For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 437,072 sq. km.; about the size of California.
Cities: Capital--Baghdad (5.7 million, 2004 estimate). Other cities--Basrah, Mosul, Kirkuk, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil.
Terrain: Alluvial plains, mountains, and desert.
Climate: Mostly hot and dry.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Iraqi(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 28,945,657.
Population growth rate (2009 est.): 2.507%.
Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurd 15%-20%, Turcoman, Chaldean, Assyrian, or others approximately 5%.
Religions: Muslim 97%, Christian and others approximately 3%.
Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish (official), Turcoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian, Armenian.
Education: Years compulsory--primary school (age 6 through grade 6). Literacy (2006 UNESCO est.)--74.1%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--43.82 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--69.94 yrs. (2009 est.).
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: October 15, 2005.
Independence: On October 3, 1932, Iraq gained independence from the League of Nations Mandate under British Administration. Several coups after 1958 resulted in dictatorship, with the Ba’ath Party seizing power in 1963 and again in 1968. From July 1979 to March 2003, Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party. Following the overthrow of the regime by a U.S.-led coalition in March-April 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) assumed administrative and security responsibility for Iraq while Iraqi political leaders and the Iraqi people established a transitional government. On June 28, 2004, the CPA transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government. A new four-year, constitutionally based government took office in March 2006, and a new cabinet was installed in May 2006. On June 31, 2009, U.S. troops withdrew from urban areas, a step that reinforced Iraqi sovereignty. On March 7, 2010, Iraq held a second round of national elections to choose the members of the Council of Representatives and, in turn, the executive branch of government.
Branches: Executive--Presidency Council (one president and two vice presidents; this configuration may change following the March 2010 national elections; Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 37 cabinet ministers). Judicial--Supreme Court appointed by the prime minister and confirmed by the Council of Representatives. Legislative--Council of Representatives (COR) consisting of 325 members.
Divisions: 18 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah)--Al Anbar, Al Basrah, Al Muthanna, Al Qadisiyah, An Najaf, Erbil, As Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, Babil, Baghdad, Dahuk, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Karbala', Maysan, Ninawa, Salah ad Din, Wasit. One region--the Kurdistan Regional Government.
GDP (2009 est., PPP): $112.0 billion.
GDP per capita (2009 est., PPP): $4,000.
GDP real growth rate (2009 est.): 4.3%.
Rate of inflation (2009 est.): 6.8%.
Unemployment rate (2008 official): 12% to 18%.
Budget (FY 2010): Revenues--$52.8 billion; expenditures--$72.4 billion.
Public debt (Dec. 2008 est.): $46 billion to $87 billion.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, barley, rice, corn, chickpeas, beans, dates, cotton, sunflowers, cattle, sheep, and chickens.
Industry: Types--petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing.
Trade: Exports (2008 est.)--$58.8 billion f.o.b. Export commodities (2008 est.)--crude oil (84%), crude materials excluding fuels (8%), food and live animals (5%). Export partners (2007)--U.S. 36.8%, Italy 12.6%, South Korea 9.5%, Taiwan 6.3%, Spain 5.2%, Canada 4.7%, France 4.4%, Netherlands 4.2%. Imports (2008 est.)--$37.2 billion f.o.b. Import commodities--food, medicine, manufactured goods. Import partners (2007)--Syria 30.5%, Turkey 19.8%, U.S. 11.1%, Jordan 5%, China 4.8%.
Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland. The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.
Average temperatures range from higher than 48°C (120°F) in July and August to below freezing in January. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4-7 in.) annually. The mountainous region of northern Iraq receives appreciably more precipitation than the central or southern desert region.
Almost 75% of Iraq's population lives in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast from Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are located in Iraq.
Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups include Turcoman, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.
The majority (60-65%) of Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a sect, but there is a large (32-37%) Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language and customs. Communities of Christians, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Iraq’s once-substantial Jewish community has almost completely disappeared from the country.
In recent years, a large number of Iraqis have been displaced, and there are currently 229,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. UNHCR estimates that approximately 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by sectarian violence following the Samarra Mosque bombing of February 2006 remain internally displaced inside Iraq. For more information on Iraqi refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims, please visit: http://www.state.gov/j/prm/108717.htm.
Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq was the site of flourishing ancient civilizations, including the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Parthian cultures. Muslims conquered Iraq in the seventh century A.D. In the eighth century, the Abassid caliphate established its capital at Baghdad. The territory of modern Iraq came under the rule of the Ottoman Turks early in the 1500s.
At the end of World War I, Ottoman control ended and Iraq became a British-mandated territory. When it was declared independent in 1932, the Hashemite family, a branch of which also ruled Jordan, ruled as a constitutional monarchy. In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League. In 1956, the Baghdad Pact allied Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom, and established its headquarters in Baghdad.
Gen. Abdul Karim Qasim took power in a July 1958 coup, during which King Faysal II and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said were killed. Qasim ended Iraq's membership in the Baghdad Pact in 1959. Qasim was assassinated in February 1963, when the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Ba'ath Party) took power under the leadership of Gen. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as prime minister and Col. Abdul Salam Arif as president.
Nine months later, Arif led a coup ousting the Ba'ath government. In April 1966, Arif was killed in a plane crash and was succeeded by his brother, Gen. Abdul Rahman Mohammad Arif. On July 17, 1968, a group of Ba'athists and military elements overthrew the Arif regime. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr reemerged as the President of Iraq and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).
In July 1979, Bakr resigned, and his cousin Saddam Hussein, already a key figure in the Ba’ath party and the RCC, assumed both offices. The Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) devastated the economy of Iraq. Iraq declared victory in 1988 but actually achieved a weary return to the status quo antebellum. The war left Iraq with the largest military establishment in the Gulf region but with huge debts and an ongoing rebellion by Kurdish elements in the northern mountains. The government suppressed the rebellion by using chemical and biological weapons on civilian targets, including a mass chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja that killed several thousand civilians.
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, but a U.S.-led coalition acting under United Nations (UN) resolutions expelled Iraq in February 1991. After the war, Kurds in the north and Shi'a Muslims in the south rebelled against the government of Saddam Hussein. The government responded quickly and with crushing force, killing thousands, and pursued damaging environmental and agricultural policies meant to drain the marshes of the south. As a result, the United States, United Kingdom, and France established protective no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. Coalition forces enforced no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq to protect Iraqi citizens from attack by the regime and a no-drive zone in southern Iraq to prevent the regime from massing forces to threaten or again invade Kuwait. In addition, the UN Security Council required the regime to surrender its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and submit to UN inspections. When the regime refused to fully cooperate with the UN inspections, the Security Council passed a series of Chapter VII sanctions to prevent further WMD development and compel Iraqi adherence to international obligations.
Citing Iraq’s failure to comply with UN inspections, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March-April 2003 and removed the Ba'ath regime, leading to the overthrow of the dictator Saddam Hussein. (Following his capture in December 2003 and subsequent trial, Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006 by the Government of Iraq.) The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) assumed security and administrative responsibility for Iraq while Iraqi political leaders and the Iraqi people established a transitional administration. The CPA’s mission was to restore conditions of security and stability and to create conditions in which the Iraqi people could freely determine their own political future. The UN Security Council acknowledged the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority and provided a role for the UN and other parties to assist in fulfilling these objectives.
The CPA disbanded on June 28, 2004, transferring sovereign authority for governing Iraq to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). Based on the timetable laid out in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the IIG governed Iraq until elections were held on January 30, 2005; thereafter, the Iraqi Transitional Government assumed authority.
In May 2005, the Iraqi Transitional Government appointed a multi-ethnic committee to draft a new Iraqi constitution. The new constitution was finalized in September 2005, and was ratified in a nationwide referendum on October 15, 2005. On December 15, 2005, Iraqis again went to the polls to participate in the first legislative elections as established by the new constitution. The new four-year, constitutionally based government took office in March 2006, and the new cabinet was approved and installed in May 2006. By that time, following the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara, violence in the country was widespread.
The ongoing violence and instability prompted President George W. Bush to increase troop numbers in Iraq (the “surge” in U.S. forces) in an attempt to improve the security situation and give Iraqi political leaders an opportunity to address the many problems that plagued the Iraqi people. Following the troop increase and adjustments to military strategy, violence declined, thereby providing political space and an improved environment for leaders to make progress on difficult national issues.
