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Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 7/20/2005 9:49 AM

Iraq is bordered by Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The country slopes from mountains over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) above sea level along the border with Iran and Turkey to the remnants of sea-level, reedy marshes in the southeast. Much of the land is desert or wasteland. The mountains in the northeast are an extension of the alpine system that runs eastward from the Balkans into southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, terminating in the Himalayas.

Average temperatures range from higher than 48oC (120oF) in July and August to below freezing in January. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April and averages between 10 and 18 centimeters (4–7 in.) annually. The mountainous region of northern Iraq receives appreciably more precipitation than the central or southern desert region. (From State Department Country Background Notes)

Population Last Updated: 7/20/2005 9:49 AM

Nationality: Noun and adjective – Iraqi(s).

Population (2002 est.): 24,011,816.

Annual growth rate (2002 est.): 2.82%.

Ethnic groups: Arab 75%–80%, Kurd 15%–20%, Turkman, Chaldean, Assyrian, or others less than 5%.

Religions: Shi’a Muslim 60%, Sunni Muslim 32%–37%, Christian 3%, Yezidi less than 1%.

Languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkish/Turcoman.

Education: Years compulsory – primary school (age 6 through grade 6), literacy – 58%.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2002 est.) – 57.61 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy – 67.38 yrs.

Work force (2000, 4.4 million): Agriculture – 44%; industry – 26%; services – 31% (1989 est.).

Almost 75% of Iraq’s population lives in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast toward Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers carry about 70 million cubic meters of silt annually to the delta. Known in ancient times as Mesopotamia, the region is the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden. The ruins of Ur, Babylon, and other ancient cities are in Iraq.

Iraq’s two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other distinct groups are Turkomans, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Armenians. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language. Kurdish is spoken in the north, and English is the most commonly spoken Western language.

Most Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi’a sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Small communities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language, dress, and customs. (From State Department Country Background Notes)

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/26/2005 1:55 PM

The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) assumed sovereign authority for governing Iraq on June 28, 2004. The IIG consists of the Presidency of the State (comprised of a President and twoDeputy Presidents), a Council of Ministers, including a Prime Minister, an Interim National Council, and the Judicial Authority.

Independence: 1932.

Administrative subdivisions: 18 provinces.

Political parties: The Iraqi people have formed political parties and interest groups to represent the interests of the people. Former opposition groups have transformed into political parties. The Ba’ath Party was abolished on May 16, 2003. Elections took place in December 2004. Currently the new constitution is being written by a representative group from various contituencies from the general population.

Suffrage: Universal adult.

National holidays: April 9, anniversary of the 2003 fall of the Ba'ath regime. (From StateDepartment Country Background Notes)

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 8/26/2005 1:58 PM


The recent history of this proud region has been difficult, and yet, as seems to be true in many societies enduring tumultuous change that art suffers, but sustains itself somehow. During the past fifteen years, art especially has provided a constant and important means of entertainment, escape, and enlightenment for Iraqi society. Today, an even greater number of TV and radio stations maintain widespread popular appeal, while theater, dance and art remain a viable option for smaller, selective audiences.

Prior to 1990, literature was a very common and popular form of entertainment. However, accessibility to literature by the general public declined in 1991 due to an increase in book prices. Today, literature is once again becoming widespread, resulting from an increased freedom of literary dissemination and rising wages.

The current instability and slow but steady reconstruction have limited the number of functioning venues for theatre and dance. The government promotes theatre festivals, but typically only the most devout theatergoers attend. Iraq also has a very talented orchestra with international credentials. Folk music is widely popular and plays an important role in daily life and can often be heard at special occasions such as weddings.

Art exhibits, as is true with public theater and dance performances, at present attract only the truly passionate art lovers. The higher profile events are still too expensive for the general public, and security remains a concern. Nevertheless, several Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are working throughout Iraq to enhance the country’s art scene. An increasing number of NGOs are especially devoted to various forms of art: cinema, painting, theater, sculpture and music.

The Ministry of Culture monitors Iraq’s major cultural activities and sponsors most of the larger festivals. Some smaller artistic exhibits of paintings, sculptures, folklore and music are free to the public.

Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology was established in August 2003 with the mission to “identify, research and develop projects designed to restore and improve Iraq’s infrastructure and industrial base.” The ministry’s professional staff includes over 4,000 scientists and engineers who hold Bachelor through Ph.D. degrees in all fields related to the ministry’s work.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is composed of ten Directorates: Electronic Systems and Communication, Information Technology, Science of Materials, Science and Physics Research, Aeronautical and Space Technology, Engineering Projects and Industrial Development, Chemistry Research and Petrochemical Industry, Hazardous Materials and Environmental Research, Water Treatment Technology, and Agriculture Research and Food Technology.

Iraq has always committed many human, physical, and financial resources to science and technology research, to include the graduate education abroad of many Iraqi science and engineering students. Although the science and engineering human resources are still available, the ministry professionals have very little equipment and inadequate laboratory facilities to conduct their much-needed activities. The ministry’s large research and development complex at Tuwaitha was the scene of significant looting and destruction after the 2003 conflict, which has caused a severe decrease in activities. Until rehabilitation and refurbishing of the complex’s laboratories, administrative offices, library and associated buildings occur, the ministry’s professionals and technical staff have very limited project work to conduct.

The Ministry of Science and Technology remains active in several important areas, utilizing the ministry’s existing facilities in downtown Baghdad: The ministry is the home of the Chief Information Office of the Government of Iraq, which oversees information technology requirements of the government’s ministries; a Center of Excellence is being planned so that this Center can provide services to all other ministries and agencies that require them; interacting and coordinating with the Iraqi Radioactive Source Regulatory Authority and with the WMD Redirection Program.

EDUCATION Education has always held a prominent place in Iraqi society. There are now approximately 20,000 schools and 15,000 school buildings nationwide. The disparity between schools and buildings means many buildings host two or even three shifts of classes each day. There are about 500,000 educators in Iraq and about 8 million students.

The Education system in Iraq consists of five stages: Stage 1 is Kindergarten, a non-obligatory, two-year program for children between ages 4 and 5. Stage 2 is Primary School, a six-year regiment for children between ages 6 and 12. At the end of the sixth year, students from all over the country sit for a Baccalaureate Final Exam at the same time. If a student fails, he or she must repeat the sixth year. At Stage 3, students attend Intermediate school; a three year program that ends with another Baccalaureate. If a student receives low marks on the Baccalaureate, he or she is only allowed admittance to a 3-year vocational school in fields such as Commerce, Agriculture or Industry. Stage 4 is reserved for students with high scores who may graduate to academic preparatory schools, which consist of literary and a scientific branches.

Upon completion of preparatory school, students sit for a very important examination that largely determines their educational future. Those who achieve high scores are given the opportunity to apply for high-ranking university positions in the highly prized fields of Medicine and Engineering. Those who receive intermediate scores are allowed to attend mid-level universities in the fields of Art, Science, Commerce, Political Science, and Education. Students with the lowest marks can only apply for two-year institutes where they study to achieve a certificate in technological, administrative or commercial disciplines. Those who fail have the opportunity to serve in the military after which they generally work in the private sector or as governmental clerks. Those continuing on to college may study for various undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Higher education in Iraq has expanded in scope and scale over the past three decades. Many new universities and two-year institutes have been opened nationwide. In every governorate throughout Iraq, there is at least one fully-operational university. There are twenty universities in Iraq and three technical commissions, in addition to thirty-six research centers. Iraq has also witnessed an increase in the number of individuals enrolled in graduate degree programs. About 200,000 students are now pursuing some level of higher education, with approximately 20,000 professors. While many students and professors fled the country because of security concerns, the government is working to reverse this trend as reconstruction and stability gain momentum.

A major priority for Iraq's education sector has been the restoration of old school-buildings and the construction of additional schools, complete with supplies, equipment, furniture, libraries, and labs. There is also a move to replace out-dated Saddam-era educational materials and curriculum with modern, standard versions. Some are pushing for more rigorous training programs for teachers, insisting that the government raise the qualifications for teaching.

