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September 2012

Iraq country profile

Iraq country profile

Iraq, slightly larger than twice the US state of Idaho, has a total area of 438,317 sq km. Its climate is mostly desert with mild to cool winters and dry, hot summers. The northern mountainous regions experience cold winters with heavy snows that melt in early spring. Iraq's terrain is mostly broad plains, mountains along the borders with Iran and Turkey and marshes along the Iranian border in the south.

Iraq was once part of the Ottoman Empire and later occupied by Britain during World War I. In 1932 Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom. In 1958 a republic was proclaimed. The last leader of Iraq was Saddam Husayn, until 2003. From 1980-1988, territorial disputes with Iran led to a costly, inconclusive war. In 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by a UN coalition in 1991. Iraq was ordered to destroy weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles by the UN Security Council. Noncompliance of this led to a 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ousting of the Saddam Husayn regime.

US forces remained in Iraq through 2009 under a UN Security Council mandate. After 2009, US forces remained under a bilateral security agreement to help provide security and training to Iraqi security forces. In January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all governorates except for the three governorates comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk Governorate. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010 and approved the new government in December 2010. US military operations there ended in mid-December 2011.

An improving security environment and foreign investment are helping to spur economic activity, particularly in the energy, construction, and retail sectors. Political and economic tensions between Baghdad and local governments have led some provincial councils to use their budgets to independently promote and facilitate investment at the local level. The natural resources of Iraq include: petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, and sulfur. Natural hazards facing Iraq include: dust storms, sandstorms, and floods.

CIA World Factbook, 8/2012

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