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Iraq or Irak (both: ēräkˈ, ĭrăkˈ), officially Republic of Iraq, republic (2005 est. pop. 26,075,000), 167,924 sq mi (434,924 sq km), SW Asia. Iraq is bordered on the south by Kuwait, the Persian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia; on the west by Jordan and Syria; on the north by Turkey; and on the east by Iran. Iraq formerly shared a neutral zone with Saudi Arabia that is now divided between the two countries. Baghdad is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

Iraq's only outlet to the sea is a short stretch of coast on the northwestern end of the Persian Gulf, including the Shatt al Arab waterway. Basra and Umm Qasr are the main ports. Iraq is approximately coextensive with ancient Mesopotamia. The southwest, part of the Syrian Desert, supports a small population of nomadic shepherds. In the rest of the country, life centers on the great southeast-flowing rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which come together in the Shatt al Arab at the head of the Persian Gulf. The marshy delta was largely drained in the early 1990s as part of a government program to control the Marsh Arabs, who had participated in the Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein; the drying out of the marshes led to a dramatic increase in duststorms and sandstorms. Marsh restoration efforts began in 2003, and roughly 75% of the area was restored; since then the marshlands have again experienced losses. Between the two rivers are numerous wadis and water basins.

Very little rainfall occurs in Iraq except in the northeast, and agriculture mainly depends upon river water. The sandy soil and steady heat of the southeast enable a large date crop and much cotton to be produced. The rivers cause destructive floods, though they occur less often as a result of flood-control projects undertaken since the 1950s. Farther upstream, as the elevation increases, rainfall becomes sufficient to grow diversified crops, including grains and vegetables. In the mountainous north the economy shifts from agriculture to oil production, notably in the great fields near Mosul and Kirkuk.

Nearly 80% of the population of Iraq is Arabic-speaking, while over 95% is Muslim (Sunni and Shiite) in religion. There are about twice as many Shiites as Sunnis, the latter sect being more numerous throughout the majority of Arab countries. The hilly uplands of NE Iraq are primarily inhabited by Kurds, who are largely Sunni Muslims; other large minorities include Turkmen or Turkomans (Turks), Armenians, and Assyrians (Nestorian Christians). Most of the country's once large Jewish population emigrated to Israel in the early 1950s. As a result of the insurgent and sectarian fighting that occurred following the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003, an estimated 1.6 to 2 million Iraqis had left Iraq by the end of 2006, mainly to neighboring Jordan or Syria; a similar number had relocated within Iraq. Among those who have left are an estimated two thirds of Iraq's Christians and many of Iraq's other minorities.


The oil industry dominates Iraq's economy, accounting for nearly 95% of the country's revenues. Oil is produced mainly by the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was owned by an international group of investors until it was nationalized in 1972. The oil is piped to Turkey, Tripoli (Lebanon), Baniyas (Syria), and the Persian Gulf. Oil exports, which had suffered during the Iran-Iraq War, improved during the late 1980s, only to be severely decreased by embargoes related to the Persian Gulf War. In 1996, a UN agreement allowed Iraq to export oil for the first time since 1990; by 2002, oil production was about 70% of what it was in the 1970s. Following the U.S. invasion in 2003, oil production gradually returned to what it had been in 2002 and began to exceed that in 2012.

Aside from petroleum production and refining, Iraq has a small, diversified industrial sector, including food processing and the production of chemicals, textiles, leather goods, construction materials, and metals. New industries have been started in electronics products, fertilizers, and refined sugar. Agricultural production, which employs about a third of the workforce, is not sufficient to meet the country's food requirements. Iraq's chief crops include wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates (Iraq is one of the world's largest producers), and cotton. Cattle and sheep are also raised. Oil is the main export and food, medicine, and manufactures the main imports. The United States, Turkey, and Syria are the chief trading partners.

Iraq has been highly dependent on foreign economic aid in recent years, from both Western and Arab countries. The country also has a severe labor shortage. The Baghdad Railway, long an important means of communication, is declining in importance in favor of travel by road and air. There are international airports at Baghdad and Basra, and a state-owned airline operates within Iraq and abroad.


Iraq is a parliamentary democracy governed under a constitution that was ratified in 2005. The president, who is head of state, is elected by the Council of Representatives. The government is headed by the prime minister. The bicameral legislature consists of the 275-seat Council of Representatives, whose members are elected by proportional representation, and a Federation Council, whose membership had not been defined as of late 2007. Administratively, the country is divided into 18 governorates.


Early History through British Influence

Iraq is a veritable treasure house of antiquities, and recent archaeological excavations have greatly expanded the knowledge of ancient history. Prior to the Arab conquest in the 7th cent. A.D., Iraq had been the site of a number of flourishing civilizations, including the Sumer, which developed one of the earliest known writing systems, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria. The capital of the Abbasid caliphate was established at Baghdad in the 8th cent. and the city became a famous center for learning and the arts.

Despite fierce resistance, Mesopotamia fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 16th cent. and passed under direct Ottoman administration in the 19th cent. (see Ottoman Empire, when it came to constitute the three Turkish provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. At this time the area became of great interest to the European powers, especially the Germans, who wanted to extend the Berlin-Baghdad railroad all the way to the port of Kuwait.

In World War I the British invaded Iraq in their war against the Ottoman Empire; Britain declared then that it intended to return to Iraq some control of its own affairs. Nationalist elements, impatient over delay in gaining independence, revolted in 1920 but were suppressed by the British. Late that year the Treaty of Sèvres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 the country was made a kingdom headed by Faisal I. With strong reluctance an elected Iraqi assembly agreed in 1924 to a treaty with Great Britain providing for the maintenance of British military bases and for a British right of veto over legislation. By 1926 an Iraqi parliament and administration were governing the country. The treaty of 1930 provided for a 25-year alliance with Britain. The British mandate was terminated in 1932, and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations.

In 1933 the small Christian Assyrian community revolted, culminating in a governmental military crackdown and loss of life and setting a precedent for internal minority uprisings in Iraq. Meanwhile, the first oil concession had been granted in 1925, and in 1934 the export of oil began. Domestic politics were turbulent, with many factions contending for power. Late in 1936, the country experienced the first of seven military coups that were to take place in the next five years.

In Apr., 1941, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, leader of an anti-British and pro-Axis military group, seized power and ousted Emir Abd al-Ilah, the pro-British regent for the child king, Faisal II (who had succeeded his father, Ghazi, ruler from Faisal I's death in 1933 to his own death in 1939). The British reinforced their garrisons by landing troops at Basra, and in May, al-Gaylani, with some German and Italian support, opened hostilities. He was utterly defeated by June, and Emir Abd al-Ilah was recalled. On Jan. 16, 1943, Iraq declared war on the Axis countries. Anti-British sentiment was reasserted after the war, and in 1948 a British-sponsored modification of the treaty of 1930 was defeated by the Iraqi parliament because of animosity arising over the Palestine problem.

Iraq at Mid-Century

Iraq, with other members of the Arab League, participated in 1948 in the unsuccessful war against Israel. Premier Nuri al-Said dissolved all political parties in 1954, and a new parliament was elected. A national development program, financed mostly by oil royalties, was undertaken; the United States extended technical aid, and after 1956, military assistance. In external affairs, Iraq continued adamant opposition to Israel and pledged loyalty to the Arab League. The USSR's support of Kurdish nationalism caused a break in relations in 1955. Later that year Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and Britain formed the Baghdad Pact. In Feb., 1958, following announcement of the merger of Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic, Iraq and Jordan announced the federation of their countries into the Arab Union.

In a swift coup on July 14, 1958, the army led by Gen. Abd al-Karim Kassem seized control of Baghdad and proclaimed a republic, with Islam declared the national religion. King Faisal, Crown Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Said were killed, and the Arab Union was dissolved. Iraq's activity in the Baghdad Pact ceased, and the country formally withdrew in 1959. Diplomatic relations were restored with the USSR, but Iraq pursued a policy of nonalignment in the cold war. Relations with neighbors became antagonistic when Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait and over Iranian territory along the Shatt al Arab. In 1962 the chronic Kurdish problem flared up when tribes led by Mustafa Barzani revolted, demanded an autonomous Kurdistan, and gained control of much of N Iraq; fighting continued throughout the 1960s and 70s.

Coups and Conflicts

In Feb., 1963, Col. Abd al-Salam Aref led a coup that overthrew the Kassem regime. The new regime was dominated by members of the Iraqi Ba'ath party, a socialist group whose overall goal was Arab unity. In Nov., 1963, however, the party's members in the governing council were expelled by an army coup engineered by President Aref. In 1966, the president and two cabinet members died in a helicopter crash. Aref's brother, Gen. Abd al-Rahman Aref, assumed office; he was overthrown by a bloodless coup in 1968. Maj. Gen. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr of the Ba'ath party became president and began a purge of opponents. Espionage trials in 1969 led to the execution of more than 50 persons.

Relations with Syria soured in 1970 when a younger generation of Ba'ath party members took control there, creating a rivalry between Syrian and Iraqi Ba'athists. Relations with the USSR improved, however, and in 1972 a 15-year friendship treaty was signed. The Communist party in Iraq was also legalized. In 1973, another coup was foiled; the internal security chief was blamed, and he and 35 others were executed. Iraq took an active part in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War; it also participated in the oil boycott against nations supporting Israel. In early 1974, years of border conflicts with Iran culminated in heavy armed clashes along the entire length of their border. A year later some agreement between Iraq and Iran over the Shatt al Arab waterway was reached. At this time, Iraq's acquired wealth from its oil revenues enabled the establishment of modernization programs and improved public services throughout the country.

In 1975 the Kurds once again fought for their independence in N Iraq, but they suffered heavily when Iran withdrew support. Fighting led to the Iraqi bombing of Kurdish villages in parts of Iran, which again exacerbated tensions between the two countries. Opposition within Iraq grew among the Shiites, who were the majority of the population yet were excluded from political power. As the Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran grew in the late 1970s, Iraqi leaders recognized its threat.

The Presidency of Saddam Hussein

In 1979, President Bakr resigned, and Saddam Hussein Takriti assumed control of the government. He immediately purged the Ba'ath party after an unsuccessful coup, killing leftist members. War between Iran and Iraq, primarily over the Shatt al Arab waterway, erupted full-scale in 1980 (see Iran-Iraq War). The eight-year war became a series of mutual attacks and stalemates, as both countries' oil production fell drastically, the death toll rose, and great mutual destruction was inflicted. Poison gas was used by Iraq against Iran, and by Iraq on Kurdish villages as the Kurdish rebellion continued. Eventually, a cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations led to the war's end in 1988. Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic relations in 1990.

Throughout 1989 and into 1990, Hussein's repressive policies and continued arms buildup caused international criticism, particularly in the United States, which had favored Iraq during the war with Iran. Hostility against Israel increased, particularly after Israel's bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Hussein accused neighboring Kuwait in July, 1990, with flooding world oil markets, causing oil prices to decrease and threatening Iraq's attempts to boost its war-torn economy. On Aug. 2, 1990, some 120,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, and Hussein declared its annexation (see Persian Gulf War). Foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait were held hostage but released after a few months.

The United Nations established international trade sanctions against Iraq, but Hussein did not withdraw his troops. U.S.-led coalition forces began air attacks on Iraq on Jan. 16, 1991, which led to a ground invasion to retake Kuwait. During this time, Iraq launched Scud missiles against both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iraqi forces quickly succumbed to coalition troops and were forced out of Kuwait. While suffering heavy casualties, Iraq retained its elite Republican Guard, and Hussein remained in power. UN inspections imposed as part of the conditions for ending the war found evidence of chemical warheads and of a program to produce materials for nuclear weapons; Iraq destroyed some chemical weapons under UN supervision.

The war left huge amounts of wreckage in the country's major cities and ports and created hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, who fled to Turkey, Iran, and Jordan. Iraq's major problems were feeding its population and rebuilding its war-torn country. These problems were aggravated by crippling trade sanctions. The Kurds again rose in revolt despite heavy-handed Iraqi military attacks, and in S Iraq, Shiites also lashed out against the government. In 1992 the Kurds established an “autonomous region” in N Iraq. Two rival factions, the Kurdistan Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, engaged in sporadic warfare during the 1990s; in 1999 the two groups agreed to end hostilities.

Confrontations with the United Nations and former coalition members, especially the United States, continued to flare. In 1993, after Hussein had repeatedly violated terms of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire, bombers from the United States and other coalition members twice struck Iraqi targets. In Oct., 1994, Iraq massed troops on the Kuwaiti border; the United States and other coalition members increased their forces in the area, and Iraq withdrew the troops.

