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The Republic of Iraq is in West Asia, with a short coastline on the northern Persian Gulf. Surrounding nations include Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. Its larger border is with Iran, to the east.

Its capital city is Baghdad, the largest city in Iraq, by population, and the second largest in the Arab world. Founded in the 8th century, Baghdad is situated along the Tigris River.

Most of the region that is now Iraq was once part of Mesopotamia, the cradle of human civilization. It was here, with the Sumerian civilization, that the first system of writing was devised, allowing for recorded history. The Sumerians invented the wheel, built city-states, and were the first to record knowledge of astrology, astronomy, mathematics, law, medicine, and organized religion.

Since 6000 BC, Iraq was the center of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires, and part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires.

The current borders of Iraq were devised by the League of Nations after the Ottoman Empire was divided after World War I, and Iraq was put under the control of the United Kingdom. It was at that time that it became known as Iraq. Britain began a policy of appointing minority Sunni Arabs to ministry positions in Iraq, a policy that carried over after Britain granted independence to Iraq in 1932. In preparation for withdrawing from Iraq, Britain appointed the former Syrian king, who had found refuge in the UK after bring deposed in 1920, as king of Iraq in 1921. King Faisal's power base was among the Sunni population.

Although the majority, the Shiites in Iraq had been marginalized, were poorer and had less education than the Sunnis. Positions of government were largely controlled by Sunnis.

King Faisal died not long after rising to the throne. Although the official cause of death was a heart attack, there were suspicions of arsenic poisoning. He was succeeded by his son, King Ghazi, who proved to be a weak king and one who was undermined by attempted military coups until his own death in 1939. King Ghazi was succeeded by his underage son, Faisal II. In 1941, the government was overthrown in a coup.

Afraid the new government would cut oil supplies to the West, the United Kingdom occupied the country militarily until 1947, returning the government to King Faisal II.< In 1958, King Faisal was executed in a military coup at the age of twenty-three, ending the monarchy in Iraq.

Iraq was ruled by military leaders until 1968 when the government was overthrown by the Ba'ath Party. Soon afterward, Saddam Hussein rose to the presidency. In 1980, while Iran was involved in the Iranian Revolution, Hussein declared war on Iran, beginning the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq captured some territories in southwestern Iran, but Iran soon recaptured them and was on the offensive for the next six years. The war ended in a stalemate in 1988, after the deaths of more than a million people. Iraq was accused of using chemical weapons against Iranians during the war and, in the final stages of the war, of waging a genocidal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, resulting in military intervention by the United States, in what became the First Gulf War. In 2003, the US again invaded Iraq, due to unproven accusations that Saddam Hussein had retained a cache of weapons of mass destruction. In 2006, Saddam Hussein was captured by Iraqi forces allied with US interests, sentenced to death and hanged.

Currently, the United States still has a military presence in Iraq but the country is ruled by an elected government, in the form of a federal parliamentary republic, which is Islamic in nature.

The population of Iraq is approximately 99% Muslim, the majority Shia, with about 40% of the population being Sunni. Christians have resided in the region since shortly after Christianity began, but they presently account for less than 1% of the population. Most Iraqi Christians fled the country in the last couple of decades, although some are returning to their traditional homeland in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.

As many as two million Iraqis have fled the country since Iraq was invaded in 2003, the majority taking refuge in Syria or Jordan. In the face of the Syrian civil war, an increasing number of Iraqis have returned to Iraq.

Education in Iraq is mandatory through the sixth grade, after which the results of a national examination determines whether a student is qualified to continue to the upper grades. Generally, Iraqi boys and girls attend the same school up until the sixth grade, but upper levels are segregated by sex.

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