The advocates of educational reform argue that Iraq’s future largely depends on the education of its youth. They believe that the coming generations will be best served through a comprehensive, widespread, modern education. This will enable them to contribute to the health and stability of Iraq's society, and will give them the opportunity to thrive and excel in the modern world.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 8/26/2005 1:59 PM

GDP (2003 est.): $38.79 billion.

Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 20%.

GDP per capita (2003 est.): $1,600.

Inflation rate (2003 est.): 27.5%.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur.

Agriculture (% of GNP unspecified): Products – wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, cotton, dates, cattle, sheep.

Industry: (% GNP unspecified): Types – petroleum, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, food processing.

Trade: Exports – $ 7.542 billion f.o.b (2003 est). Major markets – U.S. 37.4%, Taiwan 7.7%, Canada 7.5%, France 7.5%, Jordan 6.9%, Netherlands 5.8%, Italy 4.9%, Morocco 4.3%, Spain 4.1% (2002). Imports – $6.521 billion f.o.b (2003 est): food, medicine, manufactures. Major suppliers – Jordan 10.4%, France 8.4%, China 7.9%, Vietnam 7.9%, Germany 7.2%, Russia 6.9%, Australia 6.8%, Italy 6.1%, Japan 5.3% (2002).

Historically, Iraq’s economy was characterized by a heavy dependence on oil exports and an emphasis on development through central planning. Prior to the outbreak of the war with Iran in September 1980, Iraq’s economic prospects were bright. Oil production had reached a level of 3.5 million barrels per day, and oil revenues were $21 billion in 1979 and $27 billion in 1980. At the outbreak of the war, Iraq had amassed an estimated $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

The Iran-Iraq war depleted Iraq’s foreign exchange reserves, devastated its economy, and left the country saddled with a foreign debt of more than $40 billion. After hostilities ceased, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and the restoration of damaged facilities. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international sanctions, damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991, and neglect of infrastructure drastically reduced economic activity. Government policies of diverting income to key supporters of the regime while sustaining a large military and internal security force further impaired finances, leaving the average Iraqi citizen facing desperate hardships.

Implementation of a UN oil-for-food program in December 1996 improved conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. In December 1999, Iraq was authorized to export unlimited quantities of oil to finance essential civilian needs including, among other things, food, medicine, and infrastructure repair parts. The drop in GDP in 2001–2002 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Per capita food imports increased significantly, while medical supplies and health care services steadily improved. The occupation of the U.S.-led coalition in March–April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic administrative structure. The rebuilding of oil, electricity, and other production is proceeding steadily in 2004 with foreign support and despite the continuing internal security incidents, a joint UN and World Bank report released in the fall of 2003 estimated that Iraq’s key reconstruction needs through 2007 would cost $55 billion. According to the General Accounting Office as of April 2004, total funds available towards this rebuilding effort include: $21 billion in U.S. appropriations, $18 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq, $2.65 billion in vested and seized assets of the former regime, and $13.6 billion in international pledges. The U.S. and other nations continue assisting Iraqi ministries, to the extent requested by the IIG, and offer extensive economic support. (From State Department Country Background Notes)

Agriculture Despite its abundant land and water resources, Iraq is a net food importer. Under the UN oil-for-food program, Iraq imported large quantities of grains, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Obstacles to agricultural development during the previous regime included labor shortages, inadequate management and maintenance, salinization, urban migration, and dislocations resulting from previous land reform and collectivization programs. A Ba’ath regime policy to destroy the “Marsh Arab”culture by draining the southern marshes and introducing irrigated farming to this region destroyed a natural food-producing area, while concentration of salts and minerals in the soil due to the draining left the land unsuitable for agriculture.

