Iraq is presently a war zone. Traveling there is extremely unsafe and strongly discouraged. All foreigners are in danger of kidnapping, murder, and general armed violence. Tourism visas for Iraq are not granted at the moment. Although the northeast provinces which comprise Iraqi Kurdistan can be considered safe for foreigners, the margins for errors are small. While no foreign deaths have occurred in the province since the 2003 Iraq invasion, many foreign deaths have occurred elsewhere in Iraq. Note that citizens of Iraqi Kurdistan themselves generally do not leave the province, as their lives are also in danger (although citizens of Kirkuk are an exception). If it is necessary to visit, then remain cautious at all times, and consult your embassy before you leave. For further information, see war zone safety. The bottom line: do your research and be careful. Iraq (Arabic: ?????? Al-Ir?q) is a country in the Middle East. It lies at the north end of the Persian Gulf and has a small (58 km) coastline in the southeast of the country. It is surrounded by Iran to the east, Kuwait to the south, Saudi Arabia to the southwest, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, and Turkey to the north.
Iraq is the birthplace of many of the Earth's oldest civilizations, including the Babylonians and the Assyrians. A part of the Ottoman Empire from 1534, the Treaty of Sèvres brought the area under British control in 1918. Iraq gained independence in 1932. On 14 July 1958, the long-time Hachemite monarchy was overthrown in a coup led by Abdul Kassem that paved way to radical political reforms, including the legalisation of political parties such as the Ba'ath and the Communist Party, both key players in the coup (also called the 14 July Revolution). Following the Revolution, the Soviet Union gradually became its main arms and commercial supplier.
In February 1963, Kassem was overthrown and killed in a second coup that brought the Ba'ath Party into power. Internal divisions would follow for the next five years, until another coup on 17 July 1968 led by Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr (with Communist support) stabilised the party. Relations between the Communists and the Ba'athists ranged from mutual cooperation to violent mistrust, culminating in the purge of Communists from the army and the government by 1978, causing a temporary rift with the Soviet Union. On 16 July 1979, Bakr resigned and was succeded by right-hand man Saddam Hussein, who carefully purged his enemies and became a dictator almost overnight.
The next twenty-five years took a grinding toll on the country. A long war with neighboring Iran in the 1980s cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and subsequent Gulf War caused further casualties, followed by civil war inside the country and a decade of international sanctions.
Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a U.S/U.K.-led coalition of forces, who removed Saddam Hussein from power. Although some transfer of power to an Iraqi interim government has occurred, the country remains occupied by 140,000 US and UK soldiers. Rebuilding on a massive scale inside larger cites has occurred.