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Iraq-The Baath Party POLITICS





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Iraq Index

In early 1988, the Baath Party continued to stress parallelism focused on "regional" (qutri) and "national" (qawmi) goals, following the Baath doctrine that the territorially and politically divided Arab countries were merely "regions" of a collective entity called "The Arab Nation." Hence the Baath movement in one country was considered merely an aspect of, or a phase leading to, "a unified democratic socialist Arab nation." That nation, when it materialized, would be under a single, unified Arab national leadership. Theoretically, therefore, success or failure at the regional level would have a corresponding effect on the movement toward that Arab nation. Moreover, the critical test of legitimacy for any Baath regime would necessarily be whether or not the regime's policies and actions were compatible with the basic aims of the revolution-- aims epitomized in the principles of "unity, freedom, and socialism."

The Baath Party in Iraq, like its counterparts in other Arab regions (states), derived from the official founding congress in Damascus in 1947. This conclave of pan-Arab intellectuals was inspired by the ideas of two Syrians, Michel Aflaq and Salah ad Din al Bitar, who are generally regarded as the fathers of the Baath movement. Several Iraqis, including Abd ar Rahman ad Damin and Abd al Khaliq al Khudayri, attended this congress and became members of the party. Upon their return to Baghdad, they formed the Iraqi branch of the Baath. Damin became the first secretary general of the Iraqi Baath.

From its early years, the Iraqi Baath recruited converts from a small number of college and high school students, intellectuals, and professionals--virtually all of whom were urban Sunni Arabs. A number of Baath high school members entered the Military College, where they influenced several classmates to join the party. Important military officers who became Baath members in the early 1950s included Ahmad Hasan al Bakr, Salih Mahdi Ammash, and Abd Allah Sultan, all of whom figured prominently in Iraqi political affairs in later years.

During the 1950s, the Baath was a clandestine party, and its members were subject to arrest if their identities were discovered. The Baath Party joined with other opposition parties to form the underground United National Front and participated in the activities that led to the 1958 revolution. The Baathists hoped that the new, republican government would favor pan-Arab causes, especially a union with Egypt, but instead the regime was dominated by non-Baathist military officers who did not support Arab unity or other Baath principles. Some younger members of the party, including Saddam Husayn, became convinced that Iraqi leader Abd al Karim Qasim had to be removed, and they plotted his assassination. The October 1959 attempt on Qasim's life, however, was bungled; Saddam Husayn fled Iraq, while other party members were arrested and tried for treason. The Baath was forced underground again, and it experienced a period of internal dissension as members debated over which tactics were appropriate to achieve their political objectives. The party's second attempt to overthrow Qasim, in February 1963, was successful, and it resulted in the formation of the country's first Baath government. The party, however, was more divided than ever between ideologues and more pragmatic members. Because of this lack of unity, the Baath's coup partners were able to outmaneuver it and, within nine months, to expel all Baathists from the government. It was not until 1965 that the Baath overcame the debilitating effects of ideological and of personal rivalries. The party then reorganized under the direction of General Bakr as secretary general with Saddam Husayn as his deputy. Both men were determined to return the Baath to power. In July 1968, the Baath finally staged a successful coup.

After the Baath takeover, Bakr became president of the regime, and he initiated programs aimed at the establishment of a "socialist, unionist, and democratic" Iraq. This was done, according to the National Action Charter, with scrupulous care for balancing the revolutionary requirements of Iraq on the one hand and the needs of the "Arab nation" on the other. According to a Baath Party pronouncement in January 1974, "Putting the regional above the national may lead to statism, and placing the national over the regional may lead to rash and childish action." This protestation notwithstanding, the government's primary concerns since 1968 have been domestic issues rather than pan- Arab ones.

In 1968 the Baath regime confronted a wide range of problems, such as ethnic and sectarian tensions, the stagnant condition of agriculture, commerce, and industry, the inefficiency and the corruption of government, and the lack of political consensus among the three main sociopolitical groups--the Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. The difficulties of consensus building were compounded by the pervasive apathy and mistrust at the grass-roots levels of all sects, by the shortage of qualified party cadres to serve as the standard-bearers of the Baath regime, and by the Kurdish armed insurgency. Rivalry with Syria and with Egypt for influence within the Arab world and the frontier dispute with Iran also complicated the regime's efforts to build the nation.