Efforts have begun to overcome the damage done by the Ba’ath regime in ways that will rehabilitate the agricultural sector and confront environmental degradation. (From State Department Country Background Notes)

Trade The United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Noncompliance by Iraq with its UN obligations, particularly Iraq’s refusal to allow weapons inspectors full freedom of action in dismantling Iraq’s weapons program, caused those sanctions to remain in place until the Ba’ath regime was removed in 2003. Under the oil-for-food program Iraq was allowed to export oil and use the proceeds to purchase goods to address essential civilian needs, including food, medicine, and infrastructure spare parts. With the removal of UN sanctions, Iraq is gradually resuming trade relations with the international community, including with the U.S. (From State Department Country Background Notes)


Automobiles Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:07 AM

Employees may not ship vehicles to post.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:08 AM

Employees are not allowed to use local public transportation. Within the International Zone, shuttle buses and self-drive vehicles are available. All travel in Baghdad outside the International Zone is performed with military or diplomatic security escort.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:09 AM

All regional travel within Iraq is performed via military aircraft only.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/26/2005 1:59 PM

Telephone service is offered to U.S. Government personnel located in Baghdad primarily through the MCI Cellular Telephone network which provides U.S. dial-tone. A Department of State telephone network is also installed in the Embassy Annex to provide an International Voice Gateway (IVG) service. In the fall of 2004 the Blue Star network was activated allowing direct calls to the local Iraqi cell phone provider from the Nortel switch.

Internet Last Updated: 7/20/2005 9:42 AM

Internet service is available through the OpenNet Plus network throughout the Embassy and Embassy Annex. In addition, post hopes to provide Internet service to the residential trailers in the future.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/26/2005 1:59 PM

APO service is available in Baghdad, Mosul, Hillah, Kirkuk and Basra. Mail is sent and received daily on weekdays at the Embassy Annex.

APO letter mail takes from 6–8 days to and from the U.S., and parcels sent SAM (Space Available Mail) and PAL (Parcel Air Lift) take from 2 weeks to 1 month; parcels sent Priority Mail take from 7–10 days. Address letters and packages sent through APO as follows:

For Baghdad: Name of Employee DOS -- (Section) APO AE 09316

For Mosul: Name of Employee DOS -- (Section) APO AE 09385

For Hillah: Name of Employee DOS -- (Section) APO AE 09332

For Kirkuk: Name of Employee DOS -- (Section) APO AE 09359

For Basra: Name of Employee DOS -- (Section) APO AE 09366

Radio and TV Last Updated: 7/20/2005 3:49 AM

MNF-I troops operate a local radio station featuring popular music including requests by email, and news. Permanent quarters are furnished with television sets featuring a wide variety of cable news and entertainment programming. Local Arabic channels may be added by request.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:06 AM

“Stars and Stripes,” the military newspaper, is available daily in the International Zone. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, delivered via APO mail, are available in the Embassy Press office. Numerous magazines and periodicals including Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Rolling Stone and Business Week are also available in the Public Affairs section. Excellent connectivity to the World Wide Web at office workstations allows access to other periodicals and newspapers.

Health and Medicine Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:04 PM

Embassy personnel utilize the Mission Medical Clinic located in the south wing of the Embassy (S-105). This is a joint DOS/DOD facility staffed by U.S. Army medical personnel and State Department medical providers. Medical Personnel include one Army medical doctor, one physician assistant, six Army medics, one DOS Regional Medical Officer, Regional Medical Officer/ Psychiatrist (in Amman) and two Foreign Service Health Practitioners. U.S. Army and DOS providers rotate medical officer duty. The U.S. Army Combat Support Hospital located in the International Zone is used for diagnostic services, specialty consultations, and emergency hospitalizations, including surgery, when required.

Illnesses common to this region are gastro- intestinal complaints including traveler’s diarrhea, heat related illnesses, sinus infection, frequent upper respiratory infection and irritation (commonly referred to as the Crud), nosebleeds and allergies. Two insect borne diseases that can occur in this region are leishmaniasis (sand fly bite causing skin sores) and schistosomiasis (parasitic infection from swimming/bathing in contaminated fresh water sources) disease. Malaria is not endemic to this region and recently the DOD has stopped issuing anti-malarial medications to military personnel working in the Northern province areas (CDC recommends anti-malarials, specifically chloroquine, for persons traveling/working in the northern province regions of Iraq). Illnesses and these insect borne diseases can be prevented by drinking bottled water, eating in approved facilities (currently only DOD/DOS operated cafeterias), wearing insect repellant on skin and clothing (DEET), wearing long sleeved shirt and long pants at dusk, drinking lots of water, using saline nasal spray for dry irritation to the nose, adequate rest and avoid water activities in fresh water streams/ lakes/ponds.

