibrahim Jaafari
Deputy President--Rowsch Shaways
Prime Minister--Iyad Allawi
Deputy Prime Minister--Barham Salih
Minister of Finance—Adil Abdul Mahdi
Minister of Interior—Falah al-Nakib
Minister of Defense—Hazem Sha'alan
Minister of Foreign Affairs—Hoshyar Zebari
Minister of Oil—Thamir Ghadban
Minister of Trade—Mohammed al-Jibouri
Minister of Education—Sami Mudahfar
Minister of Planning and Development—Mehdi al-Hafidh
Minister of Electricity—Aiham al-Sammarae
Minister of Agriculture—Sawsan al-Sharify
Minister of Communications—Mohammed al-Hakim
Minister of Justice—Malek Dohan al-Hassan
Minister of Health—Ala'adin Alwan
Minister of Housing and Construction—Omar al-Damjuli
Minister of Municipalities and Public Works—Nasreen Berwari
Minister of Water Resources—Abdul Latif Rashid
Minister of Transportation—Louay Hatem al-Eris
Minister of Industry and Minerals—Hachem al-Hassani
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs—Leyla Abdul Latif
Minister of Higher Education—Taher al-Bakaa
Minister of Science and Technology—Rashad Mandan Omar
Minister of Displacement and Migration—Pascale Isho Warda
Minister of Youth and Sports—Ali Fa'iq al-Ghabban
Minister of Culture—Mufeed al-Jaza'iri
Minister of Human Rights—Baktiar Amin
Minister of State for Provinces—Wael Abdul Latif
Minister of State for Women—Narmin Othman
Minister of State—Adnan al-Janabi
Minister of State—Qasim Daoud
Minister of State—Mamu Farman Othman

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) assumed sovereign authority for governing Iraq on June 28, 2004. The IIG consists of the Presidency of the State (comprised of a President and two Deputy Presidents), a Council of Ministers, including a Prime Minister, an Interim National Council, and the Judicial Authority.

The Law of Administration for the Transitional Period (TAL), adopted by the Iraqi Governing Council on June 1, 2004, established the basis of the IIG. Under the TAL, the IIG is charged with administering Iraq's affairs, in particular by providing for the welfare and security of the Iraqi people, promoting reconstruction and economic development, and preparing for and holding national elections.

The TAL stipulates that the IIG will administer Iraq's affairs until the elected Transitional National Assembly (TNA) takes office; elections for the TNA are scheduled for no later than January 31, 2005. The TNA will draft a permanent constitution for Iraq, pursuant to the process described in the TAL. If the constitution is ratified in a nationwide referendum scheduled for no later than October 15, 2005, elections for a new Iraqi government described in the permanent constitution should take place before December 15, 2005.

ECONOMY
Historically, Iraq's economy was characterized by a heavy dependence on oil exports and an emphasis on development through central planning. Prior to the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, Iraq's economic prospects were bright. Oil production had reached a level of 3.5 million barrels per day, and oil revenues were $21 billion in 1979 and $27 billion in 1980. At the outbreak of the war, Iraq had amassed an estimated $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

The Iran-Iraq war depleted Iraq's foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with a foreign debt of more than $40 billion. After hostilities ceased, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991, and neglect of infrastructure drastically reduced economic activity. Government policies of diverting income to key supporters of the regime while sustaining a large military and internal security force further impaired finances, leaving the average Iraqi citizen facing desperate hardships.

Implementation of a UN oil-for-food program in December 1996 improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. In December 1999, Iraq was authorized to export unlimited quantities of oil to finance essential civilian needs including, among other things, food, medicine, and infrastructure repair parts. The drop in GDP in 2001-02 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Per capita food imports increased significantly, while medical supplies and health care services steadily improved. The occupation of the US-led coalition in March-April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic administrative structure. The rebuilding of oil, electricity, and other production is proceeding steadily in 2004 with foreign support and despite the continuing internal security incidents, A joint UN and World Bank report released in the fall of 2003 estimated that Iraq's key reconstruction needs through 2007 would cost $55 billion. According to the General Accounting Office as of April 2004, total funds available towards this rebuilding effort include: $21 billion in US appropriations, $18 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq, $2.65 billion in vested and seized assets of the former regime, and $13.6 billion in international pledges. The US and other nations continue assisting Iraqi ministries, to the extent requested by the IIG, and offer extensive economic support.