Since 1968 the Baath has attempted to create a strong and unified Iraq, through formal government channels and through political campaigns designed to eradicate what it called "harmful prerevolutionary values and practices," such as exploitation, social inequities, sectarian loyalties, apathy, and lack of civil spirit. Official statements called for abandonment of traditional ways in favor of a new life-style fashioned on the principles of patriotism, national loyalty, collectivism, participation, selflessness, love of labor, and civic responsibility. These "socialist principles and practices" would be instilled by the party's own example, through the state educational system, and through youth and other popular organizations. The Baath particularly emphasized "military training" for youth; such training was considered essential for creating "new men in the new society" and for defending the republic from the hostile forces of Zionism, imperialism, anti-Arab chauvinism (e.g., from Iran), rightists, opportunists, and reactionaries (see Paramilitary Forces; Internal Security , ch. 5).

The Baath's major goal since 1968 has been to socialize the economy. By the late 1980s, the party had succeeded in socializing a significant part of the national economy (see The Role of Government , ch. 3), including agriculture, commerce, industry, and oil. Programs to collectivize agriculture were reversed in 1981, but government investment in industrial production remained important in the late 1980s. Large-scale industries such as iron, steel, and petrochemicals were fully owned and managed by the government, as were many medium-sized factories that manufactured textiles, processed food, and turned out construction materials.

The Baath's efforts to create a unified Arab nation have been more problematic. The party has not abandoned its goal of Arab unity. This goal, however, has become a long-term ideal rather than a short-term objective. President Saddam Husayn proclaimed the new view in 1982 by stating that Baathists now "believe that Arab unity must not take place through the elimination of the local and national characteristics of any Arab country. . . . but must be achieved through common fraternal opinion." In practice this meant that the Iraqi Baath Party had accepted unity of purpose among Arab leaders, rather than unification of Arab countries, as more important for the present.

As of early 1988, the Baath Party claimed about 10 percent of the population, a total of 1.5 million supporters and sympathizers; of this total, full party members, or cadres, were estimated at only 30,000, or 0.2 percent. The cadres were the nucleus of party organization, and they functioned as leaders, motivators, teachers, administrators, and watchdogs. Generally, party recruitment procedures emphasized selectivity rather than quantity, and those who desired to join the party had to pass successfully through several apprentice-like stages before being accepted into full membership. The Baath's elitist approach derived from the principle that the party's effectiveness could only be measured by its demonstrable ability to mobilize and to lead the people, and not by "size, number, or form." Participation in the party was virtually a requisite for social mobility.

The basic organizational unit of the Baath was the party cell or circle (halaqah). Composed of between three and seven members, cells functioned at the neighborhood or the village level, where members met to discuss and to carry out party directives. A minimum of two and a maximum of seven cells formed a party division (firqah). Divisions operated in urban quarters, larger villages, offices, factories, schools, and other organizations. Division units were spread throughout the bureaucracy and the military, where they functioned as the ears and eyes of the party. Two to five divisions formed a section (shabah). A section operated at the level of a large city quarter, a town, or a rural district. Above the section was the branch (fira), which was composed of at least two sections and which operated at the provincial level. There were twenty-one Baath Party branches in Iraq, one in each of the eighteen provinces and three in Baghdad. The union of all the branches formed the party's congress, which elected the Regional Command.

The Regional Command was both the core of party leadership and the top decision-making body. It had nine members, who were elected for five-year terms at regional congresses of the party. Its secretary general (also called the regional secretary) was the party's leader, and its deputy secretary general was second in rank and in power within the party hierarchy. The members of the command theoretically were responsible to the Regional Congress that, as a rule, was to convene annually to debate and to approve the party's policies and programs; actually, the members were chosen by Saddam Husayn and other senior party leaders to be "elected" by the Regional Congress, a formality seen as essential to the legitimation of party leadership.

Above the Regional Command was the National Command of the Baath Party, the highest policy-making and coordinating council for the Baath movement throughout the Arab world. The National Command consisted of representatives from all regional commands and was responsible to the National Congress, which convened periodically. It was vested with broad powers to guide, to coordinate, and to supervise the general direction of the movement, especially with respect to relationships among the regional Baath parties and with the outside world. These powers were to be exercised through a national secretariat that would direct policy-formulating bureaus.