In May, 1996, Iraq reached an accord with the United Nations allowing it to sell $1 billion worth of oil every 90 days, with the money set aside for food and medicine, compensation to Kuwaitis, and other purposes. The program was subsequently renewed (it ended only in Nov., 2003), and many restrictions on civilian trade were removed, but it also became a means (through the use of illicit surcharges) for funneling money to Hussein's government.

In Oct., 1997, the UN disarmament commission concluded that Iraq was continuing to hide information on biological arms and was withholding data on chemical weapons and missiles. U.S. weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq in Nov., 1997, and a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf ensued. As Iraq ceased cooperating with UN inspectors, the United States and Britain began a series of air raids against Iraqi military targets and oil refineries in Dec., 1998; raids against military targets continued until the 2003 war. In Jan., 1999, the United States admitted that American spies had worked undercover on the inspection teams while in Iraq, gathering intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs.

A new UN arms inspection plan that could have led to a suspension of the sanctions in place since the end of the war was devised by the Security Council in Dec., 1999, but Iraq rejected that plan and subsequent attempts to restore inspections. Efforts in 2001 to ease the sanctions on civilian trade further (in exchange for tighter controls on oil smuggling and a ban on weapons purchases) proved unsuccessful when Russia, which had close ties with Iraq, objected. Iraq continued to insist on an end to all sanctions, but in May, 2002, the UN Security Council agreed on revised sanctions that focused on military goods and goods with potential military applications, greatly expanding the range of consumer goods that could be readily imported into Iraq.

Suggestions by U.S. government officials that the “war on terrorism” might be expanded to include operations against Iraq as well as in Afghanistan were publicly rejected by Arab League nations in Mar., 2002, but increasing threats of a U.S. invasion to end what Americans asserted was Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction led Iraq to announce in September that UN inspectors could return. Iraqi slowness to agree on the terms under which inspections could take place and U.S. insistence on new, stricter conditions for Iraqi compliance stalled the inspectors' return.

In October, President Hussein won a referendum on a seven-year extension of his presidency, receiving 100% of the vote according to Iraqi officials. The same month the U.S. Congress approved the use of force against Iraq, and in November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a “final opportunity” to cooperate on arms inspections. A strict timetable was established for the return of the inspectors and resumption of inspections, and active Iraqi compliance was insisted on. The Iraqi parliament rejected the terms of the resolution, but inspectors were permitted to return, and inspections resumed in late November.

An official Iraqi declaration (December) that it had no weapons of mass destruction was generally regarded as incomplete and uninformative. By Jan., 2003, UN inspectors had found no evidence of forbidden weapons programs, but they also indicated that Iraq was not actively cooperating with their efforts to determine if previously known or suspected weapons had been destroyed and weapons programs had been ended. Meanwhile, the United States and Britain continued preparations for possible military action against Iraq.

Iraq after Saddam Hussein's Ouster

Continued U.S.-British insistence on complete Iraqi cooperation with the UN inspections, and continued Iraqi resistance to doing so, led the United States and Britain to demand (Mar., 2003) that Hussein step down or face an invasion. On Mar. 19, 2003, the Anglo-American attack began with an air strike aimed at Hussein personally. Sizable ground forces began invading the following day, surging primarily toward Baghdad, the southern oil fields, and port facilities; a northern front was opened by Kurdish and Anglo-American forces late in March. After less than a month of fighting, Hussein's rule had collapsed, and U.S. and British forces were established in major urban areas.

Hussein survived the war and went into hiding, and guerrilla attacks by what were believed to be Ba'ath loyalists and Islamic militants became an ongoing problem in the following months, largely in Sunni-dominated central Iraq. The Kurdish-dominated north and Shiite-dominated south were generally calmer. L. Paul Bremer 3d was appointed as civilian head of the occupation. UN economic sanctions were lifted in May, 2003 (U.S. sanctions were not ended, however, until July, 2004), and in mid-July an interim Governing Council consisting of representatives of Iraqi opposition groups was established. Nonetheless, civil order and the economy were restored at a slow pace. The cost for rebuilding Iraq was estimated by Bremer in late 2003 to be as much as $100 billion over three years.

In Oct., 2003, the UN Security Council passed a British-American resolution calling for a timetable for self-rule in Iraq to be established by mid-December. Events, however, led the United States to speed up the process, and in November the Governing Council endorsed a U.S.-proposed plan that called for self-rule in mid-2004 under a transitional assembly, which would be elected by a system of caucuses. However, many Shiites objected to this because it would not involve elections; they feared a diminished voice in the government and greater U.S. influence if caucuses were used to choose the assembly. Hussein was finally captured by U.S. forces in Dec., 2003.

In Jan., 2004, U.S. arms inspectors reported that they had found no evidence of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons stockpiles prior to the U.S. invasion; the asserted existence of such stockpiles had been a main justification for the invasion. Subsequently, a Senate investigation criticized the CIA for providing faulty information and assessments concerning Iraq's weapons. In addition, U.S. inspectors concluded in Oct., 2004, that although Hussein never abandoned his goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, Iraq had halted its nuclear program after the first Persian Gulf War. U.S. quietly abandoned their search for weapons of mass destruction by the end of 2004.

An interim constitution was signed by the Governing Council in Mar., 2004, but many Shiites, including nearly all those on the council, objected to clauses that would restrict the power of the president and enable the Kurds potentially to veto a new constitution. At the end of March, Sunni insurgents in Falluja attacked a convoy of U.S. civilian security forces, killing four and desecrating the corpses, which prompted a U.S. crackdown on the town, a center of Sunni insurgency. The fighting there in April resulted in the most significant casualties since since the end of the invasion; the conflict ended with the insurgents largely in place. At about the same time, U.S. moves against the organization of a radical Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, led him to call for an uprising. There was unrest in a number of cities in S central and S Iraq, but by mid-April al-Sadr's forces were in control only in the area around An Najaf, a city holy to Shiites, and a cease-fire took effect in June.

Revelations in May of U.S. abuse and tormenting of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003 and early 2004 sparked widespread dismay and outrage in Iraq, the United States, and the world. The treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was termed “tantamount to torture” in some cases by the International Committee of the Red Cross in a report leaked in 2004, and in 2005 Amnesty International accused the U.S.-led forces of using torture in Iraq.

The president of the Governing Council was assassinated in May, 2004. In June, the United Nations endorsed the reestablishment of Iraqi sovereignty, and at the end of the month, Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, became prime minister and Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, a Sunni, president as the interim constitution took effect. Saddam Hussein and 11 other former high-ranking Iraqi officials were formally turned over to the new government and were arraigned. Two trials, involving atrocities against Shiites and Kurds, were brought against Hussein and others in 2005 and 2006, and in Nov., 2006, he was convicted in the first trial and sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, large-scale fighting with al-Sadr's militia occurred again in Aug., 2004, centered on An Najaf and, to a lesser degree, Sadr City, a Shiite section of Baghdad, but the militia subsequently abandoned An Najaf and fighting ceased. By October al-Sadr had shifted to converting his movement into a political force. Also in August, a 100-member National Council, responsible for overseeing the interim government and preparing for elections in 2005, was established. In central Iraq, where a number of Sunni urban areas had been all but ceded to insurgents, U.S. forces began operations to establish control in the fall of 2004. Although U.S. forces regained control of Falluja in November, the insurgents subsequently shifted their attacks elsewhere, including Mosul, which had been relatively peaceful. Shiite targets were also increasingly subject to attack. Estimates of the insurgents' numbers, including foreign guerrillas, ranged from 8,000 to 12,000; by the end of 2004 the most violent anti-U.S., anti–interim government fighters were Sunni forces, which were increasingly dominated by Islamic militants. The ongoing violence in Iraq continued to hamper reconstruction in the following, as a lack of security hindered rebuilding and security needs diverted money away from rebuilding; corruption was also a problem.

In the Jan., 2005, elections for the transitional National Assembly, which would write a new constitution, the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite coalition supported by Ayatollah Sistani, won nearly half the vote. The main Kurdish alliance took more than a quarter. Sunni participation in the vote was, in most areas, very low as a result of boycott and intimidation, leading some Sunni clerics to denounce the balloting as illegitimate. The main Shiite and Kurdish coalitions agreed to form an alliance, but it was not until early April that the choices for the top national leadership posts were finalized. A Sunni, Hajim al-Hassani, became speaker of the National Assembly; a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, became president; and a Shi'a, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was chosen as prime minister.

Hopes for the constitutional process strengthened in July when Sunni membership on the parliamentary committee drafting it was greatly expanded, but the draft that was adopted had only limited Sunni support. Many Sunnis particularly objected to provisions that would permit autonomous regions in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, which could limit national access to future oil revenues from those areas, and that would ban the Ba'ath party and could affect its former members. A referendum in Oct., 2005, however, approved the document. A simple majority was required for approval, unless three provinces rejected it by a two-thirds vote. The constitution was strongly endorsed by Shiites and Kurds and as strongly rejected by Sunnis, who voted in larger numbers this time. Three provinces voted against the constitution, but in one of the provinces the no vote was less than two thirds. Although there were concerns about possible irregularities in the vote after preliminary counts were completed, a partial audit of the vote uncovered no evidence of fraud.

Despite these mixed political successes, the insurgency remained largely undiminished, as foreign Islamic militants continued to infiltrate into Iraq. Ongoing U.S. attempts to eliminate insurgent strongholds were frustrated by the ability to the insurgents to regroup elsewhere and a lack of sufficient U.S. forces to maintain control throughout Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq. Prior to the referendum on the constitution coalition forces mounted several offensives against insurgents in Sunni-dominated W and NW Iraq in an attempt to diminish terror attacks prior to the vote.

In the Dec., 2005, elections for the National Assembly the Sunni turnout was again higher, but when initial results showed that the Shiite religious parties were unexpectedly successful in the Baghdad area, the Sunni alliance and the secular party alliance accused the Shiites and electoral authorities of fraud. Final results, released in Jan., 2006, gave a near majority of the seats to the Shiite religious parties, with the Kurdistan alliance and the Sunni alliance placing second and third. International monitors said there had been some irregularities and fraud, but they did not call into question the final overall result.

The formation of a government, however, became protracted, when Sunnis and Kurds objected to the Shiite religious parties' selection of Jaafari as prime minister. Finally, in Apr., 2006, Jaafari stepped aside, and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a long-time aide of Jaafari's, was chosen for the post. Meanwhile, the devastating Feb., 2006, terror bombing of a Shiite holy site in Samarra provoked a spasm of sectarian attacks, largely by Shiites against Sunnis, throughout Iraq. Maliki undertook a number of measures intended to reassert government control and pacify some urban areas, and moved to foster an end to the Sunni insurgency and sectarian violence generally by releasing prisoners, offering a limited amnesty, seeking to disarm militias, and other measures. The killing, in June, of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda–aligned foreign insurgents, was a notable success for U.S. forces, but did little to diminish the violence in Iraq. Some 1.2 million Iraqis were estimated to have fled the country by mid-2006, seeking refuge in Jordan, Syria, and other nations.

By late 2006, with roughly 3,000 Iraqis dying every month, worry over mounting sectarian violence and fear of civil war began to outweigh concerns over insurgents; Sunni-Shiite revenge attacks and clashes had become increasingly common in ethnically mixed Baghdad and urban areas N of Baghdad, while in Shiite-dominated S Iraq rival Shiite militias fought each other for control in some cities. There was increasing doubt on the part of the United States over the ability of Maliki's government to deal with the rising sectarian violence, and a strain in the relations between the governments of the two nations was evident publicly. In Oct., 2006, the parliament passed legislation establishing a process by which provinces could join together, beginning in 2008, to form autonomous regions; the law was opposed by the Sunni parties and Shiite parties based predominantly in central Iraq.

In Dec., 2006, the U.S. Iraq Study Group, established by the Congress to review the war, called the situation in Iraq grave and deteriorating, and recommended, among its many suggestions, seeking the aid of Syria and Iran in resolving the conflict and shifting the burden of the fighting to Iraqi government forces. The success of the plan, however, depending on the willingness of the Iraqi government to work toward national reconciliation, despite the fact that its Shiite leaders seemed increasingly focused on consolidating Shiite rule. At the end of Dec., 2006, Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity; the undignified circumstances surrounding his execution provoked outrage from many Sunnis in Iraq and dismay from the U.S. and other nations. Two of his close aides were hanged on the same charges in Jan., 2007.

Also in January, U.S. President Bush announced that he would send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, beginning that month, with the primary goals of bring security to Baghdad and establishing control in Anbar prov. (a major Sunni insurgent base in W Iraq). The operation in Baghdad in particular was to be conducted in conjunction with Iraqi government forces and was aimed at controlling sectarian forces and their attacks. The “surge,” which reached its plateau in June and also focused on Baquba and Diyala prov., appeared to have suppressed Sunni and Shiite death squads, but suicide bombings continued, aimed mainly at Shiite populations. Demonstrations in April by al-Sadr's supporters called for U.S. forces to leave Iraq, and his party subsequently withdrew from the cabinet. Other parties, however, generally rejected setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal.