Agriculture
Despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Under the UN oil-for-food program, Iraq imported large quantities of grains, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Obstacles to agricultural development during the previous regime included labor shortages, inadequate management and maintenance, salinization, urban migration, and dislocations resulting from previous land reform and collectivization programs. A Ba'ath regime policy to destroy the "Marsh Arab" culture by draining the southern marshes and introducing irrigated farming to this region destroyed a natural food-producing area, while concentration of salts and minerals in the soil due to the draining left the land unsuitable for agriculture.
Efforts have begun to overcome the damage done by the Ba'ath regime in ways that will rehabilitate the agricultural sector and confront environmental degradation.

Trade
The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Noncompliance by Iraq with its UN obligations, particularly Iraq's refusal to allow weapons inspectors full freedom of action in dismantling Iraq's weapons program, caused those sanctions to remain in place until the Ba'ath regime was removed in 2003. Under the oil-for-food program Iraq was allowed to export oil and use the proceeds to purchase goods to address essential civilian needs, including food, medicine, and infrastructure spare parts. With the removal of UN sanctions, Iraq is gradually resumingtrade relations with the international community, including with the U.S.

DEFENSE
The war with Iran ended with Iraq sustaining the largest military structure in the Middle East, with more than 70 divisions in its army and an air force of over 700 modern aircraft. Losses during the invasion of Kuwait and subsequent ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait by a UN coalition resulted in the reduction of Iraq's ground forces to 23 divisions and air force to less than 300 aircraft.

When major combat operations ended in April 2003, the Iraqi Army disintegrated, and its installations were destroyed by pilfering and looting. The CPA officially dissolved the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defense on May 23, 2003. On August 7, 2003, the CPA established the New Iraqi Army as the first step toward the creation of the national self-defense force of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Support for the manning, training and equipping of Iraq's security forces is being led by the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
The end of the Ba'ath regime made possible Iraq's re-engagement on the international stage. The Iraqi Interim Government has designated new international representatives and resumed Iraqi representation in the UN, Arab League, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Nations around the world, including previous victims of Ba'ath regime aggression, provided monetary, material, and personnel assistance to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi Interim Government has begun to re-establish full diplomatic relations with several countries, including the United States. Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: UN and some of its specialized agencies, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Atomic Energy Agency; Nonaligned Movement; OIC; Arab League; OPEC; Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries; Interpol; World Health Organization; G-19; and G-77.

U.S.-IRAQI RELATIONS
As the lead nation in the international coalition which removed the Ba'ath regime, the United States is committed to the establishment of a stable, united, prosperous, and democratic Iraq. U.S. forces remain in Iraq as part of the Multi-National Force-Iraq to assist the IIG to train its security forces, as well as to work in partnership with the IIG to combat forces that seek to derail Iraq's progression to full democracy. The U.S. Government is carrying out a multibillion-dollar program to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Only limited services to U.S. citizens are available in Iraq. U.S. citizens in Iraq who find themselves in an emergency should contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, DC at (202) 647-5225. For after-hour emergencies, Sundays, and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

The Travel Warning on Iraq urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Iraq. However, U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Iraq despite that Warning are encouraged to register with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq located in the International Zone and obtain updated information on travel and security within Iraq . U.S. citizens may register with the Embassy via the e-mail address usconsulbaghdad@state.gov, telephone 1-240-553-0584 (this number rings in Baghdad), or the Embassy's website at http://iraq.usembassy.gov or http://baghdad.usembassy.gov. The after-hours number is 1-914-822-5473.

Principal U.S. Embassy Official
Ambassador--John D. Negroponte

[This is a mobile copy of Iraq (08/04)]