Largest CityBaghdad - Population: 4,850,000
Monetary Unit: Iraqi dinar
Current GovernmentOne-party Republic
Current President: Saddam Hussein
EthnicityArab - 75%-80%
Kurdish - 15% - 20%
Turkoman, Assyrian, other - 5%
- Iraq was known as Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers (Tigris and Euphrates Rivers).
- 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.
- Nominal Turkish suzerainty imposed in 1638 was replaced by direct Turkish rule in 1831.
- In World War I, Britain occupied most of Mesopotamia and was given a mandate over the area in 1920. The British renamed the area Iraq and recognized it as a kingdom in 1922.
- In 1932, the monarchy achieved full independence.
- Iraq became a charter member of the Arab League in 1945.
- In 1958, Abdul Karem Kassim reversed the monarchy's pro-Western policies and began to form alliances with Communist countries.
- In July 1968 Gen. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Ba'ath Party took over control of the land. Bakr and his second-in-command, Saddam Hussein, imposed authoritarian rule in an effort to end the decades of political instability that followed World War II.
- On July 16, 1979, President Bakr was succeeded by Saddam Hussein, whose regime steadily developed an international reputation for repression, human rights abuses, and terrorism.
- In July 1990, President Hussein asserted spurious territorial claims on Kuwaiti land.
- Under the leadership of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, launched Operation Desert Storm, liberating Kuwait.
- The UN Security Council imposed sanctions beginning in 1990, which barred Iraq from selling oil except in exchange for food and medicine. Despite the debilitating effects of UN sanctions, Hussein continued to defy the terms of the cease-fire agreement.
- After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush began calling for a “regime change” in Iraq, describing the nation as part of an “axis of evil.”
A collection of Web reports contributed to this report.