Because of the harsh environmental conditions, it is highly recommended that persons with severe allergies, including Asthma and chronic sinusitis do not consider posting in Iraq. Other persons taking multiple medications for chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, should not consider working to Iraq due to the unavailability of medical specialist and resources to manage these medical conditions. Critical and specialty medical care (U.S. standards) is currently not available. U.S. Army medical assets are in country to provide medical support to combat troops only.

Vaccinations recommended for Iraq include: Hepatitis A (series of 2 shots), Hepatitis B (series of 3 shots), Meningococcal meningitis (one shot and booster every 3-5 years) Influenza (one shot yearly), Tuberculosis skin test (yearly), Tetanus/Diphtheria (once every 10 years), Typhoid (once every 2 years - inactive vaccine injection), Rabies (series of 3 shots), Measles/Mumps/Rubella (one shot if born after 1956) and Polio (one shot after age 18). Yellow fever is not endemic to this region BUT persons entering Iraq may be required to show proof of immunization if entering the country via an international carrier (non military) and traveling from a yellow fever endemic region of Africa (Western and Central African countries) and South America (Northern and Central regions).

All Embassy employees, including military and foreign nationals, are required to bring a one-year supply of routine prescription medications and frequently used over-the-counter medications (or enough to get through your tour if less than a year). The medical unit has very limited supplies of routine prescription and over the counter medications. Each employee should have an Internet pharmacy account set-up prior to his or her arrival in country. Embassy medical providers can write prescriptions and fax them to a pharmacy in the United States for employees who need to be started on new routine prescription medications. Re-supply of routine prescription and over-the-counter medications by APO can be used as a back-up plan, but do not rely on these mechanisms for quick or timely service.

Attendance at a medical unit orientation session is a requirement of each new Embassy employee (yes, it is on the check-in sheet). When coming to the medical unit for the orientation, please bring your medical record, a copy of your medical clearance form, your medical insurance card, a list of prescription medication and vaccine records.

Contractors and other personnel working in country for greater than 60 days, excluding active duty military, who do not have a State Department medical clearance, are NOT eligible for Embassy medical unit services. These persons are reminded to secure medical and evacuation insurance prior to entering Iraq. Check with your employment agency personnel department for details regarding medical benefits provided to you in Iraq.


This is a danger, hardship and high stress post. Persons posted here can quickly fall into the habit of working 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. Living quarters are very similar to dormitory living commonly experienced on college campuses. Many employees complain that they have no place to be by “themselves”. All of these factors can be detrimental to mental health well being causing depression and other physical related ailments. There are many activities, planned by MWR and other agencies that are available to personnel in the Embassy and the International Zone to help one “get away from work” and participate in social activities. The chapel at the Embassy has provided to many employees a calm, quiet environment where they can be alone. Also, DOS personnel are entitled to administrative rest leave (5 days every 6 weeks) to Amman or Kuwait for a change of scenery and mental health vacation. It is highly encouraged that people take advantage of this leave.

Alcohol is available in the International Zone and excessive use can lead to physical injury, arrest and curtailment from post. Employees should exercise good judgment when partaking of alcoholic beverages and if they identify that they have an alcohol dependency problem, they can seek treatment, counseling and referral from Embassy medical providers. These services are provided in strict medical confidentiality.

There is a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist, U.S. Army Combat Stress Unit, Chaplain services and a Crisis Hotline available to assist those employees needing mental health counseling, medication and/or referral.


Environmental conditions are extremely dry, hot and dusty for most of the year causing extremely dry skin, respiratory and other health problems. During the hot season, sandstorms can be a common occurrence, causing very poor visibility, breathing problems, and eye and nose irritation. The living environment tends to be dirty all the time with sand getting into all clothing, bedding, closets, footlockers and everything. During the hot season (March – October) temperatures can get up to 120 degrees leading to heat related illnesses. Temperatures at night in the winter season can get as low as 30–40s, leading to cold weather injuries.

