Basic information about the territory
- System of governance and political tendencies in the country
- Foreign policy of the country
The system of governance and political tendencies in the country
Iraq, the full name of which is the Republic of Iraq (Arabic al-Jumhuriya al-Iraqiyya, Kurdish Komári Érák), with the capital Baghdad, is a federal parliamentary democratic republic. The president is the head of state and a symbol of the country’s unity. The current president is Barham Salih. The president’s powers include granting pardons, ratifying treaties and international agreements, ratifying laws, and bestowing honors.
Executive power is vested in the government, currently the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Mustafa Kázimi since May 2020. In October 2021, regular elections were held, on the basis of which, however, it still failed to form a new government, and Kázimi’s government thus rules in resignation. Legislative power is in the hands of the unicameral House of Representatives, whose former chairman is Mohammed Halbousi. It consists of such a number of members that there is one seat per 100,000 inhabitants. A candidate seeking membership of the council must be a resident of Iraq and is elected by direct, universal, secret ballot for four years. The House of Representatives, like the entire Iraqi public administration, is divided by quotas according to different ethnicities and religions, which are guaranteed a certain number of seats in the House (this system is called “muhasasa”: the president is always a Kurd, the prime minister a Shiite. Check equzhou to learn more about Iraq political system.
Iraq consists of 19 provinces (governorates), which are divided into regions. Each province has administrative and financial offices, ensuring decentralized administration. In the north of the country is the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan with the capital Erbil. The president is Nechirvan Idris Barzani and the prime minister is Masrour Barzani.
Since the October 2021 elections, a new government has still not been formed. Shiite religious leader Muqtada Sadr and his Sadrist movement won the election clearly. On the contrary, the Shiite parties linked to Iran have significantly weakened. Nevertheless, they have enough influence to complicate the post-election negotiations for Sadr. Although the speaker of the parliament Halbousi was re-elected, the election of the president, which is linked to the appointment of a new government, has repeatedly ended in failure, which is caused, among other things, by the dispute between the two dominant Kurdish parties (and at the same time families) KDP (Barzání family) and PUK (Talabání family) ).
Foreign policy of the country
Post-Saddam Iraq has long been trying to act as a mediator of ties and contacts between friendly and hostile countries of the Middle Eastern region. From the point of view of the geopolitical orientation of Iraq itself, its long-term anchoring in the “strategic dichotomy” between the US and Iran is decisive. Indeed, to a certain extent, Iraq may want to decide for itself about its geostrategic orientation, but not about its geopolitical position and population composition and the resulting consequences. The only way not to remain a client state of its powerful eastern Shiite neighbor in the long term is therefore to try to find the most advantageous modus vivendi for itself and to keep the proxy conflict of the two powers on its territory as cold as possible.
The relationship is shaped by three main factors – the interests of Iraq, the interests of the US and the regional interests and goals of Iran as a major trading partner and the most dominant foreign player. The interests of the US are in opposition to those of Iran, while Iraq’s effort is to maintain as good a relationship as possible with both powers and to find the most favorable balance for itself in this power scheme. While the key for the US is to secure a stable and loyal Iraq as a strategic forward military base against Iran and a reservoir of oil, the Iranian strategy is largely determined both by the mindset of the 1980s and the Iraq-Iran war, and then also by the Suleimani strategy creating a continuous controlled strip from Iran to Lebanon. To do this, the Iranians need to keep Iraq in a state of fragmentation and permanent instability. Check recipesinthebox for Iraq defense and foreign policy.
The contractual basis of Iraq’s relations with the European Union is represented by the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in 2012. The EU is one of the main international providers of development and humanitarian aid to Iraq. To support the reform of the Iraqi civil security sector, the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM Iraq) has been operating in the country since 2017. It is a mission that focuses on helping Iraqi authorities implement the civilian aspects of Iraq’s security strategy. EU experts provide advice and assistance in priority work areas and respond to the needs of relevant authorities. A significant irritant in mutual relations is Iraq’s long-term unsatisfactory (un)cooperation in the area of involuntary returns, i.e. the repatriation of expelled Iraqi citizens.
Furthermore, relations with regional neighbors, especially Turkey, which has considerable economic influence in the country, are also important for Iraq. Relations with Turkey are complicated by the presence of a Turkish base in northern Iraq and frequent cross-border operations against Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist organization. On the contrary, Turkish relations with Iraqi Kurdistan are relatively good – often better than with the Baghdad government. This is proven, among other things, by the fact that Iraq’s foreign policy is not unified in a number of areas, not only in relation to Iran and the USA. Kurdistan’s foreign policy, although officially the same as Baghdad’s, is largely independent of Baghdad.
In recent times, especially China’s economic activities in Iraq have been growing slowly, often within the framework of the New Silk Road project.
Iraq is a member of several international organizations. He was one of the founding members of the United Nations, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Brief commentary, including population, demographic composition, ethnic composition, population density, religion.
- Less than 40 million people live in Iraq, of which over 7 million live in Iraqi autonomous Kurdistan. Population growth is 2.06%. However, according to some estimates, Iraq’s population is expected to reach 50 million by 2030 and 80 million by 2050. With an average age of 21, Iraq’s population is one of the youngest in the world: people under 24 make up just under 57% of the population. The average life expectancy is 73 years, urbanization is 71.4%, most of the population lives in the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Unemployment – some estimates as high as 25.6% (increased by 10% during the COVID-19 pandemic) – and obesity, 30.4% among adults, are growing problems for the Iraqi population.
- 75-80% Arabs live in the country, 15-20% Kurds, the remaining 5% are various smaller ethnicities including Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians, Bedouins, Iraqi Roma and others. The country is inhabited by 95-98% Muslims, of which 61-64% are Shiites, who live mainly in the south and southeast of the country, and 29-34% are Sunnis, who live mainly in the north and west of Iraq. The Kurds are overwhelmingly Sunni. The country is also home to 1% Christians of various denominations, including Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Assyrians and others. 1-4% are other religions, but they are marginal, for example Yazidis or Jews.