Kingdom of Iraq
Anthem: السلام الملكي
("The Royal Salute")
and largest city
|Ethnic groups||Arabs, Mandeans, Armenians, Turkmen, others|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Mohammed Ridha al-Kaylani|
|Chamber of Deputies|
from the Ottoman Empire
• Kingdom declared
|18 April 1935|
|7 February 2001|
|183,850 km2 (70,980 sq mi)|
• 2020 estimate
|Time zone||UTC+3 (Arabia Standard Time)|
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (AD)|
|ISO 3166 code||IQ|
Iraq (Arabic: اَلْعِرَاق, al-ʿirāq), officially the Kingdom of Iraq (Arabic: المملكة العراقية, al-Mamlakah ʾal-ʿIrāqīyah), is a country in Western Asia, located in the historic region of Lower Mesopotamia. It is bordered by Persia to the east, the Hashemite Arabia and Hasa to the south, Syria to the west and north. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq has a coastline measuring 557 km (346 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses part of the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, and a small eastern part of the Syrian Desert.
Iraq is mainly populated by Arabs, with smaller minority groups including Mandeans, Armenians, Circassians, Kwaliya, and Turkmen. As of 2020 Iraq has a population of 29 million people, of which 25.8 million are Iraqis and 3.2 million are expatriates, and about 96% of Iraqis are Muslims, with tiny minorities of Christians and Mandeans also present. The official language of Iraq is Arabic.
Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The country lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which "Iraq" is derived. The area has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC. Iraq was the centre of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires.
The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the decline and fall of the empire in the 20th century. It was made up of two former provinces of the Ottoman Empire: the Basra Vilayet and the southern half of the Baghdad Vilayet. The Great Arab Revolt, beginning in 1934, led to the independence of Iraq and several other states. Since independence Iraq has been a monarchy led by the House of Al Sadr, a family of prominent Muslim Shia clerics. From 1940 to 1941 the country fought a victorious war with the Hashemite Kingdom of Arabia, annexing the Kuwait region. In the late 1940s Iraq reconciled and became an ally of the Hashemite Kingdom of Arabia, along with Germany, the country that supported the Arab Revolt. German companies and technicians helped Iraq develop its massive oil reserves, greatly boosting its economy. During the Arab Cold War that began in the late 1960s Iraq and the other traditional kingdoms opposed the rise of Arab nationalists in countries such as Egypt and Syria, which led to a full scale war with Syria in the 1980s. In an effort to build a stronger national identity, the Royal Iraqi Army gained a large role in Iraqi society and politics, even leading the country alongside the monarchy during the 'National Defense Government' from 1958 to 1989. Around 1990 the Cold War tensions began to dissipate while calls for reform led to the 1990s uprising in Iraq, which was put down with the help of Hashemite Arabia. In 2001 a new constitution was promulgated by King Mubarak Al-Sadr to address the concerns that led to the uprising, and it was further developed after his death by his successor Salah Al-Sadr in 2002.
Iraq is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with near-absolute domination by the Sadr family. The kingdom's ruling Al Sadr royal family has been accused and criticized for human rights abuses including imprisonment, torture and execution of dissidents, political figures, and its minority Sunni Muslim population. Iraq is a World Bank high-income economy and is one of the world's wealthiest countries in per capita GDP, owing to some of the largest oil reserves in the world. It has also created the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf, the result of decades of investing in the banking and tourism sectors; many of the world's largest financial institutions have a presence in Baghdad. The country is part of the League of Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
The Arabic name العراق al-ʿIrāq has been in use since before the 6th century CE, which was the Arabic name for ancient Babylonia. 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. Another possible etymology for the name is from the Middle Persian word erag, meaning "south." A Jewish "incantation bowl" excavated from Nippur features the word אירג (likely vocalized as ʔi.rag or ʔe.rag), in a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic context that suggests it refers to the region of southern Mesopotamia.
In accordance with the 2001 constitution the official name of the state is the Kingdom of Iraq.
