Official name : Republic of Iraq
Area : 437,072 sq. km.; about the size of California.
Cities : Capital--Baghdad (5.7 million, 2004 estimate). Other cities--Basrah, Mosul, Kirkuk, As Sulaymaniyah, Irbil.
Terrain : Alluvial plains, mountains, and desert.
Climate : Mostly hot and dry.
Nationality : Noun and adjective--Iraqi(s).
Population (2004 estimate) : 26,074,906.
Population growth rate (2004 estimate) : 2.7%.
Ethnic groups : Arab 75%-80%, Kurd 15%-20%, Turcoman, Chaldean, Assyrian, or others less than 5%.
Religions : Shi'a Muslim 60-65%, Sunni Muslim 32%-37%, Christian 3%, others less than 1%.
Languages : Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, and Farsi.
Education : Years compulsory--primary school (age 6 through grade 6). Literacy--40.4%.
Health : Infant mortality rate (2004 estimate)--50.25 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy (2004 estimate)--68.7 yrs.
Divisions: 18 governorates and one regional government. Governorates--Al Anbar, Al Basrah, Al Muthanna, Al Qadisiyah, An Najaf, Irbil, As Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, Babil, Baghdad, Dahuk, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Karbala', Maysan, Ninawa, Salah ad Din, Wasit. Regional government--Kurdistan Regional Government.
Natural resources : Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.
Agriculture (13.6% of GNP): Products--wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, cotton, dates, cattle, sheep.
Industry (58.6% GNP) : Types--petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing.
Exports (2004 estimate)--$17.5 billion. Export commodities (2004 estimate)--crude oil (83%), crude materials excluding fuels (8%), food and live animals (5%). Export partners (2004 estimate)--U.S. 53.4%, India 12.3%, Spain 8%, Japan 6.1%, Italy 4.9%, Canada 4.2% (based on oil exports for 2004). Imports (2004 estimate)--$9.9 billion. Import commodities (2004 estimate)--food, medicine, manufactured goods, refined petroleum products. Import partners (2004 estimate)--Turkey 25%, U.S. 11.1%, Jordan 10%, Vietnam 7.7%, Germany 5.6%, Australia 4.8%.
Almost 75% of Iraq's population live in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast from Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are in Iraq.
Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups are Turcoman, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.
Most Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Small communities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language, dress, and customs.