In Aug., 2007, there was an outbreak of fighting between Shiite militias that was generally blamed on Moktada al-Sadr's Madhi Army; it was especially deadly in Karbala. Sadr's party withdrew from the governing coalition in September. Despite these events and other continuing violence, the overall level of violence decreased significantly in much of Iraq as the second half of 2007 progressed. The political and economic measures, however, that were intended to accompany the surge were largely unaccomplished at year's end.

Also in the second half of 2007, Turkey became increasingly confrontational in its calls for an end to the presence of Turkish Kurdish (PKK) rebel bases in N Iraq. The PKK forces, whose presence was, at a minimum, tolerated by Iraqi Kurds, had mounted increasing attacks in Turkey. Both the Iraqi and U.S. governments pressured Iraqi Kurds to close the bases; Turkey mounted raids and shelled N Iraq beginning in October, and mounted a more significant ground incursion in Feb., 2008.

In Mar., 2008, Maliki attempted to establish central government control over Basra by using Iraqi troops to disarm militias there. Sadr's militia resisted, and fighting erupted in Basra and spread to Sadr City in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. Several hundred died in the strife before Sadr declared a cease-fire after mediation by Iran; the resolution of the conflict offered new evidence of Iran's influence among Shiites in Iraq. Control over Basra was established in April with U.S. and British help, and that month Iraqi and U.S. troops mounted a new effort to establish government control over Sadr City that ended successfully in May after a cease-fire agreement was reached.

The U.S. troop surge officially ended in July, although an increased number of support troops remained in Iraq. Violence had decreased, and the Iraqi army was proving increasingly effective and confident. In addition, the cease-fire by Sadr's militia (extended indefinitely in Aug., 2008) and increasing Sunni rejection of Al Qaeda contributed to improved security in many parts of Iraq. Also by July, U.S.-led coalition forces had turned over control of more than half Iraq's 18 provinces to the Iraqi government; additional provinces came under Iraqi control in the following months, and by the end of 2008 more than two thirds were under government control.

July was marked as well, however, by dissension over a new provincial election law because it treated the ethnic groups in Kirkuk's province equally for the purposes of interim governing. The Kurds objected that the law diminished their influence in the province compared to their numbers there, and President Talabani (a Kurd) and one of the country's two vice presidents vetoed the law. Not until September was an election law passed. The difficulties over the law were part of the increasing tensions between Kurds and the central government over the status of Kirkuk, control of the income from oil in the Kurdish region, and other issues.

An agreement concerning the terms under which U.S. forces would remain in Iraq after the end of 2008 was rejected by the Iraqi cabinet in Oct., 2008, but the cabinet approved the agreement with modifications the following month. In Dec., 2008, that agreement and one concerning allied troops in Iraq were finalized; under the agreements U.S. forces would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and other foreign forces by mid-2009. (In Feb., 2009, U.S. President Obama said that most U.S. forces would be withdrawn from Iraq by Aug., 2010.) The agreements were seen as strengthening Prime Minister Maliki and further undermining Moktada al-Sadr, and in the Jan., 2009, provincial elections, Maliki's coalition emerged as the strongest political grouping.

Iraqi forces assumed responsibility for security in urban areas in June, 2009; the process had begun in Jan., 2009. The government in August postponed for a year the census planned for Oct., 2009, out of fear that it would inflame ethnic tensions. A parliamentary election law was finally approved in Dec., 2009, after much difficulty, including a veto by the Sunni vice president in order to secure greater representation for (the largely Sunni) Iraqi refugees.

The elections themselves, originally slated for Jan., 2010, were rescheduled for March; Allawi's secular coalition narrowly placed first, followed by Maliki's nominally secular nationalist coalition and Jaafari's Shiite coalition (with Sadr's party forming the principal component of the last); Maliki's grouping subsequently alleged that there had been significant irregularities. A large number of candidates were disqualified because of alleged links to the Ba'ath party, but in at least some instances those links were old and tenuous. Sunnis, who voted in much greater numbers than in 2005, largely supported Allawi's grouping; no coalition secured enough seats to rule alone. The Maliki and Jaafari groupings subsequently formed a coalition but remained short of an absolute majority. A new government was slow to be formed. In November, Talabani was reelected president, and not until Dec., 2010, was a broadly based government with Maliki as prime minister approved in parliament. In Aug., 2010, U.S. combat operations officially ended. Some 50,000 U.S. troops remained, but all U.S. forces were withdrawn by the end of 2011. In early 2011 Iraq, like other Arab nations, experienced large antigovernment demonstrations, as Iraqis in a number of cities protested against corruption and a lack of jobs.

In Dec., 2011, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, was accused by Maliki's government with having overseen a death squad involving his bodyguards that had targeted (2005–11) Shiite officials. Hashemi denied the charges and fled to the Kurdish north, where officials resisted turning him over to the central government. The allegations contributed to increased tensions between Maliki's government and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. A judicial panel investigation reaffirmed the charges in Feb., 2012; Hashemi said the charges were politically motivated and that his bodyguards had been tortured. Hashemi left Iraq in April, and subsequently was charged with murder. Divisions within the governing coalition and unhappiness with Maliki's dominance of the government led in June to an unsuccessful attempt to oust Maliki, but his opponents narrowly failed to secure a confidence vote. In September and October, Hashemi was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death on the death-squad and other charges. The end of the year saw increasing tensions between Maliki's government and both Sunnis, who accused Maliki of a political crackdown after raids and arrests involving the finance minister's staff, and Kurds.

Beginning in Dec., 2012, Sunnis mounted protests against perceived mistreatment; in a number of instances protesters were killed by government troops. As tensions escalated in 2013, aggravated in part by Shiite support for Syria's government and Sunni support for Syria's rebels, the number of deadly ethnic attacks and clashes increased; the year proved to be the most deadly in five years. Maliki's coalition won the largest number of seats in the April provincial elections but failed to win a majority in any province. In June, a law was passed transferring a number of powers from the central government to the provinces. The law and another allowing many former members of the Ba'ath party to serve in the government were enacted in response to Sunni protest demands, but Sunnis remain largely alienated by Maliki's government.

Clashes over the army's removal of a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi in late December led to a battle for Ramadi and the occupation of Falluja and other towns in Anbar prov. by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Sunni Islamist militants who were an outgrowth of Al Qaeda–aligned forces in Iraq; they subsequently fought in the Syrian civil war, where their reputation for brutality and their differences with Al Qaeda's leadership led to a break with Al Qaeda. Control of the region continued to be contested into 2014 as government forces moved slowly against the militants, but in June ISIL forces made rapid advances in other Sunni-dominated areas, taking Mosul, Tikrit, and other cities and contesting other locations.

In July ISIL renamed itself the Islamic State (IS) and declared the establishment of a caliphate in areas it controlled in Syria and Iraq. The collapse of many army units, weakened by incompetent commanders appointed by the government, forced the government to turn to Shiite militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for forces. Kurdish forces took control of Kirkuk and some areas neighboring Kurdistan when the army fled the region. The brutality of the Sunni militants, who often massacred opponents and civilians they regarded as infidels, led Shiites and non-Islamic minorities as well as Kurds to flee from areas the IS controlled and increased the sectarian and ethnic divisions in Iraq. Beginning in August, the United States and other nations militarily supported forces fighting against the IS, mainly through air strikes, and gains by the IS subsequently slowed or were reversed.

The Apr., 2014, parliamentary elections resulted in a plurality for Maliki's coalition, but it fell far short of a majority. In June, the Sunni militant successes increased Sunni and Kurdish demands for the replacement of Maliki by a new prime minister. Maliki, however, resisted stepping aside and agreement on an alternative was not reached in the early sessions of the new parliament; he remained in office as caretaker prime minister. A new president, moderate Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum, was elected in July, 2014. Massoum subsequently named Haider al-Abadi, a Dawa party member, as prime minister, and a new government was formed in September.

In Dec., 2014, the government and the Kurdish region reached an agreement on sharing the revenues from oil in areas controlled by the Kurds; the government also agreed to allow Kurdish forces to be resupplied with weapons. By Apr., 2015, government forces, supported by Shiite militias with Iranian advisers and combat forces and by air strikes by and aid from the United States, Iran, NATO, and others had made some significant gains in some areas, including recapturing Tikrit, against the IS. In May, IS forces captured Ramadi, but the government regained it at the end of 2015. Kurdish forces also made gains against the IS in N Iraq in late 2015. Both Shiite and Kurdish militias were accused of carrying out retribution against Sunnis in areas where the IS was forced out.

Beginning in late 2015, anticorruption reforms became a source of tensions in the parliament. In December, parliament barred Abadi from unilaterally instituting changes, and in early 2016 parliamentary factions split over a new government, with some parties calling for an anticorruption cabinet of technocrats and others supporting a cabinet with ministries controlled by party officials. Sadr and his followers mounted large protests for a technocratic cabinet, government reforms, and an end to cronyism and corruption; a number of new cabinet ministers were approved in August.

In mid-2016 Iraqi forces retook Falluja, which the IS had seized in 2014, and in late 2016 they began moving against Mosul, recapturing Mosul by mid-2017. Iraqi forces subsequently continued to make gains against the IS, which increased its mounting of deadly suicide bombings beginning in 2016. Legislation in Nov., 2016, established a popular mobilization force, consisting mainly of existing Shiite militias, under the control of the prime minister; the move was opposed by Sunni Arab politicians. (The force was formally incorporated into Iraq's security forces in 2018.) Also in 2016 the presence of Turkish troops in N Iraq, where they were allied with Iraqi Kurds, was denounced by Iraq's government, and strained Iraqi-Turkish relations.

In Sept., 2017, Iraqi Kurds conducted a nonbinding referendum that voted for independence; the vote had been declared illegal by the national government and denounced by Turkey, Iran, the United States, and other nations. In October, government forces took control of Kirkuk and Kurdish-held areas outside the autonomous region; relations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish region improved in 2018. Iraqi forces captured the last town controlled by the IS in Nov., 2017, but the fighting left many urban areas in Iraq devastated. The government estimated that 18,000 had died in the war with the IS, but other tallies estimated the death toll to be four or more times that. The IS, which had not been eradicated, mounted guerrilla terror attacks from bases in N Iraq, and many Sunnis accused the government and Shiite paramilitary forces of an indiscriminate and brutal crackdown against them.

In the May, 2018, parliamentary elections, Sadr and his allies, whose coalition had run as nationalist and anti-Iranian, won the largest bloc of seats. The Fatah Alliance, an Iranian-aligned coalition, placed second, and Abadi's coalition placed third. Concerns over alleged irregularities in the voting led to a manual recount beginning in July, but the count was little changed when it was certified in August. In October, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, an independent and former oil and finance minister, was chosen as prime minister, and Barham Salih was elected president, but a number of important cabinet positions were slow to be filled.

In 2019 drone attacks, generally believed to be by Israel, on facilities of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias raised tensions in Iraq. In October, frustration over the poor economic situation and corruption led to protests in a number of cities that became more confrontational after heavy-handed responses from government forces. Over the next several months several hundred died and thousands were injured, and the protests became increasingly anti-Iranian. In December, Abdul-Mahdi resigned, but agreement on a new prime minister proved difficult; parliament did pass electoral reforms sought by the protesters.

Tensions and violence increased in December between pro-Iranian militias and U.S. forces, and in Jan., 2020, a U.S. drone attack killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani as he arrived in Baghdad. In the aftermath, Iraq's parliament demanded that U.S. forces be withdrawn; the U.S. government refused to do so, but it subsequently consolidated its forces on fewer bases. The antigovernment protests were largely crushed by Feb., 2020, after Sadr withdrew his support for them and called on his supporters to help end them. Negotiations over a new prime minister continued into 2020; in May, a new government was formed with former intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi as prime minister. In November a new election law enacted that was designed to give independent politicians a greater chance of being elected to parliament. In Oct. 2021, parliamentary elections were held giving Muqtada al-Sadr's party control of the government; although the elections were disputed, in late Dec. the country's Federal Supreme Court certified the vote, allowing al-Sadr to form a new government as prime minister.


See G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (1965, repr. 1976); E. Ghareeb, The Kurdish Question in Iraq (1981); T. Y. Ismael, Iraq and Iran (1982); P. Marr, The Modern History of Iraq (1985); T. Naff, Gulf Security and the Iran-Iraq War (1985); R. S. Simon, Iraq between the Two World Wars (1986); A. H. Cordesman, The Iran-Iraq War and Western Security (1987); S. al Khalil, Republic of Fear (1989); C. Gripp, A History of Iraq (2002); T. Dodge, Inventing Iraq (2003); H. J. Nissen and P. Heine, From Mesopotamia to Iraq (2009); M. Kukis, Voices from Iraq: A People's History, 2003–2009 (2011); D. R. Khoury, Iraq in Wartime (2013).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Republic of Iraq (al-Jumhuriya al-Iraqiya).

