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Iraq Information - Page 2
Mesopotamia (Iraq), often called the Cradle of Civilisation, was also part of an area known as the Fertile Crescent. Early civilizations in the region were Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria.

By the sixth century BC Iraq was under the control of Persia. In 331 BC the region was conquered by Alexander the Great of Macedon. Alexander's death, in 323 BC, led to the Greek Seleucid Dynasty that lasted for over two hundred years. The Seleucids were followed by various Persian dynasties.

The middle of the seventh century saw the Arab invasion of Iraq and the introduction of Islam.

Baghdad was founded as a capital for the Arab Caliphate and became an important centre of learning. However, in the thirteenth century religious leaders, scholars and artists were killed by Monguls. Baghdad was destroyed again in 1401 by Timur, also known as Tamerlane, a Turco-Mongol warlord from Samarkand.

Turks and Iranians vied to rule Iraq. The Ottoman Empire took control in the region in 1534 and assumed direct rule of Iraq from 1831 until the First World War (1914-1918).

After the War Britain administered the country under a League of Nations mandate, developing the country's oil industry in the 1920s.

The British supported Prince Faisal of Hijaz as King of Iraq and under his leadership Iraq became independent in 1932.

In 1943, during the Second World War, Iraq declared war on the Axis forces, aligning itself with Britain.

Following a military coup, in 1958, Iraq became a republic. During the next twenty years Iraq had a number of military rulers. Saddam Hussein took over from Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr as President of Iraq in 1979.

In neigbouring Iran the Shah left the country at the beginning of 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini, the exiled religious leader, returned to Tehran. By 1980 Iran and Iraq were at war. The ceasefire did not take place until nearly eight years later.

In August 1990 Iraq occupied Kuwait and failed to follow a UN demand to leave the country. This led to the Gulf War and the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. United Nations sanctions against Iraq followed.

A US-led invasion of Iraq took place in 2003. The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair committed UK forces to the war.

The Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980, lasted nearly eight years taking a heavy toll on Iraq's economy. The Gulf War (1991) and the following sanctions added to Iraq's economic difficulties.

In the aftermath of the US-led invasion foreign investment spurred economic activity in energy, construction and the retail sector.

The oil industry, which was nationalised in 1972, dominates Iraq's economy. Other resources are natural gas, sulphur and phosphates. Industries include chemicals, construction materials, metals, textiles and food processing.

Iraq grows barley, wheat, rice, aubergines, beans, chickpeas, cucumbers, onions, okra, tomatoes, dates, watermelons, sesame, cotton and tobacco. Goats, sheep, cattle and camels are reared. (2011)

Art found in Iraq dates back to the Mesopotamian civilizations.

The Baghdad Museum houses many ancient items such as the metal sculpture of an Akkadian king found in the Temple of Ishtar in Ninevah, various wall sculptures and jewellery. The Gilgamesh tablets are also kept in the Baghdad Museum.

The epic "Gilgamesh" is a poem from Mesopotamia dating back more than four thousand years. (2002)

Football is the favourite sport in Iraq. In July 2007 Iraq won football's Asian Cup with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Other popular sports are basketball and volleyball.

All religious holy days are celebrated. Public holidays include New Year's Day, Army Day (6 January) , Republic Day (17 July) and Ceasefire Day - the End of Iran-Iraq War (8 August).

News from Iraq is available in Newslink.

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