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Iraq (2/03)


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

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Iraq

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

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

Government
Type: Ruling Council.
Independence: 1932.
Interim constitution: 1970.
Branches: Executive--Revolutionary Command Council (RCC); President and Council of Ministers appointed by the RCC. Legislative--National Assembly of members elected in 2000. Judicial--Civil, religious, and special courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 18 provinces.
Political parties: Ba'ath Party is only legal party in regime controlled territory; Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan are opposition parties that control parts of northern Iraq.
Suffrage: Universal adult.
National holidays: Anniversaries of the 1958 and 1968 revolutions--July 14 and July 17.

Flag: Flag of Iraq

Economy
GDP (2001 est.): $59 billion.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 5.7%.
GDP per capita (2000 est.): $2,500.
Inflation rate (2001 est.): 60%.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.
Agriculture (less than 6% of GNP): Products--wheat, barley, rice, cotton, dates, poultry.
Industry: (less than 13% GNP): Types--petroleum, petrochemical, textile, cement.
Trade (2001): Exports--$15.8 billion: crude oil. Major markets--Russia, France, Switzerland, China. Imports--$11 billion: agricultural commodities, medicine, machinery. Major suppliers--Egypt, Russia, France, Vietnam.

GEOGRAPHY
Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level, reedy marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland.

The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.

Average temperatures range from higher than 48 degrees C (120 degrees 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine months later, Arif led a coup ousting the Ba'ath government. In April 1966, Arif was killed in a plane crash and was succeeded by his brother, Gen. Abdul Rahman Mohammad Arif. On July 17, 1968, a group of Ba'athists and military elements overthrew the Arif regime. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr re-emerged as the President of Iraq and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). In July 1979, Bakr resigned, and his chosen successor, Saddam Hussein, assumed both offices.

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

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, but a U.S.-led coalition acting under United Nations (UN) resolutions expelled Iraq from Kuwait in February1991. After the war, UN-mandated sanctions based on Security Council resolutions called for the regime to surrender its weapons of mass destruction and submit to UN inspections. The regime has refused to fully cooperate with the UN inspections and since 1998 has not allowed inspectors into Iraq. Iraq is allowed under the UN Oil-for-Food program to export unlimited quantities of oil with which to purchase food, medicine, and other humanitarian relief equipment and infrastructure support necessary to sustain the civilian population. The UN coalition enforces 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.

GOVERNMENT
The Ba'ath Party rules Iraq through a nine-member RCC, which enacts legislation by decree. The RCC's president (chief of state and supreme commander or the armed forces) is elected by a two-thirds majority of the RCC. A Council of Ministers (cabinet), appointed by the RCC, has administrative and some legislative responsibilities.

A 250-member National Assembly consisting of 220 elected by popular vote who serve a 4- year term, and 30 appointed by the president to represent the three northern provinces, was last elected in March 2000. Iraq is divided into 18 provinces, each headed by a governor with extensive administrative powers.

Iraq's judicial system is based on the French model introduced during Ottoman rule and has three types of lower courts--civil, religious, and special. Special courts try broadly defined national security cases. An appellate court system and the court of cassation (court of last recourse) complete the judicial structure.

Principal Government Officials
President, RCC Chairman, Prime Minister, Ba'ath Party Regional Command Secretary General--Saddam Hussein
Vice President--Taha Yasin Ramadan
Vice President--Taha Muhyi al-Din Ma'ruf

Ministers
Deputy Prime Minister--Tariq Aziz
Deputy Prime Minister--Abd Al-Tawab Mullah Huwaysh
Deputy Prime Minister--Ahmad Husayn Khudayir al-Samarrai
Minister of Information--Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Naji Sabri Hadithi
Minister of Finance, Deputy Premier--Hikmat al-Azzawi
UN Perm Rep--Muhammad al-Duri
Minister of Oil--Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi
Minister of Trade--Mohammed Mahdi Salih
Minister of State--Arshad Mohammed al-Zibari
Minister of Health--Omeed Midhat Mubarak
Minister of Industry and Minerals--Muyassar Raja Shalah al-Tikriti
Minister of Justice--Mundhir Ibrahim al Shawi
Minister of Transport and Communications--Dr. Ahmed Murtadha Ahmed Khalil

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Ba'ath Party controls the government and is the only recognized political party in regime controlled territory. Recent elections allowed for only Ba'ath Party authorized candidates, resulting in the election, for example, of Uday Saddam Hussein to the National Assembly with 99.99% of the vote. The Kurdish Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani are opposition parties, each of which control portions of northern Iraq. Both allow multiple political parties to operate in their areas and have held contested elections within the last year that international observers termed "generally fair". The Iraqi regime does not tolerate opposition. Opposition parties either operate illegally, as exiles from neighboring countries or in areas of northern Iraq outside regime control.

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

The Iran-Iraq War depleted Iraq's foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with a foreign debt of more than $40 billion. After hostilities ceased, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Government policies of diverting income to key supporters of the regime while sustaining a large military and internal security force further impaired finances, leaving the average Iraqi citizen facing desperate hardships. Implementation of a UN oil-for-food program in December 1996 has improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. Since 1999, Iraq was authorized to export unlimited quantities of oil to finance humanitarian needs including food, medicine, and infrastructure repair parts. Oil exports fluctuate as the regime alternately starts and stops exports, but, in general, oil exports have now reached three-quarters of their pre-Gulf War levels. Per capita output and living standards remain well below pre-Gulf War levels.