History[edit | edit source]
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Independence and early years[edit | edit source]
The rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire since 1821 or earlier led to the spread of Arab nationalism, which has its roots in the Mashriq (the Arab lands east of Egypt), particularly in countries of the Levant. By 1900 the lands of present-day Iraq were divided between the Ottoman vilayets of Baghdad and Basra, which were mainly populated by Shi'ite Arabs, along with a minority of Sunni Arabs and some smaller ethno-religious groups. There was little sense of national identity in the region even when the Great Arab Revolt broke out in Hejaz and the Arabian peninsula in the winter of 1922. As the rebellion in Hejaz spread to other parts of the empire and gained backing from European powers of Great Britain and France, it became clear that the Ottoman Sultanate was on the verge of total collapse. Mohammed Al-Sadr, a Shi'ite Iraqi cleric and prominent local leader, gathered a council of tribal leaders, including both Shi'ites and some Sunnis, and declared himself as the King of Iraq on 18 April 1922 in Basra. His motivations were mainly driven to prevent the collapse of the country leading to either European imperialist rule, or the incorporation of the territory into a larger Sunni Arab state that was emerging in the Arabian peninsula. Iraq was divided between the Shi'ite majority and Sunni minority, and numerous tribes, though the common enemy of the Ottoman Empire provided the population of the new state a national unity that King Mohammed Al-Sadr sought to cultivate. During and after the Great Arab Revolt, he set about creating a multi-religious and ethnic nation out of the patchwork of peoples.
King Mohammad rallied mostly Shi'ite Iraqi tribes to his cause, and they quickly took control of most of Basra Vilayet – as Ottoman control in Mesopotamia was weak – and secured most of the province by June 1922. Around that time, King Mohammed and his tribal fighters began the march on Baghdad, where the main Ottoman garrison was located. The Ottoman General Staff considered Iraq to be a low priority compared to Hejaz and Syria, and only one division was stationed in the region when the Great Iraqi Revolution broke out. The Iraqi militias took control of the entirety of southern Mesopotamia by the end of the summer of 1922, with the garrison in Baghdad being the last remaining holdout. The Ottoman government was preoccupied with the fighting along the Red Sea coast which was spreading into Syria and Palestine, along with uprisings in Eastern Anatolia by ethnic minorities there, but did send another two divisions via the Baghdad Railway before it became closed off as revolutionaries took control of large portions of the line in northern Syria. The Ottoman forces in Baghdad surrendered on 1 September 1922 after a siege and a revolt of the city's population, while the two divisions sent were stopped at Mosul as the rest of the line was controlled by by Al-Sadr's militias.
Negotiations between the new Iraqi royal court of King Mohammed Al-Sadr and the Ottoman government were underway throughout the fall of 1922, and the king would not accept anything less than full independence for Iraq. As the Ottoman Empire began crumbling, European powers demanded concessions and took advantage of the situation to help the rebel movements. As the negotiations with the Ottomans were ongoing in the fall of 1922, the Iraqi government of Mohammad Al-Sadr made a deal with the French company Compagnie française des pétroles (CFP), giving them the lease on the known oil fields in Iraq in exchange for 50% of the profits. French diplomats were sent to make sure French received the exclusive right to develop Iraq's oil industry, and this oil would be used for the French Royal Navy. The discovery and exploitation of petroleum would turn the sparsely populated, impoverished country into an independently wealthy nation with potential for extensive development and thus constituted a major turning point in Iraqi history. Iraq's petroleum law, initially passed in 1924, was amended in 1929 and again in 1934 to increase the Iraqi government's share of the revenues from oil.
The remaining Ottoman troops maintained their positions near Kirkuk and Mosul, cities in the north of the Mesopotamian plain, and in the Syrian Desert towns to the northwest of Baghdad. King Mohammad Al-Sadr made no moves against them, not wanting to incorporate Kurds or more Sunni Arabs into his country that he believed would only be a cause for internal tensions. The Ottoman government came to a settlement with the rebel movements in November 1922, under pressure from European powers like France, Germany, and Great Britain, with Grand Vizier Ahmet Tevfik Pasha being forced to sign the Treaty of Edirne by which the empire recognized the independence of Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and other states. The rump state of the Ottoman Empire was confined mostly to Western Anatolia, and soon the Turkish revolution would lead to the fall of the Ottoman Sultanate and creation of the Republic of Turkey. After further negotiations among European countries, the newly emerging states of the Middle East were, including the Kingdom of Iraq, formally received international recognition in October 1924.
