Facts About Iraq

  1. Iraq's Geography
  2. Iraq's Population
  3. Iraq's Government
  1. Iraq's Economy
  2. Iraq's Military & Security

I. Iraq's Geography See our maps of Iraq and the Middle East.
Location: Middle East, bordering Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan and Syria to the west, Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, and limited access to the Persian Gulf
  • Total area: 168,754 square miles (sq. mi.)
  • Land area: 166,859 sq. mi.
  • Comparative area (to USA): about the size of California
Land Boundaries: Total 2,268 mi., Iran 906 mi., Jordan 112 mi., Kuwait 149 mi., Saudi Arabia 506 mi., Syria 376 mi., Turkey 219 mi.
Coastline: 36 mi.
Climate: Average temperatures range from higher than 48°C (120°F) in July and Aug. to below freezing in Jan. Most of the rainfall occurs from Dec. through Apr. and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4-7 in.) annually. Mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows which melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq.
Terrain: Mostly broad plains; The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland. The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.
Natural Resources: Petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Land Use:
  • Arable land: 13.12%
  • Permanent crops: 0.61%
  • Other: 86.27% (2005)
Irrigated Land: 13,610 sq. mi. (2003)
Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook "Iraq," www.cia.gov, Apr. 9, 2009; US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008
II. Iraq's Population See our maps of Iraq's population statistics.
Population: 28,945,657 (July 2009) (24,011,816 in 2002)
Population growth rate: 2.51% (2009) (2.82% in 2002)
Birth rate: 30.77 births/1,000 population (2008)
Death rate: 5.14 deaths/1,000 population (2008)
Infant mortality rate: 43.82 deaths/1,000 live births (2009) (57.61 deaths/1,000 live births in 2002)
Life expectancy at birth:
  • Total population: 69.9 years (67.3 years in Feb. 2003)
  • Male: 68.6 years
  • Female: 71.3 years (2009)


  • Noun: Iraqi(s)
  • Adjective: Iraqi
Languages: Arabic, Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Turkoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic), Armenian
Religions: Muslim 97% (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%
Languages: Arabic, Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Turkoman (a Turkish dialect), Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic), Armenian.

[Read: What are the different religious groups in Iraq?]

Definition: adult, age 15 and over (2006)

  • Total population: 72.5% (50% in Feb. 2003)
  • Male: 82.4%
  • Female: 62.2%
Education: Years compulsory: primary school (age 6 through grade 6)
People: 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 include Turcoman, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.
The majority (60-65%) of Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi'a sect, but there is a large (32-37%) 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.
Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook "Iraq," www.cia.gov, Apr. 9, 2009; US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS) "UIS Statistics in Brief," stats.uis.unesco.org (accessed May 5, 2009)
III. Iraq's Government
  • Conventional long form: Republic of Iraq
  • Conventional short form: Iraq
  • Local long form: Jumhuriyah al Iraq
  • Local short form: Al Iraq
Type: Parliamentary democracy
Capital: Baghdad
Administrative Divisions: 18 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah) and 1 region*; Al Anbar, Al Basrah, Al Muthanna, Al Qadisiyah, An Najaf, Arbil, As Sulaymaniyah, At Ta'mim, Babil, Baghdad, Dahuk, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Karbala', Maysan, Ninawa, Salah ad Din, Wasit, and the Kurdistan Regional Government*

[See our map of Iraq's prorvinces.]
Independence: Oct. 3, 1932 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration). On June 28, 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi-controlled government.
Government: Iraq is a constitutional democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution guarantees all Iraqis basic rights in many areas. The executive branch consists of the Presidency Council (one president, two deputy presidents) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 34 cabinet ministers). The President is the Head of State, protecting the Constitution and representing the sovereignty and unity of the state, while the Prime Minister is the direct executive authority and commander in chief.

Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives. The Council of Representatives consists of 275 members, each of whom is elected to four-year terms of service. At least one-quarter of the members of the Council of Representatives must be female. The responsibilities of the Council of Representatives include enacting federal laws, monitoring the executive branch, and electing the President of the Republic.

