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Middle East Studies-A Reflection on Iraq: Modern Mesopotamia

Jenkins Macedo
Prof. Mohamed Eskandari

Chapter 13

Iraq: Modern Mesopotamia

Iraq has a historical, economic, cultural and geopolitical importance regionally and globally. Modern Iraq as we know it today, emerged as an independent Kingdom in 1932 and its boundaries and major institutions were defined in accordance with the League of Nations mandate under the British tutelage. Geographically, Iraq is a land of two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, two of the three great rivers in the Middle East. The area upon which Iraq is situated was the eastern limb of the Fertile Crescent, which was the cradle of the earliest known civilizations and also served as the culture hearth from which the first idea of sedentary agriculture, domestication of animals, the wheel, writing and urban development are believed to have developed and diffused westward to the Nile Valley and eastward to the Indus Valley. Iraq hosts the cultural heritages of both ancient nations such as Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumer Akkad, which existed in about 3,500 BCE. Ancient and current days Mesopotamia has periodically function as one of the major political and military bases in the Middle East.
In terms of regional patterns, Iraq is cradled in the land segment of the great tectonic trough down folded between Arabian Platform to the southwest and the Zagros ridges to the northeast. Iraq also embraces four distinct natural geographic regions, each of which has played and is still play in the historical, political and economic life. These include the western and southern desert plateau, the Jazirah or northern Mesopotamian upland, the southern Mesopotamian alluvial plain and lastly, the northeastern uplands and Zagros Mountains. Each of these geographic regions has distinct geographical features and resources, which immensely contributes to the region’s significance locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
Population wise, as of 2004 Iraq had an estimated population of 25 million, which demonstrates how the country’s population has grown since 1950. The increase in Iraq’s population was primarily due natural increases as more women were given birth to children and decrease in infant and child mortality rates. Most of Iraq’s population is situated along the banks of rivers, and canals on the plains but is generally distributed in villages and towns in the Northeastern uplands and mountains. The first greatest concentration of people in Iraq are situated in sprawls westward and southward of Baghdad; while, the second greatest concentration of Iraq’s population are found in the south, where population in Basrah, in the marshes between Basrah and Nasiriyah, and in Amarah fluctuated wildly during the three wars of 1980-1988, 1990-1991, and 2003, the Mosul node in the far north, which is second to Baghdad and lastly in the northeastern piedmont.
Iraq has a distinguish population with unique ethno-linguistic groups. Some of the ethnic groups in Iraq have its own unique culture. However, there are some ethnic groups that maintained their separateness from other ethnic groups as well as identification with the nation. Ethnic and religious conflicts between the Arab and Kurd, and the Sunni Muslims and Shii Muslims have been issues that the nation has been encountering for years. With the Kurds concentrated in the North and he restive majority Shii dominant in the South, the minority Sunni elite in between has historically ensured its control of the state’s political leadership, economy, and territorial unity thus assuring its dominance among the others.
About 76% of Iraq’s population is Arabs, which has dominated other ethnic groups both numerically and politically for 1,000 years. The Arabs in Iraq considered themselves as the eastern bulwark against non-Arabs influences. The Iraqi Arabs represent a biological mixture of many people over thousands of years.
Economically, just like her neighboring countries Iraq was overwhelmingly agricultural. However, the country vast enviable agrarian lands challenged agricultural productivity in Iraq, as a result production from the agricultural sector was limited. Manufacturing in Iraq was associated with metalworking, weaving, and food processing. However, with the assistance of the British modern Iraq evolved a more diversified economy. With the discoveries of potential and productive oil fields in 1927, Iraq’s economic scope changed significantly regionally and globally. With the discoveries of oil, Iraq now possessed a superior economic potential, balanced between plentiful water and arable land, on the one hand, and enormous energy resources, on the other hand, with increasing productive labor to exploit them. Iraq has been long ranked in the oil business with countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among the region big four.


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