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Iraq:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of military strongmen ruled the country until 2003. The last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. Coalition forces remain in Iraq under a UNSC mandate, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which temporarily administered Iraq after the invasion, transferred full governmental authority on 28 June 2004 to the Iraqi Interim Government, which governed under the Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq (TAL). Under the TAL, elections for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA) were held in Iraq on 30 January 2005. Following these elections, the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) assumed office. The TNA was charged with drafting Iraq's permanent constitution, which was approved in a 15 October 2005 constitutional referendum. An election under the constitution for a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) was held on 15 December 2005. The CoR approval in the selection of most of the cabinet ministers on 20 May 2006 marked the transition from the ITG to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half-century.
Location
Definition
Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Geographic coordinates
Definition
33 00 N, 44 00 E
Map references
Definition
Middle East
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 437,072 sq km
land: 432,162 sq km
water: 4,910 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly more than twice the size of Idaho
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 3,650 km
border countries: Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km
Coastline
Definition
58 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate
Definition
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
Terrain
Definition
mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: unnamed peak; 3,611 m; note - this peak is neither Gundah Zhur 3,607 m nor Kuh-e Hajji-Ebrahim 3,595 m
Natural resources
Definition
petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 13.12%
permanent crops: 0.61%
other: 86.27% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
35,250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
96.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 42.7 cu km/yr (3%/5%/92%)
per capita: 1,482 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
dust storms, sandstorms, floods
Environment - current issues
Definition
government water control projects have drained most of the inhabited marsh areas east of An Nasiriyah by drying up or diverting the feeder streams and rivers; a once sizable population of Marsh Arabs, who inhabited these areas for thousands of years, has been displaced; furthermore, the destruction of the natural habitat poses serious threats to the area's wildlife populations; inadequate supplies of potable water; development of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers system contingent upon agreements with upstream riparian Turkey; air and water pollution; soil degradation (salination) and erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note
Definition
strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf


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