Iraq is a state in Southwest Asia, bordered on the north by Turkey, on the west by Syria and Jordan, on the east by Iran, and on the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. On the southeast, it has a 50-km coastline on the Persian Gulf. Area, 434,900 sq km; population, 9.75 million (1971). The capital is Baghdad.

Iraq is divided administratively into 16 muhafazas (provinces). Included in Iraqi territory is one-half of the neutral zone (3,500 sq km) between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Territorial waters cover an area of 900 sq km.

Table 1. Administrative divisions
1 Included in figure for Ninawa2Included in figure for Qadisiya3 Includes figure for Dahuk4 Includes figure for Muthanna
Muhafaza (province)Area (sq km)Population (1970)Administrative center
Dhi Qar..........14,500524,300al-Nasiriya
Ninawa..........41,100980,0003Mosul (al-Mawsil)
Wasit.........14,800359,700Kut al-Amara

Iraq is a republic. The Interim Constitution entered into force on July 16, 1970; it proclaimed that the Iraqi nation consists of two principal nationalities, Arabs and Kurds, and that the Kurds are guaranteed all rights within the limits of Iraqi unity; in those areas where Kurds constitute a majority of the population, Kurdish shares with Arabic the status of an official language.

The highest organ of governmental authority is the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which controls the army and the internal security forces, can declare mobilization and a state of war, concludes peace treaties, appoints ministers, and has legislative and other functions. The members of the RCC (whose number does not exceed 12) are also members of the leadership of the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath). The head of state is the president, who is elected by the RCC (and who is also head of the RCC). He is also supreme commander in chief of the armed forces and leader of the government. The president possesses broad powers: he appoints ministers, ratifies international acts and agreements, approves domestic legislation and decisions taken by the government, and appoints and replaces government officials, officers, and judges. The government—the Council of Ministers—is an executive and administrative body.

Local government is headed on the muhafaza (provincial) level by governors, on the district level by district heads, on the subdistrict level by subdistrict heads, and on the village level by elders (mukhtars).

The judicial system consists of the ordinary courts, the religious (Sharia) courts, and the special (revolutionary) courts.


Relief. The plains of Upper and Lower Mesopotamia occupy most of Iraq. To the north and northeast are extensions of the Armenian Highlands and the Iranian Plateau, more than 3,000 m in elevation. The outermost belt of the Syrian-Arabian plateau, up to 900 m in elevation, is in the south and southwest. Upper Mesopotamia, or the Jazira, is an even, gently undulating elevated plain (elevation, 300 to 450 m), with small mountain ridges (such as the Jabal Sinjar). Lower Mesopotamia is an alluvial lowland, not more than 100 m above sea level.

Geological structure and mineral resources. Iraq is located at the junction of the Mediterranean geosynclinal belt and the Arabian part of the African Platform and includes three main elements: the northeastern part of the African Platform, the Mesopotamian foredeep, and the external miogeosynclinal zone of the Zagros Mountains. The main structure of the platform area is the Rutba anteclise (an extensive gentle uplift in the layers of the earth’s crust within platforms). At its core Triassic multicolored continental sediments have been uplifted. The deposits of the Precambrian basement in the arch core of the Rutba anteclise are 2–3 km deep. The Mesopotamian foredeep is filled with a dense layer, up to 12 km deep, of terrigenous, carbonaceous, and hydrochemical deposits of Oligocene and Anthropogenic age. The Zagros zone is characterized by a complex scaly-thrust structure and the development of narrow, elongated asymmetrical folds (up to 300 km long), composed mainly of ftysch and carbonaceous rocks of Cretaceous and Paleogenic age.

The chief natural resources are oil and natural gas, found primarily in the Mesopotamian foredeep (Kirkuk, Rumayla, al-Zubayr, Ayn Zala). The known and probable oil reserves amounted to 4.3 billion tons in 1970; reserves of natural gas exceeded 500 billion cu m. Rich phosphorite deposits, in excess of 300 million tons, have been discovered in Rutba, and sulfur deposits, estimated at 300 million tons, have been discovered in the Mesopotamian foredeep in the Mosul region.


Ponikarov, V. P. [et al.]. “Tektonika severnoi chasti Araviiskoi platformy.” Sovetskaia geologiia, 1964, no. 1.
Mitchell, R. C. “Notes on the Geology of Western Iraq and Northern Saudi Arabia.” Geologisclie Rundschau, 1957, vol. 46, no. 2.


Northern Iraq has a Mediterranean climate of the continental type, with hot, dry summers and warm, relatively rainy winters. The average temperature in Mosul is 34°C in July and 7°C in January. Snow covers the mountains in winter and the temperature reaches a low of— 18°C.

The climate in southern Iraq is tropical. The average temperature in Basra is 11 °C in January and 34°C in August, but it frequently reaches 50°C. Annual precipitation, partly in the form of snow, amounts to about 500 mm in the mountainous regions; it varies from 60 mm to 100 mm in the southeast.

Rivers and lakes. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which cut through Iraq from northwest to southeast, have great economic importance: their water is used for irrigation. The Tigris and Euphrates converge at the city of al-Qurna to form a single channel, the Shatt al-Arab, which flows into the Persian Gulf. Within Iraq the Tigris receives some rather large left tributaries (the Great Zab, Little Zab, and Diyala), but the Euphrates has no significant tributaries in Iraq. The high-water level is in spring, with frequent floods; the rivers are at low-water level in the summer and autumn. Lower Mesopotamia has numerous intermittent lakes and plavni (low parts of downstream valleys covered with reeds and trees). Intermittent streams, or wadis, are characteristic of the desert regions.

Soils. Along the valleys of the Tigris and its tributaries, the Euphrates, and the Shatt al-Arab stretch narrow strips of alluvial soils, which are fertile, although sometimes marshy or saline, and need irrigation. Chestnut and sierozem steppe soils and semidesert soils are found elsewhere. Mountain-meadow soils are characteristic of the northern and northeastern regions.

Flora. Most of Iraq is covered by steppes, giving way to semideserts and deserts in the southwest. On mountain slopes grow isolated trees amid thorn thickets; the intermontane depressions have been put under cultivation. The poplar, willow, and tamarisk grow along the river banks. The characteristic tree of southern Iraq is the date palm, planted mainly in the valleys of the Shatt al-Arab and the lower Diyala. Cultivated landscapes extend along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

Fauna. Animal life is varied. The gazelle, wild ass, striped hyena, jackal, and leopard are found in the plains. There are many rodents, reptiles, including the Levantine viper, and harmful insects, such as the locust, sun spider, and scorpion. Aquatic birds, such as the heron, flamingo, and pelican, are found along the river banks.

N. M. KAZAKOVA and A. K. UFLIAND (geological structure and mineral resources)

The major population groups in Iraq are the Arabs and Kurds; there are also Turkomans, Assyrians (Aissors), and other peoples. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish, and the official religion is Islam. The population is 95 percent Muslim, of whom about 60 percent are Shiites and about 40 percent are Sunnites. There are also Christians of various persuasions and the followers of sects such as the Yezidis. The official calendar is the lunar hegira; the Gregorian calendar is also in use.

Between 1963 and 1970 population growth averaged 3.2 percent a year. About 2.7 million people (1970) are economically active; of these, 52 percent work in agriculture, about 7 percent in industry (including 0.6 percent in extractive industry), about 3 percent in construction, and about 38 percent in other sectors (including 5.5 percent in transport, 5.5 percent in commerce, and 11 percent in service jobs). The working class is small, about 392,000 (1970).

The population density is 22 persons per sq km (1971), but the distribution is extremely uneven, with concentrations mainly in the Tigris, Euphrates, and Shatt al-Arab valleys and in the northern foothills. The greatest density is in the muhafazas (provinces) of Baghdad and Basra. The semidesert, desert, and mountainous regions are sparsely settled. About 10 percent of the people lead a nomadic or seminomadic way of life. In 1970, 57.8 percent of the population lived in cities. The most important cities (population according to a 1968 estimate) are Baghdad and its suburbs, 1, 884,000; Basra, 420,000; Mosul, 343,000; Kirkuk; and Najaf.

Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Iraq, whose territory nearly coincides with that of Mesopotamia, is one of the most ancient cradles of civilization. The northern foothills had been settled since the Paleolithic, and by the seventh millennium B.C.animal herding had developed; between the Tigris and Euphrates, there was primitive irrigated agriculture. In the fourth millennium, a regular irrigation system was constructed by the Sumerians. City-states arose in the early third millennium. An eastern Semitic population (later known as Akkadians) appeared in Iraq not later than the beginning of the third millennium. The first state that united the territory of Iraq arose in the third millennium under the rulers of Akkad. A united Sumerian-Akkadian kingdom, with its center in Ur and with a slaveholding state economy, was formed in the 21st century B.C. The kingdom collapsed in the early second millennium after the entry of the western Semitic herder tribes, the Amorites, into Mesopotamia. The kingdom of Babylon, which reached its apogee under Hammurabi (who ruled from 1792 to 1750), arose in the central region of Mesopotamia. By that time, the Sumerians and Akkadians had merged into a single Akkadian people. Under the Kassite dynasty (16th through 13th century) private slaveholding estates went into decline. New western Semitic tribes, the Aramaeans and Chaldeans, began to penetrate the country. In the first centuries of the first millennium, Babylon became the object of a struggle between Assyria (formed in the northeast during the second millennium), Elam, and the Chaldeans. After the fall of Assyria (end of the seventh century), a new Babylonian state was formed.

In the sixth century the territory of Iraq became the economic and trade center of the Achaemenid state, then of the Seleucid state (fourth to second century), and then of the Parthian kingdom (from the second century B.C. until the third century A.D.). By this time most of the population spoke not Akkadian but Aramaic. The capital of Parthia, Ctesiphon, which was in what is now Iraq, remained the capital city of the Sassanid state. However, the state religion of the Sassanids, Zoroastrianism, was not adopted by the local population, which adhered to Christianity, Judaism, Mandaeanism, and other religions.

The formation and development of feudalism (to the 1860’s)

Mesopotamia was conquered by the Arabs in the 630’s and became part of the feudal Caliphate of the Umayyads in 661. Most of the populace gradually adopted Islam and the Arabic language. The Abbasids came to power in 750, and Iraq became the center of the Caliphate. A feudal economy prevailed in the Abbasid state. Baghdad, founded in 762, became the political and cultural center of the whole Islamic world. For several centuries Baghdad determined the development of medieval Arabic culture. This was also the period of the country’s greatest flourishing.

When the Abbasid state weakened, Iraq declined. As early as the eighth century the growing might of local feudal lords and the insurrections of peasants, artisans, and slaves laid the foundation for the fall of the Caliphate.

In 1055, first Baghdad and then all Mesopotamia were conquered by the Seljuks. They were conquered again in the late 13th century by Mongol troops led by Hulagu, who captured and destroyed Baghdad in 1258.

In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, Iraq became part of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane). After the empire fell, Iraq was the center of a prolonged struggle, first among various leaders of Mongol-Turkic tribes and later between the Safawids and the Ottoman Turks.

In the 1530’s, Iraq was conquered by the Turks; in the early 17th century, the Safawids gained possession of it. From the 1630’s until the end of World War I, it formed part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman sultans mercilessly exploited the population and stirred up enmity among the Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, and other peoples. This exploitation led to repeated anti-Turkish revolts. By the end of the 16th century, Iraq had become a target for the expansionist drives of European powers, particularly England. After the early 17th century the British East India Company exerted increasing influence on the pashas of Baghdad, who were almost independent of the sultans’ rule between 1704 and 1831. Midhat Pasha, governor of Baghdad from 1869 to 1872, contributed significantly to strengthening the Ottoman rule over Iraq.

The penetration of foreign capital and the transformation of Iraq into a supplier of agricultural produce and raw materials for the capitalist world (mid-1860’s to 1917). In the mid-1860’s, Iraq entered the world-trade market as a supplier of barley, wheat, and above all, dates. Tariff duties and barriers were abolished in the Ottoman Empire in 1861, opening the Iraqi market to the capitalist countries and thereby increasing Iraq’s economic dependence. Foreign capital enjoyed numerous advantages and privileges during the period of the capitulations. When the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, Iraq’s foreign trade, especially with Britain, significantly increased.

The dominance of a feudal socioeconomic structure in the Iraqi village, Iraq’s dependence upon the backward Ottoman Empire, and the economic expansion of Western European capital all slowed down industrial development. Imports of cheap manufactured goods caused a decline in local handicraft production. The enterprises created by foreign capitalists chiefly produced goods for export. Iraq’s bourgeoisie developed primarily as a class of compradors. Iraq’s working class was just coming into existence.

