Traveling Luck for Iraq

Iraq is located in Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait.

Iraq has borders with Iran for 1458km, Jordan for 181km, Kuwait for 240km, Saudi Arabia for 814km, Syria for 605km and Turkey for 352km.

Land in Iraq is mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey.

Iraqi land covers an area of 437072 square kilometers which is slightly more than twice the size of Idaho

As for the Iraqi climate; mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq.

Iraqi(s) speak Arabic, Kurdish (official in Kurdish regions), Assyrian, Armenian.

Iraqi National Map

Iraqi Map

Regions of Iraq

Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of military strongmen ruled the country, the latest was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. Coalition forces remain in Iraq, helping to restore degraded infrastructure and facilitating the establishment of a freely elected government, while simultaneously dealing with a robust insurgency. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which temporarily administered Iraq after the invasion, transferred full governmental authority on 28 June 2004, to the Iraqi Interim Government (IG), which governed under the Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq (TAL). Under the TAL, elections for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA) were held in Iraq on 30 January 2005. Following these elections, the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) assumed office. The TNA was charged with drafting Iraq's permanent constitution, which was approved in a 15 October 2005 constitutional referendum. An election under the constitution for a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) was held in December 2005. The CoR approval in the selection of most of the cabinet ministers on 20 May 2006 marked the transition from the ITG to Iraq's full-term government.


Iraq Country Profile

Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the regime hurt the economy, implementation of the UN's oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996, helped improve conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts. In December 1999, the UN Security Council authorized Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Per capita food imports increased significantly, while medical supplies and health care services steadily improved. Per capita output and living standards were still well below the pre-1991 level, but any estimates have a wide range of error. The military victory of the US-led coalition in March-April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic administrative structure. Although a comparatively small amount of capital plant was damaged during the hostilities, looting, insurgent attacks, and sabotage have undermined efforts to rebuild the economy. Attacks on key economic facilities - especially oil pipelines and infrastructure - have prevented Iraq from reaching projected export volumes, but total government revenues have been higher than anticipated due to high oil prices. Despite political uncertainty, Iraq has established the institutions needed to implement economic policy, has successfully concluded a three-stage debt reduction agreement with the Paris Club, and is working toward a Standby Arrangement with the IMF. The Standby Arrangement would clear the way for continued debt relief from the Paris Club.

Iraqi natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur

strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf

Iraqi religion is Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%.

Natural hazards in Iraq include dust storms, sandstorms, floods.

Travel Advice on Iraq

Iraq

This advice has been reviewed and reissued.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We strongly advise against all travel to Baghdad and the surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil, Ninawa and At- Tamim (At -Tamim is often referred to as "Kirkuk Province").

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Al Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Najaf, Karbala, and Dhi Qar.

  • Travellers to the Kurdistan Regional Government controlled provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah (Note: this does not include Kirkuk) should be aware that there remains a serious threat from terrorist groups in the region.  You are strongly advised to seek professional security advice and make arrangements for your security throughout your visit.

  • The security situation in Iraq remains highly dangerous with a continuing high threat of terrorism and violence targeting foreign nationals, including individuals of non-western appearance.

  • The threat of kidnap of foreign nationals across Iraq remains high.  There have been many kidnappings, some of which have resulted in the murder of hostages.

  • You should consider whether your presence in Iraq is essential.  If it is you should review your security arrangements carefully and seek professional security advice on their adequacy.  You should register your presence with the British Embassy in Baghdad.

  • Curfews exist in many areas of Iraq and may be lengthened at short notice.  You should follow all curfew times and avoid large gatherings.