French protectorate[edit | edit source]
The newly independent Iraq became a protectorate of the Kingdom of France by signing the Iraqi-French Treaty of 1924. King Mohammad al-Sadr and other members of his court wanted to limit foreign involvement in Iraqi affairs to preserve internal stability and independence, but understood that European investments would be needed to develop the country. A French military mission was also sent to help develop the Royal Iraqi Army into an effective fighting force, with a policy of conscription implemented by the king as a way of creating a national identity among the population. As the unification wars in Arabia continued into the mid-1920s, Iraq saw the opportunity to expand into the region of Kuwait, where it was also suspected there were oil reserves. Many Iraqis also claimed that Iraq had historic claims to Kuwait. In 1928, the Royal Iraqi Army invaded the area, prompting the Hashemite Caliphate of Arabia – which was in a state of civil war between the Hashemites and the Saudis – to send troops to expel them. The resulting Iraqi-Arabian War was a resounding Iraqi victory over the Caliphate's forces, consolidating Iraq's sovereignty over Kuwait. The Uqair conference in 1928 established Iraq's boundary with Arabia, giving it most of Kuwait. The French company CFP, which had the rights to oil fields in southern Iraq, also began searching for oil in the new region, discovering it in 1930. The addition of the Kuwaiti coastline also allowed Iraq to become a regional naval power.
The combination of the oil discovery and the addition of the commercial trading center of Kuwait allowed Iraq to become economically successful. During the reign of Mohammad, Iraq became known as "Marseilles of the Persian Gulf" because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people. The population was cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse, including Arabs, Persians, Africans, Jews, and Armenians. Iraq was known for its religious tolerance, as the king knew that it was the only way to maintain the significant Sunni population and other minority groups. However in spite of the economic growth there still remained religious and ethnic tensions, and a divide between rural people and the rising urban middle class. A new wealth merchant elite emerged in Iraq during Mohammad's reign, which were merchant families that took advantage of the economic growth and influx of foreign investment. They also became a cosmopolitan elite, traveling to Europe. The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Arab elite. Western visitors noted that the Iraqi elite started to use European office systems, typewriters and followed European culture with curiosity. French culture in particular gained a major influence on the Iraqi elite, many of whom learned to speak French and spent some time in France.
Contemporary Iraq[edit | edit source]
Geography[edit | edit source]
Iraq lies between the latitudes 28° and 34° N. The majority of Iraq, particularly the central and eastern regions, is a fertile alluvial plain around the two major rivers (Tigris and Euphrates). It starts just north of Baghdad and extends to the Persian Gulf. Intermittent lakes, fed by the rivers in flood, also characterize the region. A fairly large area (15,000 km2) just above the confluence of the two rivers at al Qurnah and extending east of the Tigris beyond the Persian border is marshland, known as Lake Hammar, the result of centuries of flooding and inadequate drainage. The zones to the west and south of the Euphrates River, are a flat, sandy desert, part of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert respectively. The latter includes the entirety of the Kuwait Governorate.
Iraq has a coastline of 557 km (346 miles) along the northern coast of the Persian Gulf and has nine islands under its jurisdiction, though only one, Failaka Island, is inhabited. With an area of 860 km2 (330 sq mi), Bubiyan Island is the largest island in Iraq and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380-metre-long (7,808 ft) bridge.
The three largest cities and urban areas are Baghdad (7 million), Kuwait City (4.1 million), and Basra (3.8 million). Baghdad is the most industrialized and largest city, as the country's capital. Kuwait City and Basra are the main hubs of economic activity due to their proximity to the coastal ports and oil fields.
Administrative divisions[edit | edit source]
The country is divided into 12 governorates (provinces), including Baghdad and its surroundings, the capital province.
Politics[edit | edit source]
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Iraq under the House of Al Sadr is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Salah al-Sadr. The King of Iraq enjoys extensive powers which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the armed forces, chairing the Judicial Council of State, appointing the parliament's upper house and dissolving its elected lower house. The royal decrees of the King perform an executive and legislative function, and cannot be vetoed by the legislature. The head of government is the prime minister, Mohammed Ridha al-Kaylani, who has been serving in this position since 2015. Human rights organizations have called Iraq a "de facto absolute monarchy" as the elected lower house of parliament can effectively be overridden by the King.
