Editor's note: Reports from French media say the country's military has conducted its first airstrikes targeting the Islamic State in Iraq. We'll update when we get clear confirmation from officials from the international coalition against the Islamic State. - Aaron
Belgian defense ministry expresses willingness to offer fighter jets and special forces to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq; any Belgian engagement would require the approval of parliament - @Reuters
Editor's note: The pre-dawn Australian police raids in Sydney and Brisbane come days after the country raised its threat level to "high," citing the likelihood of terrorist attacks by Australian citizens radicalised in Iraq or Syria, Reuters reports. - Stephanie
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, calls the Obama administration's reliance on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution as sufficient authorization to go after ISIS a 'thin theory' - @jaketapper
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey spokesman issues statement on Senate testimony; says general 'doesn't believe there is a military requirement for our advisers to accompany Iraqi forces into combat' - @politico
Iraq's national security adviser has briefed Syrian President Assad on efforts to counter the Islamic State, Syrian state media reports, in 1st meeting since the US launched air strikes on the group in Iraq - @Reuters
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Martin Dempsey says Washington Post reports that President Obama rejected military recommendation to send Special Ops to Iraq for missions against Islamic State militants are incorrect - @toddzwillich
Iraq (/ɪˈræk/, /ɪˈrɑːk/, or /aɪˈræk/; Arabic: العراق al-‘Irāq), officially the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جمهورية العراق Jumhūriyyat al-‘Irāq; Kurdish: كۆماری عێراقKomar-i ‘Êraq), is a country in Western Asia that borders Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west. The capital, Baghdad, is in the center of the country. Around 97% of the country's 36,000,000 people are Muslims, mainly Shias, Sunnis, and ethnic Kurds.
Iraq has a narrow section of coastline measuring 58 km (36 mi) on the northern Persian Gulf and its territory encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through the center of Iraq and flow into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. Theses rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land.
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is often referred to as Mesopotamia and thought to be the birthplace of writing and the world's oldest civilizations. The area has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, 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. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States of America and its allies, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power and multi-party parliamentary elections were held. The American presence in Iraq ended in 2011 but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country.