Iraq (Arabic: العراق al-‘Irāq; Kurdish: عێراق Êraq), also known as the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جمهورية العراق Jumhūriyyat al-‘Irāq; Kurdish: كۆماری عێراق Komarî Êraq) is a Western Asian/Middle Eastern country bordering Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey.
Historically, the country was known as Mesopotamia, so named because it is located between (meso) the two great rivers (potamia) of Western Asia: the Tigris and the Euphrates, both originating from Turkey's Taurus Mountains. In between the rivers is a great alluvial plain that spearheaded the world's first agricultural revolution. Mesopotamia is the eastern part of a giant half-ring of fertile areas in the Middle East where this revolution arose, the western part being the Levantine region and Egypt.
Iraq was site to the world's oldest known civilization, Sumer, which rose in the 5th millennium BCE. Nobody knows where it came from or what language Sumerian was part of. The earliest Sumerian texts date back to the 27th century BCE and before, but most of the surviving literature (including the various myths) are dated later. The city of Uruk, capital of the Sumerian civilization during the 4th millennium BCE, is thought to be Iraq's namesake. Sumer gradually intertwined and was eventually absorbed into the Akkadian Empire, a collection of city-states founded by Sargon of Akkad in the 24th century BCE. The Akkadians spoke a Semitic language (albeit one that was much, much older than the later Semitic languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic, and one from a branch that is now extinct) and incorporated many aspects of Sumerian culture to their own, much like how the Romans co-opted the Greeks' culture. Sargon's empire collapsed less than two centuries after it was founded, paving the way for two states to emerge in Mesopotamia: Babylonia in the south and Assyria in the north.
Babylonia and Assyria were great rivals and traded territories throughout the next millennia and a half, taking turns on dominating the region; the hegemony of the First Assyrian Empire was followed by the First Babylonian Empire, and then the Assyrians again, and so forth. This continued until the 1st millennium BCE. During the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Aramaic, a West Semitic language originally from the Levant, was introduced as the empire's lingua franca. Aramaic subsequently displaced Akkadian as the dominant language of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent as a whole. The empire was followed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the last native Mesopotamian dynasty to rule the region famously mentioned in the Old Testament as the instigator of the Babylonian captivity. In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great in his final successful campaign led the Persians to conquer Babylonia, adding it into The Achaemenid Empire. Despite being ruled by foreigners thereafter, Mesopotamia retained its importance as a center of politics; although the base of Persian power remained in the Iranian Plateau, the center of Persian political culture from the Achaemenid to the Sassanid era was based in Babylonia (first in Babylon itself before moving to the purpose-built city of Ctesiphon, located midway between Babylon and today's Baghdad).
In the early 1st millennium CE, Mesopotamia was an important Jewish and Christian center, and was the birthplace of Mandaeism and Manichaeism. The Babylonian Talmud was composed during a period of three centuries in Babylonia, while Assyria became one of the last bastions of Nestorian Christianity, an ancient Christian sect that rejected the Council of Ephesus; Erbil today hosts the headquarters of the Assyrian Church of the East, the largest Nestorian congregation in the world.
In the 7th century, Mesopotamia was conquered by the Arabs, forcing the Persians to retreat to the Iranian Plateau, where they too eventually succumbed several years later. The region was subsequently Arabized and Islamized, but otherwise nothing's changed about the region's importance. The fourth caliph (and first Shia Imam) Ali briefly made the Babylonian city of Kufa his capital and the region once more became a center of political power after the Abbasid Caliphate overthrew the Umayyad Caliphate in 750, moving the nexus of the Islamic world from Damascus to Baghdad. Baghdad became an education hub, one of the main centers of the Islamic Golden Age, and hosted the "House of Wisdom", a vast collection of scientific works and literature comparable to the ancient Library of Alexandria (indeed, some of the works in Alexandria survived only through Arabic translations collected in the House of Wisdom).
As the power of the Abbasids receded in the Middle Ages, Mesopotamia was frequently targeted by empires wishing to claim political legitimacy from the Abbasid caliphs. The golden age of Mesopotamia came to an end in the 13th century, when the Mongols invaded. In an infamous bloodbath, the Mongols absolutely went to town on Baghdad, sacking the city and destroying the House of Wisdom in one of the worst cases of vandalism and Book Burning in world history (it was said that the Tigris turned black in color from the ink of the books that the Mongols threw into the river). They also massacred the inhabitants, including the Abbasid caliph at the time. Baghdad turned from a shining city into a ghost town literally overnight and has never truly managed to reclaim the glory of the Islamic Golden Age since (not helping matters was when Timur the Lame, the so-called "Sword of Islam", showed up a century later, just as Baghdad was beginning to recover, and proceeded to do the same thing all over again. Timur also basically destroyed the Church of the East, leaving only the aforementioned Assyrian branch as the remnant of a once-influential church sect).
