Iraq Economy - History

GDP (2006 est.): $94.1 billion.
Annual growth rate (2006 est.): 20%.
GDP per capita (2006 est.): $2,900.
Inflation rate (2006 est.): 27.5%.

Main Crops: wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton; cattle, sheep Natural Resources: petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur Major Industries: Petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing

Economic history of Iran

Prior to 1979, Iran's economic development was rapid. Traditionally an agrarian society, by the 1970s the country had undergone significant industrialization and economic modernization. [1] [2] This pace of growth had slowed dramatically by 1978 as capital flight reached $30 to $40 billion 1980 US dollars just before the revolution. [3]

After the Revolution of 1979, Iran's government proceeded with 4 reforms:

  1. First they nationalized all industry, including the NIOC, and all Iranian banks.
  2. The new Constitution divided the economy in 3 different sectors, namely "State", "Cooperative" and "Private", with the majority being state-owned businesses.
  3. The Government started using central planning to control the economy, having the Supreme Leader, the President and Majlis creating 5-year socio-economic plans.
  4. The State took control of setting prices and subsidies.

The government's long-term objectives since the revolution have been economic independence, full employment, and a comfortable standard of living for citizens, but at the end of the 20th century, the country's economy faced many obstacles. [4] Iran's population more than doubled between 1980 and 2000 and grew increasingly younger. Although a relatively large number of Iranians are farmers, agricultural production has consistently fallen since the 1960s. By the late 1990s, Iran had become a major importer of food. At that time, economic hardship in the countryside resulted in vast numbers of people moving to cities. [3]

The eight-year war with Iraq claimed at least 300,000 Iranian lives and injured more than 500,000. The cost of the war to the country's economy was some $500 billion. [5] [6] After hostilities with Iraq ceased in 1988, the government tried to develop the country's communication, transportation, manufacturing, health care, education and energy sectors (including its prospective nuclear power facilities), and began the process of integrating its communication and transportation infrastructure with that of neighboring states. [7]

Since 2004, Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad have tried to implement reforms that will lead to the privatization of Iran but they haven't worked out yet, making Iran a command economy in transition towards a market economy.

War and the Iraqi Economy: A Case Study

Iraq’s economy is only one of the factors that divides the country, encourages violence, has led to civil conflict, and has helped empower ISIS. Sectarian and ethnic divisions, population pressure, religious extremism, intervention from outside states, poor and grossly corrupt governance, authoritarianism, and a fractured political system have all made their own contribution to the present level of violence in what in many ways has long been a failed state.

What is possible is to provide an overview of the complex interactions between economics and the other factors driving violence in Iraq, and the extent to which Iraq’s deep structural economic problems interact with its sectarian and ethnic divisions, help empower ISIS, and help increase the tensions between Arab and Kurd.

These issues are explored in depth in graphic, map, and narrative form in a new Burke Chair report entitledWar and the Iraqi Economy: An Experimental Case Study. This study is available by clicking upon the above PDF, or by going to the CSIS web site at

The study begins by stressing the importance of focusing on the full range of reasons why a country like Iraq now faces the levels of violence and internal tensions that now divide it, and the differences between the economics of terrorism and counterinsurgency and the classic econometrics of development.

It does not argue that economics contribute more to Iraq’s violence and problems than other causes, but it does show that there are some important correlations between the broad problems in Iraq’s economics, governance, and demographic pressures and the levels of violence in other failed states in the MENA region like Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

It is also clear from an analysis of Iraq’s economy that while ideology and politics are key causes of the violence in Iraq, it faces extraordinary challenges in the fact that Iraq has an extremely young population and massive numbers of young men and women desperate for careers, jobs, marriage, a home, and a family. The CIA estimates that an extraordinary 36.7% of Iraq’s population is 0-14 years of age, and 19.6% is 15-24 years of age, and Iraq is nearly 70% urbanized. Its economy, politics, and social tensions will be under acute population pressure for at least another two decades.

Iraq’s economy is has also been badly distorted by mis-governance in a country dominated by its state sector, by the government’s need to buy popular support through employment and subsidies, by the cost of war, and by extreme corruption. Iraq is rated the 170 th most corrupt nation out of the 175 countries rated by Transparency international, and -- as the analysis shows -- it has an extremely large and badly managed state sector, and the world Bank rates it as the 156 th worst of 185 Countries in its Global Ranking of Ease of Doing Business rankings.

Iraq is also a country whose economy has been shaped in part by the fact that Iraq has been at war or in war-related crises ever since 1980. Its past conflicts have had a cumulative economic impact that has sharply restricted Iraq’s development and divided the country’s economy and income along sectarian and ethnic lines, as well as created broad areas where the impact of violence has created its own sub-economies ands divisions.

The analysis traces these patterns of violence in detail since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but they are only the latest phase in a history that has included a civil war between the central government and the Kurds in the 1970s, the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, the impact of UN sanctions from 1992 to 2003.

A separate section traces the scale of the collapses of Iraq’s military forces in 2003, the economic impact of the fighting since 2003, and the patterns in recreating Iraqi military forces before ISIS invaded Iraq in late 2013. It shows the rising economic burden of recreating military forces and paying for the current fighting, although the Iraqi central government has so far made limited progress in recreating effective military forces.

It also traces the rising pattern of both violence and internal divisions between Arab and Kurd and Sunni Shi’ite, and shows that the impact of ISIS is only one part of a much broader pattern of violence and divisions that affect a much larger portion of the Iraqi population. Sectarian and ethnic tensions and fighting have also divided Iraq’s population into urban and regional subeconomies whose problems and inequities make national unity, security, and stability more difficult to achieve.

It is clear from the analysis that some of the fighting with ISIS has greatly compounded the problems Iraqi Kurds and Arabs will have in agreeing to the size, financing, and nature of a future Kurdish Zone. At the same time, the rise of various militias and ethnic and sectarian forces has increased the problems in sharing territory, political power, and petroleum income between Sunni and Shi’ite in a country whose economy and population is roughly 70% urbanized.

The analysis then looks beyond the economics of violence to examine the deep structural problems in Iraq’s economy that are not produces of violence and warfighting, but inevitably increases its divisions and tensions. These include:

o An economy whose petroleum wealth has created its own form of the “Dutch disease” that the CIA rates Iraq as receiving 90% of its government income and 80% of its export revenues from the petroleum sector – a sector with one of the lowest rates of necessary employment relative to capital and dependence on locally made equipment and technology of any sector in the country.

o The government has a long history of mismanaging its budget, creating unrealistic and overambitious plans, failing properly to execute given portions of the budget, and losing money to corruption and waste. This will become a far more serious near-term problem because of low oil export revenues, and Iraq’s growing deficit is already being funded in increasingly uncertain ways.

o A massive and continuing employment crisis driven by a very young population, a lack of meaningful job creation, far too much reliance on unproductive employment in the government and state sector, and imbalances between the level of employment and share of the GDP.

o Meaningful youth unemployment is probably well above 25%. Agriculture only contributes 3.3% of GDP but is 21.6% of labor force (6.5X GDP). Industry (largely Petroleum) is 65.6% of GDP, but largely unproductive state industries make it some 21.6% of labor force Services are 32.2% of GDP, but are 59.8% of labor force (largely government and security services) The compensation of all government and SOE employees has consumed a steadily growing portion of the GDP, and a far larger percentage of the GDP than in other regional states.

o The over-large SOE sector has grown to the point where it places major burden on the economy for poor productivity and results, in a public sector public sector that provides 43% of total jobs and almost 60% of overall full-time employment, where employees in state-owned companies make up about 20 percent of total public employment, for far too little output.

o There are many critical economic and social infrastructure challenges – many war-related – in power, water, the financial and banking, education, food subsidy, medical, agricultural and other sectors.

It is not possible to fully quantify many aspects of Iraq’s current economic problems, but it is clear that war is making them worse, that play a major role in dividing the country and that defeating ISIS will not end the divisions and pattern of violence in Iraq without far more government action and reform effort than have been planned to date. The reforms announced so far by Prime Minister Abadi will only have a limited effect at best, and at least to date, the Iraqi government may well present at least as much of a threat to itself as ISIS does.

Comparing the Defense Budget to the Total Economy

The U.S. defense budget has risen over the past decade but remains substantially lower than historical levels when considered as a percentage of U.S. GDP. President Bush requested $481.4 billion in discretional spending for the Department of Defense’s 2008 budget. That figure does not include any of the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been paid for primarily through “emergency supplemental requests” that are not included in the federal budget’s accounting. War spending is expected to tally to roughly $193 billion in 2008, an increase of $22 billion, or roughly 13 percent, over 2007 expenditures. Other aspects of military-related spending also fall outside the defense budget, including nuclear-weapons research, veterans affairs programs, State Department activities in war zones, and operations covered by the budgets of the various intelligence agencies. Allocations toward the “Global War on Terrorism,” which exceed $145 billion for 2008, also fall outside the U.S. defense budget, and do not include the war-budget supplements.

Even considering the military budget and war spending together, however, total U.S. expenditures remain modest compared to historical levels in wartime. Shortly before the Vietnam War, in 1962, defense spending alone tallied 9.3 percent of GDP. During World War II expenditures were higher still in 1944 the defense budget peaked at 37.8 percent of GDP. Even after recent increases, defense spending today comes to about 3.7 percent of GDP—and the combined total, even after including both war-spending supplements and “Global War on Terror” expenditures, comes to 6.2 percent of GDP. Still, today’s spending represents an increase since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when defense spending tallied roughly 3 percent of GDP.


The Arabic name al-ʿIrāq ( العراق ) has been in use since before the 6th century CE.

There are several suggested origins for the name. One dates to the Sumerian city of Uruk (Biblical Hebrew Erech) and is thus ultimately of Sumerian origin, as Uruk was the Akkadian name for the Sumerian city of Urug, containing the Sumerian word for "city", UR. [16] [17]

Another possible etymology for the name is from the Middle Persian word erāq , meaning "lowlands." [18] An “Aramaic incantation bowl” excavated in Nippur features the word ’yrg ( אירג ‎) next to myšyn (Mesene) that suggests that it refers to the region of southern Mesopotamia. [19]

An Arabic folk etymology for the name is "deeply rooted, well-watered fertile". [20]

During the medieval period, there was a region called ʿIrāq ʿArabī ("Arabian Iraq") for Lower Mesopotamia and ʿIrāq ʿAjamī ("Persian Iraq"), [21] for the region now situated in Central and Western Iran. [21] The term historically included the plain south of the Hamrin Mountains and did not include the northernmost and westernmost parts of the modern territory of Iraq. [22] Prior to the middle of the 19th century, the term Eyraca Arabica was commonly used to describe Iraq. [23] [24]

The term Sawad was also used in early Islamic times for the region of the alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, contrasting it with the arid Arabian desert. As an Arabic word, عراق means "hem", "shore", "bank", or "edge", so that the name by folk etymology came to be interpreted as "the escarpment", viz. at the south and east of the Jazira Plateau, which forms the northern and western edge of the "al-Iraq arabi" area. [25]

The Arabic pronunciation is [ʕiˈrɑːq] . In English, it is either / ɪ ˈ r ɑː k / (the only pronunciation listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and the first one in Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary [26] ) or / ɪ ˈ r æ k / (listed first by MQD), the American Heritage Dictionary, [27] and the Random House Dictionary. [28] The pronunciation / aɪ ˈ r æ k / is occasionally heard in US media. [ citation needed ]

In accordance with the 2005 Constitution, the official name of the state is the "Republic of Iraq" (Jumhūrīyyat al-'Irāq). [1]

Prehistoric era

Between 65,000 BC and 35,000 BC, northern Iraq was home to a Neanderthal culture, archaeological remains of which have been discovered at Shanidar Cave [29] This same region is also the location of a number of pre-Neolithic cemeteries, dating from approximately 11,000 BC. [30]

Since approximately 10,000 BC, Iraq, together with a large part of the Fertile Crescent also comprising Asia Minor and the Levant, was one of centres of a Neolithic culture known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The following Neolithic period, PPNB, is represented by rectangular houses. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used vessels made of stone, gypsum and burnt lime (Vaisselle blanche). Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidences of early trade relations.

