Middle East

Iraq country profile

Map of Iraq

Iraq, which occupies an area once home to some of the earliest known civilisations, became a battleground for competing forces after the US-led ouster of President Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The mainly Shia-led governments that have held power since then have struggled to maintain order, and the country has enjoyed only brief periods of respite from high levels of sectarian violence.

Instability and sabotage have hindered efforts to rebuild an economy shattered by decades of conflict and sanctions, even though Iraq has the world's second largest reserves of crude oil.


Republic of Iraq

Capital: Baghdad

  • Population 37 million

  • Area 438,317 sq km (169,235 sq miles)

  • Major languages Arabic, Kurdish

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 68 years (men), 73 years (women)

  • Currency Iraqi dinar

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President: Fuad Masum

Image copyright Getty Images

Veteran Iraqi politician Fuad Masum was overwhelmingly elected by parliament in July 2014.

He is the second ethnic Kurdish president of Iraq, succeeding Jalal Talabani.

Prime Minister: Haider al-Abadi

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A veteran Shia Muslim politician, Mr al-Abadi was deputy speaker of parliament when President Masum asked him to form a government in the summer of 2014.

His cabinet enjoyed initial Sunni and Kurdish support, something which the previous Shia-led government lacked.

Improved relations between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government allowed the signing of a deal in December 2014 to share the country's oil wealth and military resources.

The immediate aim was to unite the country against the armed Islamic State group, which by the end that year had advanced into northern and central Iraq.

The Iraqi military, along with Shia and Kurdish forces, managed to force Islamic State out of all but a handful of redoubts by October 2016.

Mr al-Abadi then sent troops to push back Kurdish forces in the north, in an effort to halt the Regional Government's plans to negotiate an independent Kurdistan.

  • Mr al-Abadi and Moqtada al-Sadr - the Shia cleric whose political bloc won most votes in the May 2018 parliamentary election - have agreed to work together to form a new government.


Image copyright Getty Images

There are hundreds of publications and scores of radio and TV stations. But political and security crises have resulted in an increasingly fractured media scene.

Television is the main medium for news. Many media outlets have political or religious affiliations.


Some key dates in Iraq's history:

1534-1918 - Ottoman rule.

1917 - Britain seizes control, creates state of Iraq.

1932 - Independence, followed by coups.

1979 - Saddam Hussein becomes president.

1980-1988 - Iran-Iraq war.

1990 - Iraq invades Kuwait, putting it on a collision course with the international community.

1991 - Iraq subjected to sanctions, weapons inspections and no-fly zones.

2003 - US-led coalition invades, starting years of guerrilla warfare and instability.

2014 - The armed Islamic State group emerges as a major force in the region and seizes large parts of Iraq, which it holds until a government offensive drives it out in 2017.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption US marines toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein shortly after the invasion in 2003. Years of instability followed

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