Iraq, officially known as The Republic of Iraq, is geographically located in Western Asia bordering Iran, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Iraq has a long and rich history and it is home to the earliest known civilization on Earth. In ancient times what is known as Iraq today was known to Europeans as Mesopotamia dating way back to the 6th Millennium B.C. Being ideally situated between two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, bestowed this area with sufficient amount of water to flourish and become known as the cradle of civilization where writing, science, laws, and the wheel were invented. Mesopotamia (Iraq) has also been in the middle of many battle zones between many international empires such as: Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Parthian, Sassanid, Abbasid, Roman, Umayyad, Mongol, Ottoman, United Kingdom, and the United States who fought over and/or took control of this region.
Dating back to the1930's Iraq had many issues about oil rich lands, such as: Khuzestan province that was given to Iran by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Kuwait that was created into a separate country under the British. Iraqi leaders (Saddam Hussein) and its population believed these lands as being an integral part of Iraq. Even the Iraqi television stations showed Iran's Khuzestan province as part of Iraq's new province called Nasiriyyah, renaming all Iranian cities with Arabic names. Hussein, wanting to elevate Iraq as the leading Arab country in the Arab world thought Iran was unstable after its Islamic revolution and chose to invade Iran, beginning three decades of war in Iraq.
The Iran–Iraq War was between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran which lasted for 8 grueling years from September 1980 to August 1988. The war began when Iraq invaded Iran with the objectives to to take full control of three islands in the Persian Gulf (Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs), return of territory such as Khuzestan which Iraq believe to be rightfully theirs, and to stop the spread of the Iranian Shiai Islamic revolution. Even though Iraq had the military might and was determined to replace Iran, in order to become the dominant Persian Gulf State, it failed. After eight years of trench warfare, bayonet charges through barbed wires, human wave attacks by children, and wide scale use of chemical gas the war ended in a bloody stalemate with estimated casualties of up to one million dead and many more wounded. Iraq did not achieved its goals and became economically and military bankrupt.
Iraq was bankrupt and owed billions to many regional and international countries so Iraq started looking for a way out of this economic predicament which led to the The Persian Gulf War (First Gulf War). The First Gulf War began, on August 1990 and officially ended on February 1991, after Iraq quickly invaded and seized control of Kuwait On August 2,1990. Kuwait had been a territory of Iraq for centuries until the British created, or as Iraq believed invented, it as an independent country after World War l. Starting in the 1930's the Iraqi government quickly declared, after gaining its independence from the United Kingdom, that Kuwait was rightfully a territory of Iraq. After the long drawn out war with Iran during the Iran–Iraq War, Iraq was left with an economical disaster and looked to Kuwait as the answer in solving their problems because Kuwait was enriched with a vast quantity of oil reserves. Upon the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein the leader of Iraq, declared that Kuwait had ceased to exist and it was to be part of Iraq. This act of aggression led the United Nation to impose various economic sanctions against Iraq and with the passing of Resolution 660 which condemned Iraq's invasion and demanded that Iraq immediately withdraw from Kuwait. When Iraq refused, the UN Security Council unanimously voted for military action against Iraq in order to restore international peace and security in the area. This led to a coalition force, consisting of United States (under President George H. W. Bush), England, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, to begin the war with an aerial bombardment on January 17,1991 followed by a ground assault on February 23,1991.
Only 100 hours after the ground assault started during Operations Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm the First Gulf War ended. The decisive coalition victory on February 23, 1991 forced Iraq to accept to the UN Security Council Resolutions: UNSCR 686, UNSCR 687 (recognize Kuwait's sovereignty), and UNSCR 688 (to cease repressions of ethnic and religious minorities). Iraq also agreed to remove all poison gas and germ weapons and allow international UN observers to inspect the sites. The casualty figures for the Iraqi's are somewhere between 25,000 to 100,000 while the United states lost 269 soldiers (121 died after the war from non-combat incidents) and one Navy pilot, Captain Michael Speicher was missing in action (MIA).
The Iraq War, also known as the Occupation of Iraq or the Second Gulf War, started in March 20, 2003 and officially ended on May 1, 2003. The war was the result of repeated violations by the Iraqi government (Saddam Hussein). Iraq agreed to surrender and destroy several types of weapons, including SCUD missiles and various Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) after the First Gulf War but, since 1998, Saddam Hussein had consistently withheld information such as having uranium from Niger and having secret weapons laboratories. Iraq also continued to be involved in terrorism, violated the imposed no fly zones, and prevented UN inspectors from completing their task of dismantling his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. As a consequence in June 2002, Operation Southern Watch implemented with the mission to monitor and control the Iraqi airspace South of the 32nd Parallel which progressed into Operation Southern Focus on July 10, 2002.
On March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom or the Second Gulf war began after the United States Congress passed the Joint Resolution (UNSCR 1441) that authorize the use of its armed forces against Iraq. The United States organized a coalition army (USA, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, and Poland) to invade Iraq with the main objectives of: disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), stop and end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people. After Baghdad was captured, on April 9, 2003, Saddam Hussein's regime was over and the Iraq war ended on May 1, 2003.