In the early 16th century, Mesopotamia was conquered and briefly ruled by Safavid Iran, who brought their Shia evagelization with them, hence why most of southern Iraq today is a Shia heartland. In 1534, Ottoman Turkey wrestled the entire region from Iran. Modern-day Iraq was governed through four eyalets (Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, and Shahrizor), later reduced to three vilayets (Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul). From 1704 to 1831, the eyalets were governed under a semi-autonomous dynasty of the Mamluks, during which time the region enjoyed a brief period of national revival.
With the end of Ottoman rule after World War I, Mesopotamia was captured by the British. Together with the French, they arbitrarily cut their sphere of influence under the so-called Sykes-Picot line, dividing the Fertile Crescent in two and with it its associated ethnic groups, despite protests by the minorities (a Kurdish revolt in 1919 established a short-lived autonomous Kurdish government in Sulaymaniyah that was unrecognized and ultimately fell in 1944). Originally, the British wanted to turn Mesopotamia into a colony, but nationalist revolts forced them to reconsider the plans. Instead of a direct colony, the British created Mandatory Iraq in 1922, a vassal state ruled by Faisal I of the Hashemite dynasty (brother of Abdullah I, the first king of Jordan), who previously ruled Syria until he was deposed by the French. The discovery of the oilfields in the late 1920s brought increased importance of Iraq among the British, who monopolized the oil industry through the Iraq Petroleum Company. However, Iraqi nationalism hampered the British to rule (it also didn't help that the Hashemite monarchy was seen as a British puppet and never really welcomed) and in 1930 Iraq obtained a treaty with the UK for full independence two years later.
Instability prevailed over the new Iraqi state, with no less than six coups occurring during the 1930s. During World War II, a coup in 1941 installed an anti-British government that sought the help of Nazi Germany, triggering a month-long war that saw the UK occupying Iraq again. It was used as a base to attack the Vichy French-led Syrian colony and Iran, whose government's attempt to declare neutrality did not sit well with the Allies. Nationalist and communist ideas spread over Iraq and much of the Arab world after the war, fueled also by the establishment of Israel. In 1958, the Hashemite monarchy was bloodily deposed during the July Revolution (the king and some members of the royal family were executed) and Iraq officially became a republic.
The Arab nationalist Ba'ath Party first took power in 1963, but was deposed after a few months. Under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, they regained their power again after the failure of the Six-Day War, managing to suppress the Kurdish revolt in 1970. Coupled with the positive direction the economy was taking, the party gained popular legitimacy. After a long party struggle, al-Bakr eventually resigned in 1979, replaced by his cousin Saddam Hussein.
A year later, Saddam declared an ultimately futile, Western-backed war against then-new Islamic government in Iran, citing territorial disputes that Iraq had been claiming since the end of the Ottoman period. Actually, the rest of Saddam's presidency can be characterized by a string of attempted conquests "justified" by territorial disputes, earning him the reputation of a warmonger and distrust by Iraq's neighbors (including even fellow Ba'athist Syria). The third Kurdish uprising of the 1980s led Saddam to launch a pacification campaign that was condemned for its systematic human rights violations (particularly in 1988). This aggressive foreign policy culminated in 1990, when Iraq conquered Kuwait on the flimsy basis that the Kuwaiti government was encroaching on Iraqi lands. Since Kuwait was (and is) a neutral state, this was seen as the last straw as the entire world, including the Soviets who had long backed Iraq, saw this as an unjustified war of aggression. A UN coalition led by the United States ejected the invaders, forcing the Iraqi forces to retreat. Shia Arabs and Kurds, seeing the results of the Gulf War as a sign that the Ba'athists had been weakened, tried to rebel but were put down, causing more than a million Iraqis to flee the country. Still, the Kurds obtained provisions of a semi-autonomous state, with the creation of the Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq spent the rest of the 1990s as a pariah state, with most of its allies abandoning it and its enemies (chiefly the US) putting sanctions and declaring the whole country a no-fly zone.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded by the United States as part of the latter's War on Terror, on the alleged basis that it was cooperating with terrorists and hosting Weapons of Mass Destruction. America being on the heels of 9/11 did not have common sense to think otherwise and wouldn't budge despite European opposition. As you probably know, all these were infamously debunked later, but not before the Americans and their allies deposed the Ba'athists, installing a US-friendly client government that promised democracy and equality for the marginalized minorities at the expense of the Sunni Arabs. The terrorists, who by then were a fringe group in Iraq, came to the forefront as a result of this, taking advantage of the now-disenfranchised Sunni Arabs. Said client government, on the other hand was dominated by the Shia Arabs, bringing Iran's influence to the mix. Cue more than a decade of nightmarish insurgency and sectarian violence that didn't end even after most of US forces left Iraq in 2011.
