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Iraq

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Iraq, formally known as the Republic of Iraq, is a nation in Western Asia. It is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iran, to the southeast by Kuwait, to the south by Saudi Arabia, to the southwest by Jordan, and to the west by Syria. Baghdad is the capital and biggest city. Arabs and Kurds are the two largest ethnic groups, although Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians, and Kawliya are also present. Around 95% of the country’s 36 million people are Shia or Sunni Muslims, with minorities of Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism, and Mandeanism.

Iraq’s 58-kilometer-long (36-mile-long) northern Persian Gulf coastline includes the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northern end of the Zagros mountain range, and the eastern portion of the Syrian Desert. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow south through Iraq, meeting at the Shatt al-Arab in the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide a large quantity of fertile land to Iraq.

Historically known as Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is often considered to be the birthplace of civilization. It was here that humanity first learned to read, write, establish laws, and live in towns governed by organized governments – most famously Uruk, from whence the name “Iraq” derives. Since the sixth millennium BC, the region has been inhabited by various civilisations. Iraq was the administrative center of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. It was also a part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, and Roman empires, as well as the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mongol, Safavid, and Afsharid empires.

Iraq’s current boundaries were largely defined by the League of Nations in 1920, after the Ottoman Empire’s partition through the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was included into the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. In 1921, a monarchy was created, and the Kingdom of Iraq declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1932. The monarchy was deposed in 1958, and the Iraqi Republic was established. From 1968 until 2003, Iraq was ruled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was deposed after an invasion by the US and its allies in 2003, and multi-party parliamentary elections were conducted in 2005. Although the United States withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the Iraqi insurgency persisted and escalated as jihadists from Syria’s civil war entered the nation.

Geography

Iraq is mostly desert, although the Euphrates and Tigris rivers bring 60,000,000m3 (78,477,037 cu yd) of sediment to the delta each year. The country’s north is mainly mountainous, with the highest peak reaching 3,611m (11,847 ft), unidentified on the map but locally known as Cheekah Dar (black tent). Iraq has a 58km (36 mi) Persian Gulf coastline.

Climate

Iraq has a hot, dry climate. Most of the country’s summer temperatures surpass 40°C (104°F) and often reach 48°C (118°F). Winter highs are about 21°C (70°F), with nighttime lows sometimes below freezing. In most locations, the annual precipitation is less than 250mm (10 in), with greatest rainfall occurring from November to April. Summer rains are uncommon, especially in the far north.

Demographics

It is estimated that Iraq has 31,234,000 people. In 1878, Iraq had a population of 2 million. Iraq’s population has risen to 35 million since the conflict.

Ethnic groups

Arabs make about 75–80% of the population. 15 % of Iraq’s population is Kurdish 5-10% of the population are Assyrians, Turkmens, Mandeans, Armenians, Circassians, Iranians, Shabakis, Yazidis, and Kawliya. Southern Iraq has 20,000 Marsh Arabs.

Iraq has 2,500 Chechens. Slavery in the Islamic Caliphate began before the Zanj Rebellion in the 9th century, and Basra’s position as a major port left a population of Iraqis of African ancestry in southern Iraq. It is the Arab Plate’s most populated nation.

Religion

Iraq is a Muslim-majority nation, with Muslims accounting for about 95% of the population and non-Muslims (mostly Assyrian Christians) accounting for just 5%. It is home to both Shia and Sunni Muslims. According to the CIA Factbook, Shia Muslims make up around 65 percent of Iraq’s Muslim population, while Sunni Muslims make up about 35 percent. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center study, 51 percent of Muslims in Iraq are Shia, 42 percent are Sunni, and 5% identify as “Just a Muslim.”

The Sunni community claims that the government discriminates against them in virtually every area of life. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on the other hand, disputed it. Christians have resided in the region for almost 2,000 years, with many descended from pre-Arab Mesopotamians and Assyrians. They numbered over 1.4 million in 1987, accounting for 8% of the estimated 16.3 million population, and 550,000 in 1947, accounting for 12% of the population.

The majority of Christians are Neo Aramaic-speaking Assyrians who belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, and Syriac Orthodox Church. According to estimates, the number of Christians has decreased from 8–12% in the mid-twentieth century to 5% in 2008. Since the start of the conflict, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled to neighboring nations, and many have not returned, while others are returning to their historic Assyrian homeland in the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

Mandaeans, Shabaks, Yarsan, and Yezidis make up tiny ethno-religious minority groups. Iraq’s Jewish population, which numbered approximately 150,000 in 1941, has almost completely vanished.

