Iraq (officially the Republic of Iraq also known as Mesopotamia) is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert. Iraq shares borders with Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south. Iraq has a narrow section of coastline measuring 58 km (35 miles) between Umm Qasr and Al Faw on the Persian Gulf. The capital city, Baghdad (Arabic: بغداد Baġdād), is in the center-east of the country. Two major flowing rivers: the Tigris and Euphrates run through the centre of Iraq from north to south. These provide Iraq with agriculturally capable land and contrast with the steppe and desert landscape that covers most of Western Asia.
Historically, Iraq was known in Europe by the Greek exonym ‘Mesopotamia’ (Land between the rivers); after the foundation of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, it became known by its ancient endonym ‘Iraq’. Iraq has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is identified as the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of writing and the wheel. Throughout its long history, Iraq has been the center of the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid and Abbasid empires, and part of the Achaemenid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Mongol, Ottoman and British empires.
Beginning with the invasion in 2003, a multinational coalition of forces, mainly American and British, occupied Iraq. Under the Laws of War and UNSCR 1483, the occupying Coalition Provisional Authority completed the transfer of sovereignty on June 28, 2004 to the Iraqi Interim Government in accordance with UNSCR 1546, formally ending the “occupation.” Elections on January 30, 2005 created the Iraqi Transitional Government, which drafted the Constitution of Iraq, approved by referendum on October 25, 2005. Under this new Constitution, elections chose a new Iraqi National Assembly to form the Government of Iraq. Some dispute whether Iraq is de facto sovereign (see Iraqi sovereignty, United States-Iraq relations).
The invasion has had wide-reaching consequences: increased civil violence, establishment of a parliamentary democracy, the removal and execution of former authoritarian President Saddam Hussein, official recognition and widespread political participation of Iraq’s Kurdish minority and Shi’ite Arab majority, persecution of Christian and Mandaean minorities, significant economic growth, destruction of existing infrastructure, and use of the country’s huge reserves of oil. In 2008 the Failed States Index, produced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, Iraq was the world’s fifth most unstable country, after Sudan, and in 2007 the United States referred to it in court proceedings as “an active theater of combat.” Iraq is developing a parliamentary democracy composed of 18 governorates (known as muhafadhat).