In the last quarter of the 19th century Iraq became the object of a struggle between Great Britain and Germany. Because of the discovery of rich oilfields in the Mosul region in the late 19th century and the construction of the Baghdad railroad undertaken by the German imperialists, Anglo-German contradictions in the Near East became greatly intensified.

British troops occupied the port of al-Faw in July 1914 and seized Basra in November. In March 1917 they occupied Baghdad and by the end of 1918 occupied all of Iraq.

The ascendancy of British imperialism (1918–58) The occupied territories were put under the control of a British military administration. In 1920, Great Britain obtained a mandate over Iraq, formed from three vilayets (provinces) of the defunct Ottoman Empire (the vilayets of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul).

From the very start of the occupation Iraqi patriots offered stubborn resistance to the British colonialists. In the summer of 1920 all of Iraq was gripped by a national-liberation revolt. Although the revolt was brutally crushed, it forced the British government to change the forms of its domination of Iraq: a “national government,” totally dependent upon Great Britain, was formed in October 1920, and in August 1921, Iraq was proclaimed a kingdom headed by Emir Faisal of the Hashimite dynasty. In 1922, Britain concluded a treaty of “alliance” with the “national government,” which in effect formalized the terms of the British mandate. The constitution and election law adopted in 1923 granted certain privileges to the Iraqi feudal-monarchical elite, which had entered the service of the British.

In 1930, Great Britain concluded a new treaty of “alliance” with Iraq, which formally declared Iraq to be an independent state. The treaty took effect on Oct. 3, 1932; that same day, Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations, and the British mandate ended. However, Great Britain maintained its position in Iraq under the 1930 treaty. Britain retained military bases in Hab-baniya and al-Shuayba; British advisers enjoyed decisive influence in the government apparatus; and the petroleum remained in the hands of imperialist monopolies, above all the Iraq Petroleum Company (Turkish Petroleum before 1929), in which Britons owned the controlling interest. A series of governments (many of them headed by the anglophile Nuri Said) followed a policy of close cooperation with Britain and support of feudal lords.

A semifeudal socioeconomic structure was prevalent in the Iraqi village, with the majority of peasants renting land from landowners on terms approaching serfdom.

Their poverty and political disfranchisement aroused profound anger in the masses of the people. The 1930’s saw many peasant revolts, including the Kurdish revolt of 1930–32, the revolt of tribes of the middle Euphrates in 1933–35, and the revolt of the Yezidi Kurds in 1936. Iraq’s working class began to struggle for its rights (by the early 1930’s there were 10,000 to 15,000 railroad workers, dockworkers, and oil workers). The strike movement in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s led to the formation of several trade unions. The Communist Party of Iraq (CPI) was founded in 1934. In 1936 pressure from the workers’ movement forced the government to issue a labor law limiting to some extent the arbitrary power of employers.

The policies of the Iraqi governments also caused discontent among the petit bourgeois intelligentsia and some officers. In October 1936 a group of officers headed by General Bakr Sidqi overthrew the government. Hikmat Sulayman, a leader of the patriotic organization Al-Ahali (The People; founded in late 1931), formed the “national reform” government. It published a program of democratic changes and began to put the program into effect. However, by August 1937 pro-British politicians had already returned to power. By the end of 1938, Nuri Said once again headed the government.

When World War II began, Nuri Said’s government broke off diplomatic relations with Germany (Sept. 5, 1939), placed all major sectors of the economy under the control of British advisers, and intensified repressive measures against democratic elements. However, the influence of the opposition, especially in the army, was so strong that a coalition government, formed in April 1940, was headed by one of the leaders of the right-wing nationalist opposition, al-Gaylani. This government lasted less than a year; it was replaced by the “neutral” government of General Taha al-Hashimi. On the night of Apr. 1, 1941, anti-British officers overthrew the government. On April 3, the “national defense” government was formed, headed by al-Gaylani. Fascist Germany attempted to exploit the anti-British revolt and offered Gaylani military aid for the struggle with Great Britain. Even though Gaylani’s government rejected this offer, the British began military action against Iraq on May 2, 1941. By the end of May, under pressure by superior British forces, the Iraqi troops had ended their resistance, and the British puppets returned to power. In October 1941, Nuri Said formed a government, reorganized the army and police, and purged the government apparatus of “unreliable elements.”

The government’s reactionary policies and the worsening of living standards during the war gave rise to the Movement for Workers’ Rights. The movement took the form of massive peasant demonstrations, strikes by workers, artisans, and service employees, petitions addressed to the government, and criticism of government actions by the press. The Workers Rights’ movement, in whose organization the CPI played a major role, forced the government to make some concessions. The 1936 labor law added new provisions for improving working conditions and ensuring the right of workers to organize trade unions. Some of the political prisoners were released from jails and concentration camps in 1943 and 1944. In August 1944 the government resolved to exchange diplomatic representatives with the USSR.

The Kurdish population experienced particularly great hardships from the very beginning of the war. Government appropriations were cut to a minimum, and there was no centralized supply of the northern provinces with basic commodities. Kurdish patriotic organizations were driven underground. In the summer of 1943 there was an uprising of the tribe of Barzans, headed by their sheikh, Mustafa Barzani. Many other Kurdish tribes soon joined them. A punitive expedition sent against the rebels in August 1943 ended in complete failure. In May 1944 the government began negotiations with the leaders of the revolt and promised the Kurds national autonomy. However, in August 1945 the government broke this agreement and used the army and air force against the Kurds. The insurgents ceased organized resistance in October 1945. Mustafa Barzani and 2,000 of his followers emigrated.

The national liberation movement intensified after World War II, calling for resistance to the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. Attempts by the British to burden Iraq with a new oppressive “mutual defense” treaty (the Portsmouth Treaty) to replace the 1930 treaty led to armed resistance in January 1948. The Iraqi government was forced to refuse to ratify the Portsmouth Treaty.

During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49, into which Iraq was drawn along with other Arab countries, the Iraqi government undertook an offensive against democratic forces within the country, directing the main blow against the Communists. The secretary-general of the Central Committee, Yusaf Salman Yusaf (Fahad), and two other members of the Central Committee were executed in February 1949. Despite repression, the people’s movement continued to grow in strength. Large-scale demonstrations by workers and students against the government’s reactionary policies and for nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company, as well as antifeudal demonstrations by the peasants, took place in 1950–52 and in 1954. In the June 1954 elections several electoral districts were won by the United National Front, a voting bloc formed in the spring of 1954 by bourgeois-nationalist and leftist organizations. In the autumn of 1954 the government banned political parties and shut down most newspapers; thousands of progressive leaders were thrown into jails and concentration camps.

In 1954, Iraq concluded agreements for military and technical aid with the USA and in February 1955 signed a treaty with Turkey that laid the foundation for the aggressive Baghdad Pact. On Apr. 4, 1955, an agreement was signed with Great Britain, which, though it voided the 1930 treaty (hated, by the Iraqi people), still left British interests in Iraq almost completely untouched. On Jan. 3, 1955, the Iraqi government suspended diplomatic relations between Iraq and the Soviet Union.

Demonstrations to protest the Anglo-Franco-Israeli aggression against Egypt began in late October and early November of 1956 and soon grew into an armed revolt. Participants in the revolt demanded that Iraq withdraw from the Baghdad Pact, sever diplomatic relations with Great Britain and France, and give military aid to Egypt. In early 1957 the Front of National Unity (FNU) was formed in profound secrecy. In addition to the CPI, the FNU included the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Independence Party (Istiqlal), both founded in 1946, and the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath), a regional branch of which was formed in Iraq in 1954. The FNU established contacts with an underground revolutionary organization, Free Officers, which became active in the army in spring 1956.

Independence (since 1958). As a result of the combined efforts of the FNU and the Free Officers, and with the active support of workers, an anti-imperialist and antifeudal revolution took place in Iraq on July 14, 1958. The royal regime fell, and Iraq was proclaimed an independent republic. The first republican cabinet was headed by the leader of the Free Officers, Abdul Karim Qasim. Members of Baath, Istiqlal, and the right wing of the NDP formed the government. In March 1959 the republican government announced Iraq’s withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact, removed the British bases on Iraqi territory (the last British forces were withdrawn from Habbaniya and al-Shuayba on May 30, 1959), and annulled most of the exploitative agreements that had been concluded by the monarchical regime with Great Britain. The republican government renewed diplomatic relations with the USSR and established relations with a number of other socialist countries.

On July 26, 1958, the Interim Constitution was adopted, which proclaimed the equality of all citizens under the law and guaranteed them democratic freedoms. From the very beginning of the revolution, trade unions, peasant unions, and many other progressive organizations were formed or emerged from underground. Although political parties, including the CPI, were not formally legalized, they carried on their activities legally. The government freed political prisoners, granted amnesty to the participants in the Kurdish revolt of 1943–45, and permitted the Kurdish patriots in exile to return to the country. Women received equal rights with men for the first time.

Supported by united national forces, the government undertook socioeconomic transformations, including the agrarian reform law of 1958, which limited large-scale land holdings, and the prohibition of activities of many foreign firms “detrimental to the national interests.” The Soviet Union was one of the first to recognize the Republic of Iraq. In 1958–59, the foundation was laid for cooperation between the USSR and Iraq in trade (the trade agreement of Oct. 11, 1958), economic development (the agreement on technical and economic cooperation of Mar. 16, 1959), and training skilled workers and strengthening the defense capacity of Iraq.

The advance of the republic along a democratic path met with the resistance of internal reactionary forces. In mid-1959, Qa-sim’s government began a policy of balancing the right and left, limiting and even suppressing patriotic organizations. In September 1961 the government renewed the war against the Kurdish people, thus aggravating economic problems and causing indignation among the progressive elements of society. The result of these policies was the complete isolation of Qasim’s regime, creating favorable conditions for a governmental coup on Feb. 8, 1963. As a result of the coup, the key positions in the government fell to extremist Baath leaders, who adopted a policy of physically annihilating Communists and democrats. With the help of the “national guard,” they unleashed a massive campaign of bloody terror in which thousands of patriots were killed and tens of thousands landed in jails and concentration camps. The secretary-general of the CPI, Salim Adil (al-Radi), and many other CPI leaders perished at the hands of these murderers. In June 1963 the government renewed military actions against the Kurds.

The government’s reactionary policies, the economic and financial difficulties caused by the war with the Kurds, and the dissolution of commercial relations with the USSR and other socialist countries led to a growing dissatisfaction within the country and to a split in the Baath leadership. In this situation, on Nov. 18, 1963, an army group headed by Abdul Salam Arif seized power, disbanded the “national guard,” and removed from government leadership those Baath leaders who had compromised themselves the most. From 1964 to 1968 various political groupings incessantly struggled for power, and the government changed frequently.

Iraq took part in repelling Israeli aggression against the Arab countries in June 1967. The Iraqi government took a decisive stand against Israeli aggression; Iraq demanded the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied Arab territories and held that the consequences of Israeli aggression could be eliminated only by resort to arms.

In July 1967 the government of T. Yahya (July 1967 to July 1968) granted amnesty to a large group of political prisoners and relaxed censorship. At the same time, while declaring its intention to carry out the June 29, 1966, agreement with the Kurds that had been concluded by the Bazzaz government for peaceful regulation of the Kurdish problem, the Yahya government actually sabotaged this agreement. (The Bazzaz government, the first civilian government in the history of the Iraqi Republic, had held power from September 1965 until August 1966.) Parliamentary elections were postponed. The government introduced new taxes, which rested almost entirely upon the shoulders of the working people. The consequence of such policies was an increase of dissatisfaction in the country: the incidence of antigov-ernment demonstrations increased, especially in the spring and summer of 1968.

On July 17, 1968, the Baath Party of Iraq together with a group of officers belonging to the underground organization called the Movement of Arab Revolutionaries overthrew the government, and on July 30, 1968, full power passed to the leadership of the Baath Party and the government headed by General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) became the highest organ of authority. The government released political prisoners from jail, including members of the CPI, restored to their previous posts those persons who had been removed earlier for political reasons, and relieved low-income workers from the “defense tax.” In 1970 a new labor law was enacted, as well as a law concerning pensions and social welfare for workers and a new agrarian reform law.

On Mar. 11, 1970, the RCC issued the Declaration on the Peaceful Democratic Regulation of the Kurdish Problem, which recognized the right of the Kurds to national autonomy within the framework of the state of Iraq. Military actions in Iraqi Kurdistan were ended; freedom was permitted to progressive Kurdish organizations (such as the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, founded in 1946); the Kurdish language was declared the second official language of Iraq; five Kurds were brought into the government as ministers; and a program for the economic development of Kurdistan was begun. On Mar. 11, 1974, a law declaring Iraqi Kurdistan’s autonomy was enacted.