In January 2009 two bilateral agreements between the United States and the Government of Iraq took effect: 1) the Security Agreement governing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; and 2) the Strategic Framework Agreement governing the long-term economic and cultural relationship between the two nations.
On January 31, 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and at-Ta’mim (Kirkuk) province. In June 2009, in accordance with the bilateral Security Agreement, U.S. forces withdrew from urban areas in Iraq, and on December 31, 2011, all U.S. military forces will withdraw from the country. On March 7, 2010, Iraq held national elections in which parties competed for positions in the Council of Representatives and the executive branch.
Iraq is a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi constitution guarantees basic rights. The executive branch consists of the Presidency Council (one president, two vice presidents--an arrangement that may change after the March 2010 elections) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 37 cabinet ministers). The president is the head of state, protecting the constitution and representing the sovereignty and unity of the state, while the prime minister is the direct executive authority and commander in chief. The president and vice presidents are elected by the Council of Representatives. The prime minister is nominated by the largest bloc in the Council of Representatives. Upon designation, the prime minister names the members of his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which is then approved by the Council of Representatives. The executive branch serves a four-year term concurrent with that of the Council of Representatives.
Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives. After the 2005 elections, the Council of Representatives consisted of 275 members, each of whom is elected to a four-year term of service. Following the March 7, 2010 elections the COR will consist of 325 members to reflect an increase in the population of Iraq. At least one-quarter of the members of the Council of Representatives must be female. The responsibilities of the Council of Representatives include enacting federal laws, monitoring the executive branch, and electing the president of the republic.
Iraq's judicial branch is independent, and is under no authority but that of the law. The federal judicial authority is comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts. The Higher Judicial Council supervises the affairs of the federal judiciary. The Federal Supreme Court has limited jurisdiction related to intra-governmental disputes and constitutional issues. The appellate courts appeal up to the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal. The establishment of the federal courts, their types, and methods for judicial appointments will be set forth by laws enacted by the Council of Representatives.
Principal Officials of the 2005 Iraqi National Unity Government
Deputy President--Adil Abd al-Mahdi
Deputy President--Tariq al-Hashimi
Prime Minister--Nuri Kamil al-Maliki
Deputy Prime Minister--Rafi Hiad Jiad al-Issawi
Deputy Prime Minister--Rowsch Shaways
Minister of Agriculture--Ali Husayn Kadhum al-Bahadili
Minister of Communications--Faruq Abd al-Qadir Abd al-Rahman
Minister of Culture--Mahir Dilli Ibrahim al-Hadithi
Minister of Defense--Abd al-Qadr al-Mufriji
Minister of Displacement and Migration--Abd al-Samad Rahman Sultan
Minister of Education--Khudayr Mousa Jaffar al-Khuzai
Minister of Electricity--Karim Wahid al-Hasan
Minister of Environment--Nermin Othman Hassan
Minister of Finance--Bayan Jabr
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Hoshyar Mahmud Zebari
Minister of Health--Salih Mahdi Mutlab al-Hasnawi
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research--Abid Dhiyab al-Ujayli
Minister of Human Rights--Wijdan Mikhail Salim
Minister of Housing and Construction--Bayan Dizayee
Minister of Industry and Minerals--Fawzi Fransu Hariri
Minister of Interior--Jawad Kadhum Eidan al-Bulani
Minister of Justice--Dara Nur al-Din
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs--Mahmud Muhammad Jawad al-Radi
Minister of Municipalities and Public Works--Riyadh Abd al-Hamza Gharib
Minister of Oil--Husayn Ibrahim al-Shahristani
Minister of Planning--Ali Ghalib Baban
Minister of Science and Technology--Raid Jahid Fahmi
Minister of Trade--Abd al-Falah Hassan Hummadi al-Sudani
Minister of Transportation--Amir Abd al-Jabar Ismail
Minister of Water Resources--Abd al-Latif Jamal Rashid
Minister of Youth and Sports--Jasim Muhammad Jaffar
Minister of State for Civil Society Affairs--Thamir Jafar al-Zubaidi
Minister of State for COR Affairs--Safa al-Din Muhammad al-Safi
