In fertile Mesopotamia on the Euphrates and
Tigris rivers, humanity's first civilization emerged
5,000 years ago. In our time, Iraq has been ravaged by
violence and death, first under the dictator Saddam
Hussein, then through invasion and civil war. Saddam was
overthrown in 2003 following a US-led invasion, which
was followed by conflicts mainly between Sunni and
Shiite groups. The Iraqi government strengthened its
position when the extremist group IS, which for some
years had control over parts of the country, could be
defeated. But the transformation into a democratic state
is fraught with adversity and Iraq is being harnessed by
claims of influence from the United States and Iran.
Brief profiles of Iraq, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Iraq, which is about the same size as Sweden,
is located in western Asia in the former two-river
country of Mesopotamia. Throughout the country the
rivers Euphrates and Tigris flow into the lower part of
their course to Shatt al-Arab. Iraq's only coast is a
short strip to the Gulf of Persia, less than two miles
long by bird path.
The rivers create a fertile north-south valley of
about a quarter of the country's territory. To the west
of the capital Baghdad, the Euphrates forms three large
lakes; the biggest is Thartharsjön. At the far south,
the river valley is transformed into extensive swamps.
The famous wetlands that the Iraqis feel like al-Ahwar
have been placed on the UN organization UNESCO World
In the north between the rivers, the country is
becoming more hilly and towards the Syrian border it
turns into a high-lying steppe land, in many places
almost like a desert. Iraq is mountainous in the north
and northeast. The Zagros Mountains, at the border with
Iran and Turkey, reach heights of over 3,000 meters.
The desert is spreading on a high plateau in the west
Iraq has a subtropical inland climate with hot
summers and cold winters. Temperature peaks above 45
degrees in the shade are not uncommon in the summer. In
Baghdad, the heat record is at 51 degrees, and the
periods of extreme heat have increased according to
meteorologists. Minus degrees occur in winters, except
in the south. In the mountains in the northeast, the
temperature can drop to 30 minus degrees.
In the river valley in central Iraq, the summer heat
is exacerbated by extremely high humidity due to all the
stagnant water in rivers, canals and swamps. The
rainfall is scarce throughout the country, except in the
northeast where it can fall 400-600 mm per year. About
90 percent of the annual rainfall in the country falls
during the period November to April.
During the dry summer months it often blows hard and
persistently. Violent sandstorms occur.
438,446 km2 (2018)
Swedish +2 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey
Capital with number of inhabitants
Baghdad 6 million (estimated 2011)
Other major cities
Mosul, Erbil (also Arbil, Irbil), Basra, Sulaymaniyya,
Rawanduz (3,658 m asl)
Euphrates, Tigris, Shatt al-Arab
Explosions in the marketplace
At least 27 people are killed in two explosions at a marketplace in Baghdad.
New start for Mosul offensive
After a few weeks of relative silence in the fighting around Mosul, the army
says it has initiated the "second phase" of the offensive against IS forces in
the city. Various elite associations are reported to try to move towards the
center along several fronts.
Car bombs against Mosul market
At least 15 civilians and eight police officers are killed when three car
bombs are detonated in a marketplace in a suburb of Mosul. IS claims to have
been behind the attacks. The area had been taken back by the Iraqi army at the
beginning of the offensive against the Islamists.
100,000 flee from Mosul
The IOM organization says that more than 100,000 people were displaced by the
fighting in and around Mosul, which lasted for two months.
Half a million Mosul residents without water
After already suffering a huge shortage of food and electricity, about half a
million residents in Mosul also become without running water after the pipes
were damaged in the fighting, says the UN.
"Half East Mosul intake"
Commander of the Iraqi Army Elite Federation says IS has been driven out of
about half the eastern part of the city, on the east side of the Tigris River.
Nearly a thousand Islamists have been killed, the commanders claim, but they say
nothing about their own losses. The advancement through the city is being
hampered by the tactics of the Islamists to retreat, move and quickly strike new
Shiamilis becomes official
Parliament adopts a law that gives the umbrella organization of the Shia
Muslim militias Hashid al-Shaabi an official military unit. Shiamis have often
been criticized for abusing Sunnis in areas withdrawn from IS and the vote in
Parliament was boycotted by Sunni members.
