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January 2007

For hundreds of years, Iraq has been at the crossroads of global concerns regarding religion, economics, and politics. The tangle of these issues propels events yet confounds those who wish to understand this most complex nation. Its centrality continues today as the world begins the new millennia with armed conflict, religious strife, economic disruption and the promise of democracy all centering upon Iraq. The world watches as these forces are unleashed and the reality of sectarian violence results in a chaotic state where no one seems safe. The maps and articles in this issue shine light on the historical, religious, regional and economic background of this most pressing current event.

Debra Block, Director of Education, NBLMC


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After 30 years of harsh military rule, dictator Saddam Hussein was removed from power by a coalition of forces, comprised mostly of troops from the United States. Despite efforts to introduce democracy, sectarian violence between Muslim factions has led to chaos and dangerous conditions.


Iraq is located in the Middle East, surrounded by Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria.


American President George W. Bush is committed to maintaining a large US military presence despite its inability to bring order and the strong desire of both the Iraqi and American people to end US involvement.


The US led effort began in March, 2003 and American troops are mired in the resulting chaos with no clear timetable for withdrawal.

Key Facts (percent of total as of 11/06)

Foreign Troops in Iraq: 140,000

Estimated Number of Shiite Militia: 50,000

Unemployment Rate: 33%

Per Capita GDP (in US Dollars): $1150

Arable Land: 13%

US troops killed as of January 1, 2007: 3000

US Dollars spent on war as of January 1, 2007: 400 Billion

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (