Country of the World Iraq

About the country Iraq, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Iraq, known historically in the West a Mesopotamia, is located in southwestern Asia and borders the Persian Gulf on the south. Its twin river system, the Tigris-Euphrates, empties into the Persian Gulf. Iraq is largely desert and flood plain, but to the north and east are high mountain ranges. Most Iraqis live along the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Size: 167,924 sq. mi. (434,924 sq. km.), about two-thirds the size of Texas.

Population: 12.2 million.

Who Rules: The Arab Ba'ath ("Resurrection") Socialist party, through a National Front which includes the small pro-Soviet Iraqi Communist party. The president of the republic has extensive powers and is appointed by the ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The RCC is controlled by the Ba'ath party leadership. Various regional assemblies and popular organizations in the Arab sections of the country also have roles in the governmental structure, but they are likewise controlled by the Ba'ath.

Who REALLY Rules: A clique within the Ba'ath party based largely at Tikrit, a small city northwest of Baghdad. The Tikriti clan and its associates have controlled the Ba'ath party for over 15 years, mainly through Tikriti military officers. Pres. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and RCC Deputy Chairman Saddam Hussein are both Tikriti. Although Bakr is the titular head of government, real power appears to be concentrated in the hands of Hussein.

The Soviet Union and its allies have strongly supported the Ba'ath regime, supplying weapons, training, and technical and economic assistance. However, having tried both Soviet and Western goods and technology, Iraq now shows a clear preference for what the West and Japan have to offer. Seventeen American firms now have branches or offices in Iraq. Iraqi Airways flies Boeing aircraft, Brown and Root is building oil terminals, and U.S. Industries is establishing chicken farms. As one American businessman in Baghdad says, "Nobody in the world can handle agribusiness like our boys from California, and they [the Iraqis] know it."

In February, 1963, the five-year regime of Abdul Karim Kassem succumbed to a military coup led by the Ba'ath party. To convince the population of Baghdad that Kassem was indeed quite dead, the Ba'athists displayed his corpse on television, jerking his lifeless head from side to side to demonstrate his moribund condition.

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