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs--Muhammad Munajid Aifan al-Dulaymi
Minister of State for Governorates Affairs--Khulud Sami Izzara al-Majun
Minister of State for National Dialogue--Akram Mousa Hadi al-Hakim
Minister of State for National Security--Shirwan Kamil al-Waili
Minister of State for Tourism and Antiquities--Qahtan Abbas Numanal-Jabburi
Minister of State for Women's Affairs--Khulud Sami Izzara al-Majun (Acting)
Minister of State at Large--Muhammad Abbas Muhammad al-Uraybi
Minister of State at Large--Ali Muhammad Ahmad
Minister of State at Large--Hasan Radhi Kazim al-Sari
Major Political Parties and Organizations [Leaders]
Assyrian Democratic Movement [Yunadim KANNA]; Badr Organization [Hadi al-AMIRI]; Constitutional Monarchy Movement or CMM [Sharif Ali Bin al-HUSAYN]; Da'wa al-Islamiya Party [Nuri al-MALIKI]; General Conference of Iraqi People [Adnan al-DULAYMI]; Independent Iraqi Alliance or IIA [Falah al-NAQIB]; Iraqi Communist Party [Hamid MAJID]; Iraqi Front for National Dialogue [Salih al-MUTLAQ]; Iraqi Hizballah [Karim Mahmud al-MUHAMMADAWI]; Iraqi Independent Democrats or IID [Adnan PACHACHI, Mahdi al-HAFIZ]; Iraqi Islamic Party or IIP [Tariq al-HASHIMI]; Iraqi National Accord or INA [Ayad ALLAWI]; Iraqi National Congress or INC [Ahmad CHALABI]; Iraqi National Council for Dialogue or INCD [Khalaf Ulayan al-Khalifawi al-DULAYMI]; Iraqi National Unity Movement or INUM [Ahmad al-KUBAYSI]; Islamic Action Organization or IAO [Ayatollah Muhammad al-MUDARRISI]; Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or ISCI [Abd al-Aziz al-HAKIM]; Jama'at al Fadilah or JAF [Muhammad Ali al-YAQUBI]; Kurdistan Democratic Party or KDP [Masud BARZANI]; Kurdistan Islamic Union [Salah ad-Din Muhammad BAHA al-DIN]; Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or PUK [Jalal TALABANI]; Goran List [Nowshirwan MUSTAFA]; Sadrist Trend [Muqtada al-SADR] (not an organized political party, but it fields independent candidates affiliated with Muqtada al-SADR); Sahawa al-Iraq [Ahmad al-RISHAWI]
Note: The Kurdistan Alliance, the Iraqi National List, Tawafuq Coalition, National Iraqi Alliance, State of Law coalition, and the Iraqi Unity Coalition were electoral blocs consisting of the representatives from the various Iraqi political parties in the 2010 election. Alliances and electoral blocs are subject to change.
Elections to the Council of Representatives were held on December 15, 2005. The United Iraqi Coalition (UIC), also known as the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shi’ite bloc, won 128 of 275 seats in the Council of Representatives. The UIC was composed of ISCI, the al-Sadr movement, al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya, Da'wa Tanzim al-Iraq, Jama'at al-Fadilah, and various independents. Politicians with Sunni religious affiliations, including the Tawafuq and Hewar groups, won 59 seats in the Council of Representatives. The Kurdish bloc known as the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (which includes the KDP and PUK) won 53 legislative seats. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiyya or Iraqi National List (INL) won 25 seats. The remaining seats were composed of various independents.
On January 31, 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk (al-Tamim) province. On March 7, 2010 Iraq held national parliamentary elections based on an open list system that elected the membership of the Council of Representatives, who will determine the next executive branch.
Historically, Iraq's economy was characterized by heavy dependence on oil exports and emphasis on development through central planning. Prior to the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, Iraq's economic prospects were bright. Oil production had reached a level of 3.5 million barrels per day, and oil revenues were $21 billion in 1979 and $27 billion in 1980. At the outbreak of the war, Iraq had amassed an estimated $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
The Iran-Iraq war depleted Iraq's foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with foreign debt of more than $40 billion. However, after hostilities ceased in August 1988, oil exports gradually began to increase, with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities. But Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, damage from military action by an international coalition in January and February of 1991, and neglect of infrastructure devastated Iraq’s economy again. Government policies that diverted government income to key supporters of the regime and sustained a large military and internal-security force further impaired the economy and left the typical Iraqi facing desperate hardships.
The UN created the Oil-for-Food (OFF) program in April 1995 (UN Security Council Resolution 986) as a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people because of the effect of the continued sanctions regime. The OFF authorized nations to allow the importation of petroleum and petroleum products from Iraq worth $1 billion dollars (U.S.) every 90 days. The Security Council directed the Secretary General to create an escrow account that would hold the proceeds from the sales of oil, and allow Iraq to purchase food, medical supplies, and other goods for “essential” civilian needs. Although GDP fell in 2001-2002 largely as a result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices, per capita food imports increased and medical supplies and healthcare services improved. However, the military action of the U.S.-led coalition from March to April 2003 disrupted the central economic administrative structure. Since then, the rebuilding and enhancement of oil and utilities infrastructure and other production capacities has proceeded steadily, despite attacks on key economic facilities and internal security incidents. Iraq is now making progress toward establishing the laws and institutions needed to make and implement economic policy.
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which currently provides about 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Oil production currently averages about 2.4 million barrels per day, of which about 1.9 million barrels per day are exported.
Iraq is seeking to pass and implement laws to strengthen the economy, including a hydrocarbon law that encourages development of the oil and gas sector and a revenue sharing law that equitably divides oil and gas revenues among the central government, the provinces, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Implementing structural reforms, such as bank restructuring and private sector development, while simultaneously reducing corruption, will be key to Iraq's economic growth.
Foreign assistance has been an integral component of Iraq's reconstruction efforts since 2003. At a Donors Conference in Madrid in October 2003, more than $33 billion was pledged to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. Out of that conference, the UN and the World Bank launched the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) to administer and disburse about $1.7 billion of those funds. The rest of the assistance is being disbursed bilaterally. Since 2003, international donors have pledged about $17 billion in financial and technical assistance, soft loans or potential loan facilities, and trade finance. International donors have exceeded their combined pledges for grants and technical assistance totaling about $5.3 billion by more than $700 million. Total soft loan pledges amount to about $11.8 billion, of which $4.7 billion has been committed. Japan is the leading soft loan contributor, having committed nearly $3.3 billion to projects around Iraq. New programs approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank will substantially close the gap between soft-loan pledges and commitments, which are discussed immediately below.
In February 2010, the IMF and World Bank approved $3.6 billion and $250 million of support to Iraq, respectively. Both programs are focused on helping the Iraqi Government maintain macroeconomic stability and mitigate Iraq’s vulnerability to external shocks due to volatility in global oil markets. The Iraqi Government has worked closely with both institutions since 2003, including the December 2008 completion of an IMF Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), after which Iraq received the balance of the Paris Club’s 80% debt reduction.
In July 2006, Iraq and the UN began formulating the International Compact with Iraq (ICI), a five-year framework for Iraq to achieve economic self-sufficiency within its region and the world. On May 3, 2007, the ICI was formally launched by more than 90 countries and international organizations, many represented at the ministerial level.
The ICI aims to create a mutually reinforcing dynamic of national consensus and international support. Domestically, the ICI’s aim is to build national consensus around the government's political and economic programs and to restore the Iraqi people's trust in their government and its ability to protect them and meet their basic needs. Internationally, the ICI establishes a framework of mutual commitments to provide the financial and technical assistance and debt relief needed to support Iraq and strengthen its resolve to continue critical reforms and policies.
Agriculture is Iraq’s second largest economic sector (after the oil sector), producing about 12% of GDP, and the second largest source of jobs (after the public sector), employing at least 15% of the labor force. However, despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Obstacles to agricultural development, most of which existed prior to the removal of the Ba'ath regime in 2003, include government policies and subsidies that distort the market and undermine productivity and competition; outdated technology in plant and animal genetics, fertilizers, irrigation and drainage systems, and farm equipment; inadequate and unstable electricity; degradation of irrigation-management systems; insufficient credit and private capital; and inadequate market information and networks. In addition, the policy of the Ba'ath regime to destroy the "Marsh Arab" culture by draining the southern marshes and introducing irrigated farming to the region destroyed a natural food-producing area, while concentration of salts and minerals in the soil due to the draining left the land unsuitable for agriculture. Assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other international partners since 2003 has helped Iraq begin the necessary improvements. Current U.S. efforts are focused primarily on helping Iraq transition to a private-sector driven agricultural system.