In reality, the National Command did not oversee the Baath movement as a whole in 1988 because there continued to be no single command. In 1966 a major schism within the Baath movement had resulted in the creation of two rival National Commands, one based in Damascus and the other in Baghdad. Both commands claim to be the legitimate authority for the Baath, but since 1966 they have been mutually antagonistic. Michel Aflaq, one of the original cofounders of the Baath Party, was the secretary general of the Baghdad-based National Command, and Saddam Husayn was the vice-chairman. In practice, the Syrian Regional Command, under Hafiz al Assad, controlled the Damascus-based National Command of the Baath Party, while the Iraqi Regional Command controlled the Baghdad-based National Command.

Theoretically, the Iraqi Regional Command made decisions about Baath Party policy based on consensus. In practice, all decisions were made by the party's secretary general, Saddam Husayn, who since 1979 had also been chairman of the RCC and president of the republic. He worked closely with a small group of supporters, especially members of the Talfah family from the town of Tikrit (see The Emergence of Saddam Husayn, 1968-79 , ch. 1); he also dealt ruthlessly with suspected opposition to his rule from within the party. In 1979 several high-ranking Baathists were tried and were executed for allegedly planning a coup; other prominent party members were forcibly retired in 1982. Saddam Husayn's detractors accused him of monopolizing power and of promoting a cult of personality.

Data as of May 1988

[JPEG]

Tahrir Square, Baghdad, showing the Monument of Liberty
Courtesy United Nations

The Baath Party

In early 1988, the Baath Party continued to stress parallelism focused on "regional" (qutri) and "national" (qawmi) goals, following the Baath doctrine that the territorially and politically divided Arab countries were merely "regions" of a collective entity called "The Arab Nation." Hence the Baath movement in one country was considered merely an aspect of, or a phase leading to, "a unified democratic socialist Arab nation." That nation, when it materialized, would be under a single, unified Arab national leadership. Theoretically, therefore, success or failure at the regional level would have a corresponding effect on the movement toward that Arab nation. Moreover, the critical test of legitimacy for any Baath regime would necessarily be whether or not the regime's policies and actions were compatible with the basic aims of the revolution-- aims epitomized in the principles of "unity, freedom, and socialism."

The Baath Party in Iraq, like its counterparts in other Arab regions (states), derived from the official founding congress in Damascus in 1947. This conclave of pan-Arab intellectuals was inspired by the ideas of two Syrians, Michel Aflaq and Salah ad Din al Bitar, who are generally regarded as the fathers of the Baath movement. Several Iraqis, including Abd ar Rahman ad Damin and Abd al Khaliq al Khudayri, attended this congress and became members of the party. Upon their return to Baghdad, they formed the Iraqi branch of the Baath. Damin became the first secretary general of the Iraqi Baath.

From its early years, the Iraqi Baath recruited converts from a small number of college and high school students, intellectuals, and professionals--virtually all of whom were urban Sunni Arabs. A number of Baath high school members entered the Military College, where they influenced several classmates to join the party. Important military officers who became Baath members in the early 1950s included Ahmad Hasan al Bakr, Salih Mahdi Ammash, and Abd Allah Sultan, all of whom figured prominently in Iraqi political affairs in later years.

During the 1950s, the Baath was a clandestine party, and its members were subject to arrest if their identities were discovered. The Baath Party joined with other opposition parties to form the underground United National Front and participated in the activities that led to the 1958 revolution. The Baathists hoped that the new, republican government would favor pan-Arab causes, especially a union with Egypt, but instead the regime was dominated by non-Baathist military officers who did not support Arab unity or other Baath principles. Some younger members of the party, including Saddam Husayn, became convinced that Iraqi leader Abd al Karim Qasim had to be removed, and they plotted his assassination. The October 1959 attempt on Qasim's life, however, was bungled; Saddam Husayn fled Iraq, while other party members were arrested and tried for treason. The Baath was forced underground again, and it experienced a period of internal dissension as members debated over which tactics were appropriate to achieve their political objectives. The party's second attempt to overthrow Qasim, in February 1963, was successful, and it resulted in the formation of the country's first Baath government. The party, however, was more divided than ever between ideologues and more pragmatic members. Because of this lack of unity, the Baath's coup partners were able to outmaneuver it and, within nine months, to expel all Baathists from the government. It was not until 1965 that the Baath overcame the debilitating effects of ideological and of personal rivalries. The party then reorganized under the direction of General Bakr as secretary general with Saddam Husayn as his deputy. Both men were determined to return the Baath to power. In July 1968, the Baath finally staged a successful coup.

After the Baath takeover, Bakr became president of the regime, and he initiated programs aimed at the establishment of a "socialist, unionist, and democratic" Iraq. This was done, according to the National Action Charter, with scrupulous care for balancing the revolutionary requirements of Iraq on the one hand and the needs of the "Arab nation" on the other. According to a Baath Party pronouncement in January 1974, "Putting the regional above the national may lead to statism, and placing the national over the regional may lead to rash and childish action." This protestation notwithstanding, the government's primary concerns since 1968 have been domestic issues rather than pan- Arab ones.

In 1968 the Baath regime confronted a wide range of problems, such as ethnic and sectarian tensions, the stagnant condition of agriculture, commerce, and industry, the inefficiency and the corruption of government, and the lack of political consensus among the three main sociopolitical groups--the Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. The difficulties of consensus building were compounded by the pervasive apathy and mistrust at the grass-roots levels of all sects, by the shortage of qualified party cadres to serve as the standard-bearers of the Baath regime, and by the Kurdish armed insurgency. Rivalry with Syria and with Egypt for influence within the Arab world and the frontier dispute with Iran also complicated the regime's efforts to build the nation.

Since 1968 the Baath has attempted to create a strong and unified Iraq, through formal government channels and through political campaigns designed to eradicate what it called "harmful prerevolutionary values and practices," such as exploitation, social inequities, sectarian loyalties, apathy, and lack of civil spirit. Official statements called for abandonment of traditional ways in favor of a new life-style fashioned on the principles of patriotism, national loyalty, collectivism, participation, selflessness, love of labor, and civic responsibility. These "socialist principles and practices" would be instilled by the party's own example, through the state educational system, and through youth and other popular organizations. The Baath particularly emphasized "military training" for youth; such training was considered essential for creating "new men in the new society" and for defending the republic from the hostile forces of Zionism, imperialism, anti-Arab chauvinism (e.g., from Iran), rightists, opportunists, and reactionaries (see Paramilitary Forces; Internal Security , ch. 5).

The Baath's major goal since 1968 has been to socialize the economy. By the late 1980s, the party had succeeded in socializing a significant part of the national economy (see The Role of Government , ch. 3), including agriculture, commerce, industry, and oil. Programs to collectivize agriculture were reversed in 1981, but government investment in industrial production remained important in the late 1980s. Large-scale industries such as iron, steel, and petrochemicals were fully owned and managed by the government, as were many medium-sized factories that manufactured textiles, processed food, and turned out construction materials.

The Baath's efforts to create a unified Arab nation have been more problematic. The party has not abandoned its goal of Arab unity. This goal, however, has become a long-term ideal rather than a short-term objective. President Saddam Husayn proclaimed the new view in 1982 by stating that Baathists now "believe that Arab unity must not take place through the elimination of the local and national characteristics of any Arab country. . . . but must be achieved through common fraternal opinion." In practice this meant that the Iraqi Baath Party had accepted unity of purpose among Arab leaders, rather than unification of Arab countries, as more important for the present.

As of early 1988, the Baath Party claimed about 10 percent of the population, a total of 1.5 million supporters and sympathizers; of this total, full party members, or cadres, were estimated at only 30,000, or 0.2 percent. The cadres were the nucleus of party organization, and they functioned as leaders, motivators, teachers, administrators, and watchdogs. Generally, party recruitment procedures emphasized selectivity rather than quantity, and those who desired to join the party had to pass successfully through several apprentice-like stages before being accepted into full membership. The Baath's elitist approach derived from the principle that the party's effectiveness could only be measured by its demonstrable ability to mobilize and to lead the people, and not by "size, number, or form." Participation in the party was virtually a requisite for social mobility.