Further important sites of human advancement were Jarmo (circa 7100 BC), [30] a number of sites belonging to the Halaf culture, and Tell al-'Ubaid, the type site of the Ubaid period (between 6500 BC and 3800 BC). [31] The respective periods show ever-increasing levels of advancement in agriculture, tool-making and architecture.

Ancient Iraq

The historical period in Iraq truly begins during the Uruk period (4000 BC to 3100 BC), with the founding of a number of Sumerian cities, and the use of Pictographs, Cylinder seals and mass-produced goods. [33]

The "Cradle of Civilization" is thus a common term for the area comprising modern Iraq as it was home to the earliest known civilisation, the Sumerian civilisation, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq in the Chalcolithic (Ubaid period).

It was here, in the late 4th millennium BC, that the world's first writing system and recorded history itself were born. The Sumerians were also the first to harness the wheel and create City States, and whose writings record the first evidence of Mathematics, Astronomy, Astrology, Written Law, Medicine and Organised religion.

The cities to the north like Ashur, Arbela (modern Erbil) and Arrapha (modern Kirkuk) were also extant in what was to be called Assyria from the 25th century BC however, at this early stage, they were Sumerian ruled administrative centres.

Bronze Age

In the 26th century BC, Eannatum of Lagash created what was perhaps the first empire in history, though this was short-lived. Later, Lugal-Zage-Si, the priest-king of Umma, overthrew the primacy of the Lagash dynasty in the area, then conquered Uruk, making it his capital, and claimed an empire extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. [34] It was during this period that the Epic of Gilgamesh originates, which includes the tale of The Great Flood.

From the 29th century BC, Akkadian Semitic names began to appear on king lists and administrative documents of various city states. It remains unknown as to the origin of Akkad, where it was precisely situated and how it rose to prominence. Its people spoke Akkadian, an East Semitic language. [35]

During the 3rd millennium BC, a cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influences between Sumerian and Akkadian are evident in all areas, including lexical borrowing on a massive scale—and syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This mutual influence has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian of the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund. [36] From this period, the civilisation in Iraq came to be known as Sumero-Akkadian.

Between the 29th and 24th centuries BC, a number of kingdoms and city states within Iraq began to have Akkadian speaking dynasties including Assyria, Ekallatum, Isin and Larsa.

However, the Sumerians remained generally dominant until the rise of the Akkadian Empire (2335–2124 BC), based in the city of Akkad in central Iraq. Sargon of Akkad, originally a Rabshakeh to a Sumerian king, founded the empire, he conquered all of the city states of southern and central Iraq, and subjugated the kings of Assyria, thus uniting the Sumerians and Akkadians in one state. He then set about expanding his empire, conquering Gutium, Elam and had victories that did not result into a full conquest against the Amorites and Eblaites of Ancient Syria.

After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire in the late 22nd century BC, the Gutians occupied the south for a few decades, while Assyria reasserted its independence in the north. This was followed by a Sumerian renaissance in the form of the Neo-Sumerian Empire. The Sumerians under king Shulgi conquered almost all of Iraq except the northern reaches of Assyria, and asserted themselves over the Gutians, Elamites and Amorites, destroying the first and holding off the others.

An Elamite invasion in 2004 BC brought the Sumerian revival to an end. By the mid 21st century BC, the Akkadian speaking kingdom of Assyria had risen to dominance in northern Iraq. Assyria expanded territorially into the north eastern Levant, central Iraq, and eastern Anatolia, forming the Old Assyrian Empire (circa 2035–1750 BC) under kings such as Puzur-Ashur I, Sargon I, Ilushuma and Erishum I, the latter of whom produced the most detailed set of law yet written. [ citation needed ] The south broke up into a number of Akkadian speaking states, Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna being the major ones.

During the 20th century BC, the Canaanite speaking Amorites began to migrate into southern Mesopotamia. Eventually, they began to set up small petty kingdoms in the south, as well as usurping the thrones of extant city states such as Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna.

One of these small Amorite kingdoms founded in 1894 BC contained the then small administrative town of Babylon within its borders. It remained insignificant for over a century, overshadowed by older and more powerful states, such as Assyria, Elam, Isin, Ehnunna and Larsa.

In 1792 BC, an Amorite ruler named Hammurabi came to power in this state, and immediately set about building Babylon from a minor town into a major city, declaring himself its king. Hammurabi conquered the whole of southern and central Iraq, as well as Elam to the east and Mari to the west, then engaged in a protracted war with the Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan for domination of the region, creating the short-lived Babylonian Empire. He eventually prevailed over the successor of Ishme-Dagan and subjected Assyria and its Anatolian colonies. By the middle of the eighteenth century BC, the Sumerians had lost their cultural identity and ceased to exist as a distinct people. [37] [38] Genetic and cultural analysis indicates that the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq are probably their most direct modern descendants. [39] [40] [41]

It is from the period of Hammurabi that southern Iraq came to be known as Babylonia, while the north had already coalesced into Assyria hundreds of years before. However, his empire was short-lived, and rapidly collapsed after his death, with both Assyria and southern Iraq, in the form of the Sealand Dynasty, falling back into native Akkadian hands. The foreign Amorites clung on to power in a once more weak and small Babylonia until it was sacked by the Indo-European speaking Hittite Empire based in Anatolia in 1595 BC. After this, another foreign people, the Language Isolate speaking Kassites, originating in the Zagros Mountains of Ancient Iran, seized control of Babylonia, where they were to rule for almost 600 years, by far the longest dynasty ever to rule in Babylon.

Iraq was from this point divided into three polities: Assyria in the north, Kassite Babylonia in the south central region, and the Sealand Dynasty in the far south. The Sealand Dynasty was finally conquered by Kassite Babylonia circa 1380 BC.

The Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC) saw Assyria rise to be the most powerful nation in the known world. Beginning with the campaigns of Ashur-uballit I, Assyria destroyed the rival Hurrian-Mitanni Empire, annexed huge swathes of the Hittite Empire for itself, annexed northern Babylonia from the Kassites, forced the Egyptian Empire from the region, and defeated the Elamites, Phrygians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Cilicians, Gutians, Dilmunites and Arameans. At its height, the Middle Assyrian Empire stretched from The Caucasus to Dilmun (modern Bahrain), and from the Mediterranean coasts of Phoenicia to the Zagros Mountains of Iran. In 1235 BC, Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria took the throne of Babylon, thus becoming the first native Mesopotamian to rule the state.

During the Bronze Age collapse (1200–900 BC), Babylonia was in a state of chaos, dominated for long periods by Assyria and Elam. The Kassites were driven from power by Assyria and Elam, allowing native south Mesopotamian kings to rule Babylonia for the first time, although often subject to Assyrian or Elamite rulers. However, these East Semitic Akkadian kings, were unable to prevent new waves of West Semitic migrants entering southern Iraq, and during the 11th century BC Arameans and Suteans entered Babylonia from The Levant, and these were followed in the late 10th to early 9th century BC by the migrant Chaldeans who were closely related to the earlier Arameans.

Iron Age

After a period of comparative decline in Assyria, it once more began to expand with the Neo Assyrian Empire (935–605 BC). This was to be the largest empire the region had yet seen, and under rulers such as Adad-Nirari II, Ashurnasirpal, Shalmaneser III, Semiramis, Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, Iraq became the centre of an empire stretching from Persia, Parthia and Elam in the east, to Cyprus and Antioch in the west, and from The Caucasus in the north to Egypt, Nubia and Arabia in the south.

The Arabs and the Chaldeans are first mentioned in written history (circa 850 BC) in the annals of Shalmaneser III.

It was during this period that an Akkadian influenced form of Eastern Aramaic was adopted by the Assyrians as the lingua franca of their vast empire, and Mesopotamian Aramaic began to supplant Akkadian as the spoken language of the general populace of both Assyria and Babylonia. The descendant dialects of this tongue survive amongst the Mandaeans of southern Iraq and Assyrians of northern Iraq to this day.

In the late 7th century BC, the Assyrian Empire tore itself apart with a series of brutal civil wars, weakening itself to such a degree that a coalition of its former subjects the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Parthians, Scythians and Cimmerians, were able to attack Assyria, finally bringing its empire down by 605 BC. [42]

Babylonian and Persian periods

The short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire (620–539 BC) succeeded that of Assyria. It failed to attain the size, power or longevity of its predecessor however, it came to dominate The Levant, Canaan, Arabia, Israel and Judah, and to defeat Egypt. Initially, Babylon was ruled by yet another foreign dynasty, that of the Chaldeans, who had migrated to the region in the late 10th or early 9th century BC. Its greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar II, rivalled another non native ruler, the ethnically unrelated Amorite king Hammurabi, as the greatest king of Babylon. However, by 556 BC, the Chaldeans had been deposed from power by the Assyrian born Nabonidus and his son and regent Belshazzar.

In the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great of neighbouring Persia defeated the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the Battle of Opis and Iraq was subsumed into the Achaemenid Empire for nearly two centuries. The Achaemenids made Babylon their main capital. The Chaldeans and Chaldea disappeared at around this time, though both Assyria and Babylonia endured and thrived under Achaemenid rule (see Achaemenid Assyria). Little changed under the Persians, having spent three centuries under Assyrian rule, their kings saw themselves as successors to Ashurbanipal, and they retained Assyrian Imperial Aramaic as the language of empire, together with the Assyrian imperial infrastructure, and an Assyrian style of art and architecture. [ citation needed ]

In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the region, putting it under Hellenistic Seleucid rule for over two centuries. [43] The Seleucids introduced the Indo-Anatolian and Greek term Syria to the region. This name had for many centuries been the Indo-European word for Assyria and specifically and only meant Assyria however, the Seleucids also applied it to The Levant (Aramea, causing both the Assyria and the Assyrians of Iraq and the Arameans and The Levant to be called Syria and Syrians/Syriacs in the Greco-Roman world. [44]

The Parthians (247 BC – 224 AD) from Persia conquered the region during the reign of Mithridates I of Parthia (r. 171–138 BC). From Syria, the Romans invaded western parts of the region several times, briefly founding Assyria Provincia in Assyria. Christianity began to take hold in Iraq (particularly in Assyria) between the 1st and 3rd centuries, and Assyria became a centre of Syriac Christianity, the Church of the East and Syriac literature. A number of independent states evolved in the north during the Parthian era, such as Adiabene, Assur, Osroene and Hatra.