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) near Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq have resulted in a small number of human fatalities.  As a precaution, you should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.  For further information see the Health section below and also read:  Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Iraq is for deaths, repatriation of bodies and hospitalisations.  The British Embassy in Baghdad is able to offer only limited consular assistance.  The British Consulates in Basra and Kirkuk do not currently offer consular services.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for medical assistance and repatriation.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism/Security
We strongly advise against all travel to Baghdad and the surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil, Ninawa,and At- Tamim (At -Tamim is often referred to as "Kirkuk Province").  We advise against all but essential travel tothe provinces of Al Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Najaf, Karbala, and Dhi Qar.
Terrorists and insurgents conduct frequent and widespread lethal attacks on a wide range of targets in Iraq, including against military, political and civilian targets.
If you consider your presence in Iraq is essential you should have adequate and continuous professional close security arrangements and ensure they are regularly reviewed.
Kidnap
There is a high threat of kidnapping across Iraq, including in the cities of Baghdad, Basra, Fallujah, Al Ramadi, the towns of Najaf and Kufa and on the Baghdad-Amman highway.  Individuals have been kidnapped at their residence, work and in transit.  Kidnappers do not discriminate on the basis of nationality, religion, gender or age. Since April 2006, several hundred people have been kidnapped.  Those kidnapped include individuals who had security arrangements in place and some of those kidnapped have been killed.
Targets
Terrorists, insurgents and criminals target British and other international interests, as well as Iraqi Government and other related political facilities and security facilities.  Indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets also occur.
The security threat is directed against both military and civilian targets including commercial, aviation, maritime and infrastructure targets.  British and Western flagged organisations, non-governmental organisations and contractors working – or perceived to be working - in support of them (particularly those who live and work outside of military protected bases or the International Zone in Baghdad) are at high risk of attack.  There have been attacks on international/Western-flagged organisations and individuals, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN, Non–Government Organisations, journalists, foreign contractors and visitors to Iraq.
Targets have included places such as hotels, restaurants where westerners congregate and civilian vehicles and aircraft.  Attacks have also occurred within Baghdad's International (or Green) Zone.  Terrorists and insurgents continue to attack mosques, churches, army recruiting centres, public transport, police stations, government buildings, party political offices, and polling stations.  You should avoid large gatherings and exercise extreme vigilance, especially on Fridays after weekly prayers.
Methods of attack include shootings, bombings, suicide bombs, car bombs, rockets and mortars.
Ceremonies to mark Islamic and Christian festivals have been targeted, including nearchurches or areas of Baghdad, Mosul or Erbil with large Christian communities.  Rocket and mortar attacks also occur regularly throughout areas of Baghdad (including the International Zone) and Basra.
We are aware that terrorists target civil aviation.  On 11 March 2006, explosives were found near a Royal Jordanian Airways plane at Baghdad International Airport.  Civilian and military aircraft arriving in, and departing from, Baghdad International Airport, and flying to other major cities in Iraq, have been subjected to attack by small arms and missiles. We also have increasing concerns over the decreasing standard of security on the civilian side of Baghdad International Airport.
Northern Iraq
Outside the Kurdistan Regional Government area, the security situation in northern Iraq remains highly dangerous. Kirkuk and Mosul have recently seen a marked increase in the number of terrorist attacks, including suicide bomb attacks, car bombs, and shootings.  Many innocent bystanders have been killed in these attacks.
Recent incidents include a series of bomb attacks in Kirkuk on 17 September 2006, which killed at least 25 people.  On 15 October 2006, six car bombs killed over 50 people in Kirkuk.  On 16 July 2006, a suicide bomber killed 26 people and injured a further 22 in Tuz Khormato.  In early August 2006, there was a suicide bomb attack in Mosul, which killed a number of people.  A bomb attack in Tall Afar on 24 November 206 killed 22 people.
General Security in the Kurdistan Regional Government area
The general security situation in the Kurdistan Regional Government administered area is relatively benign, compared with the rest of Iraq. There have been fewer attacks in cities in this area.  However, the threat of terrorism and kidnap remains real.
While the Kurdistan Regional Government authorities and the security forces have been fairly effective in countering terrorists in the region, we believe extremist Islamist terrorist groups including Al-Qaida in Iraq, and Ansar al Sunna have planned and carried out several attacks in the past – and continue to do so.  While their operations, including in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, have generally been conducted against Kurdistan Regional Government targets, we believe that at least 23 civilians have been killed in attacks over the last 18 months.
Impact of Insurgency in the Kurdistan Regional Government Area
The impact of insurgency in the Kurdistan Regional Government area is not high, although this is primarily as a result of the extreme security measures in place and the effectiveness of both the Kurdistan Regional Government security services.
Security of Erbil Airport and Aircraft Using Erbil Airport
We believe that terrorist groups have targeted Erbil airport and may do so again in future.
Curfews
The current Iraq countrywide curfew is 23:00 to 06:00, except there is no curfew in the Kurdistan Regional Government -administered areas of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.  In Baghdad the current curfew is 21:00 to 06:00 (although in practice the curfew can start from 20:00). There is no curfew in the International Zone in Baghdad. Curfews must be strictly adhered to.  Given the current security situation, provinces may lengthen curfews at short notice. If you require specific information on the curfew times in the area you are located you should consult your Multi National Division headquarters.  Please ensure you check curfew times before travelling.
Local Travel
Road travel remains highly dangerous.  There has been an increase in fatal roadside bombings in and around Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk and all main supply routes, including fatal random and premeditated attacks on military and civilian vehicles.  There has been a rise in the deployment of false vehicle checkpoints from which violent attacks have been mounted. In addition to the threat from terrorism/kidnapping, there is also a continuing criminal threat from car jacking and robbery.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Local laws reflect the fact that Iraq is a predominantly Muslim country.  You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals must have a visa before travelling to Iraq.  You can apply for a visa at Iraqi missions overseas, including the Iraqi Embassy in London at: Iraqi representation in the UK.  Please see the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:  http://www.iraqmofa.net.
You should ensure that you have the appropriate documentation for entering Iraq. This includes, but is not limited to, a valid visa, in-date Weapon Authority Cards (WAC) (if carrying weapons), registration documentation from the Ministry of the Interior and/or military ID if using military routes.  The Department of Border Enforcement (DBE) have recently made a number of arrests, including British nationals, who have failed to provide the appropriate documentation when requested. For more details on what documentation you need you should see the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:  http://www.iraqmofa.net or contact the Iraqi Embassy in London.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance for your proposed trip prior to travel.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy has provisions for medical evacuation.   Please see Travel Insurance.  Limited medical facilities are available.  In the event of serious accident or illness, an evacuation by air ambulance may be required.
More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets.  However malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Iraq.
The temperature in summer months can exceed 40 ºC (104ºF) and drop as low as 50ºF (10ºC), which can result in dehydration and serious health problems.   Drink plenty of water.  Weather conditions are arduous.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed two human deaths from the H5N1 Avian Flu (Bird Flu) virus near Sulaimaniyah in the Kurdistan Regional Government administered northern area of Iraq.  Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths from Avian Influenza have occurred in Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, China and Turkey.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  However, as a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