The basic organizational unit of the Baath was the party cell or circle (halaqah). Composed of between three and seven members, cells functioned at the neighborhood or the village level, where members met to discuss and to carry out party directives. A minimum of two and a maximum of seven cells formed a party division (firqah). Divisions operated in urban quarters, larger villages, offices, factories, schools, and other organizations. Division units were spread throughout the bureaucracy and the military, where they functioned as the ears and eyes of the party. Two to five divisions formed a section (shabah). A section operated at the level of a large city quarter, a town, or a rural district. Above the section was the branch (fira), which was composed of at least two sections and which operated at the provincial level. There were twenty-one Baath Party branches in Iraq, one in each of the eighteen provinces and three in Baghdad. The union of all the branches formed the party's congress, which elected the Regional Command.

The Regional Command was both the core of party leadership and the top decision-making body. It had nine members, who were elected for five-year terms at regional congresses of the party. Its secretary general (also called the regional secretary) was the party's leader, and its deputy secretary general was second in rank and in power within the party hierarchy. The members of the command theoretically were responsible to the Regional Congress that, as a rule, was to convene annually to debate and to approve the party's policies and programs; actually, the members were chosen by Saddam Husayn and other senior party leaders to be "elected" by the Regional Congress, a formality seen as essential to the legitimation of party leadership.

Above the Regional Command was the National Command of the Baath Party, the highest policy-making and coordinating council for the Baath movement throughout the Arab world. The National Command consisted of representatives from all regional commands and was responsible to the National Congress, which convened periodically. It was vested with broad powers to guide, to coordinate, and to supervise the general direction of the movement, especially with respect to relationships among the regional Baath parties and with the outside world. These powers were to be exercised through a national secretariat that would direct policy-formulating bureaus.

In reality, the National Command did not oversee the Baath movement as a whole in 1988 because there continued to be no single command. In 1966 a major schism within the Baath movement had resulted in the creation of two rival National Commands, one based in Damascus and the other in Baghdad. Both commands claim to be the legitimate authority for the Baath, but since 1966 they have been mutually antagonistic. Michel Aflaq, one of the original cofounders of the Baath Party, was the secretary general of the Baghdad-based National Command, and Saddam Husayn was the vice-chairman. In practice, the Syrian Regional Command, under Hafiz al Assad, controlled the Damascus-based National Command of the Baath Party, while the Iraqi Regional Command controlled the Baghdad-based National Command.

Theoretically, the Iraqi Regional Command made decisions about Baath Party policy based on consensus. In practice, all decisions were made by the party's secretary general, Saddam Husayn, who since 1979 had also been chairman of the RCC and president of the republic. He worked closely with a small group of supporters, especially members of the Talfah family from the town of Tikrit (see The Emergence of Saddam Husayn, 1968-79 , ch. 1); he also dealt ruthlessly with suspected opposition to his rule from within the party. In 1979 several high-ranking Baathists were tried and were executed for allegedly planning a coup; other prominent party members were forcibly retired in 1982. Saddam Husayn's detractors accused him of monopolizing power and of promoting a cult of personality.

Data as of May 1988



BackgroundFormerly 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 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. US forces remain in Iraq under a UNSC mandate until 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) in December 2005. After the election, Ibrahim al-JAAFARI was selected as prime minister; he was replaced by Nuri al-MALIKI in May 2006. The CoR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq's first constitutional government in nearly a half century. On 31 January 2009, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all provinces except for the three provinces comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and at-Ta'mim (Kirkuk) province.
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Area(sq km)total: 438,317 sq km
land: 437,367 sq km
water: 950 sq km
Geographic coordinates33 00 N, 44 00 E
Land boundaries(km)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(km)58 km

Climatemostly 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

Elevation extremes(m)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 resourcespetroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Land use(%)arable land: 13.12%
permanent crops: 0.61%
other: 86.27% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)35,250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)96.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 42.7 cu km/yr (3%/5%/92%)
per capita: 1,482 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsdust storms; sandstorms; floods
Environment - current issuesgovernment 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 agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - notestrategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf
Population28,945,657 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 38.8% (male 5,709,688/female 5,531,359)
15-64 years: 58.2% (male 8,529,956/female 8,310,164)
65 years and over: 3% (male 408,266/female 456,224) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 20.4 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.5 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)2.507% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)30.1 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)5.03 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 67% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 43.82 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 49.38 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 69.94 years
male: 68.6 years
female: 71.34 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.86 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Iraqi(s)
adjective: Iraqi
Ethnic groups(%)Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%

