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  • Guys, let's be honest - when I say 'Iraq', all you think of is:

  • *kaboom*

  • *le jet*

  • *'splosions*

  • *'nother jet*

  • *moar 'splosions*

  • But it's also:

  • *Iraqi music*

  • So, where do we go from there? Let's find out.

  • *le intro tune*

  • It's time to learn Geography (NOW)! ♪

  • Hey everybody, I'm your host Barby.

  • We live in a generation that has almost never known a time

  • in which Iraq wasn't synonymous with war.

  • The funny thing is, it was like 'the Dubai of the '60s' -

  • tourists were flocking in, people had mansions, it was crazy.

  • So what happened?

  • Well first we have to explain where Iraq is.

  • Moving on -

  • *transitions*

  • One thing that makes in Iraq such a pivotal player in geopolitical strife

  • is its incredibly blessed yet cursed location. Let's explain:

  • Iraq is located in the Middle East, bordered by six other countries,

  • and don't forget they have a

  • *very very*

  • small narrow coast on the Persian Gulf

  • with their southernmost port, Um-Qasr on the Khawe az-Zubayr Waterway

  • (which by the way, they used to have an airport

  • but it literally got spliced in half by the Kuwaiti border).

  • This one guy: Uh, you said 'Persian Gulf'...isn't it 'Arabian Gulf'?

  • Barby: Didn't we literally just go over this in the last episode?

  • Okay I'm sorry, I'm sticking with history, and history says 'Persian'.

  • The country is divided into 19 governates or provinces

  • with the capital, Baghdad, the second largest city in the Arab world after Cairo

  • located in the heart of the historic Tigris River Valley

  • and with nearly 50,000 people per square kilometer,

  • the city makes the most dense country subdivision in the world.

  • After the obvious Baghdad, the next largest cities in the country are

  • Basra in the south

  • and Hillah in the fertile Euphrates region

  • and the largest airports are Baghdad, Basra and Erbil International.

  • And yes, you can still fly to Iraq and visit,

  • it's not like the whole country is completely closed off

  • They keep moving forward despite the war-

  • Guy again: Wait, really?

  • Barby: Yep! Although it's highly advised that you stay in the large cities

  • and don't make a spectacle of yourself, be respectful to the people

  • and you'll be fine, just like anywhere else-

  • Guy: But...there's terrorists...

  • Barby: We'll discuss that in a bit.

  • Now keep in mind these borders were pretty much a product of post-UK colonialism

  • from when Winston Churchill kind of helped establish what the Iraqis like to call an 'artificial monarchy'-

  • -we'll talk more about that later, too.

  • Guy: *rages* You keep making me wait for stuff!

  • Barby: I- I- I know! Ju- j- just just hold on.

  • Here's where things get a little confusing.

  • Taking the governates out of the picture,

  • there's kind of, technically, another way you could split up the regions of Iraq

  • based off of prevalent people groups.

  • After war times, ethno-linguistic and religious people groups started to kind of segregate themselves

  • into three distinct areas: The south, which is where the majority of the Shias live,

  • the middle, which is where most of the minority Sunnis live

  • and the north where most of the Kurds live amongst other groups

  • like Assyrians, Yazedis, Lurs and so on.

  • Now here's a strange part - these three governates in the north: Erbil, Dahūk and Sulaymānīyah

  • make up the region of Iraqi Kurdistan,

  • which is an incredibly autonomous zone from the rest of the country, where the majority of Kurds live.

  • They have their own government, prime minister and 'quasi-army',

  • which means the Iraqi army has no access to this area.

  • If you don't know anything about the Kurds,

  • basically they are one of the largest minority groups in the Middle East.

  • We'll talk about that another time, let's move on.

  • Now let's just get it over with and cover what you're all thinking.

  • Yes, there are some parts of Iraq that are kind of like no-go zones,

  • specifically in the west and central areas.

  • As of 2017, numerous international travel boards have advised 'strongly against travel' in the Red Zone,

  • which is located more or less over here

  • for most of the conflict between ISIS-

  • (there you go!)

  • -and various other groups are found.

  • Keep in mind this information is applicable to the time this video was uploaded

  • so I don't know what the future holds or if this video would be outdated soon...?

  • It looks like tension and conflict are dying down but for now we can't be completely sure.

  • Otherwise, some top notable sites in Iraq might include places like

  • Eridu and Uruk, two of the oldest cities in the world,

  • Ur, the home of Abraham and the Sumerian Ziggurat,

  • The Al Shaheed monument,

  • the Tree of Knowledge,

  • the Mudhif houses of the Marsh Arabs,

  • the ruins of former Babylon in Hillah,

  • Alexander the Great's tomb,

  • Ctesiphon, the ancient capital of Persia,

  • Lalesh, which is like the holiest site to the Yazidis,

  • Ninevah, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire,

  • the Al-Najaf cemeteries, the largest in the world,

  • Baghdad zoo-

  • (yes, they have a zoo)

  • -the victory arches of Qadis-yiah,

  • the shopping districts of Al Mansour and Al Karradda,

  • the tomb of the Unknown Soldier,

  • the Abbasid Mosque of Samarra,

  • the Iraqi National Museum

  • and if you can get access, you can see a 605-page Quran written entirely out of the blood of Saddam Hussein.