The WHO has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if the virus mutates to a form which is easily transmissible between people.

British nationals living longer term in an Avian Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a further pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.

You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see What We Can Do To Help.
You should only consider visiting areas of Iraq, outside of those to which we advise against all travel, if you have essential commercial or professional reasons to do so.  Any companies with involvement or planned involvement in reconstruction projects in Iraq should contact the Iraq Unit at UK Trade and Investment (tel:  020 7215 8893; e-mail:  iraqunit@uktradeinvest.gov.uk).  Companies and individuals should also ensure that appropriate security arrangements have been made.  Pre-deployment security training for employees is highly recommended.  Organisations with private security teams should notify the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior and apply to them for weapons licences for their armed personnel.  It is also recommended that private security teams ensure that they abide by the operating guidelines laid down by the Private Security Company Association of Iraq:  http://www.pscai.org
The British Embassy reopened in Baghdad on 28 June 2004.  You register your presence with the British Embassy through the Iraq Policy Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK before you leave, or directly with the British Consular Officer in Baghdad at:  BritishConsulBaghdad@gtnet.gov.uk (for a registration form or to register on line go to:  www.britishembassy.gov.uk.  The British Embassy in Baghdad will only be able to offer limited consular assistance for the foreseeable future.  There are no consular facilities in Basra or Kirkuk.
For general enquiries please contact Iraq Policy Unit, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London, SW1A 2AH, telephone 020 7008 1500 or email: iraqtraveladvice@fco.gov.uk


OTHER

Iraq Country Profile

For general enquiries please contact Iraq Policy Unit, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London, SW1A 2AH, telephone 020 7008 1500 or email iraqtraveladvice@fco.gov.uk