Terrorist acts against pilgrims
About 100 people are killed when a truck full of explosives explodes at a gas
station with a restaurant in Hilla ten miles south of Baghdad. Most of the
victims are Iranian Shiites who have stopped at the restaurant on their way home
from a religious celebration in Karbala. Five buses with pilgrims ignited by the
explosion. IS takes on the attack.
IS completely surrounded in Mosul
The Iraqi government forces and their allies say they have completely
surrounded Mosul and cut off IS's last possible supply line. The Shiite militias
and Kurdish peshmerga state that they have agreed to coordinate their continuing
68,000 have moved from Mosul
Since the Iraqi army offensive against Mosul began on October 17, more than
68,000 civilians have fled the city and its immediate vicinity, the UN said. It
is significantly fewer than expected.
"Mass murder of police officers"
HRW says IS has killed more than 300 police officers and placed them in a
mass grave outside Mosul. The tomb is to be found near the village of Hammam
al-Alil about three miles southeast of Mosul. According to HRW, villagers say
that the terrorists in IS forced a few thousand civilians when they returned to
the big city on November 7.
HRW criticism against Kurds
The human rights organization HRW accuses the Kurdish military forces of
destroying Arab homes and in some cases entire villages in two provinces in the
north that both the Kurds and the Baghdad government claim. According to HRW,
the Kurds' attempts to strengthen the grip on parts of the provinces of Kirkuk
and Nineve continued between September 2014 and May 2016.
The army returns Nimrud
The Iraqi army says it has taken back the city of Nimrud, south of Mosul,
which was conquered by IS in 2014. Adjacent to the modern city is the ruins of
an ancient Assyrian city that has largely been torn apart by IS.
UN: IS kills at least 60 civilians
According to the UN, within two days, IS has killed at least 60 civilians
inside Mosul accused of contacts with the army.
Two cities near Mosul are taken
Iraqi government forces and allied militia occupy the IS-controlled city of
Hamam al-Alli 15 kilometers south of Mosul, while Kurdish peshmerga moves into
Bashiqa, just northeast of Mosul. In both cases, iS is reported to try to slow
the advance with the help of suicide attacks, pre-demolitions and snipers, but
both the army and the Kurdish militia say they have taken full control of the
cities. According to the UN, IS forces around 1,500 families when they retire
from Hamam al-Alli to central Mosul.
IS takes on suicide
Two suicide attacks in Tikrit and Samarra have killed at least 25 people and
injured at least 58. In Samarra, Iranian pilgrims are among the victims. IS
claims to have carried out both attacks.
IS ordered to fight to the end
In a first statement since the army offensive against Mosul began, IS leader
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urges his forces not to retreat and fight to the end. In
the message, provided it is genuine, he calls on IS to attack Saudi Arabia and
Turkey, which the extremist movement designates as defunct from the true Sunni
The army enters Mosul
Iraqi ground forces enter the southeastern part of Mosul on November 1, while
the city is bombarded by artillery and air strikes. Soldiers from an elite force
are reported to have taken control of the state television building.
Shiite front at Mosul
Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella organization for mainly Shiite militia, opens a
new front against IS outside Mosul. The intention is to return the city of
Tal-Afar and thereby cut off the Islamic State's supply route between Mosul and
Raqqa in Syria. The Turkish government has repeatedly opposed the Shiites'
participation in the offensive against Mosul, and President Erdoğan warns in
threatening terms the Shi'a Muslims for the consequences if Turkmen in Tal-Afar
would be harmed.
Alarms about IS massacres and kidnappings
The UN Human Rights Office says there are credible reports that IS has
removed tens of thousands of civilians from Mosul's suburbs to use them as
"human shields" inside the city. The extremist movement is also reported to have
killed 256 people for two days who refused to obey orders. The US-led alliance
claims that at least 800 IS fighters have been killed in Mosul since the
offensive began. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeals for cooperation
to prevent jihadists from IS fleeing from Mosul to cross into Syria.
EU price to Yazidis
The European Parliament's Sakharov Prize is awarded to Yazid activists Nadia
Murad and Lamia Bashar. Both were abducted by IS when their village in northern
Iraq was occupied by the extremist movement in 2014 and used as slaves but
managed to escape. They have since worked for the rights of women and minorities
in the country.
