President: Fouad Massoum (2014)
Prime Minister: Haider al-Abadi (2014)
Land area: 167,556 sq mi (433,970 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 32,585,692 (growth rate: 2.23%); birth rate: 26.85/1000; infant mortality rate: 37.53/1000; life expectancy: 71.42
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Baghdad, 6.036 million
Largest cities: Mosul 1.494 million; Erbil 1.039 million; Basra 942,000; As Sulaymaniyah 867,000; Najaf 779,000
Monetary unit: U.S. dollar
Iraq, a triangle of mountains, desert, and fertile river valley, is bounded on the east by Iran, on the north by Turkey, on the west by Syria and Jordan, and on the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It is twice the size of Idaho. The country has arid desert land west of the Euphrates, a broad central valley between the Euphrates and the Tigris, and mountains in the northeast.
The dictatorship of Saddam Hussein collapsed on April 9, 2003, after U.S. and British forces invaded the country. Sovereignty was returned to Iraq on June 28, 2004.
From earliest times Iraq was known as Mesopotamia—the land between the rivers—for it embraces a large part of the alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
An advanced civilization existed in this area by 4000 B.C. Sometime after 2000 B.C. , the land became the center of the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Mesopotamia was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 B.C. and by Alexander in 331 B.C. After an Arab conquest in 637–640, Baghdad became the capital of the ruling caliphate. The country was pillaged by the Mongols in 1258, and during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries was the object of Turkish and Persian competition.