The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Under the Oil-for-Food program, Iraq was allowed to export oil and use the proceeds to purchase goods for essential civilian needs, including food, medicine, and infrastructure-repair parts. With the lifting of UN sanctions after the Ba'ath regime was removed in 2003, Iraq is gradually resuming trade relations with the international community, including the United States. The United States designated Iraq as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program in September 2004. Iraq was granted observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in February 2004, and began its WTO accession process in December 2004. Iraq has participated in two Working Party meetings as part of the accession process, one on May 25, 2007, and the other on April 2, 2008. During this long-term process, Iraq must align its trade regime with the rules-based, multilateral international trade system. Through USAID technical assistance, the United States is continuing to support Iraq’s accession to the WTO. Completion of the requirements for WTO membership will help Iraq establish a proven framework for fostering a more stable and transparent economy that will encourage both domestic and foreign investment.
The Iran-Iraq war ended with Iraq sustaining the largest military structure in the Middle East, with more than 70 divisions in its army and an air force of over 700 modern aircraft. Losses during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 by a UN coalition resulted in the reduction of Iraq's ground forces to 23 divisions and air force to less than 300 aircraft.
After major combat operations ended in April 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officially dissolved the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defense. On August 7, 2003, the CPA established the New Iraqi Army as the first step toward the creation of the national self-defense force of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The U.S. forces Iraq Assistance and Training Assistance Mission (A&T) currently mans, trains, and equips Iraq's security forces. The Ministry of Interior, with the help of A&T, is training and equipping civilian police forces to establish security and stability. Initially under the command and control of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) command, in 2006 police and Iraqi Army units began to transition to Iraqi control. By November 2007, all of the original ten Iraq Army divisions had completed the transfer to Iraq Ground Forces Command. The process of transferring provinces to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC) began in July 2007, when Muthanna became the first province where Iraq Security Forces took the leading role of security in a province. As of December 31, 2008 all provinces transferred to PIC. U.S. forces remained in Iraq under a UN Security Council mandate until December 31, 2008, and under a bilateral Security Agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. On June 31, 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities, following the steps laid out by the bilateral Security Agreement.
With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime, Iraq has taken steps toward re-engagement on the international stage. Iraq currently has diplomatic representation in 54 countries around the world, including three permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, and the Arab League in Cairo. Forty-three nations have diplomatic representation in Iraq.
The Republic of Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: United Nations (UN); Arab League (AL); World Bank (WB); International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Nonaligned Movement (NAM); Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Interpol; World Health Organization (WHO); G-19; G-77; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA); Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD, suspended); Arab Monetary Fund (AMF); Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); International Community for Radionuclide Metrology (ICRM); International Development Association (IDA); International Development Bank (IDB); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Finance Corporation (IFC); International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS); International Labor Organization (ILO); International Maritime Organization (IMO); International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); International Organization for Standardization (ISO); International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC); Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Universal Postal Union (UPU); World Customs Organization (WCO); World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); World Meteorological Organization (WMO); World Trade Organization (WTO) observer.
The goal of United States policy in Iraq is an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. U.S. policy promotes a just, representative, and accountable Iraqi government that does not provide support or safe-haven to terrorists. The Agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities During Their Temporary Presence in Iraq (“Security Agreement”) governs the presence and status in Iraq, and addresses the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq (“Strategic Framework Agreement”) sets out a variety of areas and aims for bilateral cooperation and forms the basis for a long-term partnership with the people and government of Iraq. When announcing the timeline for withdrawing American combat forces from Iraq, President Barack Obama emphasized that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political and that decisions about the country’s future must be made by the Iraqis themselves.
Embassy website: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/
American travelers must apply for a visa prior to travel to Iraq. The visa application, application process, and further information can be found on the Iraqi Embassy’s website at http://www.iraqiembassy.us/ConsularSection.htm.