Collective punishment concerns the UN
The UN expresses concern that Kurdish authorities have ordered 250 Sunni Arab
families to leave Kirkuk following the IS attack on the city. UN Humanitarian
Affairs Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, says there is no evidence that these
Sunni families have helped the "sleeping" IS cells in the city and that the
local authorities seem to resort to clean sweeping reasons to get away arabs.
She regards the expulsion as a collective punishment.
Hardest bombing against IS
The US-led alliance says it never exposed IS in Iraq to such intense bombings
as during the offensive against Mosul. After a week's offensive, the Iraqi and
Kurdish forces say they have taken control of about 80 small towns and villages
held by IS around Mosul. However, the advance towards the big city is made more
difficult by suicide bombers, snipers, pomegranates and pre-demolitions.
Alcohol is prohibited
Parliament votes for a law prohibiting the importation, manufacture and sale
of alcoholic beverages; The penalty for violation of the law will be high fines.
Those behind the law say that it complies with the Constitution's provision that
no laws may conflict with the rules of Islam, those who oppose it believe it
violates the Constitution's guarantees for religious minority traditions. The
law will be appealed to a federal court.
IS strikes back
IS attacks the Kirkuk oil city on several fronts and takes up police stations
and public buildings, among other things. The attack is interpreted as an
attempt to divert attention from the battles surrounding Mosul and is believed
to be aimed at creating chaos and terror rather than reaching new political
goals or expanding IS territory. Only after three days of fighting do the
authorities in the ethnically mixed but Kurdish-controlled city say that the
attack has been fought and that at least 74 extremists have been killed and
several arrested. Dozens of people among the defenders of the city are also
believed to have been killed. So-called sleeping terror cells inside the city
have been instrumental in carrying out the attack. Even in the west, near the
Jordanian border, IS engages in a diverting attack on the city of Rutba. At
least five people are killed by IS after being captured.
"Unexpected fast forward"
Prime Minister al-Abadi says that the advance against Mosul has so far gone
faster than expected. He stated via a video link to an international conference
in Paris on the future of Mosul, which is jointly organized by Iraq and France.
Civilians are flying
During the start of the Battle of Mosul, thousands of civilians flee the area
around the city. According to Save the Children, around 5,000 have crossed the
border into Syria for over a week. The UN and other relief organizations are
building refugee camps around Mosul in anticipation of the expected refugee
stream. The Russian military leadership expresses concern that IS extremists
will be able to move to Syria to further aggravate the situation there.
Offensive against Mosul begins
Iraqi forces launch the expected offensive against Mosul to withdraw the city
from IS. About 30,000 soldiers participate in the offensive with both air and
ground support from the US-led alliance. In addition, some 4,000 Kurdish
Peshmerga soldiers are participating, who already claim to have taken several
villages east of Mosul on the first day of the offensive. The Turkish government
says around 3,000 Turkish soldiers will also take part in the offensive. US
Defense Headquarters The Pentagon describes the operation as a crucial moment in
the fight against IS but warns that the fighting may continue for many weeks.
The US estimates that IS has between 3,000 and 4,500 people in and around Mosul,
but they have had a long time to prepare for the resistance and are believed to
have placed mines, dug tunnels and placed snipers in hidden places. The Turkish
authorities say they are ready to receive hundreds of thousands of refugees from
Mosul. The UN has long feared that the offensive will trigger a new mass escape.
Leaflets over Mosul
Iraqi flight releases flyers across Mosul where the population is informed
that an attack on the city is imminent and is urged to avoid places where
members of IS usually reside.
IS crushes revolt
Residents of Mosul say to the Reuters news agency that an IS commander was
trying to wreak havoc on the extremist movement's local leadership with the
intention of switching sides and helping the Iraqi government recapture the
city. According to the sources, 58 suspected revolvers were executed by being
drowned and then buried in a swamp area on the outskirts of Mosul.
