The Republic of Iraq, usually known as Iraq (Arabic: العراق , IPA: ʕiˈrɑːq), is a country in the Middle East spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert. It shares borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, Turkey to the north, and Iran to the east. It has a very narrow section of coastline at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf. There are two major flowing rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. These provide Iraq with agriculturally capable land and contrast with the desert landscape that covers most of the Middle East.
Iraq is a developing parliamentary democracy composed of 18 governorates (known as muhafadhat). The capital city, Baghdad, is in the center-east. Iraq's rich history dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is identified as the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization, and the birthplace of writing. During its long history, Iraq has been the center of the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Abbasid empires, and part of the Achaemenid, Macedonian, Parthian, Umayyad, Sassanid, Ottoman and British empires.
Since the the invasion in 2003, a multinational coalition of forces, mainly American and British, has occupied Iraq. The invasion has had wide-reaching consequences: increased civil violence, political breakdown, the removal and execution of former president Saddam Hussein, and national problems in the development of political balance, economy, infrastructure, and use of the country's huge reserves of oil. These have led to major setbacks for Iraq, and thus given it increased attention from the West. According to the 2007 Failed States Index, produced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, Iraq has recently emerged as the world's second most unstable country, after Sudan.