Although the Iraq War officially ended on May 1, 2003, it did not bring about peace. Violence has continued to ravage the country after the war from various insurgent groups causing Iraq to possibly fall into a civil war. There have been continuous attacks from Iraqi insurgent militias with over 964 attacks (between 2003 and 2006) on anyone or any group they see as collaborators with the United States. These insurgent groups are composed of local militias (Ba'athists, Nationals, Salafi Islamists, Shi'a militias, and Wahhabi fundamentalists) and foreign fighters (al Qaeda and Islamist mujahideen) using violence such as: suicide bombings, car bombs, and hostage/ransom taking against the United States citizens, Coalition contractors, Iraqi security forces(government), and Iraqi civilians. Most of the insurgent attacks have been aimed at the Iraqi police, military and government but, civilians are the ones suffering the most and are the highest numbered killed. It has been reported that 90% of all the casualties by the insurgent attacks have been on the innocent Iraqi civilians. Through September of 2007, there have been approximately 19,429 insurgents and, a low count reported by Iraq Body Count website of 44,000 civilians killed. Gay Iraqis have also been targeted and murdered during the aftermath of the Iraq war. It has been reported that not only uniformed Iraqi police officers have been targeting and killing homosexual civilians (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender) but also fanatical fundamentalist groups have started a war against anyone they perceive as being gay. A London based human rights group have stated that over 680 homosexuals have been killed in cold blood since 2004. The United Nations have confirmed that homosexuals have been routinely rounded up, raped, murdered, or kidnapped.
Depending on the source, the casualties from the Second Gulf War on the Iraqis can range from 110,600 (Associated Press) up to 654,952 (The Lancet). Iraq Body Count has reported that over 67.500 civilians alone have died since April 2007. The total figure of U.S. armed forces killed during the war is 4,379 dead and 31,693 wounded as of February 23, 2010. The total count of deaths of the coalition forces, since February 24, 2009, was 318 with the United Kingdom having the highest count of 179 followed by: Italy 33, Poland 23, and Bulgaria13. Many news reporters (media) and international humanitarian aid workers have been killed. Over 187 journalists and 94 international aid workers have been killed since February 24, 2009. There are over 180,000 international civilian employees working in Iraq under various United States contracts (21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis). Even though these employees are cooks, cleaners, translators, construction workers, and engineers there have been at least 1,315 non-combative private contractors killed and over 10,569 wounded or injured between March 2003 and January 2009.
After three decades of wars and the ongoing insurgency of fanatical militias has drastically hindered further development of the healthcare infrastructure throughout the country. Iraq which once had one of the best healthcare system in the region has massively deteriorated since the start of the war. Many of the healthcare facilities have become inoperable due to breakdowns especially in the rural areas. The Iraq War has destroyed an estimated 12 percent of hospitals and no hospitals have been built since1983. There is a shortage of qualified doctors and nurses because over 25% of the qualified physicians have left the country. There are limited supply of emergency and non-emergency medicine and modern medical equipment are limited or non-existent which are needed for adequate treatment. The healthcare system in Iraq has deteriorated and collapsed below the level of many healthcare systems in sub-Sahara Africa and it will take at the minimum ten years to rebuilt its healthcare infrastructure.
Over 54,000 people have died after the war not from the war but from disease such as: Typhoid, Cholera, Malaria, and Tuberculosis because of lack of medical treatment. More than 4.2 million Iraqis have lost their homes. Millions more are living in overcrowded housing with no electricity, limited water supply, and no sanitation. Iraqis water and sanitation network is in a critical state of disrepair with daily system failures. Most of the water pipes and treatment plants have been damaged and in operable from the decades of sanctions and war. This has left most of the cities in Iraq without adequate water or functional sewage treatment plants. Less than half of Iraq’s population have access to reliable to potable water. more than 500,000 residents of Baghdad are receiving water only for a few hours each day. Sanitation throughout the country has become a major health concern. Sewage-pumping stations and treatment plants have been damaged and working at only 40% of their nominal capacities. This has caused sewage flooding in the city streets and raw wastewater have been consistently discharged into Iraq’s rivers. Only 10% of urban households outside Baghdad are connected to sanitary sewage systems and the other 90% are operating on a limited hourly basis because of the daily power cuts.
There is a serious lack of food and water in Iraq and many Iraqis are suffering from malnutrition. Over 8 million Iraqis are living on less than $US 1 dollar per day and close to 96% of the Iraqi population are surviving on monthly food rations of rice, flour and cooking oil. This dilemma has caused widespread health and hygiene problems to all of the Iraqi population. In 2007, there was a major Cholera outbreak which was the worst in recent history. Iraq may not be able to provide the medical treatment options that you require. Most of the hospitals are running at over capacity with a shortage of medical supplies. Due to the wars, poor management, and drastic cuts in the healthcare system most, if not all, rural hospitals and facilities are strongly not recommended as venues for receiving healthcare services. Treatment in private clinics and hospitals are highly recommended for adequate medical treatment but will be quite expensive and are limited to the major cities. Contractors, travelers and expatriates will be required to pay for any treatment received up front and It is therefore highly recommended to have a comprehensive insurance plan.