The positive measures of the Bakr government in the areas of domestic and foreign policy created favorable conditions for a rapprochement between the Baath Party and other patriotic organizations of Iraq. In July 1970, a new provisional constitution went into effect, which proclaimed Iraq a “people’s democratic republic,” whose basic aim was to “create a unified Arab state and establish a socialist system.”

On Nov. 15, 1971, the president of Iraq announced a plan for a Charter of National Action. The plan emphasized the unacceptability of a capitalist path for Iraq; the need to create a united front of progressive parties and patriotic forces of Iraq based upon an intensified struggle against imperialism, Zionism, and reactionary forces; and the need to strengthen relations with socialist countries.

In May 1972 two members of the CPI were included in the government. In 1973 the Baath Party and CPI agreed to establish the National Progressive Patriotic Front. On June 1, 1972, the Iraqi government enacted a law nationalizing the assets of the Iraq Petroleum Company, a measure having great importance for strengthening Iraq’s independence and a blow to the interests of the imperialist monopolies in the Middle East.

The progressive course of the Iraqi government evokes resistance from international imperialist circles and from reactionary forces within the country, the surviving exploiter classes whose interests were affected by the revolution (such as the comprador bourgeoisie and the landowners).

Commercial and cultural ties between Iraq and the USSR and other socialist countries have increased. Many projects, especially in industry, have been and are being carried out under joint efforts by the USSR and Iraq. Between 1969 and 1971 a series of agreements on economic and technical cooperation were concluded between Iraq and the Soviet Union. On Apr. 9, 1972, the USSR and Iraq concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation.


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I. M. D’IAKONOV (to the seventh century), B. M. DANTSIG (seventh century to 1918), A. F. FEDCHENKO (1918-15), and M. PAVLOV (since 1945)

The Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Hizb al-Baath al-Arabi al-Ishtaraki; also known as Baath) of Iraq was founded in 1954 as a regional branch of the pan-Arab Baath Party. The Communist Party of Iraq (CPI; Hizb al-Shuyui al-Iraqi) was founded in 1934, and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) in 1946. There are also political parties and organizations with a nationalistic or religious orientation that operate underground.

The General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions, founded in 1959, has been affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions since 1967.

The Iraqi-Soviet Friendship Society was active from its foundation in 1959 until 1963; it resumed activity in 1969. The Council on Peace and Solidarity is also active.

General characteristics. Until the 1958 revolution Iraq was an underdeveloped agrarian country whose economy combined vestiges of feudalism and primitive communal relations (among the nomadic and seminomadic tribes) with developing capitalist relations. Industry was in an embryonic stage: the principal resource was oil, which was exploited monopolistically by foreign capital.

After the 1958 revolution, the prerequisites for more rapid economic development appeared. Certain restrictions were imposed on foreign monopolies in oil and other resources, and in 1964 the state-controlled Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) was established.

A program of agrarian reform has been in effect since 1958. The state sector of the economy was expanded by the nationalization in 1964 of all banks and insurance companies and over 30 large industrial and commercial companies. (In 1972 enterprises in the state sector accounted for more than 70 percent of industrial output.) In 1970 a five-year plan was adopted for national economic development from 1970 through 1974; 1,274 million Iraqi dinars were appropriated for its implementation, of which 990 million dinars were allotted to the state sector.

Between 1960 and 1971 the national income grew from 437 million to 947 million dinars, and annual per capita income rose from 63 to 97 dinars. The Soviet Union has greatly aided Iraq’s economic development (under the Soviet-Iraqi agreements of 1958, 1969, and 1971). In the 1960’s new branches of industry were established, including electrical engineering, machine building, pharmaceuticals, and glass manufacturing; in addition, the Baghdad-Basra railroad, a nuclear reactor, and a nuclear research center were constructed. Since 1968 the USSR has aided Iraq in developing a domestically controlled oil industry, in conducting geological surveys, and in organizing drilling for oil in the south.

As before, agriculture, especially farming, plays a major role in the economy, employing about three-fourths of the population. Iraq is the world’s leading producer of dates (with over 30 million date palms), accounting for 80 percent of world exports of dates.

The prolonged process of agrarian reform and other progressive socioeconomic measures has been hampered by open sabotage and direct resistance by feudal landowners, large business owners, and other local reactionary groups, as well as by monopolistic Western circles concerned with protecting their own interests and exploiting the rich natural resources of Iraq free of any controls.

To exert pressure on the Iraqi government, the oil monopolies represented in the Iraq Petroleum Company resorted to artificial limitation of oil production. In response to the company’s refusal to satisfy the just demands of Iraq, particularly concerning an increase in the output of oil, the government of Iraq, exercising its sovereign rights, enacted a law on June 1, 1972, nationalizing the assets of the Iraq Petroleum Company (exclusive of its subsidiaries). Iraq’s decisive action is of great international significance as an example to the other oil-producing countries of the Middle East. The actions of the Iraqi government received effective support from the Soviet Union and other socialist states and from Arab countries.

Industry. The oil industry plays a major role in the economy. Iraq is seventh in oil production in the capitalist world (1971). Iraqi oil production has grown significantly: from 100,000 tons in 1930 it increased to 4.3 million tons in 1938, 6.6 million tons in 1950, 47.5 million tons in 1960, and 76.4 million tons in 1970; in 1971 it reached 83 million tons.

Until 1972 oil production was almost entirely in the hands of a British, American, and French petroleum consortium, the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), and its affiliates, the Mosul Petroleum Company and the Basra Petroleum Company. Under a 1952 agreement the IPC and its affiliates paid the Iraqi government 50 percent of the profits from the export of crude oil, which amounted to 95 million dinars in 1960,131 million dinars in 1965,169 million dinars in 1969,183 million dinars in 1970, and an estimated 330 million dinars in 1971. Under a 1971 agreement, the Iraqi government’s share of oil profits was increased to 55 percent.

After the nationalization of the IPC, in whose hands about three-fifths of oil production had been concentrated, the state sector of the economy was greatly strengthened. Oil is extracted in the north—in the muhafazas (provinces) of Kirkuk and Ninawa—in the south—in al-Zubayr and Rumayla (both near Basra)—and in Naft Khaneh (near Khanaqin, close to the Iranian border).

A 1961 law took 99.5 percent of concessioned but unexploited territory from foreign oil companies and transferred it to the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) in 1967. INOC is exploiting the oil fields of Naft Khaneh (with an annual output of about 350,000 tons) and is developing the rich oil fields of northern Rumayla. In 1968 the Iraqi government approved an agreement concluded in 1967 by INOC with the French state-controlled company ERAP, providing for prospecting and subsequent exploitation of oil reserves in the south, covering an area of 10,800 sq km.

Between 1969 and 1971, Iraq signed a number of agreements with the USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other socialist countries, providing for economic and technical cooperation with INOC in developing oil production in northern Rumayla and Jambur (near Kirkuk) and constructing pipelines and refineries. In April 1972 the first oil field, producing up to 5 million tons a year (with up to 18 million tons expected in 1974), was opened in northern Rumayla. In 1972, with the help of the USSR, a 138-km pipeline was completed between northern Rumayla and the port of al-Faw.

Almost all oil is exported. Iraq is the sixth largest oil exporter among the capitalist countries. Iraqi oil is carried by pipelines from the northern oil fields to the ports of Tripoli (Lebanon) and Baniyas (Syria) and from the southern oil fields to the port of al-Faw on the Shatt al-Arab and to the deep-water terminal of Khor al-Amaya, built on an artificial island near al-Faw. The Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline has not been used since 1948.

Iraq has also begun to exploit its natural gas reserves. A plant producing liquefied petroleum gas has been put into operation in al-Taji; some of the gas will be exported by a gas pipeline being planned between Mosul and Istanbul.

In 1972, with the aid of the People’s Republic of Poland, industrial mining of large sulfur deposits was begun in Mishraq (south of Mosul). With the aid of the USSR preliminary work is being done for the mining of phosphorites in the western part of the country.

Manufacturing industry accounted for about 11 percent of the national income in 1970. Small handicraft enterprises and small workshops predominate. In 1969 there were 28,700 industrial enterprises, employing a total of 156,200 workers; of these enterprises only 1,400 had ten or more workers; 299 major enterprises, employing a total of 57,000 workers, belonged to the state sector. After oil extraction, the most highly developed industries are cement, textiles, footwear, and food processing.

The domestically controlled oil-refining industry was first developed in the late 1960’s with the help of the USSR and other socialist countries. Oil refineries in al-Dawra (near Baghdad), Alwand, al-Haditha, Muftiya, Qayyara, and Kirkuk belong to the government. In 1970, 3.4 million tons of petroleum products were produced, of which 2.6 million tons were produced at the plant in Dawra.

Other large enterprises include textile mills in Baghdad, Kut al-Amara, and Mosul; cement factories in Baghdad, Sarchinar, and al-Samawa; shoe-and-leather-goods factories in Baghdad and al-Kufa; sugar refineries in al-Amara and Mosul; and a cigarette factory in al-Sulaymaniya. A nitrogenous fertilizer plant was completed in Basra in 1972, and an oil refinery and paper combine were begun there in the same year. Since 1959, with the help of the Soviet Union, 40 projects in industry and other areas have been completed, including the largest agricultural-machinery plant in the Middle East (in al-Iskandariya); an antibiotics and pharmaceutical plant in Samarra; a cotton combine in Kut al-Amara; an electrical engineering plant and a garment factory in Baghdad; a glass factory in al-Ramadi; and a hosiery and knitwear factory in Kut al-Amara.

Agriculture. The foundation of the Iraqi economy is agriculture. Until 1958 vast tracts of land were concentrated in the hands of the sheikhs and other large landowners, who, while constituting less than 5 percent of all landowners, held almost 75 percent of all cultivated lands. About 80 percent of the rural population owned no land at all and was forced to rent it on hard, often exploitative, terms from the large landowners. The agrarian reform law of 1958 established a maximum landholding of 500 hectares (ha) for unirrigated and of 250 ha for irrigated land. All land in excess of this limit was subject to government appropriation, with recompense, and redistribution among the peasants in return for payment. In the 12 years from 1958 to 1970, of all the land subject to appropriation, only 2.2 million ha were actually taken by the government, and only 800,000 ha were redistributed: 76,000 peasant families received allotments of 15 ha of irrigated or 30 ha of unirrigated land.

The new agrarian reform law of 1970 eliminated compensation to the landowners for the land taken from them and the landowners’ right to retain the best land, introduced gratuitous transferral of land to the peasants, and reduced the permissible maximum size of a land-holding to between 250 and 500 ha of unirrigated land and between 10 and 150 ha of irrigated land. In 1971 there were 838 agricultural cooperatives, combining 121,000 peasant farms. Cooperativization promises an increase in agricultural productivity and an improvement in the situation of the laboring peasantry. With the help of the USSR, four tractor-leasing centers, two state farms, and a pharmaceutical herb farm have been established; in 1972 construction began on a canal between the Euphrates and Mileh Tharthar.

Arable lands comprise 12 million ha, of which about 8 million ha are under cultivation. The extensive, or field-rotation, system of land cultivation is used. Farming of unirrigated land has been developed primarily in the north (about 3.7 million ha); the remaining lands are irrigated by pumps, water wheels, and other types of equipment. The country has 10,400 tractors and 2,300 combines (1970). New irrigation works are being constructed. About 80 percent of sown areas are under grain crops annually (barley, wheat, and rice). Barley is grown throughout the country; wheat is grown chiefly in the muhafazas (provinces) of Ninawa, Kirkuk, Baghdad, and Irbil; rice is grown in the provinces of Qadisiya, Maysan, and Dhi Qar. Industrial crops include cotton in the muhafazas of Ninawa, al-Sulaymaniya, Baghdad, Wasit, Diyala, and Anbar and tobacco in the muhafazas of Irbil, Ninawa, and al-Sulaymaniya. Vegetables, melons, and fruit are grown for market. The date palm is grown in the south, mainly in the muhafaza of Basra. (See Table 2 for the area and yield of the main crops.)

Animal husbandry is also extensive in nature. In 1969–70, Iraq had 11.6 million sheep, 1.78 million goats, 1.7 million cattle, 200,000 water buffalo, 200,000 camels, 580,000 donkeys, 105,000 horses, and 75,000 mules. The yield of raw wool was 14,000 tons in 1970. Herding is practiced chiefly by inhabitants of the mountain regions and by bedouin in semidesert regions.

Transport. Iraq has 2,500 km of railroad track (1970); the main lines are the Baghdad-Basra line (543 km) and the Baghdad-Tall Kushik line (531 km), which links Iraq with the railroad network of Syria and Turkey.