The local water is not safe for drinking. Bottled water, supplied by the Embassy, is the only safe source of drinking water (including ice) and brushing teeth. Eating at local restaurants has been deemed NOT safe, as food is imported from unreliable sources, food products and dishes are cleaned with contaminated water and food preparation/handling is not performed in a sanitary manner.

Motor vehicle accidents are a common occurrence. Persons are reminded to wear seat belts and drive defensively in the International Zone.

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:04 PM

Embassy personnel utilize the Mission Medical Clinic in the Embassy Annex.

The primary referral hospital utilized by U.S. Army and Department of State medical unit providers is the U.S. Army Combat Support Hospital located in the International Zone. The hospital has diagnostic services available (including laboratory and x-ray), specialty consultations, and emergency surgeries and hospitalizations, when required. Employees requiring non-emergency (as determined by DOD/DOS medical providers) specialist consultation, complicated diagnostic work-ups and/or surgery will be medevaced to Jordan, London or CONUS (as determined appropriate by Embassy medical providers.)

Community Health Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:05 PM

This is a danger, hardship and high stress post. Persons posted here can quickly fall into the habit of working 7 days a week, 10–12 hours a day. Living quarters are very similar to dormitory living commonly experienced on college campuses. Many employees complain that they have no place to be by “themselves”. All of these factors can be detrimental to mental health well being causing depression and other physical related ailments. There are many activities, planned by MWR and other agencies that are available to personnel in the Embassy and the International Zone to help one “get away from work” and participate in social activities. The chapel at the Embassy has provided to many employees a calm, quiet environment where they can be alone. Also, DOS personnel are entitled to administrative rest leave (5 days every 6 weeks) to Amman or Kuwait for a change of scenery and mental health vacation. It is highly encouraged that people take advantage of this leave.

Alcohol is available in the International Zone and excessive use can lead to physical injury, arrest and curtailment from post. Employees should exercise good judgment when partaking of alcoholic beverages and if they identify that they have an alcohol dependency problem, they can seek treatment, counseling and referral from Embassy medical providers. These services are provided in strict medical confidentiality.

There is a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist, U.S. Army Combat Stress Unit, Chaplain services and a Crisis hotline available to assist those employees needing mental health counseling, medication and/or referral.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:05 PM

Iraq is an unaccompanied tour location. Therefore, there are currently no employment opportunites for spouses and dependents and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

American Embassy - Baghdad

Post City Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:06 PM

The International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) is the heavily guarded diplomatic/government corner of central Baghdad that houses Iraqi citizens, Coalition partners, and U.S. forces. It is commonly referred to as the “Ultimate Gated Community” due to the numerous armed checkpoints, coils of razor wire, chain link fences, and the fact it is surrounded by “T-Walls” (reinforced and blast-proof concrete slabs).

Part of the International Zone is said to have been “Uday’s Playground” comprised of the Presidential Palace (now the U.S. Embassy Annex); numerous villas for Saddam’s family, friends and former Baath party loyalists; an underground bunker (Believers Palace); the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Military History Museum; the new Baath party headquarters (unfinished); the Al-Rasheed Hotel; the Convention Center; and a large park including the much photographed crossed sabers and parade route. The International Zone was also home to Saddam’s man-eating lions, which have since been moved to the Iraqi National Zoo.

Due to the numerous Iraqi Interim Government entities occupying space within the Zone, traffic and population has increased. There is now a taxi service supported by the Iraqis working within the International Zone. Also, several independent local shops, including an Iraqi flea market provide an array of international and local Iraqi goods.

Contrary to popular belief, the International Zone is lush and tropical with very little humidity. The area is garnished with world-class date producing palms, various fruit and other exotic trees.

Security Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:07 PM

The security situation throughout Iraq remains unstable. Insurgent elements continue to be extremely active and number of attacks remains relatively consistent. The total number of attacks against Coalition Forces (CF) in a six month period (01 Jan – 30 Jun 05) throughout Iraq is 9081 with 2,830 in Baghdad; last year’s total was 16,379. The 1,776 attacks against the Iraqi Security forces (ISF) for this period remain constant as compared to last year’s total of 4,092. Attacks against civilians have the potential to be slightly lower than last year’s total of 3,224 compared with this period’s total of 1,269, half-way through the year. This may be the result of fewer attacks against individuals and more attacks directed against civilians in large gatherings. Baghdad, this year, can potentially receive the brunt of total attacks as compared to other regions in Iraq with CF–50%; ISF–33%; Civ–33%.