The Sassanids of Persia under Ardashir I destroyed the Parthian Empire and conquered the region in 224 AD. During the 240s and 250's AD, the Sassanids gradually conquered the independent states, culminating with Assur in 256 AD. The region was thus a province of the Sassanid Empire for over four centuries, and became the frontier and battle ground between the Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Empire, with both empires weakening each other, paving the way for the Arab-Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century.

Middle Ages

The Arab Islamic conquest in the mid-7th century AD established Islam in Iraq and saw a large influx of Arabs. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, the prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, moved his capital to Kufa when he became the fourth caliph. The Umayyad Caliphate ruled the province of Iraq from Damascus in the 7th century. (However, eventually there was a separate, independent Caliphate of Córdoba in Iberia.)

The Abbasid Caliphate built the city of Baghdad along the Tigris in the 8th century as its capital, and the city became the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world for five centuries. Baghdad was the largest multicultural city of the Middle Ages, peaking at a population of more than a million, [47] and was the centre of learning during the Islamic Golden Age. The Mongols destroyed the city and burned its library during the siege of Baghdad in the 13th century. [48]

In 1257, Hulagu Khan amassed an unusually large army, a significant portion of the Mongol Empire's forces, for the purpose of conquering Baghdad. When they arrived at the Islamic capital, Hulagu Khan demanded its surrender, but the last Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta'sim refused. This angered Hulagu, and, consistent with Mongol strategy of discouraging resistance, he besieged Baghdad, sacked the city and massacred many of the inhabitants. [49] Estimates of the number of dead range from 200,000 to a million. [50]

The Mongols destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate and Baghdad's House of Wisdom, which contained countless precious and historical documents. The city has never regained its previous pre-eminence as a major centre of culture and influence. Some historians believe that the Mongol invasion destroyed much of the irrigation infrastructure that had sustained Mesopotamia for millennia. Other historians point to soil salination as the culprit in the decline in agriculture. [51]

The mid-14th-century Black Death ravaged much of the Islamic world. [52] The best estimate for the Middle East is a death rate of roughly one-third. [53]

In 1401, a warlord of Mongol descent, Tamerlane (Timur Lenk), invaded Iraq. After the capture of Baghdad, 20,000 of its citizens were massacred. [54] Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur). [55] Timur also conducted massacres of the indigenous Assyrian Christian population, hitherto still the majority population in northern Mesopotamia, and it was during this time that the ancient Assyrian city of Assur was finally abandoned. [56]

Ottoman Iraq

During the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the Black Sheep Turkmen ruled the area now known as Iraq. In 1466, the White Sheep Turkmen defeated the Black Sheep and took control. From the earliest 16th century, in 1508, as with all territories of the former White Sheep Turkmen, Iraq fell into the hands of the Iranian Safavids. Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian rivalry between the Safavids and the neighbouring Ottoman Turks, Iraq would be contested between the two for more than a hundred years during the frequent Ottoman-Persian Wars.

With the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, most of the territory of present-day Iraq eventually came under the control of Ottoman Empire as the eyalet of Baghdad as a result of wars with the neighbouring rival, Safavid Iran. Throughout most of the period of Ottoman rule (1533–1918), the territory of present-day Iraq was a battle zone between the rival regional empires and tribal alliances.

By the 17th century, the frequent conflicts with the Safavids had sapped the strength of the Ottoman Empire and had weakened its control over its provinces. The nomadic population swelled with the influx of bedouins from Najd, in the Arabian Peninsula. Bedouin raids on settled areas became impossible to curb. [57]

During the years 1747–1831, Iraq was ruled by a Mamluk dynasty of Georgian [58] origin who succeeded in obtaining autonomy from the Ottoman Porte, suppressed tribal revolts, curbed the power of the Janissaries, restored order and introduced a programme of modernisation of economy and military. In 1831, the Ottomans managed to overthrow the Mamluk regime and imposed their direct control over Iraq. The population of Iraq, estimated at 30 million in 800 AD, was only 5 million at the start of the 20th century. [59]

During World War I, the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. In the Mesopotamian campaign against the Central Powers, British forces invaded the country and initially suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Turkish army during the Siege of Kut (1915–1916). However, subsequent to this the British began to gain the upper hand, and were further aided by the support of local Arabs and Assyrians. In 1916, the British and French made a plan for the post-war division of Western Asia under the Sykes-Picot Agreement. [60] British forces regrouped and captured Baghdad in 1917, and defeated the Ottomans. An armistice was signed in 1918. The British lost 92,000 soldiers in the Mesopotamian campaign. Ottoman losses are unknown but the British captured a total of 45,000 prisoners of war. By the end of 1918, the British had deployed 410,000 men in the area, of which 112,000 were combat troops. [ citation needed ]

Contemporary period

British administration and independent kingdom

The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman language: Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. These three provinces were joined into one Kingdom by the British after the region became a League of Nations mandate, administered under British control, with the name "State of Iraq". A fourth province (Zor Sanjak), which Iraqi nationalists considered part of Upper Mesopotamia was ultimately added to Syria. [61] [62] In line with their "Sharifian Solution" policy, the British established the Hashemite king, Faisal I of Iraq, who had been forced out of Syria by the French, as their client ruler. Likewise, British authorities selected Sunni Arab elites from the region for appointments to government and ministry offices. [ specify ] [63] [ page needed ] [64]

Faced with spiraling costs and influenced by the public protestations of the war hero T. E. Lawrence [65] in The Times, Britain replaced Arnold Wilson in October 1920 with a new Civil Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox. [66] Cox managed to quell a rebellion, yet was also responsible for implementing the fateful policy of close co-operation with Iraq's Sunni minority. [67] The institution of slavery was abolished in the 1920s. [68]

Britain granted independence to the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, [69] on the urging of King Faisal, though the British retained military bases, local militia in the form of Assyrian Levies, and transit rights for their forces. King Ghazi ruled as a figurehead after King Faisal's death in 1933, while undermined by attempted military coups, until his death in 1939. Ghazi was followed by his underage son, Faisal II. 'Abd al-Ilah served as Regent during Faisal's minority.

On 1 April 1941, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani and members of the Golden Square staged a coup d'état and overthrew the government of 'Abd al-Ilah. During the subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War, the United Kingdom (which still maintained air bases in Iraq) invaded Iraq for fear that the Rashid Ali government might cut oil supplies to Western nations because of his links to the Axis powers. The war started on 2 May, and the British, together with loyal Assyrian Levies, [70] defeated the forces of Al-Gaylani, forcing an armistice on 31 May.

A military occupation followed the restoration of the pre-coup government of the Hashemite monarchy. The occupation ended on 26 October 1947, although Britain was to retain military bases in Iraq until 1954, after which the Assyrian militias were disbanded. The rulers during the occupation and the remainder of the Hashemite monarchy were Nuri as-Said, the autocratic Prime Minister, who also ruled from 1930 to 1932, and 'Abd al-Ilah, the former Regent who now served as an adviser to King Faisal II.

Republic and Ba'athist Iraq

In 1958, a coup d'état known as the 14 July Revolution was led by the Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim. This revolt was strongly anti-imperial and anti-monarchical in nature and had strong socialist elements. Numerous people were killed in the coup, including King Faysal II, Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Sa'id. [71] Qasim controlled Iraq through military rule and in 1958 he began a process of forcibly reducing the surplus amounts of land owned by a few citizens and having the state redistribute the land. He was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif in a February 1963 coup. After the latter's death in 1966, he was succeeded by his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, who was overthrown by the Ba'ath Party in 1968. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became the first Ba'ath President of Iraq but then the movement gradually came under the control of Saddam Hussein, who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), then Iraq's supreme executive body, in July 1979.

In 1979, the Iranian Revolution took place. Following months of cross-border raids between the two countries, Saddam declared war on Iran in September 1980, initiating the Iran–Iraq War (or First Persian Gulf War). Taking advantage of the post-revolution chaos in Iran, Iraq captured some territories in southwest of Iran, but Iran recaptured all of the lost territories within two years, and for the next six years Iran was on the offensive. [72] [ page needed ] The war, which ended in stalemate in 1988, had cost the lives of between half a million and 1.5 million people. [73] In 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed an Iraqi nuclear materials testing reactor at Osirak and was widely criticised at the United Nations. [74] [75] During the eight-year war with Iran, Saddam Hussein extensively used chemical weapons against Iranians. [76] In the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War, the Ba'athist Iraqi regime led the Al-Anfal Campaign, a genocidal [77] campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds, [78] [79] [80] and led to the killing of 50,000–100,000 civilians. [81]

In August 1990, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. This subsequently led to military intervention by United States-led forces in the First Gulf War. The coalition forces proceeded with a bombing campaign targeting military targets [82] [83] [84] and then launched a 100-hour-long ground assault against Iraqi forces in Southern Iraq and those occupying Kuwait.

Iraq's armed forces were devastated during the war. Shortly after it ended in 1991, Kurdish Iraqis led several uprisings against Saddam Hussein's regime, but these were successfully repressed using the Iraqi security forces and chemical weapons. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people, including many civilians were killed. [85] During the uprisings the US, UK, France and Turkey, claiming authority under UNSCR 688, established the Iraqi no-fly zones to protect Kurdish population from attacks by the Saddam regime's fixed-wing aircraft (but not helicopters).

Iraq was ordered to destroy its chemical and biological weapons and the UN attempted to compel Saddam's government to disarm and agree to a ceasefire by imposing additional sanctions on the country in addition to the initial sanctions imposed following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi Government's failure to disarm and agree to a ceasefire resulted in sanctions which remained in place until 2003. The effects of the sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq have been disputed. [86] [87] Whereas it was widely believed that the sanctions caused a major rise in child mortality, recent research has shown that commonly cited data were fabricated by the Iraqi government and that "there was no major rise in child mortality in Iraq after 1990 and during the period of the sanctions." [88] [89] [90] An oil for food program was established in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions.

Following the September 11 attacks, the George W. Bush administration began planning the overthrow of Saddam's government and in October 2002, the US Congress passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. In November 2002, the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 1441 and in March 2003 the US and its allies invaded Iraq.

21st century

2003–2007: Invasion and occupation

On 20 March 2003, a United States-organized coalition invaded Iraq, under the pretext that Iraq had failed to abandon its weapons of mass destruction program in violation of UN Resolution 687. This claim was based on documents provided by the CIA and the British government that were later found to be unreliable. [91] [92] [93]

Following the invasion, the United States established the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern Iraq. In May 2003 L. Paul Bremer, the chief executive of the CPA, issued orders to exclude Baath Party members from the new Iraqi government (CPA Order 1) and to disband the Iraqi Army (CPA Order 2). [94] The decision dissolved the largely Sunni Iraqi Army and excluded many of the country's former government officials from participating in the country's governance, [95] including 40,000 school teachers who had joined the Baath Party simply to keep their jobs, [96] helping to bring about a chaotic post-invasion environment. [97]

An insurgency against the US-led coalition-rule of Iraq began in summer 2003 within elements of the former Iraqi secret police and army, who formed guerrilla units. In fall 2003, self-entitled 'jihadist' groups began targeting coalition forces. Various Sunni militias were created in 2003, for example Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The insurgency included intense inter-ethnic violence between Sunnis and Shias. [98] The Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal came to light, late 2003 in reports by Amnesty International and Associated Press.