Iraq's judicial branch is independent, and is under no authority but that of the law. The federal judicial authority is comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission, and other federal courts.
Executive Branch:
  • Chief of State: President Jalal Talabani (as of Apr. 6, 2005) (formerly Saddam Hussein, July 16, 1979-Apr. 23, 2003*)
  • Vice President: Adil abd al-Mahdi (as of Apr. 22, 2006) (formerly Taha Muhyi al-Din Marouf, Apr. 21, 1974-Apr. 23, 2003*)
  • Vice President: Tariq al-Hashimi (as of Apr. 22, 2006) (formerly Taha Yasin Ramadan, Mar. 23, 1991-Apr. 23, 2003*)
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (as of May 20, 2006) (formerly Saddam Hussein, May 1994-Apr. 23, 2003*)
  • Deputy Prime Minister: Barham Salih (as of May 20, 2006) (formerly Tariq Aziz, 1979-Apr. 23, 2003*)
  • Deputy Prime Minister: Rafi al-Issawi (as of July 19, 2008)
(* The date the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), an organization installed by the US military to help rebuild the government and infrastructure of Iraq, is created)
Legislative Branch: Council of Representatives (consisting of 275 members elected by a closed-list, proportional representation system)

Elections: last held Dec. 15, 2005 to elect a 275-member Council of Representatives (next to be held Dec. 2009); the Council of Representatives elected the Presidency Council and approved the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers.
Constitution: Ratified on Oct. 15, 2005 (subject to review by the Constitutional Review Committee and a possible public referendum)
Flag: Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; the Takbir (Arabic expression meaning "God is great") in green Arabic script is centered in the white band; 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; Council of Representatives approved this flag as a compromise temporary replacement for Ba'athist Saddam-era flag.

[Related link: New Iraqi Flag Approved by Iraqi Lawmakers on Jan. 22, 2008]
Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook "Iraq," www.cia.gov, Apr. 9, 2009; US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008
IV. Iraq's Economy
Gross Domestic Product:
  • Purchasing power parity: $112.8 billion (2008)
  • Real growth rate: 9.8% (2008)
  • Per capita: $4,000, ranked 125 out of 194 countries (2008)
Inflation Rate: 6.8% (2008)
  • Revenues: $42.4 billion
  • Expenditures: $49.9 billion
Labor Force: 7.74 million (2008)
Unemployment Rate: 18.2% - 30% (2008)
Natural Resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur

[See our map of Iraq's oil fields.]
Agriculture Products: Wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton; cattle, sheep, poultry

[See our map of Iraq's land use.]
Industries: Petroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing
  • Exports: $34.04 billion (2007)
  • Export commodities: crude oil 84%, crude materials excluding fuels 8%, food and live animals 5% (2007)
  • Export partners: U.S. 46.8%, Italy 10.7%, Canada 6.2%, Spain 6.1% (2006)
  • Imports: $23.09 billion (2007)
  • Import commodities: food, medicine, manufactured goods, refined petroleum products
  • Import partners: Syria 26.5%, Turkey 20.5%, U.S. 11.8%, Jordan 7.2% (2006)
Exchange Rate: 1,176 New Iraqi Dinar to $1 US Dollar (2008)
Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook "Iraq," www.cia.gov, Apr. 9, 2009; US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008

"Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. Current estimates show that oil production averages 2.1 million bbl/day [barrels/day].

The Iraqi Government is seeking to pass and implement laws to strengthen the economy, including a hydrocarbon law to encourage development of this sector, a revenue sharing law to equitably divide oil revenues within the nation in line with the Iraqi constitution, and writing regulations to implement a new foreign investment law. Controlling inflation, reducing corruption, and implementing structural reforms such as bank restructuring and private sector development will be key to Iraq's economic growth.

Foreign assistance has been an integral component of Iraq's reconstruction efforts over the past three years. At a Donors Conference in Madrid in October 2003, more than $33 billion was pledged to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. Out of that conference, the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank launched the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) to administer and disburse about $1.7 billion of those funds. The rest of the assistance is being disbursed bilaterally. To date [Feb. 2008] $15.3 billion has been pledged in foreign aid for 2004-2008 from outside of the U.S.