Najaf and Karbala, two of the world’s holiest sites for Shias, are located in Iraq.

Diaspora and refugees

The Iraqi diaspora is the exodus of Iraqis to other nations. The UNHCR estimates that approximately two million Iraqis left the country following the 2003 multinational invasion, mainly to Syria and Jordan. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre believes 1.9 million more are internally displaced.

In 2007, the UN estimated that about 40% of Iraq’s middle class had left, mainly to escape systematic persecution and had no desire to return. Refugees are poor because they cannot work in their host nations. With improved security, the diaspora appears to be returning; the Iraqi government claims 46,000 refugees came home in October 2007.

At the end of 2011, almost 3 million Iraqis had fled their homes, 1.3 million in Iraq and 1.6 million in neighboring countries, primarily Jordan and Syria. Since the 2003 US-led invasion, more than half of Iraqi Christians have left. As of May 25, 2011, 58,811 Iraqis have been given refugee status by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Since 2012, approximately 160,000 Syrians of various nationalities have migrated to Iraq. Increasing bloodshed in Syria’s civil conflict prompted many Iraqis to return home.

Economy

The oil industry has historically supplied about 95% of Iraq’s foreign currency revenues. Lack of growth in other industries has led in 18%–30% unemployment and a $4000 per capita GDP. In 2011, the public sector employed almost 60% of full-time workers. Less than 1% of Iraqis work in the oil export sector. Women now make up a small proportion of the workforce (22% in 2011).

Imposing high tariffs to keep out foreign products was part of Iraq’s centrally controlled economy prior to US intervention. Post-invasion CPAI issued several binding directives privatizing Iraq’s economy, allowing international investment.

On November 20, 2004, Iraq’s $42 billion debt to the Paris Club was forgiven by 80% ($33 billion). Iraq’s overall foreign debt was approximately $120 billion in 2003 and had increased by $5 billion by 2004. The debt reduction will be delivered in three stages: 30% each and 20%.

According to Citigroup, Iraq is one of the “Global Development Generators” that will see substantial economic growth in the future.

Iraq’s official currency is the dinar. It produced new dinar coins and notes, with De La Rue printing them using contemporary anti-forgery methods. Jim Cramer’s support of the Iraqi Dinar on CNBC on October 20, 2009 has heightened interest.

Five years after the invasion, four million Iraqis were food insecure (a quarter of children were chronically malnourished) and just a third of Iraqi children had access to clean drinking water.

According to the Overseas Development Institute, foreign NGOs’ missions are hampered by insecurity, lack of coordinated financing, insufficient operational capability, and spotty information. 94 relief workers were murdered, 248 wounded, 24 imprisoned or detained, and 89 kidnapped or abducted in the first five years.

Oil and energy

Iraq has proven oil reserves of 143.1 billion barrels (2.275 1010 m3), second only to Saudi Arabia. By December 2012, oil output was 3.4 million barrels per day. Iraq plans to reach 5 million BPD by 2014. Iraq has 2,000 oil wells compared to 1 million in Texas alone. Iraq was an early member of OPEC.

Despite better security and billions in oil money, Iraq still produces about half the power consumers need, leading to summer demonstrations.

Submitted to the Iraqi Council of Representatives in May 2007 is the Iraq Oil Law. The Iraqi government has yet to pass a legislation.

According to a May 2007 US study, between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels per day (16,000-48,000 m3/d) of Iraq’s reported oil output may have been siphoned off via corruption or smuggling. As of 2008, Al Jazeera claimed that $13 billion in Iraqi oil profits was illegally accounted for in the US. Despite some claims that the government has decreased corruption in public oil procurement, bribes and kickbacks to government officials remain.

For the biggest fields, the Iraqi Oil Ministry stated in June 2008 that Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, and BP — formerly partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — would be awarded modest one- or two-year no-bid contracts. According to Iraqi oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani, the plans were scrapped in September because talks had delayed for so long. Several US senators said the agreement was impeding attempts to approve the energy legislation.

International oil firms were granted servicing contracts for Iraq’s numerous oil fields on June 30th and December 11th, 2009. Oil fields contracted include the “super-giant” Majnoon and West Qurna oilfield. BP and CNPCC will jointly develop Iraq’s biggest oil field, Rumaila.

Iraq’s oil production increased by half a million barrels per day in February, the International Energy Agency said on March 14. That much oil hadn’t been produced since Saddam Hussein took control in 1979. In the midst of sectarian conflict, Kurdish Regional Government troops took control of the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields in northern Iraq on July 14, 2014. An angry Baghdad warned “dire repercussions” if the fields were not restituted.

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