Iraq (Arabic: العراق al-‘Irāq), officially the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جمهورية العراق Jumhūriyyat al-‘Irāq), is a country in Western Asia encompassing the Mesopotamian alluvial plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert.
Iraq borders Syria to the northwest, Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Jordan to the west, Arabia to the south and southwest, and Kuwait to the south. Iraq has a narrow section of coastline measuring 58 km (36 mi) on the northern Persian Gulf. The capital city, Baghdad, is in the center-east of the country. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run through the center of Iraq, flowing from northwest to southeast. These provide Iraq with agriculturally capable land and contrast with the steppe and desert landscape that covers most of Western Asia.
Iraq has been known by the Greek toponym 'Mesopotamia' ("Land Between the Rivers") and has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is often referred to as the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of writing. At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian-Chaldean empires. It was also part of the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate.
Iraq's modern borders were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created. Since the removal of the monarchy, Iraq has been marred by violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims as well as between Arabs and Kurds. Iraq is home to two of the world's holiest places among Shias: Najaf and Karbala.