Agriculture
Despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Under the UN oil-for-food program, Iraq imports large quantities of grains, meat, poultry, and dairy products. The government abolished its farm collectivization program in 1981, allowing a greater role for private enterprise in agriculture. The Agricultural Cooperative Bank, capitalized at nearly $1 billion by 1984, targets its low-interest, low-collateral loans to private farmers for mechanization, poultry projects, and orchard development. Large modern cattle, dairy, and poultry farms are under construction. Obstacles to agricultural development include labor shortages, inadequate management and maintenance, salinization, urban migration, and dislocations resulting from previous land reform and collectivization programs.

Importation of foreign workers and increased entry of women into traditionally male labor roles have helped compensate for agricultural and industrial labor shortages exacerbated by the way. A disastrous attempt to drain the southern marshes and introduce irrigated farming to this region merely 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.

Trade
The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Government of Iraq's refusal to allow weapons inspectors into the country to dismantle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program has resulted in those sanctions remaining in place. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export unlimited quantities of oil in exchange for humanitarian relief supplies, including food, medicine, and infrastructure spare parts. A robust illicit trade in oil with neighboring states and through the Persian Gulf continues to provide billions in income for the regime.

DEFENSE
The war with Iran ended with Iraq sustaining the largest military structure in the Middle East, with more than 70 divisions in its army and an air force of over 700 modern aircraft. Losses during the invasion of Kuwait and subsequent ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait by a UN coalition resulted in the reduction of Iraq's ground forces to 23 divisions and air force to less than 300 aircraft. Military and economic sanctions prevent Iraq from rebuilding its military power. Iraq still maintains standing military forces of over 380,000 men.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Iraqi-Iranian relations have remained cool since the end of the Iraq-Iran War in 1988. Outstanding issues from that war, including prisoner of war exchanges and support of armed opposition parties operating in each other's territory, remain to be solved.

Iraq's relations with the Arab world have been extremely varied. Egypt broke relations with Iraq in 1977, following Iraq's criticism of President Anwar Sadat's peace initiatives with Israel. In 1978, Baghdad hosted an Arab League summit that condemned and ostracized Egypt for accepting the Camp David accords. However, Egypt's strong material and diplomatic support for Iraq in the war with Iran led to warmer relations and numerous contacts between senior officials, despite the continued absence of ambassadorial-level representation. Since 1983, Iraq has repeatedly called for restoration of Egypt's "natural role" among Arab countries. In January 1984, Iraq successfully led Arab efforts within the OIC to restore Egypt's membership. However, Iraqi-Egyptian relations were broken in 1990 after Egypt joined the UN coalition that forced Iraq out of Kuwait. Relations have steadily improved in recent years, and Egypt is now one of Iraq's main trade partners under the oil-for-food program.

Relations with Syria have been marred by traditional rivalry for pre-eminence in Arab affairs, allegations of involvement in each other's internal politics, and disputes over the waters of Euphrates River, oil transit fees, and stances toward Israel. Syria broke relations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and joined other Arab countries in sending military forces to the coalition that forced Iraq out of Kuwait. Relations remained cool until Bashar al-Asad became President of Syria in 2000. Economic ties based on illicit oil smuggling have strengthened, but politically the relationship remains distant.

Iraq's relations with Jordan have improved significantly since 1980, when Jordan declared its support for Iraq at the outset of the Iran-Iraq war. Jordan's support for Iraq during the Gulf War resulted in a further improvement of ties. Relations have cooled since the current King of Jordan took office in 2000, but remain good.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulted in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and most Gulf states severing relations with Baghdad and joining the UN coalition that forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the Gulf War. Iraq's refusal to implement UN Security Council Resolutions and continued threats toward Kuwait have resulted in relations remaining cool.

Iraq participated in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, and traditionally has opposed all attempts to reach a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Arab States. Israel attacked Iraq's nuclear research reactor under construction near Baghdad in July 1981. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq moderated its anti-Israel stance considerably. In August 1982 President Hussein stated to a visiting U. S. Congressman that "a secure state is necessary for both Israel and the Palestinians." Iraq did not oppose then President Reagan's September 1, 1982 Arab-Israeli peace initiative, and it supported the moderate Arab position at the Fez summit that same month. Iraq repeatedly stated that it would support whatever settlement is found acceptable by the Palestinians. However, after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iraq reverted to more stridently anti-Israel statements. During the Gulf War, Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israeli civilian targets in an attempt to divide the U. S. coalition, and, since the end of the Gulf War, Iraq has embraced the most extreme Arab hardline anti-Israel position, including periodically calling for the total elimination of Israel.

Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: UN and some of its specialized agencies, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Nonaligned Movement; Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); Arab League; Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC); INTELSAT; Interpol; World Health Organization (WHO); G-19; G-77.

U.S.-IRAQI RELATIONS
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iraq; however, it does have an Interests Section (temporarily closed) in the Polish Embassy in Baghdad; address: P.O. Box 2051 Hay Babel, Baghdad; tel: [964] (1) 718-9267; fax: [964] (1) 718-9297.   Iraq has no diplomatic relations with the United States; it has an Interests Section in the Algerian Embassy in Washington, DC.



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