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remain the weapon of choice and can be found anytime on all major roads and routes used by the CF. Certain insurgent elements have improved their use of certain IEDs (platter and shape charges) to be more efficient and destructive in their attacks. This is a major concern for our convoys.

Although not depicted by the statistics, insurgent elements have slightly shifted from targeting difficult-to-defeat CF to so-called “soft” targets: ISF, PSD convoys, civilians and specific targeting of key government officials. They will continue these attacks to gain media attention and moreover: continue to conduct catastrophic attacks to inflict huge casualties and damages; kidnap Americans, diplomatic officials and non-Iraqis. The ensuing psychological effects of these types of attacks will portray Iraq as more dangerous; the ISF cannot protect its people and undermine the government’s legitimacy.

The road that runs from Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) to the International Zone (Route Irish) was closed to all COM personnel during this period. Security by ISF and CF were increased and certain physical security measures implemented to decrease attacks by Vehicle Borne Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), Vehicle Concealed Explosive Devices (VCIEDs), Suicide Vest Bombers (SVBs) and IEDs. These types of attacks were noticeably decreased as compared to last year but despite concerted efforts, harassing small arms fire, indirect fire, and RPG attacks are still prevalent.

The International Zone’s major attack threat continues to be rockets and mortars (indirect fires). The numbers of attacks have markedly decreased as compared to last year as a result of increased reconnaissance and patrol efforts at known and possible indirect attack areas by the military. Many security improvements were also implemented at every checkpoint in an attempt to neutralize plausible insurgent VBIED, VCIED, SVB, and direct fire attacks.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:07 PM

The Embassy in Baghdad comprises about 1,100 American direct hire staff under Chief of Mission authority, representing at least 15 government agencies. Offices in the Embassy include, in addition to traditional State Department offices, a Legal Advisor, an Executive Secretariat, the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Transportation, Treasury, FBI, and USAID. The Embassy is collocated with a sizeable U.S. military presence in support of the Multinational Force Iraq.

The Chancery and Palace Annex are located in Baghdad’s International Zone.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:08 PM

Every attempt is made to assign new employees directly to their trailers. If this is not possible, staff is temporarily assigned to either a transient trailer or a tent. Transient trailers and tents share communal shower and bathroom facilities. Tents are becoming a less likely option around the Embassy annex.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:08 AM

Permanent staff are assigned to half a trailer. Each trailer has two rooms separated by a shared bathroom. Each half a trailer measures approximately 9 by 15 feet, and includes a small storage closet, refrigerator, television set (with DVD player) and a desk and chair.

Furnishings Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:08 PM

Trailers are furnished with a twin bed, desk and desk chair, small wardrobe, TV, and refrigerator. Trailers come with one set of sheets and a pillow, but it is strongly recommended that employees bring their own bed linens and towels.

Food Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:09 PM

All meals are served cafeteria style in several facilities around the International Zone, including a large dining facility in the Palace Annex. Meals are served 6:30 – 8:30 am, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, and 10:00 pm – 2:00 am. Meals offer a variety of choices, but are subject to convoy deliveries from outside of Iraq. When supplies run low MREs are served. There are limited options for non-Embassy dining, including take-out pizza, several Chinese restaurants, and a few cafes, all within the International Zone. Now Burger King, Subway, and a couple of other franchises as part of the military BX are also open.

Clothing Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:21 AM

Most offices have a “smart-casual” policy, that is, slacks and collar shirts but no ties. Officers who participate in meetings outside the Embassy will have greater need of business attire. Employees should check with their new office before departing for post. Casual attire is permissible outside the office, but employees should keep local customs and sensitivities in mind when they leave the Embassy compound.

Men Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:10 PM

Some basic items are available in the BX. It is best to bring whatever you need. At least one week's worth of clothes should be brought with the employee.