While Iraq today is in a better condition than the post-invasion period of the 2000s, it is still a very divided country mired in sectarian disputes and certainly not a full, free, and secure democracy that the US promised when it invaded the country. Currently, the country is locked in a low-level, intermittent, conflict between the US and Iran, each attempting to assert their influence, mainly through the political process but also the occasional assassinations. That said, its constitutional order has stood up remarkably well—better than many analysts had predicted (leaving out ones who had an interest in saying it would be awesome because America and those who had an interest in saying it was an awful puppet regime that would never last, also because America). The relative resilience of the Iraqi regime compared to that of the one established in Afghanistan under similar conditions will be fodder for political scientists for years to come; a common (unprovable but compelling) argument is that Iraq's German-inspired parliamentary system is actually more stable in a deeply divided society than Afghanistan's American-inspired presidential one.note
Iraq has long been one of the centers of Arabic-language culture, and Arab identity is fairly heavily ingrained among the Arabic-speaking community (to the point where Iraq was the only country not to border Israel to participate in all three Arab-Israeli Wars (1948, 1967, and 1973)). The joke in Arab high culture is that Egypt writes, Lebanon publishes, and Iraq reads. Before the War on Terror, Iraq was more closely identified with the "Arabian Nights" Days trope, whose tone was based on Abbasid-era Baghdad.
Not to be confused with Qurac, though it is often portrayed in this manner in media.
- Chris Kattan is of Iraqi Jewish descent on his father's side.
- Alia Shawkat was born in the US to an Iraqi immigrant father.
- Nadia Murad, recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle to end sexual violence as a means of war. A Yazidi, she was a victim of mass rape and genocide conducted by the Islamic State against the Yazidi people during their brutal rule over northern Iraq during the 2010s.
Iraq and its inhabitants in fiction:
- Valley Of The Wolves Iraq, a Turkish film, which flopped outside of it's home country.
- The Devil's Double deals with Uday Hussein's body double.
- Mosul (2020) takes place in the titular city during the occupation of ISIS. The plot follows the real-life Nineveh Province SWAT Team on a dangerous mission in ISIS-held provinces.
- Many stories of the Arabian Nights take place in the Abbasid Caliphate and its capital, Baghdad. Harun al-Rashid, for example, was a real historical figure who ruled the caliphate from 786 to 809.
- The Exorcist opens in northern Iraq, where an archaeological expedition found a statue of the demon Pazuzu (in real life the Mesopotamian god of the wind).
- Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Samirah "Sam" Al Abbas is raised in a strict Iraqi Muslim household in the Bostonian neighborhood of Dorchester by her grandparents, who took her in after her mother's death. Since her father is Loki, she recounts experiencing double discrimination in her life, as she is frequently a target of Islamophobia by mundane people, while also being distrusted by the Norse for being the daughter of an evil god. Despite working with the Norse gods, she is a devout Muslim and worships Allah only, considering the polytheistic gods as mere angels.
- See the shows listed in "Iraq War" in the During the War article.
- Generation Kill, which follows a group of US Marines during the 2003 invasion and through daily life in post-Saddam Iraq.
- In "Scimitar" from 1996 an American Marine parolling the Kuwaiti border accidently crossed the Iraqi border and was captured by the Iraqis.
- Iraq is also the setting for several episodes post the 2003 invasion.
- Sayid on Lost is Iraqi, so a number of his centric episodes take place in Iraq (with Hawaii doubling.)
- SEAL Team's twelfth episode takes place during the battle of Al-Qaim in late 2017 as they try to recover the hard drive from a crashed Air Force drone that has been captured by Islamic State fighters.