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

Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Iraq
conventional short form: Iraq
local long form: Jumhuriyat al-Iraq
local short form: Al Iraq
Government typeparliamentary democracy
Capitalname: Baghdad
geographic coordinates: 33 20 N, 44 23 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions18 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', Kurdistan Regional Government*, Maysan, Ninawa, Salah ad Din, Wasit
Constitutionratified on 15 October 2005 (subject to review by the Constitutional Review Committee and a possible public referendum )

Legal systembased on European civil and Islamic law under the framework outlined in the Iraqi Constitution; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Jalal TALABANI (since 6 April 2005); Vice Presidents Adil ABD AL-MAHDI and Tariq al-HASHIMI (since 22 April 2006); note - the president and vice presidents comprise the Presidency Council)
head of government: Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI (since 20 May 2006); Rafi al-ISSAWI (since 19 July 2008)
cabinet: 36 ministers appointed by the Presidency Council, plus Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI and Deputy Prime Ministers Barham SALIH and Rafi al-ISSAWI
elections: held 15 December 2005 to elect a 275-member Council of Representatives

Legislative branchunicameral Council of Representatives (consisting of 275 members elected by a closed-list, proportional representation system)
elections: last held 15 December 2005 to elect a 275-member Council of Representatives (next to be held on 18 January 2010); the Council of Representatives elected the Presidency Council and approved the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers
election results: Council of Representatives - percent of vote by party - Unified Iraqi Alliance 41%, Kurdistan Alliance 22%, Tawafuq Coalition 15%, Iraqi National List 8%, Iraqi Front for National Dialogue 4%, other 10%; number of seats by party (as of November 2007) - Unified Iraqi Alliance (including the Sadrist bloc with 30 and Fadilah with 15) 130, Kurdistan Alliance 53, Tawafuq Front 44, Iraqi National List 25, Fadilah 15, Iraqi Front for National Dialogue 11, other 12

Judicial branchthe Iraq Constitution calls for the federal judicial power to be comprised of the Higher Judicial Council, Federal Supreme Court, Federal Court of Cassation, Public Prosecution Department, Judiciary Oversight Commission and other federal courts that are regulated in accordance with the law

Political pressure groups and leadersSunni militias; Shia militias, some associated with political parties
International organization participationABEDA, AFESD (suspended), AMF, CAEU, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Flag descriptionthree 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

Economy - overviewDecreasing insurgent attacks and an improving security environment in many parts of the country are helping to spur economic activity. Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided over 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Oil exports are around levels seen before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Total government revenues have benefited from high oil prices in recent years; however, revenues have declined significantly since the oil price drop in fall 2008. Iraq is making some progress in building the institutions needed to implement economic policy. In March 2009 Iraq concluded a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF that details economic reforms. The SBA allows an 80% reduction of the debt owed to Paris Club creditor nations. The International Compact with Iraq was established in May 2007 to integrate Iraq into the regional and global economy, and the Iraqi government is seeking to pass laws to strengthen its economy. This legislation includes a hydrocarbon law to establish a modern legal framework to allow Iraq to develop its resources and a revenue sharing law to equitably divide oil revenues within the nation, although both are still under contentious political negotiation. Some foreign entities have expressed interest in reinvigorating Iraq's industrial sector. The government of Iraq is pursuing a strategy to gain foreign participation in joint ventures with State-owned enterprises. Provincial Councils are also using their own budgets to promote and facilitate investment at the local level. The Central Bank has been successful in controlling inflation through appreciation of the dinar against the US dollar. However, Iraq's challenge will be to use macroeconomic gains to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Reducing corruption and implementing structural reforms, such as bank restructuring and developing the private sector, will be key to Iraq's economic success.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$90.23 billion (2008 est.)
$83.7 billion (2007 est.)
$82.46 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$91.45 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)7.8% (2008 est.)
1.5% (2007 est.)
6.2% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$3,200 (2008 est.)
$3,000 (2007 est.)
$3,100 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 5%
industry: 68%
services: 27% (2006 est.)
Labor force7.74 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate(%)18.2% (2008 est.)
18% (2006 est.)
note: official data; unofficial estimates as high as 30%
Population below poverty line(%)NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budgetrevenues: $42.4 billion
expenditures: $49.9 billion (FY08 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)2.8% (2008 est.)
4.7% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$26.1 billion (31 December 2008)
$18.81 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$5.415 billion (31 December 2008)
$3.67 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$1.878 billion (31 March 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$21.65 billion (2005)

