Travel Guide to Iraq – Iraq (Arabic: العراق Al-Irāq) 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 Hashamite 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.cIraq 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, as of November 2011, 8,000 U.S. troops remain.
All visitors to Iraq require a visa for entry. Currently, contract and military personnel working for the U.S. Department of Defense are exempt from this visa policy, as long as they present a valid Common Access Card (CAC card) issued by the Department of Defense. This only holds true if you are flying into the military side of BIAP by Gryphon Air or on a military flight. If you fly into Baghdad International without an entry or working visa you will be deported. For those entering the country without a visa, one can be purchased at most border crossings for US$80. The border crossing from Turkey to Iraq (Silopi/Zakho) did not charge for a visa as of March 2007. Total crossing time is around 1 hour for individuals. If you intend to acquire a visa at your port of entry, be prepared for long waits, and bring plenty of documentation about who you are and what your business in Iraq is. Letters on company or government letterhead are preferred.
Obtaining a travel visa to Iraq is complicated and time consuming. You can obtain an application at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C.. However, all applications are vetted in Baghdad. Even if you do obtain a visa, you may still be refused entry into Iraq once you arrive. Visas can be acquired in advance at the Iraqi embassies in London, Paris, and Washington, D.C.