- Most of the Mesopotamian Mythology naturally take place in Iraq.
- The Bible:
- Abraham's home country of Shinar is suggested to be the Hebrew rendering of the Sumerian civilization.
- Since Mesopotamian states were responsible for the end of the First Temple period, they figured a lot in books focusing on the event. The Neo-Assyrian Empire, under Shalmaneser V, conquered Israel and scattered the people living in it, creating the ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Later, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, under Nebuchadnezzar II, conquered Judah and started the Babylonian captivity by deporting the inhabitants of Judah to Babylonia.
- Arab Mythology
- Oran, one of the heroes (well, Anti Heroes) of Broken Saints, hails from Baghdad. Interestingly enough, unlike most other instances, Oran was introduced well before the second Gulf War, and was actually written in response to the Western interference in the Middle-East during the 90s. And unlike with most other instances, it is his deep religiosity which causes him to have doubts about his violent actions.
- While not set in Iraq exactly, Agrabah from Aladdin is heavily inspired by Baghdad, being an adaptation of an Arabian Nights story (in fact, the name is a portmanteau of Agra, a city in North India, and Baghdad).
- Former President Saddam Hussein is Satan's homosexual lover in South Park, as well as The Man Behind the Man in the movie. He is drawn - and acts - like most Canadians in the series: very crudely drawn and with a quite high-pitched voice. Interestingly, unlike many Canadians, he is not flatulent.
Saddam: Ayy, relax, guy! I'm just the average Joe, y'know!
- The Thief and the Cobbler is set in Baghdad, at least in one incarnation of the movie.
- Assassin's Creed: Mirage, a Spin-Off of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla with the latter's supporting character Basim as protagonist, is set in 9th century Abbasid Baghdad.
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Several levels takes place in a futuristic New Baghdad that unlike most depictions, is now a redeveloped technological paradise, thanks to the ATLAS Corporation. CEO Johnathan Irons even gloats about how his company has rebuilt the city from the ground-up in contrast to how the US Government of the past left it destroyed and broken in the opening monologue of the mission "Utopia"
Irons: "While our leaders left this place to its fate, I took this as an opportunity to seize our destiny. Fifty years of rot and we rebuilt it in five. Now, New Baghdad is more than just a thriving city, it's a symbol of what's to come."
- Command & Conquer: Generals: The opening mission for the USA takes place in Baghdad. In a clear reference to Operation Desert Storm, a battalion of American tanks with heavy air support blasts its way through a line of GLA tanks with no casualties.
- The third instalment of the The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes takes place in the Zagros Mountains region of Iraq during the final days of the 2003-US invasion. A group of US Force Recon Marines led by several CIA agents hope to recover evidence of WMDs possibly hidden below a remote village. Instead, they find something down there that is way, way worse than anything they could have ever imagined.
- The online game Kuma War follows events from the period in a rather literal case of a Real Life Writes the Plot storyline.
- Overwatch has the Oasis map, which is set in Iraq. While many works written during The War on Terror depict Iraq as a war-torn zone, the game goes for the opposite, depicting it as an architect's dream and a center of scientific advancement.
- Shows up as a setting for numerous levels in Project Reality, in the post-Saddam phase.
- The pseudo-Survival Horror game Six Days In Fallujah is set during the Second Battle of Fallujah, a city in Iraq.
- Splinter Cell: Conviction has a flashback mission set in Diwaniya during the Gulf War, where you play as Victor Coste, and are rescuing your friend, Sam Fisher, who was captured in an ambush. Blacklist has another mission in Iraq, this time set in Mirawa near the border with Iran, where you are tasked with infiltrating an Engineer camp to gather intel.
The Iraqi flag
Coat of arms of Iraq
The Iraqi national anthem
- Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
- President: Abdul Latif Rashid
- Prime Minister: Mohammed Shia al-Sudani
- Speaker: Mohamed al-Halbousi
- Chief Justice: Jassim Mohammed Abboud Hammadi
- Capital and largest city: Baghdad
- Population: 38,433,600
- Area: 438,317 km² (169,235 sq mi) (58th)
- Currency: Iraqi dinar (د.ع) (IQD)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: IQ
- Country calling code: 964
- Highest point: Cheekha Dar (3611 m/11,847 ft) (48th)
- Lowest point: Arabian Gulfnote /Persian Gulf (90 m/300 ft) (-)