The Mahdi Army—a Shia militia created in the summer of 2003 by Muqtada al-Sadr—began to fight Coalition forces in April 2004. [99] 2004 saw Sunni and Shia militants fighting against each other and against the new Iraqi Interim Government installed in June 2004, and against Coalition forces, as well as the First Battle of Fallujah in April and Second Battle of Fallujah in November. The Madhi army would kidnap Sunni civilians as part of a genocide that occurred against them. [100]

In January 2005, the first elections since the invasion took place and in October a new Constitution was approved, [1] which was followed by parliamentary elections in December. However, insurgent attacks were common and increased to 34,131 in 2005 from 26,496 in 2004. [101]

During 2006, fighting continued and reached its highest levels of violence, more war crimes scandals were made public, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed by US forces and Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity and hanged. [102] [103] [104] In late 2006, the US government's Iraq Study Group recommended that the US begin focusing on training Iraqi military personnel and in January 2007 US President George W. Bush announced a "Surge" in the number of US troops deployed to the country. [105]

In May 2007, Iraq's Parliament called on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal and US coalition partners such as the UK and Denmark began withdrawing their forces from the country. [106] [107] [108] The war in Iraq has resulted in between 151,000 and 1.2 million Iraqis being killed. [109] [110]

2008–2018: Instability and ISIS

In 2008, fighting continued and Iraq's newly trained armed forces launched attacks against militants. The Iraqi government signed the US–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which required US forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by 30 June 2009 and to withdraw completely from Iraq by 31 December 2011.

US troops handed over security duties to Iraqi forces in June 2009, though they continued to work with Iraqi forces after the pullout. [111] On the morning of 18 December 2011, the final contingent of US troops to be withdrawn ceremonially exited over the border to Kuwait. [14] Crime and violence initially spiked in the months following the US withdrawal from cities in mid-2009 [112] [113] but despite the initial increase in violence, in November 2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion. [114]

Following the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, the insurgency continued and Iraq suffered from political instability. In February 2011, the Arab Spring protests spread to Iraq [115] but the initial protests did not topple the government. The Iraqi National Movement, reportedly representing the majority of Iraqi Sunnis, boycotted Parliament for several weeks in late 2011 and early 2012, claiming that the Shiite-dominated government was striving to sideline Sunnis.

In 2012 and 2013, levels of violence increased and armed groups inside Iraq were increasingly galvanised by the Syrian Civil War. Both Sunnis and Shias crossed the border to fight in Syria. [116] In December 2012, Sunni Arabs protested against the government, whom they claimed marginalised them. [117] [118]

During 2013, Sunni militant groups stepped up attacks targeting the Iraq's population in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Nouri al-Maliki-led government. [119] In 2014, Sunni insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group seized control of large swathes of land including several major Iraqi cities, like Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul creating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons amid reports of atrocities by ISIL fighters. [120]

After an inconclusive election in April 2014, Nouri al-Maliki served as caretaker-Prime-Minister. [121]

On 11 August, Iraq's highest court ruled that PM Maliki's bloc was the largest in parliament, meaning Maliki could stay Prime Minister. [121] By 13 August, however, the Iraqi president had tasked Haider al-Abadi with forming a new government, and the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and some Iraqi politicians expressed their wish for a new leadership in Iraq, for example from Haider al-Abadi. [122] On 14 August, Maliki stepped down as PM to support Mr al-Abadi and to "safeguard the high interests of the country". The US government welcomed this as "another major step forward" in uniting Iraq. [123] [124] On 9 September 2014, Haider al-Abadi had formed a new government and became the new prime minister. [ citation needed ] Intermittent conflict between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions has led to increasing debate about the splitting of Iraq into three autonomous regions, including Sunni Kurdistan in the northeast, a Sunnistan in the west and a Shiastan in the southeast. [125]

In response to rapid territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the first half of 2014, and its universally-condemned executions and reported human rights abuses, many states began to intervene against it in the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017). Since the airstrikes started, ISIL has been losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. [126] Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Iraq in ISIL-linked violence. [127] [128] The genocide of Yazidis by ISIL has led to the expulsion, flight and effective exile of the Yazidis from their ancestral lands in northern Iraq. [129] The 2016 Karrada bombing killed nearly 400 civilians and injured hundreds more. [130] On 17 March 2017, a US-led coalition airstrike in Mosul killed more than 200 civilians. [131]

Since 2015, ISIL lost territory in Iraq, including Tikrit in March and April 2015, [132] Baiji in October 2015, [133] Sinjar in November 2015, [134] Ramadi in December 2015, [135] Fallujah in June 2016 [136] and Mosul in July 2017. By December 2017, ISIL had no remaining territory in Iraq, following the 2017 Western Iraq campaign. [137]

In September 2017, a referendum was held regarding Kurdish independence in Iraq. 92% of Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence. [138] The referendum was regarded as illegal by the federal government in Baghdad. [139] In March 2018, Turkey launched military operations to eliminate the Kurdish separatist fighters in northern Iraq. [140] Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political coalition won Iraq's parliamentary election in May 2018. [141]

2019–present: Civil unrest and proxy war

Serious civil unrest rocked the country beginning in Baghdad and Najaf in July 2018 and spreading to other provinces in late September 2019 as rallies to protest corruption, unemployment, and public service failures turned violent. [142] Protests and demonstrations started again on 1 October 2019, against 16 years of corruption, unemployment and inefficient public services, before they escalated into calls to overthrow the administration and to stop Iranian intervention in Iraq. The Iraqi government at times reacted harshly, resulting in over 500 deaths by 12 December 2019.

On 27 December 2019, the K-1 Air Base in Iraq was attacked by more than 30 rockets, killing a U.S. civilian contractor and injuring others. The U.S. blamed the Iranian-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah militia. Later that month, the United States bombed five Kata'ib Hezbollah militia's positions in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for the presumed Kata'ib attack of 27 December. According to Iraqi sources, at least 25 militia fighters were killed. On 31 December 2019, after a funeral for Kata'ib Hezbollah militiamen killed by U.S. airstrikes, dozens of Iraqi Shia militiamen and their supporters marched into the Green Zone of Baghdad and surrounded the U.S. embassy compound (see article: Attack on the United States embassy in Baghdad). Demonstrators smashed a door of the checkpoint, set fire to the reception area, left anti-American posters and sprayed anti-American graffiti. U.S. president Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the attack.

On 3 January 2020, amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran, the U.S. launched a drone strike on a convoy traveling near Baghdad International Airport, killing Qasem Soleimani, Iranian major general and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force commander, the second most powerful person of Iran [143] Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or PMU), four senior Iranian officers and four Iraqi officers.

Following months of protests that broke out across Iraq in October 2019 and the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet, Mustafa Al Kadhimi became a leading contender for the Premiership. [144] On 9 April 2020, he was named by President Barham Salih as prime minister-designate, the third person tapped to lead the country in just 10 weeks as it struggled to replace a government that fell the year prior after months of protests. Kadhimi was nominated by President Barham Salih, state television reported, shortly after the previous designated prime minister, Adnan al-Zurfi, announced he was withdrawing having failed to secure enough support to pass a government. [145]

Iraq lies between latitudes 29° and 38° N, and longitudes 39° and 49° E (a small area lies west of 39°). Spanning 437,072 km 2 (168,754 sq mi), it is the 58th-largest country in the world. It is comparable in size to the US state of California, and somewhat larger than Paraguay.

Iraq mainly consists of desert, but near the two major rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) are fertile alluvial plains, as the rivers carry about 60,000,000 m 3 (78,477,037 cu yd) of silt annually to the delta. The north of the country is mostly composed of mountains the highest point being at 3,611 m (11,847 ft) point, unnamed on the map opposite, but known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). Iraq has a small coastline measuring 58 km (36 mi) along 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 were drained in the 1990s.


Most of Iraq has a hot arid climate with subtropical influence. Summer temperatures average above 40 °C (104 °F) for most of the country and frequently exceed 48 °C (118.4 °F). Winter temperatures infrequently exceed 21 °C (69.8 °F) with maxima roughly 15 to 19 °C (59.0 to 66.2 °F) and night-time lows 2 to 5 °C (35.6 to 41.0 °F). Typically, precipitation is low most places receive less than 250 mm (9.8 in) annually, with maximum rainfall occurring during the winter months. Rainfall during the summer is extremely rare, except in the far north of the country. The northern mountainous regions have cold winters with occasional heavy snows, sometimes causing extensive flooding.

Climate change in Iraq is leading to increasing temperatures, reduced precipitation, and increasing water scarcity which will likely have serious implications for the country for years to come. [147]

The federal government of Iraq is defined under the current Constitution as a democratic, federal parliamentary republic. The federal government is composed of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as numerous independent commissions. Aside from the federal government, there are regions (made of one or more governorates), governorates, and districts within Iraq with jurisdiction over various matters as defined by law. [1]

The National Alliance is the main Shia parliamentary bloc, and was established as a result of a merger of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's State of Law Coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance. [148] The Iraqi National Movement is led by Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia widely supported by Sunnis. The party has a more consistent anti-sectarian perspective than most of its rivals. [148] The Kurdistan List is dominated by two parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masood Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Jalal Talabani. Both parties are secular and enjoy close ties with the West. [148]

In 2008, according to the Failed States Index, Iraq was the world's eleventh most politically unstable country. [149] [150] The concentration of power in the hands of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and growing pressure on the opposition led to growing concern about the future of political rights in Iraq. [151] Nevertheless, progress was made and the country had risen to 11th place by 2013. [152] In August 2014, al-Maliki's reign came to an end. He announced on 14 August 2014 that he would stand aside so that Haider Al-Abadi, who had been nominated just days earlier by newly installed President Fuad Masum, could take over. Until that point, al-Maliki had clung to power even asking the federal court to veto the president's nomination describing it as a violation of the constitution. [153]

Transparency International ranks Iraq's government as the eighth-most-corrupt government in the world. Government payroll have increased from 1 million employees under Saddam Hussein to around 7 million employees in 2016. In combination with decreased oil prices, the government budget deficit is near 25% of GDP as of 2016 [update] . [154]

Since the establishment of the no–fly zones following the Gulf War of 1990–1991, the Kurds established their own autonomous region. [ citation needed ]

In October 2005, the new Constitution of Iraq was approved in a referendum with a 78% overall majority, although the percentage of support varying widely between the country's territories. [155] The new constitution was backed by the Shia and Kurdish communities, but was rejected by Arab Sunnis. Under the terms of the constitution, the country conducted fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on 15 December 2005. All three major ethnic groups in Iraq voted along ethnic lines, as did Assyrian and Turcoman minorities.

Law no. 188 of the year 1959 (Personal Status Law) [156] made polygamy extremely difficult, granted child custody to the mother in case of divorce, prohibited repudiation and marriage under the age of 16. [157] Article 1 of Civil Code also identifies Islamic law as a formal source of law. [158] Iraq had no Sharia courts but civil courts used Sharia for issues of personal status including marriage and divorce. In 1995 Iraq introduced Sharia punishment for certain types of criminal offences. [159] The code is based on French civil law as well as Sunni and Jafari (Shi'ite) interpretations of Sharia. [160]

In 2004, the CPA chief executive L. Paul Bremer said he would veto any constitutional draft stating that sharia is the principal basis of law. [161] The declaration enraged many local Shia clerics, [162] and by 2005 the United States had relented, allowing a role for sharia in the constitution to help end a stalemate on the draft constitution. [163]

The Iraqi Penal Code is the statutory law of Iraq.


Iraqi security forces are composed of forces serving under the Ministry of Interior (which controls the Police and Popular Mobilization Forces) and the Ministry of Defense, as well as the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Bureau, reporting directly to the Prime Minister of Iraq, which oversees the Iraqi Special Operations Forces. Ministry of Defense forces include the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Navy. The Peshmerga are a separate armed force loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The regional government and the central government disagree as to whether they are under Baghdad's authority and to what extent. [164]

The Iraqi Army is an objective counter-insurgency force that as of November 2009 includes 14 divisions, each division consisting of 4 brigades. [165] It is described as the most important element of the counter-insurgency fight. [166] Light infantry brigades are equipped with small arms, machine guns, RPGs, body armour and light armoured vehicles. Mechanized infantry brigades are equipped with T-54/55 main battle tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. [166] As of mid-2008, logistical problems included a maintenance crisis and ongoing supply problems. [167]

The Iraqi Air Force is designed to support ground forces with surveillance, reconnaissance and troop lift. Two reconnaissance squadrons use light aircraft, three helicopter squadrons are used to move troops and one air transportation squadron uses C-130 transport aircraft to move troops, equipment, and supplies. It currently has 3,000 personnel. It is planned to increase to 18,000 personnel, with 550 aircraft by 2018. [166]

The Iraqi Navy is a small force with 1,500 sailors and officers, including 800 Marines, designed to protect shoreline and inland waterways from insurgent infiltration. The navy is also responsible for the security of offshore oil platforms. The navy will have coastal patrol squadrons, assault boat squadrons and a marine battalion. [166] The force will consist of 2,000 to 2,500 sailors by year 2010. [168]

On 4 November 2019, more than 100 Australian Defence Force personnel left Darwin for the 10th rotation of Task Group Taji base in north of Baghdad. The Australian contingent mentors the Iraqi School of Infantry, where the Iraqi Security Forces are trained. However, Australia's contribution was reduced from 250 to 120 ADF personnel, which along with New Zealand had trained over 45,000 ISF members before that. [169]

Foreign relations

On 17 November 2008, the US and Iraq agreed to a Status of Forces Agreement, [170] as part of the broader Strategic Framework Agreement. [171] This agreement states "the Government of Iraq requests" US forces to temporarily remain in Iraq to "maintain security and stability" and that Iraq has jurisdiction over military contractors, and US personnel when not on US bases or on–duty.

On 12 February 2009, Iraq officially became the 186th State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Under the provisions of this treaty, Iraq is considered a party with declared stockpiles of chemical weapons. Because of their late accession, Iraq is the only State Party exempt from the existing timeline for destruction of their chemical weapons. Specific criteria is in development to address the unique nature of Iraqi accession. [172]

Iran–Iraq relations have flourished since 2005 by the exchange of high level visits: Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki made frequent visits to Iran, along with Jalal Talabani visiting numerous times, to help boost bilateral co-operation in all fields. [ citation needed ] A conflict occurred in December 2009, when Iraq accused Iran of seizing an oil well on the border. [173]

Relationships with Turkey are tense, largely because of the Kurdistan Regional Government, as clashes between Turkey and the PKK continue. [174] In October 2011, the Turkish parliament renewed a law that gives Turkish forces the ability to pursue rebels over the border in Iraq." [175]

On 5 January 2020, the Iraqi parliament voted for a resolution that urges the government to work on expelling U.S. troops from Iraq. The resolution was passed two days after a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of the Quds Force. The resolution specifically calls for ending of a 2014 agreement allowing Washington to help Iraq against Islamic State groups by sending troops. [176] This resolution will also signify ending an agreement with Washington to station troops in Iraq as Iran vows to retaliate after the killing. [177] On 28 September 2020, Washington made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq, as a result of Iranian-backed militias firing rockets at the American Embassy in Baghdad. The officials said that the move was seen as an escalation of US’ confrontation with Iran. [178]

Human rights

Relations between Iraq and its Kurdish population have been sour in recent history, especially with Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against them in the 1980s. After uprisings during the early 90s, many Kurds fled their homeland and no-fly zones were established in northern Iraq to prevent more conflicts. Despite historically poor relations, some progress has been made, and Iraq elected its first Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, in 2005. Furthermore, Kurdish is now an official language of Iraq alongside Arabic according to Article 4 of the Constitution. [1]

Administrative divisions

Iraq is composed of nineteen governorates (or provinces) (Arabic: muhafadhat (singular muhafadhah) Kurdish: پارێزگا Pârizgah). The governorates are subdivided into districts (or qadhas), which are further divided into sub-districts (or nawāḥī). Kurdistan Region (Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja) is the only legally defined region within Iraq, with its own government and quasi-official army Peshmerga.

Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. The lack of development in other sectors has resulted in 18%–30% unemployed and a per capita GDP of $4,000. [2] Public sector employment accounted for nearly 60% of full-time employment in 2011. [180] The oil export industry, which dominates the Iraqi economy, generates very little employment. [180] Currently only a modest percentage of women (the highest estimate for 2011 was 22%) participate in the labour force. [180]

Prior to US occupation, Iraq's centrally planned economy prohibited foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, ran most large industries as state-owned enterprises, and imposed large tariffs to keep out foreign goods. [181] After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority quickly began issuing many binding orders privatising Iraq's economy and opening it up to foreign investment.

On 20 November 2004, the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to write off 80% ($33 billion) of Iraq's $42 billion debt to Club members. Iraq's total external debt was around $120 billion at the time of the 2003 invasion, and had grown another $5 billion by 2004. The debt relief will be implemented in three stages: two of 30% each and one of 20%. [182]

The official currency in Iraq is the Iraqi dinar. The Coalition Provisional Authority issued new dinar coins and notes, with the notes printed by De La Rue using modern anti-forgery techniques. [183] Jim Cramer's 20 October 2009 endorsement of the Iraqi dinar on CNBC has further piqued interest in the investment. [184]

Five years after the invasion, an estimated 2.4 million people were internally displaced (with a further two million refugees outside Iraq), four million Iraqis were considered food-insecure (a quarter of children were chronically malnourished) and only a third of Iraqi children had access to safe drinking water. [185]

According to the Overseas Development Institute, international NGOs face challenges in carrying out their mission, leaving their assistance "piecemeal and largely conducted undercover, hindered by insecurity, a lack of coordinated funding, limited operational capacity and patchy information". [185] International NGOs have been targeted and during the first 5 years, 94 aid workers were killed, 248 injured, 24 arrested or detained and 89 kidnapped or abducted. [185]

Oil and energy

With its 143.1 billion barrels (2.275 × 10 10 m 3 ) of proved oil reserves, Iraq ranks third in the world behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia in the amount of oil reserves. [186] [187] Oil production levels reached 3.4 million barrels per day by December 2012. [188] Only about 2,000 oil wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with about 1 million wells in Texas alone. [189] Iraq was one of the founding members of OPEC. [190] [191]

During the 1970s Iraq produced up to 3.5 million barrels per day, but sanctions imposed against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 crippled the country's oil sector. The sanctions prohibited Iraq from exporting oil until 1996 and Iraq's output declined by 85% in the years following the First Gulf War. The sanctions were lifted in 2003 after the US-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein from power, but development of Iraq's oil resources has been hampered by the ongoing conflict. [192]

As of 2010 [update] , despite improved security and billions of dollars in oil revenue, Iraq still generates about half the electricity that customers demand, leading to protests during the hot summer months. [193]

The Iraq oil law, a proposed piece of legislation submitted to the Council of Representatives of Iraq in 2007, has failed to gain approval due to disagreements among Iraq's various political blocs. [194] [195]

According to a US Study from May 2007, between 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m 3 /d) and 300,000 barrels per day (48,000 m 3 /d) of Iraq's declared oil production over the past four years could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling. [196] In 2008, Al Jazeera reported $13 billion of Iraqi oil revenues in US care was improperly accounted for, of which $2.6 billion is totally unaccounted for. [197] Some reports that the government has reduced corruption in public procurement of oil however, reliable reports of bribery and kickbacks to government officials persist. [198]

In June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced plans to go ahead with small one- or two-year no-bid contracts to ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and BP—once partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company—along with Chevron and smaller firms to service Iraq's largest fields. [199] These plans were cancelled in September because negotiations had stalled for so long that the work could not be completed within the time frame, according to Iraqi oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani. Several United States senators had also criticised the deal, arguing it was hindering efforts to pass the hydrocarbon law. [200]

On 30 June and 11 December 2009, the Iraqi ministry of oil awarded service contracts to international oil companies for some of Iraq's many oil fields. [201] [202] Oil fields contracted include the "super-giant" Majnoon oil field, Halfaya Field, West Qurna Field and Rumaila Field. [202] BP and China National Petroleum Corporation won a deal to develop Rumaila, the largest Iraqi oil field. [203] [204]

On 14 March 2014, the International Energy Agency said Iraq's oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country had not pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. [205] However, on 14 July 2014, as sectarian strife had taken hold, Kurdistan Regional Government forces seized control of the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields in the north of the country, taking them from Iraq's control. Baghdad condemned the seizure and threatened "dire consequences" if the fields were not returned. [206]

The UN estimates that oil accounts for 99% of Iraq's revenue. [192]

Water supply and sanitation

Water supply and sanitation in Iraq is characterized by poor water and service quality. Three decades of war, combined with limited environmental awareness, have destroyed Iraq's water resources management system. Access to potable water differs significantly among governorates and between urban and rural areas. 91% of the entire population has access to potable water. But in rural areas, only 77% of the population has access to improved drinking water sources compared to 98% in urban areas. [207] Large amounts of water are wasted during production. [207]


Although many infrastructure projects are underway, Iraq remains in deep housing crisis, with the war-ravaged country likely to complete only 5 percent of the 2.5 million homes it needs to build by 2016 to keep up with demand, the Minister for Construction and Housing said in September 2013. [208]

  • In 2009, the IBBC was established (Iraq Britain Business Council). The council was established by Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne.
  • In August 2009, two American firms reached a deal with the Iraqi Government to build Basra Sports City, a new sports complex.
  • In October 2012, the Emirati property firm, Emaar Properties reached a deal with the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing to build and develop housing and commercial projects in Iraq.
  • In January 2013, the Emirati property firm, Nakheel Properties signed a deal to build Al Nakheel City, a future town in Basra, Iraq.

The 2018 estimate of the total Iraqi population is 38,433,600. [5] [6] Iraq's population was estimated to be 2 million in 1878. [209] In 2013 Iraq's population reached 35 million amid a post-war population boom. [212]

Ethnic groups

Iraq's native population is predominantly Arab, but also includes other ethnic groups such as Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabaks, Armenians, Sabian-Mandaeans, Circassians, and Kawliya.

A report by the European Parliamentary Research Service suggests that, in 2015, there were 24 million Arabs (14 million Shia and 9 million Sunni) 4.7 million Sunni Kurds (plus 500,000 Faili Kurds and 200,000 Kaka'i) 3 million (mostly Sunni Iraqi Turkmen) 1 million Black Iraqis 500,000 Christians (including Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians and Armenians) 500,000 Yazidis 250,000 Shabaks 50,000 Roma 3,000 Sabian-Mandaeans 2,000 Circassians 1,000 of the Baháʼí Faith and a few dozen Jews. [213]

According to the CIA World Factbook, citing a 1987 Iraqi government estimate, [2] the population of Iraq is 75–80% Arab followed by 15% Kurds. [2] In addition, the estimate claims that other minorities form 5% of the country's population, including the Turkmen/Turcoman, Assyrians, Yezidis, Shabak, Kaka'i, Bedouins, Roma, Circassians, Sabian-Mandaeans, and Persians. [2] However, the International Crisis Group points out that figures from the 1987 census, as well as the 1967, 1977, and 1997 censuses, "are all considered highly problematic, due to suspicions of regime manipulation" because Iraqi citizens were only allowed to indicate belonging to either the Arab or Kurdish ethnic groups [214] consequently, this skewed the number of other ethnic minorities, such as Iraq's third largest ethnic group – the Turkmens. [214]

Around 20,000 Marsh Arabs live in southern Iraq. [215]

Iraq has a community of 2,500 Chechens. [216] In southern Iraq, there is a community of Iraqis of African descent, a legacy of the slavery practised in the Islamic Caliphate beginning before the Zanj Rebellion of the 9th century, and Basra's role as a key port. [68] It is the most populous country in the Arabian Plate. [217]


The main languages spoken in Iraq are Mesopotamian Arabic and Kurdish, followed by the Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialect of Turkish, and the Neo-Aramaic languages (specifically Chaldean and Assyrian). [218] Arabic and Kurdish are written with versions of the Arabic script. Since 2005, the Turkmen/Turkoman have switched from the Arabic script to the Turkish alphabet. [219] In addition, the Neo-Aramaic languages use the Syriac script.

Other smaller minority languages include Mandaic, Shabaki, Armenian, Circassian and Persian.

Prior to the invasion in 2003, Arabic was the sole official language. Since the new Constitution of Iraq was approved in 2005, both Arabic and Kurdish are recognized (Article 4) as official languages of Iraq, while three other languages: Turkmen, Syriac and Armenian, are also recognized as minority languages. In addition, any region or province may declare other languages official if a majority of the population approves in a general referendum. In addition, any region or province may declare other languages official if a majority of the population approves in a general referendum. [1]

According to the Constitution of Iraq (Article 4):

The Arabic language and the Kurdish language are the two official languages of Iraq. The right of Iraqis to educate their children in their mother tongue, such as Turkmen, Syriac, and Armenian shall be guaranteed in government educational institutions in accordance with educational guidelines, or in any other language in private educational institutions. [1]

Urban areas


Religions in Iraq are dominantly Abrahamic with the CIA World Factbook (2021) stating that 95-98% were Muslim (Shia 64-69%, Sunni 29-34%), Christian <0.1%, Yazidi <0.1%, Sabian-Mandaean <0.1%, Baháʼí <0.1%, Zoroastrian <0.1%, Hindu <0.1%, Buddhist <0.1%, Jewish <0.1%, folk religion <0.1, unaffiliated 0.1%, other <0.1% [2] It has a mixed Shia and Sunni population. An older 2011 Pew Research Center estimates that 47

51% of Muslims in Iraq see themselves as Shia, 42% are Sunni, while 5% identify themselves as "Just a Muslim". [222]

The Sunni population complains of facing discrimination in almost all aspects of life by the government. However, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (who has a history of terrorist activities) denied that such discrimination occurs. [223]

Christianity in Iraq has its roots from the conception of the Church of the East in the 5th century AD, predating the existence of Islam in the region. Christians in Iraq are predominantly native Assyrians belonging to the Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church and Syriac Orthodox Church. There is also a significant population of Armenian Christians in Iraq who had fled Turkey during the Armenian genocide. Christians numbered over 1.4 million in 1987 or 8% of the estimated population of 16.3 million and 550,000 in 1947 or 12% of the population of 4.6 millions. [224] After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, violence against Christians rose, with reports of abduction, torture, bombings, and killings. [225] The post-2003 Iraq War have displaced much of the remaining Christian community from their homeland as a result of ethnic and religious persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists. [226] [227] [228] [229] [230] [231]

There are also small ethno-religious minority populations of Sabian-Mandaeans, Shabaks, Yarsan and Yezidis remaining. Prior to 2003 their numbers together may have been 2 million, the majority Yarsan, a non-Islamic religion with roots in pre-Islamic and pre-Christian religion. The Iraqi Jewish community, numbering around 150,000 in 1941, has almost entirely left the country. [232]

Iraq is home to two of the world's holiest places among Shias that contain graves: Najaf and Karbala. [233] This led to the reputation that Shias are grave worshippers. [234]

Diaspora and refugees

The dispersion of native Iraqis to other countries is known as the Iraqi diaspora. The UN High Commission for Refugees has estimated that nearly two million Iraqis fled the country after the multinational invasion of Iraq in 2003, mostly to Syria and Jordan. [235] The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated in 2007 that an additional 1.9 million were displaced within the country. [236]

In 2007, the UN said that about 40% of Iraq's middle class was believed to have fled and that most had fled systematic persecution and had no desire to return. [237] Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries. [238] [239] Subsequently, the diaspora seemed to be returning, as security improved the Iraqi government claimed that 46,000 refugees returned to their homes in October 2007 alone. [240]

As of 2011 [update] , nearly 3 million Iraqis had been displaced, with 1.3 million within Iraq and 1.6 million in neighbouring countries, mainly Jordan and Syria. [241] More than half of Iraqi Christians had fled the country since the 2003 US-led invasion. [242] [243] According to official United States Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics, 58,811 Iraqis had been granted refugee-status citizenship as of 25 May 2011 [update] . [244]

After the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, numerous Iraqi refugees in Syria returned to their native country. [245] To escape the civil war, over 160,000 Syrian refugees of varying ethnicities have fled to Iraq since 2012. [246]


In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 6.84% of the country's GDP. In 2008, there were 6.96 physicians and 13.92 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. [247] The life expectancy at birth was 68.49 years in 2010, or 65.13 years for males and 72.01 years for females. [248] This is down from a peak life expectancy of 71.31 years in 1996. [249]

Iraq had developed a centralised free health care system in the 1970s using a hospital based, capital-intensive model of curative care. The country depended on large-scale imports of medicines, medical equipment and even nurses, paid for with oil export income, according to a "Watching Brief" report issued jointly by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2003. Unlike other poorer countries, which focused on mass health care using primary care practitioners, Iraq developed a Westernized system of sophisticated hospitals with advanced medical procedures, provided by specialist physicians. The UNICEF/WHO report noted that prior to 1990, 97% of the urban dwellers and 71% of the rural population had access to free primary health care just 2% of hospital beds were privately managed. [250]


Before Iraq faced economic sanctions from the UN, it already had an advanced and successful Arab education system. [251] However, it has now been “de-developing” in its educational success. [251] Some say that the sanctions, whether intentionally or not, hurt the education system because of how it affected the children. [251] Whether or not this is true, UNICEF's statistics and numbers show how Iraq's education system has room for improvement. [252]

At the turn of the millennium, many countries, including Iraq, attempted to take part in the Millennium Development Goals as a way to help underdeveloped countries prosper. In Iraq, one of the goals was for education to be universally available for both boys and girls at the primary level. UNICEF collected several pieces of data that indicate whether or not, Iraq has been accomplishing this goal. [252]

In general, the education of Iraq has been improving since the MDGs were implemented. [252] For example, enrollment numbers nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012. [252] It went from 3.6 million to six million. [252] The latest statistic from 2015 to 2016 showed that almost 9.2 million children were in school. [252] Enrollment rates continue to be on a steady increase at about 4.1% each year. [252] The sheer increase in numbers shows that there are clearly improvements of children in Iraq having access to education.

However, the dramatic increase of the number of students in primary education has had some negative and straining effects for the education system. [252] The budget for education makes up about only 5.7% of government spending and continues to stay at or below this percentage. [252] Investments for schools has also been on the decline. [252] As a result, the country now ranks at the bottom of Middle East countries in terms of education. [252] The little funding for education makes it more difficult to improve the quality and resources for education. [252]

At the same time, UNICEF investigated portions of spending for education and found that some of the money has gone to waste. [252] They found that dropout rates are increasing as well as repetition rates for children. [252] In both Iraq Centre and KRI, the rates for dropouts are about 1.5% to 2.5%. [252] Within these dropout rates, there is also an uneven number among boys and girls who dropout. [252] While the rate for dropouts for boys was around 16.5%, girls were at 20.1% where it could be due to economic or family reasons. [252] For repetition rates, percentages have almost reached 17% among all students. [252] To put the money loss in perspective, about $1,100 is spent on each student. [252] For each student who drops out or repeats a grade, $1,100 is lost. [252] As a result, almost 20% of the funding for education was lost to dropouts and repetition for the year 2014–2015. [252]

Many of those people who dropout or have to repeat a grade do not see the economic cost for long term results. [252] UNICEF takes note of how staying in school can in fact, increase wealth for the person and their family. [252] While it may put a strain on the education system, it will also hinder the chances of a person receiving higher earnings in whatever career they go into. [252]

Other statistics show that regional differences can attribute to lower or higher enrollment rates for children in primary education. [252] For example, UNICEF found that areas with conflict like Salah al-Din have “more than 90% of school-age children” not in the education system. [252] In addition, some schools were converted into refugee shelters or military bases in 2014 as conflict began to increase. [253] The resources for education become more strained and make it harder for children to go to school and finish receiving their education. [253] However, in 2017, there were efforts being made to open up 47 schools that had previously been closed. [254] There has been more success in Mosul where over 380,000 are going to school again. [254] Depending on where children live, they may or may not have the same access to education as other children.

There are also the differing enrollment rates between boys and girls. [252] UNICEF found that in 2013–2014, enrollment numbers for boys was at about five million while girls were at about 4.2 million. [252] While the out-of-school rate for girls is at about 11%, boys are at less than half of that. [252] There is still a gap between boys and girls in terms of educational opportunities. [252] However, the rate of enrollments for girls has been increasing at a higher rate than for boys. [252] In 2015–2016, the enrollment numbers for girls increased by 400,000 from the previous year where a large number of them were located in Iraq Centre. [252] Not only that, UNICEF found that the increase of girls going to school was across all levels of education. [252] Therefore, the unequal enrollment numbers between boys and girls could potentially change so that universal education can be achieved by all at equal rates.