In December 2007, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to renew a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Iraq, which provides a credit line to the Iraqi government of up to $744 million if needed. The SBA also requires Iraq to undertake some economic policy reforms. If Iraq fulfills the terms of the SBA, the country will receive the final stage of Paris Club debt reduction. At that point, a total of 80 percent of Iraq's international debt will have been forgiven. The new SBA lasts for 15 months, through March 2009; the previous SBA began December 2005 and ended December 2007."
US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008
V. Iraq's Military and Security
Military Expenditures: 8.6% of GDP
Military Service Age and Obligation: 18-49 years of age for voluntary military service (2008)
Military Forces (number of authorized members as of Oct. 21, 2008):
  • Army: 174,280
  • Air Force: 3,690
  • Navy: 3,956
  • Training and Support Forces: 15,583
Security Forces (number of authorized members as of Oct. 21, 2008):
  • Police: 334,739
  • National Police: 46,580
  • Border Enforcement: 45,550
  • Counter Terrorism Force: 4,733
Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook "Iraq," www.cia.gov, Apr. 9, 2009; US Department of Defense "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," www.defenselink.mil, Dec. 2008

"When major combat operations ended in April 2003, the Iraqi Army disintegrated, and its installations were destroyed by pilfering and looting. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officially dissolved the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defense on May 23, 2003. On August 7, 2003, the CPA established the New Iraqi Army as the first step toward the creation of the national self-defense force of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Support for the manning, training, and equipping of Iraq's security forces is led by the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I).

In addition to defense forces, the Ministry of Interior, with the help of the MNSTC-I, is training and equipping civilian police forces to establish security and stability, primarily through combating the nation-wide insurgency. Initially under the command and control of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) command, in 2006 police and Iraqi Army units began to transition to Iraqi control. By November 2007, all of the original ten Iraq Army divisions had completed the transfer to Iraq Ground Forces Command. The process of transferring provinces to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC) began in July 2007, when Muthanna became the first province where Iraq Security Forces took the leading role of security in a province. In December 2007, Basrah became the ninth of Iraq's eighteen provinces to transfer to PIC."
US Department of State "Background Note: Iraq," www.state.gov, Feb. 2008

"It was once said to be the fourth largest army in the world, but on 23 May 2003 Paul Bremer, the US occupation administrator of Iraq, issued an order dissolving it...

The modern Iraqi army was formally founded on 6 January 1921. Its first battalion was established on 21 June 1921 and by the end of 1929, it had more than 500 officers and around 9,900 noncommissioned officers and soldiers.

In 1936 the Iraqi military was the first to stage a coup d'etat in the Arab world when the army commander, General Bakr Sidqi, a Kurd, overthrew the government.

The Army
The Iraqi regular army of 350,000 soldiers, was made up of five army corps, including 17 divisions (3 armoured, 3 mechanised and 11 infantry).

The Air Force
Before the Gulf war of 1991 the Iraqi air force had about 750 Russian and French-made aircraft, but it lost most of them in the war and more than 130 aircraft were flown to Iran to avoid being destroyed by coalition forces.

Air Defenses
The Iraqi air defense forces had almost 17,000 people. In the last 12 years it sustained heavy losses because of continued American and British attacks and sanctions imposed on Iraq.

The Navy
Iraq's naval forces were never of significant importance due to the fact that Iraq does not have long shore on the Gulf.

The Republican Guard
The Republican Guard was composed of two armoured, two mechanised and three infantry divisions with almost 80,000 troops.
It was Iraq's most formidable fighting force, equipped with more than one thousand tanks and sophisticated artillery pieces.

The Special Republican Guard
The Special Republican Guard was made up of 15,000 to 16,000 troops in five brigades. It war formed in 1995 ti protect the President and to maintain security in the capital.

Fedayee Saddam
Founded in 1995 this paramilitary force of around 40,000 troops was controlled by Saddam's eldest son Uday."

Al Jazeera "Life and Death of Iraq's Military," Aug. 10, 2003