The tone is sharpened against Turkey
The Foreign Ministry is calling on Turkey's ambassador to submit a formal
protest against the continued presence of Turkish soldiers on Iraqi soil. The
protest is also aimed at "insulting statements" by the Turkish leaders. The
United States has indirectly taken a stand for Iraq by saying that foreign
forces in the country should be there "with the agreement of the Iraqi
government and in coordination with it". According to the Iraqi government,
Sunni Muslim Turkey's demand to take part in the planned offensive risks
disrupting the delicate balance between the country's Sunni and Shiite militias.
There is also concern in Baghdad that Turkish President Erdoğan recently
questioned the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, when today's borders were set. Both Mosul
and Kirkuk were part of the Ottoman Empire that preceded the Turkish Republic.
Turkish outcome against al-Abadi
Turkish President Erdoğan describes al-Abadi's criticism of the Turkish
troops presence as "a personal insult". Referring to the Iraqi prime minister,
he says "You are not on my level. It does not matter how much you scream from
Iraq, we still do as we please. Who are you? Iraqi Prime Minister. You should
know your place."
HD runs over al-Abadi
The Supreme Court rejects Prime Minister al-Abadi's decision to abolish the
three posts as vice presidents (see August 2015). The court
says that because the constitution says there should be three vice presidents,
the government cannot abolish them.
Protest against Turkey
Condemns a decision by Turkey to retain military troops on Iraqi soil for
another year; Turkey has around 2,000 soldiers in various parts of northern
Iraq, against the Iraqi authorities' consent. Prime Minister al-Abadi says that
if Turkey continues to interfere in Iraq's affairs, it could eventually trigger
a regional war. The Turkish government responds that it has no intention of
calling the soldiers home and describes the Iraqi criticism as "dangerous and
Directed radio broadcasts to Mosul
A new radio station launches broadcasts aimed directly at the residents of
Mosul. The broadcasts will keep city residents informed of how best to stay safe
during the upcoming army offensive against IS, which is occupying Mosul. The
transmitter is located in Qayyara, six miles south of Mosul.
The Minister of Finance is dismissed.
Parliament votes to dismiss Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is accused
of corruption. Zebari has been Minister of Finance since 2014 and was before its
Foreign Minister for several years.
"All ready to go against Mosul"
The government in autonomous Kurdistan says the military plans to take back
Mosul are clear and that it may be possible to expel IS from the city even
before the end of the year. President Barzani says that the Kurdish peshmerga,
the Iraqi army and US-led flights will carry out the offensive but that it is
not decided what role the government-led Iraqi militias will play. US Lieutenant
General Stephen Townsend, who leads US efforts against IS, says he expects the
offensive to start at the beginning of October.
The Minister of Defense is dismissed
Parliament votes to dismiss Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi. He is accused
of corruption in connection with arms purchases to the army. The provision is
seen as part of a power struggle between him and Parliament Speaker Salim
al-Jabouri. The decision means that the Shiite Prime Minister al-Abadi will lose
one of his closest Sunni allies.
UN warns of mass escape from Mosul
UN Refugee Agency UNHCR warns that the expected government offensive against
Mosul could drive more than a million city dwellers on the run. According to a
spokesman, there is still no money or space to take care of so many new refugees
36 jihadists are hanged
21th of August
In a prison in the city of Nasiriyah, 36 Sunni Jihadists are executed for
participating in a massacre of up to 1,700 military recruits who were fleeing
from a military base outside Tikrit in 2014, when the Islamic State made a rapid
advance south through the country. Most of the victims were Shia Muslims from
southern Iraq. A spokesman for the UN says that the accused men were not
entitled to defense lawyers and that the executions appear to have been carried
out by "revenge cravings".
Five ministers are approved
Parliament approves five of the ministers nominated by Prime Minister
al-Abadi. Iraq is thus taking a step towards an end to the long government
The most powerful bomb killed 323
Authorities write the death toll for the bombing attack in Baghdad on
July 3 to 323 people. Two-thirds of the victims could only be
identified using DNA analysis, the Minister of Health said. It was one of the
bloodiest attacks of all time in Iraq.
The United States is strengthening
The United States decides to send an additional 560 soldiers, including
military advisers, to help the Iraqi defense force prepare and implement a
readmission to Mosul.