Iraq has 18,000 km of vehicular roads; the most important highways go from Baghdad to the borders of Turkey, Jordan, and Iran. In 1970 the country had 109,400 motor vehicles, including 67,400 automobiles, 32,700 trucks, and 9,200 buses.

Iraq has four cargo vessels, with a total displacement of 42,000 tons (two of which were built in the USSR), and one tanker with a 35,000-ton displacement. The main seaport is Basra, on the Shatt al-Arab, accessible to large oceangoing vessels thanks to a high inland tide. There is river navigation along the Shatt al-Arab and the Tigris as far as Baghdad.

Iraq’s main airports are in Baghdad (built with the help of Bulgaria), Basra, and Mosul. There are direct flights between Moscow and Baghdad.

The total length of oil pipelines on Iraqi territory is about 1,400 km, with a carrying capacity of up to 100 million tons a year.

Foreign trade. Iraq usually has a deficit trade balance. In 1970 imports amounted to 181.6 million Iraqi dinars; nonpetroleum exports (exclusive of reexports) totaled 22.6 million dinars. The export of petroleum by foreign oil companies totaled 368.1 million dinars. The deficit was largely covered by payments from the foreign oil companies that extracted and exported oil on a concessionary basis.

Iraq’s exports (other than foreign-controlled oil) are chiefly agricultural products, mainly dates, raw hides, and wool. The export of certain industrial products, such as cement, petroleum products, and footwear, is growing. The export of crude oil and sulfur produced by domestically controlled companies began in 1972. Iraq’s chief imports (in 1970) were machinery and equipment, 30 percent; food, 14 percent; ferrous metals, 13 percent; textile goods, 10 percent; chemical products, 11 percent; and lumber, 6 percent.

In 1970, Iraqi oil was exported chiefly to Italy (31 percent), France (16 percent), the Netherlands (7 percent), Greece (5 percent), and Brazil, Turkey, and West Germany (4 percent each). Other products were exported primarily to Egypt (12 percent), Lebanon (11 percent), Kuwait (10 percent), and the USA (6 percent). Important import-trade partners of Iraq are Great Britain (12 percent), France (6 percent), Belgium (5 percent), Switzerland, the USA, and West Germany. Trade with the USSR and other socialist countries is expanding. In 1970 the USSR accounted for 8 percent of Iraqi export sales and 11 percent of Iraqi imports.

Iraq is a member of the Arab Common Market, which also includes Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, the Yemen Arab Republic, and the Sudan.

The monetary unit is the Iraqi dinar, equal to two rubles 52 kopeks (according to the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR for October 1972).

Economic regions. The northern region is the main oil-producing region and Iraq’s breadbasket. Unirrigated agriculture predominates, and the chief crops are wheat and barley; cotton, tobacco, and sugar beets are also grown.

Table 2. Area and yield of main agricultural crops
1 Annual average2 Cotton fiber
 Area (hectares)Yield (tons)
Rice (unpolished).......174,00097,000105,000203,000138,000180,000

The southern region is for the most part a semidesert, with nomadic and seminomadic herding. In the narrow belt of cultivated lands along the middle Tigris and Euphrates and the Shatt al-Arab, the date palm, wheat, barley, and rice are grown. Since the 1950’s the southern region has been developing into a second major oil-extraction area.


Dement’ev, I. A. Irakskaia respublika. Moscow, 1961.


The armed forces consist of ground troops, an air force, and a navy. The supreme commander in chief is the president; the minister of defense maintains direct control, and the joint chiefs of staff are subordinate to him. The army and navy are provided with manpower by a law imposing a universal military obligation; the period of active service is two years.

The Iraqi armed forces total about 95,000 men (1970); in addition, there is a paramilitary police force of about 6,000. Ground troops (about 85,000 men) are divided into four infantry and two armored divisions; in addition, there are artillery, antiaircraft, and other specialized units and subdivisions. Most armaments are of foreign manufacture. The air force (about 8,000 men) consists of air bases and squadrons and has more than 200 combat aircraft. The navy (about 2,000 men) includes separate units of submarine chasers, torpedo boats, and auxiliary craft.

Medicine and public health. According to incomplete official data for 1967, the birth rate was 19.1 per thousand; the general mortality rate was 4.1 per thousand; and the infant mortality rate was 16.2 per thousand live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate. The main cause of death is infections of the gastrointestinal tract. There are also natural foci of plague.

From a medical viewpoint the country can be divided into three areas: the Syrian desert, the mountainous region, and the plains of Mesopotamia. Infectious diseases carried by nomads and pilgrims predominate in the desert.

In the Zagros Mountains malaria is endemic to an elevation of 1,500 m. Foci of epidermal and visceral leishmaniasis, taenia-rhynchoses, and tick spirochetoses are found in the drier foothills; goiter is endemic.

Mesopotamia as a whole is characterized by a high incidence of malaria, especially in the lower reaches of the Euphrates and in the valley of the Shatt al-Arab. Echinococcosis, trichuriasis, ascaridiasis, and amebiasis are also widespread in Mesopotamia. In the northern Mesopotamian plain visceral and epidermal leishmaniasis is reported, and ancylostomiasis is widespread. Schistosomiasis of the kidneys and sex organs is more endemic in the south, where its incidence in the province of Dhi Qar reaches 25 percent.

The fight against infectious diseases has led to a significant reduction in the incidence of trachoma and schistosomiasis. A campaign to eliminate malaria is being conducted wherever the disease is endemic. No cases of smallpox and cholera have been reported since 1967.

In 1970 there were 150 hospitals with 18,300 beds (or about two beds per 1,000 inhabitants), 2,400 doctors (one per 3,800 inhabitants), 309 dentists, 352 pharmacists, and about 6,200 paramedical personnel.

Medical personnel are trained by the College of Medicine of the University of Baghdad, an institute of medicine, and two colleges of dentistry and one of pharmarcy. In the 1964–65 fiscal year expenditures for public health constituted 3.5 percent of the state budget.


Veterinary services. Among farm animals infectious and parasitic diseases predominate. The most common (according to 1969 figures) are foot-and-mouth disease (9,950 new foci), brucellosis (54), sheep pox and goat-pox (2, 912), coccidiosis in poultry (67, 591), and Newcastle disease (3, 561). Anthrax, hydrophobia, Q fever, and piroplasmoses are frequently reported. Among parasitic diseases echinococcosis is especially common, infecting more than 13 percent of all cattle, 29 percent of sheep, and 49 percent of camels. Veterinary doctors are trained at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Baghdad. There are 75 veterinary doctors in Iraq (1970).


Before the 1958 revolution about 80 percent of the men and 95 percent of the women were illiterate. In 1959 primary education was made mandatory by law, and some changes were introduced into the school programs. In 1970 a new law made education mandatory for children until the age of 14.

In accordance with the Mar. 11, 1970, declaration of the Revolutionary Command Council on the peaceful democratic regulation of the Kurdish problem, a department of Kurdish education was established within the Ministry of Education.

The public educational system consists of four levels: kindergarten, primary schools (with a six-year course in the cities and a four-year course in rural areas), secondary-intermediate schools (with a three-year course), and secondary-preparatory schools (with a two-year course and an emphasis on the humanities, the sciences, or business).

Children are accepted into primary schools at the age of six. Schools are sexually segregated, and religious instruction is required on all levels. About 15,700 children were in kindergarten in 1969. In the 1969–70 academic year there were more than 1 million students in primary schools and about 300,000 in secondary schools (in 1957–58 the corresponding figures were 416,500 and about 50,000).

Completion of the primary and secondary-intermediate levels is required for admission to vocational and professional institutions. Vocational or professional courses take three years, and about 10,000 students pursued such training in 1969–70. Teachers are trained primarily in teachers colleges, which had an enrollment of 10,900 in 1968–69.

The major institutions of higher learning are al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and the state universities—the University of Baghdad (founded in 1958; includes 18 colleges), al-Hikma University, the Kurdish University of al-Sulaymaniyah (founded in 1968), and the universities of Mosul and Basra (founded in 1967; originally branches of the University of Baghdad). In 1970–71 there were 42,500 students in higher educational institutions. Many Iraqis receive higher education in the USSR, the USA, Egypt, and other foreign countries. The USSR is helping Iraq train technical personnel at industrial enterprises and in practical work at research institutes.

The major libraries are the Central Library of the University of Baghdad (founded in 1960; 150,000 volumes), the Library of the Iraq Museum (founded in 1934; 37,500 volumes), the National Library in Baghdad (founded in 1955; 35,700 volumes), and the Mosul Public Library (founded in 1930; 61,000 volumes).

The major museums are the Iraq Museum (founded in 1923), the Museum of Arab Antiquities (founded 1937), the Costumes and Ethnographic Museum (founded 1941), the Natural History Museum (1946), the Museum of Modern Art (founded 1963), the Abbasid Palace Museum (opened in 1935) in Baghdad, the Mosul Museum (1951), and the Babylon Museum (founded in 1949 on the ruins of ancient Babylon).


The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research supervises institutions of scientific research. The most important of these institutions are the Atomic Energy Commission, the Scientific Research Organization, the Iraq Academy of Sciences, the Kurdish Academy of Sciences, and the universities. A total of 1,200 individuals are engaged in natural and applied sciences.

The Atomic Energy Commission is concerned with practical applications of atomic energy and with theoretical research. There is a Nuclear Research Institute and an atomic reactor. Scientific research is carried out in cooperation with Soviet specialists.

There are six centers of organized scientific research: the Institute of Research on Natural Resources, which studies hydrology and plant ecology; the Petroleum Research Institute, which conducts research on drilling for oil, petrochemical production, oil storage, and uses of natural gas and which receives technical assistance from the French Petroleum Institute; the Building Research Center; the Biological Research Center, which investigates the flora and fauna of Iraq; the Dates and Palm Research Center; and the Agricultural Research Center, which studies soil fertility and fertilizer selection and makes agrotechnical recommendations.

The Iraq Academy of Sciences, founded in 1947, joins scholars in the humanities and the history of medicine. The Kurdish Academy of Sciences conducts research in Kurdish studies.

In 1975 the major newspapers and journals appearing in Iraq were Al-Jumhuriya (founded in 1963), an Arabic-language daily and the governmental organ, with a circulation of about 20,000; the Baghdad Observer (founded in 1967), a government-controlled English-language morning daily, with a circulation of about 7,000; Al-Thawra (founded 1967), an Arabic-language morning daily and the organ of the Baath Party, circulation 40,000; Al-Taakhi (founded 1967), an Arabic-language newspaper and the organ of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan; AlifBa (founded 1968), an Arabic-language weekly, circulation 2,000; Al-Thaqafa al-Jadida (founded 1969), a sociopolitical Arabic-language monthly reflecting the opinions of the CPI; and Al-Fikr al-Jadid (founded 1972), a weekly newspaper published by the CPI. The official news agency is the Iraq Information Agency, founded in 1959.

Intensive development of the radio network began after the 1958 revolution. Ten stations were operating inl975, six in Baghdad and the others in Basra and Kirkuk. Home service broadcasts are made in Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkoman; foreign service broadcasts are in English, French, German, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and Russian. Television was introduced in 1956. There are television centers in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and Mosul, which broadcast in Arabic and Kurdish.

The rich medieval Arabic literature reached its culmination in Baghdad, the capital of the Caliphate and center of Arabic culture and learning. Iraqi national literature developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Poetry was the principal literary form; epistolary prose remained the main prose genre. The greatest Iraqi poets—the archaist Abd al-Muhsin al-Qazimi (18651935), the innovator Jamil Siddiki al-Zahawi (1863–1936), and the traditionalist Maruf al-Rasafi (1875–1945)—combined in their works the themes of the need for modernization and for a struggle for national liberation. A number of poets, putting new content into traditional poetic forms, founded the neoclassical school of poetry.

Poetry written during the national-liberation rebellion of 1920 was characterized by a revolutionary spirit and by a simplicity that easily reached the popular consciousness.

The short story and novella were developed by Mahmud Ahmad al-Sayyid (1901–37), whose last works express socialist ideas. Satirists and humorists such as Dhu al-Nun Ayyub (born 1908) exerted a noticeable influence on social life in the 1930’s. The novel became established as a genre in the mid-1950’s.

After the 1958 revolution Iraqi literature experienced a great upsurge. The anti-imperialist and antifeudal struggle and appeals for social transformations and construction of a socialist society are the major themes of the neoclassical poetry of Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri (born 1905) and of the widely popular poetry of Bahr al-Ulum (born 1911). Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati (born 1926), Hasan al-Bayati, and other poets and prose writers write on political and social themes. Deeply lyrical poetry has been written by al-Sayyab (1926–64), Nazik al-Malaikah (born 1923), and other poets, who also introduced prosodic reforms. Literature in Kurdish has also been growing.


