In recent years, a large number of Iraqis have been displaced, and there are currently 229,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. UNHCR estimates that approximately 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by sectarian violence following the Samarra Mosque bombing of February 2006 remain internally displaced inside Iraq. For more information on Iraqi refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims, please visit: http://www.state.gov/g/prm/108717.htm
Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. 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.
Average temperatures range from higher than 48°C (120°F) in July and August to below freezing in January. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4-7 in.) annually. The mountainous region of northern Iraq receives appreciably more precipitation than the central or southern desert region.
Iraq is a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of government. The 2005 Iraqi constitution guarantees basic rights. The executive branch consists of the Presidency Council (one president, two vice presidents--an arrangement that may change following the March 2010 elections and the formation of a new government) and a Council of Ministers (one prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 37 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. The president and vice presidents are elected by the Council of Representatives. The prime minister is nominated by the largest bloc in the Council of Representatives. Upon designation, the prime minister names the members of his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which is then approved by the Council of Representatives. The executive branch serves a 4-year term concurrent with that of the Council of Representatives.
Iraq's legislative branch consists of an elected Council of Representatives (COR). After the 2005 elections, the Council of Representatives consisted of 275 members, each of whom was elected to a 4-year term of service. Following the March 7, 2010 elections the COR consists of 325 members to reflect an increase in the population of Iraq. 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. The Higher Judicial Council supervises the affairs of the federal judiciary. The Federal Supreme Court has limited jurisdiction related to intra-governmental disputes and constitutional issues. The appellate courts appeal up to the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal. The establishment of the federal courts, their types, and methods for judicial appointments are set forth by laws enacted by the Council of Representatives.
Principal Officials of the Iraqi National Unity Government
Vice President--Adil Abd al-Mahdi
Vice President--Tariq al-Hashimi
Prime Minister--Nuri al-Maliki
Deputy Prime Minister--Rafi al-Issawi
Deputy Prime Minister--Rowsch Nuri Shaways
Minister of Defense--Abd al-Qadir Muhammad Jassim al-Mufriji al-Ubaydi
Minister of Finance--Bayan Baqir Jabr Sulagh al-Zubaydi
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Hoshyar Mahmud Zebari
Minister of Interior--Jawad Karim al-Bulani
Minister of Oil--Husayn al-Shahristani
The Iran-Iraq war ended with Iraq sustaining the largest military structure in the Middle East, with more than 70 divisions in its army and an air force of over 700 modern aircraft. Losses during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 by a UN coalition resulted in the reduction of Iraq's ground forces to 23 divisions and air force to less than 300 aircraft.
In April 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority officially dissolved the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defense. 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. The U.S. Forces-Iraq Assistance and Training Assistance Mission (A&T) currently mans, trains, and equips Iraq's security forces. The Ministry of Interior, with the help of A&T, is training and equipping civilian police forces to establish security and stability. 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 10 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. By December 31, 2008 all provinces had transferred to PIC. U.S. forces remained in Iraq under a UN Security Council mandate until December 31, 2008, and under the bilateral Security Agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. On June 31, 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities, in accordance with the Security Agreement. By August 31, 2010, U.S. forces had drawn down to 50,000 troops in Iraq, whose mission transitioned from combat operations to the conduct of stability and support operations through assistance to Iraqi security forces.
On January 31, 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk (al-Tamim) province.
On March 7, 2010 Iraq held national parliamentary elections based on an open list system that elected the members of the Council of Representatives, who will elect the President and approve the next executive branch appointments. The Iraqi National Movement coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won the most seats (91), followed by Prime Minister al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition (89 seats), the Kurdish bloc (headed by Kurdistan Democratic Party President Masud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan President Jalal Talabani, with a total of 57 seats), the Iraqi National Alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr (70 seats), and other smaller political and minority parties (18 seats).
