Useful country information
Total area: 167,556 sq mi (433,970 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 32,585,692 (growth rate: 2.23%); birth rate: 26.85/1000; infant mortality rate: 37.53/1000; life expectancy: 71.42
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Baghdad, 6.036 million
Largest cities: Mosul 1.494 million; Erbil 1.039 million; Basra 942,000; As Sulaymaniyah 867,000; Najaf 779,000
Monetary unit: Iraqi Dinar
Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish (official), Turkmen (a Turkish dialect) and Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic) are official in areas where they constitute a majority of the population), Armenian
Ethnicity/race: Arab 75%?80%, Kurdish 15%?20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%
Religions: Muslim (official) 99% (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian 0.8%, Hindu <.1, Buddhist <.1, Jewish <.1, folk religion <.1, unafilliated .1, other <.1
note: while there has been voluntary relocation of many Christian families to northern Iraq, recent reporting indicates that the overall Christian population may have dropped by as much as 50% since the fall of the Saddam HUSSEIN regime in 2003, with many fleeing to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon (2010 est.)
National Holiday: Revolution Day, July 17
Literacy rate: 78.5% (2010 est.)
From earliest times Iraq was known as Mesopotamia?the land between the rivers?for it embraces a large part of the alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
An advanced civilization existed in this area by 4000 B.C. Sometime after 2000 B.C., the land became the center of the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Mesopotamia was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 B.C. and by Alexander in 331 B.C. After an Arab conquest in 637?640, Baghdad became the capital of the ruling caliphate. The country was pillaged by the Mongols in 1258, and during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries was the object of Turkish and Persian competition.
Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-1988). In August 1990 Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during January-February 1991. The victors did not occupy Iraq, however, thus allowing the regime to stay in control. 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.
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