Women Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:10 PM

Some basic items are available in the BX. It is best to bring whatever you need. At least one week's worth of clothes should be brought with the employee.

Children Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:11 PM

This is an unaccompanied post. Children are not allowed.

Office Attire Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:11 PM

Most employees dress casually. However, a suit or tie and jacket is the norm worn for official meetings especially when meeting GOI officials.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:12 AM

A military BX, to which Embassy staff have access, sells a very limited range of clothing, toiletries, household items (lamps, clocks, cleaning supplies), electronics, DVDs and CDs, some food and drinks.

Basic Services Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:13 AM

There is a laundry service on the compound that provides laundry, pressing, and dry cleaning services. Self-service laundromats are also available and open 7/24. Detergent is provided.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:13 AM


Religious Activities Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:14 AM

The U.S. Military has an active chaplain’s office that organizes a weekly schedule of worship services and study groups. Currently, services include Roman Catholic, Protestant, LDS, Lutheran/Episcopalian, Jewish, and Buddhist.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:14 AM


Special Needs Education Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:14 AM


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:15 AM

Long distance learning and independent learning are available through the internet.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:17 AM

There are two fitness facilities on or near the Embassy compound, one of which operates 24 hours per day, and both of which are well supplied with cardiovascular equipment and weights. Two swimming pools provide lap-swimming opportunities.

The military’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office organizes sporting activities, including ultimate Frisbee, basketball tournaments, and fun runs (security permitting). There is also a weekly Hatha Yoga class taught by a certified instructor, and martial arts classes.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/20/2005 10:17 AM

At present time any movement outside the International Zone must be in armored vehicles with military escort, therefore, outdoor touring activities are non-existent.

Entertainment Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:12 PM

The Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office organizes such diverse activities as Karaoke nights, dancing and martial arts lessons, and movie nights. The Palace Annex has a small movie theater in which current movies are shown every night. Fresh popcorn is alo served.

Most trailers have a television set with a DVD player. The Chaplain's Office maintains a DVD lending library and organizes a large book exchange. The BX also sells DVDs.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:29 AM Most entertainment among Americans is informal and includes gatherings by the pool, card games, and meals out at the limited number of International Zone restaurants. Yoga, chess, Toastmasters Club, Hash House Harriers running club, and other similar recreational activities are beginning to flourish.

International Contacts Last Updated: 7/20/2005 4:31 AM Some officers will have entertainment opportunities with other nations’ diplomats and military, as well as host country nationals. Check with your office for more details. Some joint activities are already occuring.

Notes For Travelers

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/26/2005 2:23 PM


Sunday, January 16 ML King Day (US) Friday, January 21- Saturday, January 22 Eid Al-Adha (I) **

Thursday, February 10 - Friday, February 11 Islamic New Year (I) ** Sunday, February 20 Presidents Day (US) Saturday, April 9 Anniversary of Hussein's Downfall (I) † Thursday, April 21 Prophet Mohammed's Birthday (I) Sunday, May 29 Memorial Day (US) Monday, July 4 Independence Day (US) Thursday, July 14 Republic Day (I) Thursday, September 1 Prophet Mohammed's Ascension day (I) Sunday, September 4 Labor Day (US) Sunday, October 9 Columbus Day (US) Thursday, November 3 -Friday, November 4 Eid Al-Fitr (I)** Thursday, November 10 Veterans Day (US) †† Thursday, November 24 Thanksgiving (US) Sunday, December 25 Christmas (US) Sunday, January 1 New Year's Day 2006 (US/I)

* January 1, 2006, the legal public holiday for New Years Day in America falls on Monday January 2, 2006. Therefore, Sunday, January 1, 2005 will be treated as a holiday for all Mission employees for pay and leave purposes.

** Local holidays are governed by the lunar calendar, exact dates for which must be confirmed by local authorities and are subject to change.

† Likely to be declared an Iraqi special observance day.

†† November 11, 2005, the legal public holiday for Veterans Day, falls on a Friday. Therefore, Thursday, November 10, will be treated as a holiday for all Mission employees for pay and leave purposes.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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