Although the numbers suggest a dramatic increase of enrollment rates for primary education in total, a large number of children still remain out of the education system. [252] Many of these children fall under the category of internally displaced children due to the conflict in Syria and the takeover by ISIL. [252] This causes a disruption for children who are attempting to go to school and holds them back from completing their education, no matter what level they are at. [252] Internally displaced children are specifically recorded to track children who have been forced to move within their country due to these types of conflicts. About 355,000 of internally displaced children are not in the education system. [252] 330,000 of those children live in Iraq Centre. [252] The rates among internally displaced children continue to remain higher in Iraq Centre than other areas such as the KRI. [252]

With the overall increase of enrollment rates, there continues to be a large strain on the resources for education. [252] UNICEF notes that without an increase on expenditures for education, the quality of education will continue to decrease. [252] Early in the 2000s, the UNESCO International Bureau of Education found that the education system in Iraq had issues with standard-built school buildings, having enough teachers, implementing a standardized curricula, textbooks and technologies that are needed to help reach its educational goals. [251] Teachers are important resources that are starting to become more and more strained with the rising number of students. [252] Iraq Centre has a faster enrollment growth rate than teacher growth. [252] Teachers begin to have to take in more and more students which can produce a bigger strain on the teacher and quality of education the children receive. [252] Another large resource for education is libraries that can increase literacy and create a reading culture. [255] However, this can only be improved through a restructuring of the education system. [255]

UNICEF provides more details, regarding the actions needed to help Iraq reach its MDG goal of education being attainable by all children at the primary level. [252] Much of it has to do with the restructuring of the education system, research into improving the quality of education, and discovering ways on how to better suit the needs of girls and children with disabilities in the education system. [252]

The CIA World Factbook estimates that, in 2000, the adult literacy rate was 84% for males and 64% for females, with UN figures suggesting a small fall in literacy of Iraqis aged 15–24 between 2000 and 2008, from 84.8% to 82.4%. [256] The Coalition Provisional Authority undertook a complete reform of Iraq's education system: Baathist ideology was removed from curricula and there were substantial increases in teacher salaries and training programs, which the Hussein regime neglected in the 1990s. [ citation needed ] In 2003, an estimated 80% of Iraq's 15,000 school buildings needed rehabilitation and lacked basic sanitary facilities, and most schools lacked libraries and laboratories. [ citation needed ]

Education is mandatory only through to the sixth grade, after which a national examination determines the possibility of continuing into the upper grades. [ citation needed ] Although a vocational track is available to those who do not pass the exam, few students elect that option because of its poor quality. [ citation needed ] Boys and girls generally attend separate schools beginning with seventh grade. [ citation needed ]

In 2005, obstacles to further reform were poor security conditions in many areas, a centralised system that lacked accountability for teachers and administrators, and the isolation in which the system functioned for the previous 30 years. [ citation needed ] Few private schools exist. [ citation needed ] Prior to the invasion of 2003, some 240,000 persons were enrolled in institutions of higher education. [ citation needed ]

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are the University of Dohuk (1717th worldwide), the University of Baghdad (3160th) and Babylon University (3946th). [257]

Public holidays in Iraq include Republic Day on 14 July and the National Day on 3 October.


Iraq is known primarily for its rich maqam heritage which has been passed down orally by the masters of the maqam in an unbroken chain of transmission leading up to the present. The maqam al-Iraqi is considered to be the most noble and perfect form of maqam. Al-maqam al-Iraqi is the collection of sung poems written either in one of the sixteen meters of classical Arabic or in Iraqi dialect (Zuhayri). [258] This form of art is recognised by UNESCO as "an intangible heritage of humanity". [259]

Early in the 20th century, many of the most prominent musicians in Iraq were Jewish. [260] In 1936, Iraq Radio was established with an ensemble made up entirely of Jews, with the exception of the percussion player. At the nightclubs of Baghdad, ensembles consisted of oud, qanun and two percussionists, while the same format with a ney and cello were used on the radio. [260]

The most famous singer of the 1930s–1940s was perhaps the Jew Salima Pasha (later Salima Murad). [260] [261] The respect and adoration for Pasha were unusual at the time since public performance by women was considered shameful, and most female singers were recruited from brothels. [260]

The most famous early composer from Iraq was Ezra Aharon, an oud player, while the most prominent instrumentalist was Daoud Al-Kuwaiti. [ citation needed ] Daoud and his brother Saleh formed the official ensemble for the Iraqi radio station and were responsible for introducing the cello and ney into the traditional ensemble. [260]

Art and architecture

Important cultural institutions in the capital include the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra – rehearsals and performances were briefly interrupted during the Occupation of Iraq but have since returned to normal. The National Theatre of Iraq was looted during the 2003 invasion, but efforts are underway to restore it. The live theatre scene received a boost during the 1990s when UN sanctions limited the import of foreign films. As many as 30 cinemas were reported to have been converted to live stages, producing a wide range of comedies and dramatic productions.

Institutions offering cultural education in Baghdad include the Academy of Music, Institute of Fine Arts and the Music and Ballet school Baghdad. Baghdad also features a number of museums including the National Museum of Iraq – which houses the world's largest and finest collection of artefacts and relics of Ancient Iraqi civilisations some of which were stolen during the Occupation of Iraq.

The capital, Ninus or Nineveh, was taken by the Medes under Cyaxares, and some 200 years after Xenophon passed over its site, then mere mounds of earth. It remained buried until 1845, when Botta and Layard discovered the ruins of the Assyrian cities. The principal remains are those of Khorsabad, 16 km (10 mi) N.E. of Mosul of Nimroud, supposed to be the ancient Calah and of Kouyunjik, in all probability the ancient Nineveh. In these cities are found fragments of several great buildings which seem to have been palace-temples. They were constructed chiefly of sun-dried bricks, and all that remains of them is the lower part of the walls, decorated with sculpture and paintings, portions of the pavements, a few indications of the elevation, and some interesting works connected with the drainage.


After the end of the full state control in 2003, there were a period of significant growth in the broadcast media in Iraq. Immediately, and the ban on satellite dishes is no longer in place, and by mid-2003, according to a BBC report, there were 20 radio stations from 0.15 to 17 television stations owned by Iraqis, and 200 Iraqi newspapers owned and operated. Significantly, there have been many of these newspapers in numbers disproportionate to the population of their locations. For example, in Najaf, which has a population of 300,000, is being published more than 30 newspapers and distributed.

Iraqi media expert and author of a number of reports on this subject, Ibrahim Al Marashi, identifies four stages of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 where they had been taking the steps that have significant effects on the way for the later of the Iraqi media since then. Stages are: pre-invasion preparation, and the war and the actual choice of targets, the first post-war period, and a growing insurgency and hand over power to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. [262] [ page needed ]


Iraqi cuisine can be traced back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Ancient Persians. [263] Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. [263] Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to many sophisticated and highly advanced civilisations, in all fields of knowledge – including the culinary arts. [263] However, it was in the medieval era when Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate that the Iraqi kitchen reached its zenith. [263] Today the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Turkey, Iran and the Greater Syria area. [263]

Some characteristic ingredients of Iraqi cuisine include – vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, okra, onion, potato, courgette, garlic, peppers and chilli, cereals such as rice, bulgur wheat and barley, pulses and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and cannellini, fruits such as dates, raisins, apricots, figs, grapes, melon, pomegranate and citrus fruits, especially lemon and lime. [263]

Similarly with other countries of Western Asia, chicken and especially lamb are the favourite meats. Most dishes are served with rice – usually Basmati, grown in the marshes of southern Iraq. [263] Bulgur wheat is used in many dishes – having been a staple in the country since the days of the Ancient Assyrians. [263]


Football is the most popular sport in Iraq. Football is a considerable uniting factor in Iraq following years of war and unrest. Basketball, swimming, weightlifting, bodybuilding, boxing, kick boxing and tennis are also popular sports.

The Iraqi Football Association is the governing body of football in Iraq, controlling the Iraq national football team and the Iraqi Premier League. It was founded in 1948, and has been a member of FIFA since 1950 and the Asian Football Confederation since 1971. Iraq were the 2007 AFC Asian Cup champions after defeating Saudi Arabia in the final by 1–0 thanks to a goal by captain Younis Mahmoud and they have participated in two FIFA competitions (the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup).

Mobile phones

Despite the existence of mobile phones in the Middle East since 1995, Iraqis were only able to use them after 2003, as mobile phones were banned under Saddam Hussein's rule. In 2013, it was reported that 78% of Iraqis owned a mobile phone. [264]


According to the Iraqi Ministry of Communication, Iraq is now in the second phase of building and launching a multipurpose strategic satellite. [265]

A project which expected to cost $600 million is ongoing in co-operation with market leaders such as Astrium and Arianespace.

Undersea cable

On 18 January 2012, Iraq was connected to the undersea communications network for the first time. [266]

This had an immense impact on internet speed, availability and usage in Iraq.

In October 2013, the Iraqi Minister for Communication ordered internet prices to be lowered by a third. This is an attempt to boost usage and comes as a result of significant improvements in Internet infrastructure in the country. [267]

Iraq Economy - History

  • 3500 - The Sumer civilization establishes city-states in southern Mesopotamia.
  • 3300 - Writing is invented by the Sumerians.

Statue of Saddam Torn Down

Brief Overview of the History of Iraq

The land of Iraq is often called the "Cradle of Civilization" because the oldest civilization in the world, the Sumerians, was formed here. The Sumerians invented writing and started the first recorded history. For over 3000 years the Sumerian civilization flourished in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley.

The next great civilization to emerge in the land was the Babylonian Empire in the 1800s BC. The Babylonians would rise to great power in the region until they were defeated and absorbed into the Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great in the 6th Century BC. Over the next several hundreds of years the land would be conquered by various empires including Greece (Alexander the Great), the Parthians, the Romans, and the Persians again. In the 7th Century the Islamic Empire took control and would rule until the 1500s when the Ottoman Empire came into power.

When World War I ended, the British took over for the Ottoman Empire. Iraq became an independent country in 1932 ruled by a constitutional monarchy. In 1958 the country was declared a republic, but it was really ruled by a series of dictators. The last dictator was Saddam Hussein.

In 1990 Iraq invaded the country of Kuwait. This started the First Gulf War where US-led forces expelled Iraq and forced Iraq to come under UN restrictions regarding weapons and armaments. In 2003, when Iraq refused to comply to earlier agreements, the United States invaded Iraq in what is called the Second Gulf War and removed Saddam Hussein from power.

Iraq GDP 1960-2021

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Iraq GDP 1960-2021

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About bunkers and underground tunnels in Baghdad

13. The underground bunkers built for Saddam Hussein were said to be virtually indestructible, being able to resist a direct hit by a 2,000-kilo TNT bomb. And the bunkers were as deep as 90 meters under the ground.

14. The company that built bunkers for Saddam Hussein also built air-raid shelters for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

15. The bunker specially built for the fifth President of Iraq (Saddam Hussein) was not just a small space to hide during war time. Moreover, it was equipped with amenities such as a swimming pool, a recreation room, a gourmet kitchen and nursery for Saddam Hussein’s grandchildren.

16. Another addition to this state-of-the-art bunker was the “war room.” The room was studded with the latest technology so that the dictator could monitor activities above the ground.

17. The underground tunnels and bunkers for the Iraqi dictator were built between the 1970s and 1980s by Yugoslav engineers.

18. Baghdad had a fabled and labyrinthine network of underground tunnels that would stretch for kilometers. It had the capability to house thousands of Iraqi people, hospitals and even military command posts.