Air base is captured from IS
Prime Minister al-Abadi says Iraqi government forces have returned an
important air base five miles south of Mosul held by IS. According to al-Abadi,
the Qayyarah air base now has a key function in efforts to recapture Mosul as
New attack, security officers fired
In a new terrorist attack against a Shiite mosque in Balad north of Baghdad,
at least 37 people are killed and more than 62 injured. IS takes on the attack
that starts with grenades being fired at the mosque area. In the turmoil that
ensues, three terrorists trigger explosive charges outside the mosque. Hours
after the deed, Prime Minister al-Abadi dismisses three of the top security
officials in the Baghdad area.
Harsh British criticism of the 2003 war
After seven years of work, the British government's investigation into harsh
criticism of the country's then leader, in particular Prime Minister Tony Blair,
addresses how the invasion of Iraq was conducted in 2003. with peaceful means
had been exhausted. The government based its decision on incorrect intelligence
tasks and the preparations were "completely inadequate". Already eight months
earlier, Blair must have assured US President George W Bush that "I am on your
side in all weathers."
The Minister of the Interior resigns after an attack
Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabbani resigns as a result of the harsh
criticism of the authorities following the bomb attack in Baghdad on the night
of July 3.
Worst attack in years in Baghdad
At least 292 people are killed and a few hundred injured when a truck full of
explosives explodes in a densely populated area in central Baghdad. The attack
happens in the middle of the night when the streets are filled with people who
are out to break today's fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The Islamic
State claims to have done the deed. Prime Minister al-Abadi encounters tangible
protests when he visits the area later that night. Many people object to the
government's inability to protect them. The government announces three days of
national grief after the attack, which is the worst in the capital so far in
Severe IS losses
Iraqi and US sources say IS suffered major losses in air strikes against a
vehicle column that was on its way from al-Fallujah. The information varies
between 40 and over 200 destroyed vehicles as well as between 150 and more than
250 killed IS members.
Court annuls parliamentary decision
A court annulled the parliamentary meetings in April when the President was
first resigned and then some proposed new ministers were approved. According to
the court, too few members were present when the President was cast. A few weeks
later, when Parliament approved some of Prime Minister al-Abadi's proposed new
ministers, it was, according to the court, in an atmosphere contrary to freedom
of expression, as guards were in the room and some members were prevented from
IS completely out of al-Fallujah
The commander of the government-side forces in al-Falluja says IS has been
completely expelled from the city, just over a week after the prime minister
declared victory over the extremists. Around 20,000 refugees are being closely
scrutinized by the army so that Islamists will not be able to hide among them.
The army retakes al-Fallujah
17th of June
Prime Minister al-Abadi proclaims victory over IS in al-Falluja after Iraqi
government forces captured the central parts of the city. However, large areas
are still held by IS, many streets and buildings are pre-destined and from the
largest hospital the soldiers are shot by snipers. In total, more than 82,000
civilians are said to have moved the city and housed in camps.
The UN accuses IS of genocide
A UN investigation based on a large number of interviews accuses the Islamic
State (IS) of committing genocide against the Yazid minority in Iraq and Syria.
According to the investigators, since 2014 IS has systematically seized, killed
or enslaved Yazidis for the clear purpose of wiping out their identity.
According to the UN, the act meets the definition of genocide under the 1948
Civilians flee al-Fallujah
The Norwegian Refugee Council says the Iraqi army has managed to establish a
"safe corridor" out of the besieged city of al-Fallujah. 4,000 civilians have
managed to get out of this way. They are among the first to escape the central
parts of the city. Earlier during the siege, some 24,000 have moved out of other
areas where IS does not have as strong control.
Offensive against al-Fallujah
Iraqi forces go on strike against al-Fallujah to take the city back from IS.
The civilian population of the city is urged to leave.
Four attacks kill nearly 80
Nearly 80 people are believed to have been killed when four explosive charges
are detonated in various parts of Baghdad. Three of the attacks are aimed at
Shiite-dominated neighborhoods, while the fourth is carried out in a religiously
The worst attack of the year in Baghdad
A car bomb in the Shiite-dominated Sadr city of Baghdad is said to have
killed at least 64 people. More than 80 are injured. It is the bloodiest attack
to date in Baghdad in 2016. Shortly thereafter, a total of at least 30 people
are killed in two similar attacks in other parts of Baghdad. As with most
previous similar assaults, IS takes on the blame.