Agriculture - productswheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton; cattle, sheep, poultry
Industriespetroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing

Industrial production growth rate(%)10.5% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$14.05 billion (2008 est.)
$4.909 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$58.81 billion (2008 est.)
$36.08 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)crude oil 84%, crude materials excluding fuels 8%, food and live animals 5%
Exports - partners(%)US 37.3%, India 13.8%, Italy 9.4%, South Korea 6.8% (2008)
Imports$37.22 billion (2008 est.)
$25.67 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)food, medicine, manufactures
Imports - partners(%)Syria 26.4%, Turkey 19.7%, US 10.7%, Jordan 6.5%, China 6% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$49.8 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$30.66 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$67.74 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$100.9 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Exchange ratesNew Iraqi dinars (NID) per US dollar - 1,176 (2008), 1,255 (2007), 1,466 (2006), 1,475 (2005), 1,890 (second half, 2003)

Currency (code)New Iraqi dinar (NID) as of 22 January 2004

Telephones - main lines in use1.082 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular17.529 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: the 2003 liberation of Iraq severely disrupted telecommunications throughout Iraq including international connections; widespread government efforts to rebuild domestic and international communications through fiber optic links are in progress; the mobile cellular market has expanded rapidly and its subscribership base approached 18 million in 2008
domestic: repairs to switches and lines destroyed during 2003 continue; additional switching capacity is improving access; cellular service is available and centered on 3 GSM networks which are being expanded beyond their regional roots, improving country-wide connectivity; wireless local loop licenses have been issued with the hope of overcoming the lack of fixed-line infrastructure
international: country code - 964; satellite earth stations - 4 (2 Intelsat - 1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean, 1 Intersputnik - Atlantic Ocean region, and 1 Arabsat (inoperative)); local microwave radio relay connects border regions to Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey; planned international fiber-optic connections to Iran (terrestrial) with a link to the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) submarine fiber-optic cable (2008)
Internet country code.iq
Internet users300,000 (2008)
Airports104 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 2,501 km; liquid petroleum gas 918 km; oil 5,418 km; refined products 1,637 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 44,900 km
paved: 37,851 km
unpaved: 7,049 km (2002)

Ports and terminalsAl Basrah, Khawr az Zubayr, Umm Qasr
Military branchesIraqi Armed Forces: Iraqi Army (includes Iraqi Special Operations Force, Iraqi Intervention Force), Iraqi Navy (former Iraqi Coastal Defense Force), Iraqi Air Force (former Iraqi Army Air Corps) (2005)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-49 years of age for voluntary military service (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 7,086,200
females age 16-49: 6,808,954 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 6,203,425
females age 16-49: 6,065,009 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 313,500
female: 304,923 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)8.6% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalcoalition forces assist Iraqis in monitoring internal and cross-border security; approximately two million Iraqis have fled the conflict in Iraq, with the majority taking refuge in Syria and Jordan, and lesser numbers to Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey; Iraq's lack of a maritime boundary with Iran prompts jurisdiction disputes beyond the mouth of the Shatt al Arab in the Persian Gulf; Turkey has expressed concern over the autonomous status of Kurds in Iraq

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 10,000-15,000 (Palestinian Territories); 11,773 (Iran); 16,832 (Turkey)
IDPs: 2.4 million (ongoing US-led war and ethno-sectarian violence) (2007)
Electricity - production(kWh)36.92 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 98.4%
hydro: 1.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)39.88 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)2.95 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)2.385 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)638,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)1.83 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)116,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)115 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)1.88 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)9.454 billion cu m
note: 1.48 billion cu m were flared (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)3.17 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDSfewer than 500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74.1%
male: 84.1%
female: 64.2% (2000 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 8 years (2005)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)NA








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