In Iraq are found artistic works from as early as the fourth millennium B.C. (the archaeological discoveries of the cultures of Uruk, Jamdat-Nasr, and al-Ubayd). Numerous works of one of the world’s oldest civilizations have been discovered, including Babylonian-Assyrian culture (excavations of the cities of Babylon, Ur, Nineveh, and Haiku), the Parthian Kingdom (Hatra), and Sassanid art (Ctesiphon).

Iraq occupied an important place in Arabic culture. The cities Kufa and Basra were founded in the 730’s; Wasit was constructed in the early 800’s; and Ukhaydir, the fortified palace of the caliphs, was built in the late eighth century. Construction, on a circular plan, of Madinat al-Salam, or “City of Peace” (now Baghdad), was begun in 762.

The architecture of the most prosperous period of the Caliphate is best represented by the buildings in Samarra (ninth century): the Court of Balquwara, a magnificent palace complex with innumerable courtyards, gardens, living and working quarters, and turreted fortified walls; mosques with huge courtyards surrounded by turreted walls and a towering minaret nearby, such as the Great Mosque of Mutawaqqil, and the spiraling al-Malwiya minaret; and domed octagonal mausoleums, such as the Qubbat al-Sulaybiyya. When the Caliphate declined in the tenth and 11th centuries, large-scale architectural construction diminished.

Architecture of the 12th through mid-13th centuries is chiefly found in Baghdad and Mosul: the Mustansiriya caravansary and the city gates, the Bab al-Wastani, in Baghdad and the Great Mosque of Nur-al-Din (also known as Jami al-Kabir) and its minaret in Mosul. These structures are distinguished by clearly articulated space-volume composition, vaulted interiors, high portals, domes on squinches, geometrically patterned ornamental brick decor, carved terra-cotta, and occasional reliefs. Octagonal mausoleums with high conical honeycombed domes, such as Zubayda’s Tomb in Baghdad, were widespread.

After the Mongol invasion in the 13th century almost no construction was done until the 16th century. The architectural influence of Safawid Iran during the 16th and 17th centuries is apparent, with the appearance of great domed mosque-mausoleums having bright polychrome ornamentation consisting of glazed ceramic facing, gilt inlays, wall painting, and carved stucco (the Mosque-mausoleum of Musa al-Kadhim, also known as the Golden Mosque, in Baghdad; the Mausoleum of Imam Husayn in Karbala; and the Mausoleum of Imam Ali in Najaf).

Until the 20th century popular Iraqi residential architecture retained its traditional floor plan, with interior courtyards, loggias and terraces supported by columns, and, frequently, patterned wooden lattices on the windows and balconies of the upper floors.

Iraqi representational art of the Abbasid period is preserved in fragments of murals and wall paintings on wood that depict animals and people and in ornamental stucco reliefs and carved wooden panels (from Samarra and Takrit).

In Baghdad and northern Iraq, miniature book illustration began in the Abbasid period, reaching its culmination in the 12th and 13th centuries. Baghdad book miniatures include laconic illustrations to learned works (the Pharmacy of Dioscorides, 1222; in various museums) and vivaciously expressive illustrations to al-Hariri’s Maqamat (an early 13th century manuscript in the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies and a 1237 manuscript, illustrated by Yahya ibn Mahmud, in the National Library of Paris). Northern Iraqi miniatures are characterized by solemn formality, such as the Book of Songs (121819) in the National Library in Istanbul.

Junayd Sultani, illustrator of the Hamseh of Khwaju Kermani (1396; in the British Museum), was a subtle colorist and master of composition who worked in late 14th-century Baghdad.

Medieval Iraqi applied and decorative arts emphasized ceramics with raised ornamentation, which sometimes depicted people and animals (eighth through 14th centuries), and ceramics with luster painting (ninth-century Samarra) or polychrome decoration; metal art objects, such as vessels shaped like birds and animals (eighth and ninth centuries) or decorated with chasing, carvings, or silver inlays (13th-century Mosul); glass art objects (Samarra); and the production of gold-woven, silk, woolen, and linen cloth. The medieval artistic traditions are still influential in modern Iraq.

The 20th-century national liberation movement and the 1958 revolution contributed to the growth of a new architecture. Reconstructed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Baghdad is gradually being transformed by modern governmental, public, and residential buildings. The reconstruction of Mosul, Basra, and other cities has begun.

Western architects, such as W. Gropius, F. L. Wright, and H. A. H. Aalto, have been attracted to new planning and construction in Iraq, and Iraqi architects have come to the fore, including N. A. Jawdad, R. al-Chaderchi (Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad, 1959), H. Munir, and K. H. al-Midfai.

Modern Iraqi architecture strives to adapt international standards to local climatic and living conditions (using sun-shielding and ventilating devices), as well as to use elements of traditional composition and decor (such as interior courtyards and patterned lattices). Two-story city houses of the local type continue to be built.

Oil painting began in Iraq in the early 20th century, with the landscapes and portraits of Abdul-Qadir Rassam, Muhammad Salah Zaki, and other artists. Since 1939 painters have been trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad.

Small artists’ groups appeared in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and in 1956 they united to form the Artists’ Association of Iraq. In addition to painting, sculpture and graphics are developing. The ideas of the 1958 revolution gave a new impetus to representational art. In Baghdad’s al-Tahrir Square, Jawad Salim, an Iraqi sculptor and painter, erected a majestic relief panel entitled The Revolution of July 14 (stone and bronze, 1959–60), which organically combines the traditions of ancient cultures with modern progressive ideas and artistic methods.

The search for modern national identity based upon local artistic traditions and the experience of world art from the mid-19th through the 20th century is the basic artistic task of most Iraqi artists. The painter Faiq Hasan, in both abstract and representational compositions, gives primary importance to color. Hafiz al-Durubi, using the traditions of impressionism in a unique way, conveys the bustling life of Baghdad. Ismail al-Shaykhli, Diya al-Azawi, Saad al-Tay, and Nuri al-Rawi seek inspiration in primitive folk art and ancient legends. Artists working in the realistic tradition include Ata Sabri and Khalid al-Jadar. The painters Muhammad Arif and Mahmud Ahmad create works on relevant contemporary themes. Some of the sculptors, such as Khalid al-Rahhal and Muhammad Ghani, and creators of majolica panels, such as Shams-al-din Faris and Niz-mat Mahmud, combine principles of realism with techniques of ancient art. The search for forms corresponding to modern life may also be observed in ceramics.

In addition to the artistic traditions discussed above, there is a long history of Kurdish art in Iraq.


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Faradzh Abbo an-Numan [Faraj Abu al-Numan]. “Irakskaia shkola zhivopisi i vaianiia.” Iskusstvo, 1959, no. 11.
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Al-Rawi, Nuri. Taamulat fi al-fann al-Iraqi al-hadith. (Thoughts About Modern Iraqi Art.) Baghdad, 1962.


The musical culture of Iraq (like that of other contemporary Middle Eastern Arab countries) is based upon ancient Arabic civilization and is a branch of Arabic musical art, influenced by unique national historical developments. These influences account for the prevalence of such instruments as the ud (lute), rabab (a simple viol), ghijak (bowed string instrument), qanun or psaltery (plucked string instrument), nay (Persian flute), and duff (small, flat, square tambourine).

Folk and traditional professional music is characterized by a well-developed modal system, containing many maqams (modes). The maqams are the modal basis for long vocal-inslru-mental suites. Each piece is based upon a particular maqam and is named after it. These compositions are typified by a development through melismatic variation and the alternation of the basic vocal motif with instrumental episodes.

The many different kinds of folk songs include the popular ataba (complaint) genre, a sung dialogue of emotional solo recitatives and short answers. Religious music also occupies an essential place in Iraqi life.

The achievements of European musical culture are being assimilated in modern Iraq. The center of musical life is Baghdad. The Orchestra of Eastern Music, led by the composer Salim al-Jalabi, as well as a chorus and solo vocalists, perform on Baghdad radio. The National Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1971. Musicians are trained primarily at the Academy of Fine Arts (founded in 1940), some of whose graduates continue their musical studies in other countries, including the USSR (several Iraqi musicians who graduated from the Moscow Conservatory teach in the Academy). A school of music for gifted children, where many courses are given by Soviet teachers, was opened in 1968.

Among Iraqi musicians are the composer Ahmad al-Halil, who writes songs and orchestral pieces; Lamia Tawfiq and Zughur Husayn, who perform folk and modern songs; the singers Faruk Halal and Rida Ali; and the instrumentalists Hasan Rajab, Shuayb Ibrahim, Hudayr Shibli, and Jalil Bashir.


The establishment of a professional theater in Iraq was first attempted in the late 1920’s. In 1929 secondary-school students formed the Iraq National Theater Troupe in Baghdad. The troupe appeared in schools, on the streets, and in the squares, performing sketches, songs, and dances. In 1931 the amateur producer Hakki al-Shibli organized the first professional theatrical ensemble, made up of about 50 Iraqi, Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese actors and an orchestra of folk instruments. Significant productions included the anti-British play Wahda by Musa Shahbandar and stage adaptations of Arabic literary works and folklore.

In 1935 students and clerical workers formed similar theatrical collectives in Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul. Although the Institute of Fine Arts (Baghdad) trains professional actors, many of whom complete their education in Western European countries, there is no professional theater in Iraq, nor is there a permanent drama or ballet troupe. Actors perform on radio and television, in cabarets, and at concerts organized by the Institute of Fine Arts. Most popular with audiences are the performances of the maqamas, reciters who declaim epic poems or verse in recitative to the loud accompaniment of folk instruments; among the best-known readers are Muhammad Kubbanshi, Salima Murad, Afifa Iskandar, and Sabiha Ibrahim.

The development of cinematography began in the mid-1940’s with such films as Children of the East, Layla in Iraq, and Alia and Issam. In the 1950’s several important films were released: Said Afandi (1958; directed by K. Husni), Fotna and Hasan (1952; directed by Alomi), and Who Is Guilty? (1957; directed by A. Wali), which depict the life of the poor.

Later films include Nebuchadnezzar (1960; directed by K. al-Adzawi) The Hand of Fate (1964; directed by K. al-Wabi), Autumn Leaves (1964; directed by H. Labib), Farewell, Lebanon (directed by Labib in cooperation with Lebanese film-makers), and Night Watchman (1968; directed by al-Haris).

The General Motion Picture and Theater Organization was founded in 1959.

Iraqi movie actors include H. Shafqi and Y. al-Ani.

One or two feature films and eight or ten film shorts are produced each year. The Ministry of Education produces educational films. From 300 to 400 foreign films are imported each year. There are 117 motion-picture theaters in Iraq (1971).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Iraq

Capital city: Baghdad

Internet country code: .iq

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black with three green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; the phrase Allahu Akbar (God Is Great) in green Arabic script - Allahu to the right of the middle star and Akbar to the left of the middle star - was added in January 1991 during the Per­sian Gulf crisis; similar to the flag of Syria, which has two stars but no script, Yemen, which has a plain white band, and that of Egypt which has a gold Eagle of Saladin cen­tered in the white band; design is based upon the Arab Liberation colors

Geographical description: Middle East, bordering the Per­sian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait

Total area: 168,753 sq. mi. (437,072 sq. km.)

Climate: Mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, some­times causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq

Nationality: noun: Iraqi(s); adjective: Iraqi

Population: 27,499,638 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turko­man, Chaldean, Assyrian, or others less than 5%

Languages spoken: Arabic (official), Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Assyrian, Armenian

Religions: Muslim 97% (Shi’a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%

Legal Holidays:

Anniversary of 14th Ramadan RevolutionFeb 8
Anniversary of Founding of the Iraqi ArmyJan 6
Anniversary of Founding the Arab Baath Socialist PartyApr 7
Christmas DayDec 25
Day of Victory and Peace over Iranian AggressionAug 8
Fao Liberation DayApr 17
Liquidation of Anti-RevolutionJul 30
May DayMay 1
National DayApr 9
New Year's DayJan 1
Oil Nationalization DayJun 1
Spring DayMar 21
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in SW Asia, on the Persian Gulf: coextensive with ancient Mesopotamia; became a British mandate in 1920, independent in 1932, and a republic in 1958. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990) led to their defeat in the first Gulf War (1991) by US-led UN forces. The second Gulf War (2003) took place when Iraq was invaded by a coalition of US, UK and other forces. Iraq consists chiefly of the mountains of Kurdistan in the northeast, part of the Syrian Desert, and the lower basin of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Oil is the major export. Official language: Arabic; Kurdish is official in the Kurdish Autonomous Region only. Official religion: Muslim. Currency: dinar. Capital: Baghdad. Pop.: 25 856 000 (2004 est.). Area: 438 446 sq. km (169 284 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005