Major Political Parties and Organizations and Leaders
Badr Organization [Hadi al-Amiri]; Da'wa al-Islamiya Party [Nouri Kamil al-Maliki]; Goran List [Nowshirwan Mustafa]; Independents Bloc [Husayn al-Shahristani]; Iraqi Front for National Dialogue [Salih al-Mutlaq]; Accord/Withaq [Ayad Allawi]; Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or ISCI [Ammar Adb al-Aziz al-Hakim]; Kurdistan Democratic Party or KDP [Mas’oud Barzani]; National Movement of Reform and Development/Al-Hal (Kamil Karem al-Dulaimi]; Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or PUK [Jalal Talabani]; Renewal/Tajdeed List [Tariq al-Hashimi]; Sadrist Trend [Muqtada al-Sadr].
Smaller Parties and Organizations and Leaders
Future Gathering [Rafi’ al-Issawi]; Iraqi Islamic Party [Osama al-Tikriti]; Iraqi Justice and Reform Movement [Ajeel al-Yawer]; Iraqi National Congress/INC [Ahmad CHALABI]; Iraqi Turcoman Front [Saad al-Din Mohammed Amen]; Iraqiyoon [Osama al-Nujaifi]; Iraq Unity Alliance [Jawad al-Bulani and Sa’doun al-Dulaimi]; Islamic Virtue Party/Al-Fadilah [Hashim al-Hashimi]; Kurdistan Islamic Union [Salah ad-Din Muhammad Baha al-Din]; Kurdistan Islamic Group [Ali Bapir]; Life Current [Eskandar Witwit]; National Reform Current [Ibrahim al-Ja’afari]; Sons of Rafidain [Salam al-Zowba’e].
Minority Parties and Organizations and Leaders
Rafidan List/Assyrian Democratic Movement [Younadam Kanna]; Assyrian Chaldean Syriac People’s Council [Khalis Estepho]; Shabak [Jamshed al-Shabaki]; Yezedi [Ameen Jejjo]; Sabi’/Manda’i [Khalid al-Roomi]
With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime, Iraq has taken steps toward re-engagement on the international stage. Iraq currently has diplomatic representation in 54 countries around the world, including three permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, and the Arab League in Cairo. Forty-three nations have diplomatic representation in Iraq.
The Republic of Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: United Nations (UN); Arab League (AL); World Bank (WB); International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Nonaligned Movement (NAM); Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Interpol; World Health Organization (WHO); G-19; G-77; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA); Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD, suspended); Arab Monetary Fund (AMF); Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); International Community for Radionuclide Metrology (ICRM); International Development Association (IDA); International Development Bank (IDB); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Finance Corporation (IFC); International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS); International Labor Organization (ILO); International Maritime Organization (IMO); International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); International Organization for Standardization (ISO); International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC); Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Universal Postal Union (UPU); World Customs Organization (WCO); World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); World Meteorological Organization (WMO); World Trade Organization (WTO) observer.
Historically, Iraq's economy was characterized by heavy dependence on oil exports and emphasis on development through central planning. Prior to the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, Iraq's economic prospects were bright. Oil production had reached a level of 3.5 million barrels per day, and oil revenues were $21 billion in 1979 and $27 billion in 1980. At the outbreak of the war, Iraq had amassed an estimated $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
The Iran-Iraq war depleted Iraq's foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with foreign debt of more than $40 billion. However, after hostilities ceased in August 1988, oil exports gradually began to increase, with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities. But Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, damage from military action by an international coalition in January and February of 1991, and neglect of infrastructure devastated Iraq’s economy again. Government policies that diverted government income to key supporters of the regime and sustained a large military and internal-security force further impaired the economy and left the typical Iraqi facing desperate hardships.