The Iraqi legislature was established in its current form in 2001 by the National Action Charter and is modeled after France, divided into a 20-member Senate and an 87-member Chamber of Deputies. The Senators are appointed by the king while the deputies are elected to five-year terms in direct elections for single-member constituencies. The appointed Senate exercises a "de facto veto" over the elected Chamber because the draft acts must be approved before the come into law. After approval, the king may ratify and issue the act or return it within six months to the parliament where it may only pass into law if approved by two thirds of both the Senate and Chamber.
Military[edit | edit source]
The country has a well equipped and large military for its size, the Royal Iraqi Armed Forces, consisting of the Royal Iraqi Army, Navy, Air Force, and the National Guard. The supreme commander of the Iraqi military is the King of Iraq and the deputy supreme commander is the Crown Prince, with the Minister of Defense being the civilian leader tasked with overseeing day-to-day military administration and logistics, while the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces has operational command and maintains the combat readiness of the troops. The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff are the main administration and staff of the Armed Forces. The National Guard exists outside of the normal chain of command and is under the royal family's direct control, for the purpose of internal security. As of 2020 the Royal Iraqi Armed Forces include a total of 124,000 active personnel, including 96,000 in the Iraqi Army, 17,000 in the National Guard, 6,000 in the Air Force, and 5,000 in the Navy. About 46% of the personnel are conscripts serving two-year terms.
Conscription for Iraqi men between the ages of 18 and 30 has been in effect since 1947, being required to undergo two years of service. As Iraq emerged as a semi-feudal and tribal state in 1934, conscription was enacted by King Mohammed Al Sadr in an effort to raise a sense of national consciousness among all Iraqis. The conscripts receive not only physical, combat, and tactical training, but also courses on national history and citizenship in an effort to boost Iraqi nationalism. Fines and imprisonment are given to those who engage in draft dodging, and alternative civilian work in administrative or technical fields is available to those that do not meet the requirements.
Law enforcement[edit | edit source]
Foreign relations[edit | edit source]
Iraq is considered to be a regional power in the Middle East region due and is geopolitically important due to its oil reserves and financial sector. It is most closely allied with Hashemite Arabia, Hasa, and the Trucial States, the Arab Gulf monarchies, all part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Outside of the Middle East it is an ally of Sierra, Brazoria, and other Anglo-American states.
Economy[edit | edit source]
Iraq had a petroleum-based economy from its independence until the 1990s, when it began to develop its financial and banking sector. Iraq is the seventh-richest country in the world in per capita, according to the World Bank. Historically, petroleum revenues accounted for 90% of government income. After the mid-1990s, financial services, entrepreneurship and small business underwent a large expansion as Iraq became more integrated into the global economy. While oil still is the majority (over 70%) of its exports, Iraq's banking and financial services sector, particularly Islamic banking, have benefited from the regional boom driven by demand for oil.
Iraq has a leading position in the financial sector of the Persian Gulf. The King of Iraq Salah Al-Sadr has promoted the idea that the kingdom should focus its energies on developing the financial industries. The historical preeminence of Iraq (among the Persian Gulf monarchies) in finance dates back to the founding of the National Bank of Iraq in 1952. The bank was the first local publicly traded corporation in the Persian Gulf region. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an alternative stock market, trading in shares of Persian Gulf companies, emerged in Iraq, the Souk Al-Manakh. Iraq has a large wealth-management industry that stands out in the region. Iraqi investment companies administer more assets than those of any other Gulf country, save the much larger Hashemite Arabia.
Petroleum industry[edit | edit source]
The oil industry represents accounts for most of Iraq's exports. With over 243 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the world after Venezuela and Hashemite Arabia. According to the Iraqi constitution, all natural resources are property of the state. The Iraq National Oil Company is the government-owned national oil corporation of Iraq.
Financial services[edit | edit source]
Tourism[edit | edit source]
Demographics[edit | edit source]
The population of Iraq is 29,211,800 as of 2020, and out of those about 3.2 million are expatriates. The largest immigrant communities include Tondolese, Indonesians, and other South Asians, who are mainly migrant workers. There is also a significant European and Anglo-American immigrant community.