19. The bunkers and tunnels were built on the order of General Saddam Hussein for his protection in the event of a war. The cost of building these bunkers was paid in the form of oil.

20. Iraq is also home to the world’s first writing system and recorded history.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. During the Iran-Iraq War, with so many men fighting in the military, women were required to study in fields and to work in positions normally filled by men. Many women joined the labor force as teachers, physicians, dentists, factory workers, and civil servants, with the majority performing unskilled labor. Women professionals, such as doctors, are normally pediatricians or obstetricians, so that they work with only women or children. Those drafted into the workforce during the Iran-Iraq War were also made to comply with about a one-third deduction from their salary to go toward the war effort.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The General Federation for Iraqi Women (GFIW) is a government organization for women with eighteen branches, one in each province. Its stated goal is to officially organize women, promote literacy and higher education, and encourage women in the labor force. The federation supported big legislative steps, such as a 1977 law that said a woman may be appointed an officer in the military if she has a university degree in medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy. However, it has had little impact on issues that affect women as individuals, such as polygamy, divorce, and inheritance.

Many believe that the GFIW is not really functioning in the interests of women, but rather in the interests of the Baathist regime. Instead of trying to improve the situation of women in Iraq, the government seems to use the federation as a means to exercise control over them. In an address to the federation, Saddam said that an educated and liberated mother is one who will give back to the country conscious and committed fighters for Iraq. An underlying goal of the GFIW, whether it is stated or not, is to encourage women to "liberate" themselves through commitment to the Iraqi revolution.

In politics Iraq was the first Arab country ever to elect a woman to a parliamentary position. Though an incredible advancement for women in the Arab world, many believe that rather than exercising real authority, she was put in power to falsely demonstrate the controlling regime as a progressive one. Today there are women in politics, though the legitimacy of their authority is often questioned. In Islam, the state religion, women do not hold any leadership roles. Many cannot go to the mosque to pray, and if they do, they are segregated from the men. It is largely due to Islamic influence that women do not enjoy the same social rights and privileges as men, and if gender reform is to take place, it will have to be within the context of Islamic law.

Iraq Economy - History

What is the state of Iraq&aposs economy?

The U.S.-led coalition government in Baghdad has transformed Iraq&aposs economy in the past year from a centralized system dominated by Saddam Hussein&aposs regime to one of the most open economies in the region. The shift has meant job losses and deteriorating economic conditions for some Iraqis and an influx of goods and cash for others, experts say. Coalition officials have passed some controversial measures, such as a law that permits 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses in most sectors of the Iraqi economy. But it has held off on others, such as privatizing state-owned industries and removing state subsidies on food and fuel.

What was Iraq&aposs economy like before the war?

The economy of Iraq, which grew dramatically in the 1970s and early 1980s due to a boom in world oil prices, has been in decline since the mid-1980s. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war proved to be an economic disaster. The economy was further devastated in the 1990s by a decade of U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq&aposs 1991 invasion of Kuwait and Iraq&aposs increasingly corrupt and authoritarian leadership, according to a recent World Bank analysis.

Though in name a socialist state, private ownership of land and businesses were not banned by the regime, and about half of the nation&aposs GDP was privately generated, estimates Peter M. McPherson, the president of Michigan State University and the coalition&aposs financial coordinator for the rebuilding of Iraq from May to September, 2003. Even so, the authoritarian government set prices for many goods, controlled the nation&aposs copious oil resources, ran 192 state-owned enterprises, and dominated most aspects of the economy, the World Bank report states. Iraq&aposs per capita income dropped from a height of $3,600 per year in the early 1980s to $720 to $960 per year in 2002. U.S. per capita income is $35,277 per year.

How did the war affect the economy?

Preliminary estimates by the World Bank indicate that the Iraqi economy suffered in 2003, with GDP declining to $480 to $630 per capita. The decline was largely related to the drop in oil production caused by the war--Iraq has the world&aposs second largest proven oil reserves, and most of the government&aposs revenues traditionally come from oil. Widespread electricity outages also hobbled many businesses. Other factors hurting businesses included post-war looting, increased crime, the ongoing insurgency, and damage directly caused by fighting.

How well is Iraq&aposs economy recovering?

Phone services, basic sewage, electricity, and oil production have all improved to near prewar conditions, according to Andy Bearpark, the director of operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the civilian occupation government in Iraq. Markets are bustling in Baghdad and other cities as sought-after goods flow in from around the world. After months of delay, the $18.4 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds authorized in October 2003 has begun to flow into the Iraqi economy, further buoying it.

But unemployment remains high--estimated between 25 percent and 45 percent--and there is severe poverty in many areas, according to the World Bank. Some 60 percent of Iraqis still rely on a free food allotment that had been provided by the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program until November 2003, and is now provided by the coalition. The economy will begin to grow in 2004, with per capita income rising to $620 to $810, the World Bank predicts. However, continued political instability and uncertain security conditions will affect the pace of recovery.

What economic philosophy guided the coalition&aposs economic reforms?

"Good, old-fashioned, free-market economics," says Christopher Foote, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who worked on financial reform issues in Iraq from May to September, 2003 as McPherson&aposs deputy. "Basically we were guided by pretty simple principles. All we were trying to do was set up the framework necessary to allow the market to steer resources in the economy." Coalition advisers drafted laws, and after the creation of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in July, consulted with that body before passing them. "Our first job was to get resources into the economy and stabilize it," McPherson says. It will be up to the sovereign government of Iraq, due to take over control from the coalition on June 30, to decide if the range of new economic policies will continue.

What has happened to prices of goods?

Saddam Hussein&aposs Baathist regime controlled the prices of some goods--such as domestically distributed oil and manufactured goods produced by its state-run industries--but allowed others to be determined by the market. Since the beginning of the U.S.-led occupation, almost all prices have been liberalized and are now determined solely by the market. An exception is gasoline, which remains heavily state-subsidized and costs between $.04 and $.15 cents per liter. The other main exception is food, which is subsidized through the distribution of free monthly rations, including grain, sugar, and other staples.

Are goods more expensive for Iraqis now?

There is no good data tracking prices across the economy as a whole, but an International Monetary Fund (IMF) analysis indicates that overall inflation in 2003 was a relatively moderate 15 percent--the same rate as in 2002. Runaway inflation, with prices doubling and tripling, has not occurred, in part because the coalition managed to shift Iraq over to a new currency without major disruption to the economy, and because price controls on staple food items were maintained, according to the IMF analysis. "The currency was a wonderful success," McPherson says. But experts warn that inflation remains a serious risk as more and more money is poured into the Iraqi economy as part of the reconstruction effort.

Are there tariffs and duties on imported and exported goods?

On June 8, 2003, the coalition announced a "tariff holiday," abolishing all tariffs, customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees, and similar charges for most goods entering or leaving Iraq. Beginning March 1, 2004, however, the coalition has introduced a 5 percent fee on most imports to help fund the reconstruction of Iraq. Food, medicine, clothing, and books will be exempt. It is not yet clear if this tariff is actually being collected at Iraq&aposs borders.

What is the new foreign investment law?

Passed by the coalition on September 19, 2003, this law has made Iraq one of the most open economies in the region. It permits 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses in all sectors except oil and mineral extraction. Foreign companies can take the profits they earn out of the country without restriction. Foreign investors can make investments in Iraq on equal terms with Iraqi investors. The one main restriction is that foreigners may not purchase land or real estate, though they may lease it for up to 40 years.

How controversial were these laws?

Of all the reforms passed by the coalition "they were probably the most controversial thing among Iraqis," says Foote. Many Iraqis were concerned that the laws would enable foreigners to gain too much control over the economy. But the coalition pressed ahead due to the experience of other "transitional" economies, such as those in Eastern Europe, as well as those of developing economies more generally. "During the 1980s and 1990s, economies that encouraged foreign direct investment seemed to do a lot better than those that didn&apost," Foote says. In addition, the coalition hoped the influx of foreign capital would begin to dilute the power of some of Iraq&aposs wealthiest families, many of whom had ties to Saddam Hussein&aposs regime. Despite the favorable laws, however, foreign direct investment in Iraq is limited because of the risks posed by the ongoing insurgency and uncertain political situation, experts say.

What other reforms were made?

Tax laws were simplified. The coalition set a flat tax rate of 15 percent for all corporate profits and a graduated personal income tax ranging from 3 percent to 15 percent. The top tax bracket for Iraqis in both categories under Saddam Hussein&aposs regime was 40 percent, though collection was limited. State employees under Saddam Hussein were exempt from personal income taxes they will have to begin paying taxes next year, according to coalition plans.

An independent central bank was established. Previously, the Ministry of Finance was able to exert significant control over the central bank--for example, forcing it to print money to cover budget deficits in the 1990s.

A new trade bank was opened to provide financial and other services that ease the importing and exporting of goods and services to and from Iraq.

New securities laws were adopted, paving the way to the scheduled reopening of a modernized Baghdad stock exchange, which under Saddam Hussein was a small operation with 120 listed companies. The coalition is also opening a Securities and Exchange Commission and Depository Operations Center to bring Iraq in line with international standards for financial markets.

What about privatization?

Under Saddam Hussein, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) made up a relatively modest chunk of the economy, employing only 500,000 of its 25 million people. That said, many of these industries were kept afloat only through heavy state subsidies, Foote says. The coalition considered plans to privatize some of Iraq&aposs SOEs, but later backed off the idea partly over concerns about whether the coalition had the legal right to make such moves. Such decisions will now await the transition to a sovereign Iraqi government. Some SOEs have closed because the coalition is no longer helping noncompetitive firms stay afloat. But all SOE workers are still being paid, Foote says. Meanwhile, the CPA has drawn up plans to permit Iraqi or foreign companies to lease and operate some of the state-owned firms in the short-term.

What are Iraq&aposs current economic needs?

An October 2003 assessment by the World Bank estimated that Iraqi reconstruction costs will total nearly $36 billion over the next four years. Improving the oil sector and employing police and other security forces will cost an extra $20 billion a year. International donors pledged about $32 billon for Iraqi reconstruction at an October 2003 donors conference in Madrid, including $18.6 billon from the United States. With this assistance, an estimated $12 billion in projected oil revenue, plus $5.6 billion left over from the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program, Iraq will be able to meet its budget needs in 2004, the World Bank reports.

What are the economy&aposs long-term prospects?

If stability returns to Iraq, its economy could become one of the strongest in the region, experts say. Economic prospects depend heavily on the recovery of oil output, and current estimates see oil production rising over 10 years from about 2.5 million barrels a day to twice that amount. But Iraq cannot rely entirely on oil it must also have a successful non oil-economy, collect taxes, and maintain a reasonable level of government spending while investing in infrastructure, the IMF analysis states.

How does Iraq&aposs debt fit into the picture?

Iraq&aposs external debt has been estimated at between $120 billion and $130 billion. Because paying off the debt when money should be invested into the economy would cripple Iraq&aposs recovery, the United States has asked other nations to forgive or reduce what they are owed. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III has secured debt reduction pledges from many countries. Notably, the Paris Club--an informal group of 19 nations that coordinates debt repayment schedules--has announced it does not expect payments on the $42 billion Iraq owes its members until the end of 2004, with a possibility of extending the deadline further. The Paris Club includes most of the European Union countries, Australia, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

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