The UN created the Oil-for-Food (OFF) program in April 1995 (UN Security Council Resolution 986) as a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people because of the effect of the continued sanctions regime. The OFF authorized nations to allow the importation of petroleum and petroleum products from Iraq worth $1 billion dollars (U.S.) every 90 days. The Security Council directed the Secretary General to create an escrow account that would hold the proceeds from the sales of oil, and allow Iraq to purchase food, medical supplies, and other goods for “essential” civilian needs. Although GDP fell in 2001-2002 largely as a result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices, per capita food imports increased and medical supplies and health care services improved. However, the military action of the U.S.-led coalition from March to April 2003 disrupted the central economic administrative structure. Since then, the rebuilding and enhancement of oil and utilities infrastructure and other production capacities has proceeded steadily, despite attacks on key economic facilities and internal security incidents. Iraq is now making progress toward establishing the laws and institutions needed to make and implement economic policy.
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which currently provides about 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Oil production currently averages about 2.4 million barrels per day, of which about 1.9 million barrels per day are exported.
Iraq is seeking to pass and implement laws to strengthen the economy, including a hydrocarbon law that encourages development of the oil and gas sector and a revenue sharing law that equitably divides oil and gas revenues among the central government, the provinces, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Implementing structural reforms, such as bank restructuring and private sector development, while simultaneously reducing corruption, will be key to Iraq's economic growth.
Foreign assistance has been an integral component of Iraq's reconstruction efforts since 2003. At a donors conference in Madrid in October 2003, more than $33 billion was pledged to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. Following that conference, the 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. Since 2003, international donors have pledged about $17 billion in financial and technical assistance, soft loans or potential loan facilities, and trade finance. International donors have exceeded their combined pledges for grants and technical assistance totaling about $5.3 billion by more than $700 million. Total soft loan pledges amount to about $11.8 billion, of which $4.7 billion has been committed. Japan is the leading soft loan contributor, having committed nearly $3.3 billion to projects around Iraq. New programs approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank will substantially close the gap between soft-loan pledges and commitments.
In February 2010, the IMF and World Bank approved $3.6 billion and $250 million of support to Iraq, respectively. Both programs are focused on helping the Iraqi Government maintain macroeconomic stability and mitigate Iraq’s vulnerability to external shocks due to volatility in global oil markets. The Iraqi Government has worked closely with both institutions since 2003, including the December 2008 completion of an IMF Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), after which Iraq received the balance of the Paris Club’s 80% debt reduction.
Agriculture is Iraq’s second-largest economic sector (after the oil sector), producing about 12% of GDP, and the second-largest source of jobs (after the public sector), employing at least 15% of the labor force. However, despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Obstacles to agricultural development, most of which existed prior to the removal of the Ba'ath regime in 2003, include government policies and subsidies that distort the market and undermine productivity and competition; outdated technology in plant and animal genetics, fertilizers, irrigation and drainage systems, and farm equipment; inadequate and unstable electricity; degradation of irrigation-management systems; insufficient credit and private capital; and inadequate market information and networks. In addition, the policy of the Ba'ath regime to destroy the "Marsh Arab" culture by draining the southern marshes and introducing irrigated farming to the region destroyed a natural food-producing area, while concentration of salts and minerals in the soil due to the draining left the land unsuitable for agriculture. Assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other international partners since 2003 has helped Iraq begin the necessary improvements. Current U.S. efforts are focused primarily on helping Iraq transition to a private-sector driven agricultural system.
The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Under the Oil-for-Food program, Iraq was allowed to export oil and use the proceeds to purchase goods for essential civilian needs, including food, medicine, and infrastructure-repair parts. With the lifting of UN sanctions after the Ba'ath regime was removed in 2003, Iraq is gradually resuming trade relations with the international community, including the United States. The United States designated Iraq as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program in September 2004. Iraq was granted observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in February 2004, and began its WTO accession process in December 2004. Iraq has participated in two Working Party meetings as part of the accession process, one on May 25, 2007, and the other on April 2, 2008. During this long-term process, Iraq must align its trade regime with the rules-based, multilateral international trade system. Through USAID technical assistance, the United States is continuing to support Iraq’s accession to the WTO. Completion of the requirements for WTO membership will help Iraq establish a proven framework for fostering a more stable and transparent economy that will encourage both domestic and foreign investment.