Geographic and Governmental Profile of Iraq

Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of strongmen ruled the country until 2003. The last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. US forces remained in Iraq under a UNSC mandate through 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to train and mentor Iraqi security forces. In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (COR) in December 2005. The COR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half century. In January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all governorates except for the three governorates comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk Governorate. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010 - choosing 325 legislators in an expanded COR - and, after nine months of deadlock the COR approved the new government in December 2010. Nearly nine years after the start of the Second Gulf War in Iraq, US military operations there ended in mid-December 2011.
Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Geographic coordinates
33 00 N, 44 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Middle East
438,317 sq km
437,367 sq km
950 sq km
Area - comparative
slightly more than twice the size of Idaho
Land boundaries
3,650 km
border countries:
Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km
58 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
continental shelf:
not specified
mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq
mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point:
unnamed peak; 3,611 m; note - this peak is neither Gundah Zhur 3,607 m nor Kuh-e Hajji-Ebrahim 3,595 m
Natural resources
petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Land use
arable land:
permanent crops:
86.27% (2005)
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Irrigated land
35,250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
96.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
42.7 cu km/yr (3%/5%/92%)
per capita:
1,482 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
dust storms; sandstorms; floods
Environment - current issues
government water control projects have drained most of the inhabited marsh areas east of An Nasiriyah by drying up or diverting the feeder streams and rivers; a once sizable population of Marsh Arabs, who inhabited these areas for thousands of years, has been displaced; furthermore, the destruction of the natural habitat poses serious threats to the area's wildlife populations; inadequate supplies of potable water; development of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers system contingent upon agreements with upstream riparian Turkey; air and water pollution; soil degradation (salination) and erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements
party to:
Biodiversity, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified:
Environmental Modification
Geography - note
strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf
Country name
conventional long form:
Republic of Iraq
conventional short form:
local long form:
Jumhuriyat al-Iraq
local short form:
Al Iraq
Government type
parliamentary democracy
geographic coordinates:
33 20 N, 44 24 E
time difference:
UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions
18 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah) and 1 region*; Al Anbar, Al Basrah, Al Muthanna, Al Qadisiyah (Ad Diwaniyah), An Najaf, Arbil (Erbil), As Sulaymaniyah, Babil, Baghdad, Dahuk, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Karbala', Kirkuk, Kurdistan Regional Government*, Maysan, Ninawa, Salah ad Din, Wasit
3 October 1932 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration); note - on 28 June 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government
National holiday
Republic Day, July 14 (1958); note - the Government of Iraq has yet to declare an official national holiday but still observes Republic Day
ratified 15 October 2005 (subject to review by the Constitutional Review Committee and a possible public referendum)
Legal system
mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law
International law organization participation
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
President Jalal TALABANI (since 6 April 2005); Vice Presidents Tariq al-HASHIMI and Khudayr Musa Jafar Abbas al-KHUZAI
head of government:
Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI (since 20 May 2006)
The Council of Ministers consists of the prime minister and cabinet ministers he proposes; approved by an absolute majority vote by the Council of Representatives
president elected by Council of Representatives (parliament) to serve a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 11 November 2010 (next to be held in 2014)
election results:
President Jalal TALABANI reelected on 11 November 2010; parliamentary vote count on second ballot - 195 votes; Nuri al-MALIKI reselected prime minister
Legislative branch
unicameral Council of Representatives (325 seats consisting of 317 members elected by an optional open-list and representing a specific governorate, proportional representation system and 8 seats reserved for minorities; members serve four-year terms); note - Iraq's Constitution calls for the establishment of an upper house, the Federation Council
last held on 7 March 2010 for an enlarged 325-seat parliament (next to be held in 2014)
election results:
Council of Representatives - percent of vote by coalition - Iraqi National Movement 25.9%, State of Law coalition 25.8%, Iraqi National Alliance 19.4%, Kurdistan Alliance 15.3%, Goran (Change) List 4.4%, Tawafuq Front 2.7%, Iraqi Unity Alliance 2.9%, Kurdistan Islamic Union 2.3%, Kurdistan Islamic Group 1.4%; seats by coalition - NA
Judicial branch
the Iraq Constitution calls for the federal judicial power to be comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Federal Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission and other federal courts that are regulated in accordance with the law
Political parties and leaders
Badr Organization [Hadi al-AMIRI]; Da'wa Party [Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI]; Da'wa Tanzim [Hashim al-MUSAWI branch]; Da-wa Tanzim [Abd al-Karim al-ANZI branch]; Fadilah Party [Hasan al-SHAMMARI and Ammar TUAMA]; Goran (Change) List [Nushirwan MUSTAFA]; Hadba Gathering [Athil al-NUJAYFI]; Iraqi Covenant Gathering [Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-SAMARRAI]; Iraqi Constitutional Party [Jawad al-BULANI]; Iraqi Front for National Dialogue [Deputy Prime Minister Salih al-MUTLAQ]; Iraqi Islamic Party or IIP [Usama al-TIKRITI]; Iraqi Justice and Reform Movement [Shaykh Abdallah al-YAWR]; Iraqi National Accord or INA [Ayad ALLAWI, former Interim Government prime minister]; Iraqi National Congress or INC [Ahmad CHALABI]; Iraqi National Accord or INA [Ayad ALLAWI]; Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or ISCI [Ammar al-HAKIM]; Kurdistan Democratic Party or KDP [Kurdistan Regional Government President Masud BARZANI]; Future National Gathering [Finance Minister Rafi al-ISSAWI]; National Iraqiyun Gathering [Usama al-NUJAYFI]; National Movement for Reform and Development [Jamal al-KARBULI]; National Reform Trend [former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-JAFARI]; Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or PUK [President Jalal TALABANI]; Renewal List [Vice President Tariq al-HASHIMI]; Sadrist Trend [Muqtada al-SADR]; Sahawa al-Iraq [Ahmad al-RISHAWI]
numerous smaller local, tribal, and minority parties
Political pressure groups and leaders
Sunni militias; Shia militias, some associated with political parties
International organization participation
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Jabir Habib JABIR
3421 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20007
[1] (202) 742-1600
[1] (202) 333-1129
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Robert Stephen BEECROFT
mailing address:
APO AE 09316
1-240-553-0589 ext. 5340 or 5635; note - Consular Section
Flag description
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; the Takbir (Arabic expression meaning "God is great") in green Arabic script is centered in the white band; the band colors derive from the Arab Liberation flag and represent oppression (black), overcome through bloody struggle (red), to be replaced by a bright future (white); the Council of Representatives approved this flag in 2008 as a compromise temporary replacement for the Ba'athist Saddam-era flag
similar to the flag of Syria, which has two stars but no script, Yemen, which has a plain white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band
National symbol(s)
golden eagle
National anthem
"Mawtini" (My Homeland)
Ibrahim TOUQAN/Mohammad FLAYFEL
adopted 2004; following the ousting of Saddam HUSSEIN, Iraq adopted "Mawtini," a popular folk song throughout the Arab world, which also serves as an unofficial anthem of the Palestinian people
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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