Cradle of civilisation
Ziggurat of Ur Iraq is home to several ancient sites, such as the Ziggurat of Ur, a temple thought to be 4,000 years old
Straddling the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and stretching from the Gulf to the Anti-Taurus Mountains, modern Iraq occupies roughly what was once ancient Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of human civilisation.
In the early Middle Ages, Iraq was the heartland of the Islamic Empire, but a brutal Mongol invasion in the 13th century destroyed its importance. Part of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century, it came under British control after World War I, gaining independence in 1932.
The British-installed monarchy was toppled in 1958, and a coup in 1968 brought the Arab nationalist Ba’ath (Renaissance) party to power. Oil made the country rich and, when Saddam Hussein became president in 1979, petroleum made up 95% of its foreign exchange earnings.
But the 1980-88 war with Iran and the 1991 Gulf War, sparked by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, together with the subsequent imposition of international sanctions, had a devastating effect on its economy and society.