Calling for new protests
Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr calls for new protests against Parliament's
inability to agree on a new government. He also appeals to the UN and the
Islamic Cooperation Organization OIC to intervene.
President al-Juburi refuses to consider himself dismissed, pointing out that
Parliament was not decisive at the time of the vote on him. After several more
days of chaotic scenes in the congregation, he decides to temporarily suspend
the session. His opponents say they intend to continue the work under the
leadership of Adnan al-Janabi, who they believe has elected a new president.
The President deposed
The political crisis deepens when a majority of the current MEPs vote to
dismiss President Salim al-Juburi and his replacement. The action is seen as a
blow to al-Abadi, as the President is considered to be close to the prime
minister. It is not clear whether enough members were present for the vote to be
Protests delay new government
The government list presented by Prime Minister al-Abadi faces opposition
from certain groups in Parliament, which forces him to replace several of the
proposed technocrats with representatives of strong groups.
Proposal for a new government
Prime Minister al-Abadi presents a list of 14 new ministers and says that he
wants to reduce the number of ministers from 21 to 16. The only ones proposed to
keep their jobs are the defense and home ministers.
IS kills at least 60
The Islamic State (IS) is taking on a suicide attack that kills at least 60
people and injures over 70 in the city of Hilla south of Baghdad. An explosive
charge is hidden in a tanker truck that explodes at a police station when
entering the city.
Double assaults in Sadrstaden
Two explosive charges detonated in a marketplace in the Shiite-dominated Sadr
city of Baghdad demand 73 deaths and over 100 injured.
Death sentences for massacres
A Baghdad court sentenced 40 arrested members of the Islamic State (IS) to
death for participating in a massacre of Iraqi soldiers in June 2014. About
1,700 fleeing soldiers are believed to have been killed by extremists after IS
took the city of Tikrit in 2014. All convicted are Iraqi nationals. Amnesty
International criticizes the trial for major shortcomings and regrets that the
Iraqi state has already delivered 92 death sentences during the first six weeks
of the year.
Kurdish yes to offer from Baghdad
The Kurdish regional government says yes to an offer from the central
government in Baghdad to pay the salaries of civil servants in Kurdistan. In
return, the Kurds promise to hand over their entire oil production to the
central government. It is reported that the equivalent of more than SEK 6
billion per month to approximately 400,000 employees. But at the same time, the
Kurdish government suggests that it doubts Baghdad's ability to live up to its
Kurdish protests against wage halt
In the autonomous Kurdish region, public servants are protesting that the
government has decided to pay only part of their salaries. The low oil prices
have led to a severe economic crisis that, according to the government, could
jeopardize the war against IS. The Kurdish regional government's budget goes
back by about SEK 6 billion each month.
Italian company will repair dust
The Italian company Trevi is commissioned to repair and maintain the
country's largest dam, four miles from Mosul. The dam is in poor condition and
is at risk of collapse, which could have catastrophic consequences for the big
city of Mosul and large areas around it. The maintenance was further neglected
by the Islamic State for a time had control of the dam in 2014. About 450
Italian soldiers are expected to protect the workers. The dam, which was
inaugurated in 1984, blocks a three kilometer stretch of Tigris.
Kurds are accused of war crimes
Amnesty International reports in a report that Kurdish peshmerga forces have
destroyed thousands of homes in northern Iraq that have been recaptured from the
Islamic State (IS). According to Amnesty, judgments have been made to drive away
Arabs or prevent Arabs from moving back to areas they previously moved from. The
three provinces described by Amnesty are all outside the area where Kurdish
Nearly 19,000 died in two years
The UN says in a report that at least 18,802 people were killed and 36,245
people were injured in violence in Iraq from the beginning of 2014 to October
31, 2015. The report is based on registered cases, and according to the UN, the
actual figures are probably significantly higher. During the same period, about
3.2 million Iraqis were forced to leave their homes, among them more than one
million children of school age.
IS attacks Haditha
After being driven out of Ramadi IS goes to attack the city of Haditha in the
province of Anbar. At least 25 Iraqi soldiers are reported to be stupa, as well
as an unspecified number of IS fighters. The US-led international alliance
provides air support to government forces.