  • (yeah, that was an interesting time in their history)

  • It's a sad truth, but the fact is, Iraq is probably the most beautifully historic region on the planet

  • with the worst of circumstances.

  • Baghdad was the epicenter of science and mathematics for a period of time -

  • -they were rich, they were glorious, they were on fire!

  • but the the 20th century came along and hit them like a sack of bricks

  • and a lot of it had to do with what Iraq had hidden underneath its sand

  • which brings us to-

  • *transitions*

  • Now when you look at a satellite image of Iraq,

  • you'll notice that a lot of it is beige and sandy-colored

  • but then you get this big cluster of green and blue -

  • this whole area is like the lifeblood of Iraq.

  • You might have heard of Mesopotamia or the Fertile Crescent, right?

  • Yup, that's Iraq.

  • The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are the most important resources to the entire country,

  • converging into the Shatt Al-Arab River in the south, that eventually dumps into the Persian Gulf.

  • About 75% of the entire country lives in between these two rivers.

  • Composition-wise, Iraq is made up of four main geographical regions:

  • the dry deserts in the west and southwest,

  • the Fertile alluvial plains by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers,

  • the uplands to the North

  • and the highlands and the mountains in the far north and northeast.

  • The highest point in the country at 3,600 metres doesn't have an official name

  • But it's known locally as Cheekah Dar, which means 'black tent'.

  • Now Iraq's climate is pretty dry as they only get about

  • 9.5 inches or 24 centimeters of rain every year.

  • However, the mountains can get lots of snow which melts rapidly and in the past

  • has caused a lot of flood problems.

  • So what did they do?

  • They've built a ton of dams which in return created a ton of

  • artificial lakes and reservoirs, the largest one being the Tharthar.

  • They got lucky with Tharthar because over time it developed an actual biosphere

  • containing animals, plants and fish whereas most of the other lakes weren't so lucky

  • because you know, when you try to make a lake in a desert...

  • ...yeah, you're gonna get a lot of salt and silt that nothing can live off of.

  • Otherwise Lake Habbaniyah has a strange blood-red coast, mostly made up of algae.

  • ANNIE WHEY!

  • Due to the Mediterranean wind fronts that constantly push from the west

  • Iraq is subject to the 'shamal' or the 'northwest wind'

  • which creates some of the worst sand and dust storms imaginable.

  • If you survive, drink some water and brag on social media.

  • Otherwise, the fertile valleys do allow them to grow and provide their populace

  • with some of the typical middle Eastern crops like rice and lentils and dates and so on.

  • Some national dishes include things like

  • Baghdadi dolma,

  • Moslawi kubbah,

  • Bacha,

  • Masgoof,

  • Iraqi sambosas

  • and klecha.

  • Nonetheless, almost 100% of Iraq's entire export sector is made up of oil and petroleum

  • Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the middle East after Saudi Arabia and Iran.

  • You would think this would make them incredibly rich and at one point it kind of did.

  • However, over time, things kinda changed

  • and in order to understand that, you kinda have to know some history

  • which brings us to the most controversial part of this entire episode...

  • *transition*

  • At this point, Iraqis have heard it all:

  • War,

  • Saddam,

  • Al-Qaeda,

  • ISIS,

  • they get it, and we will get to that.

  • I'm not going to sugarcoat this episode and avoid the drama,

  • but I also want you to learn that Iraq has a completely unnoticed vibrant culture and heritage

  • that still thrives despite all the chaos.

  • First of all,

  • Iraq has a population of about 38 million and is home to the oldest recorded civilizations on Earth.

  • About 75% of the country is made up of Arabs, about 15% are Kurds

  • and the remainder is made up of numerous smaller people groups like

  • Assyrians,

  • Turkmenis

  • and Yazidis and Shabaks.

  • They also use the Iraqi Dinar as their currency.

  • They use the Type-C, D, G plug outlets

  • and they drive on the right side of the road.

  • The interesting thing about Iraq is that outside of Iran it is one of the only few countries

  • that has a Shia majority population at about 65%.

  • Sunnis make up only about a quarter of the population and the rest are

  • mostly Christians and Yazidis.

  • In fact, two of the holiest sites in Shia Islam apart from Mecca and Medina

  • can be found in the city of Karbala.

  • The Imam Ali Mosque, believed to be the burial site of the Shia prophet, Ali

  • and the Imam Husayn Shrine, where the grandson martyr of Muhammad is buried.

  • Nonetheless, Iraq is deeply rooted in a historical foundation that pretty much topples most other countries.

  • They developed the first writing system that we know of-

  • - the wedgy Cuneiform script on clay tablets -

  • - after them, in the quickest way I can put it, the rest of the history kinda goes like this:

  • Akkadians, and then

  • oh hey

  • Abraham, the father of all Abrahamic religions comes out of the city of Ur,

  • Assyrians,

  • Canaanites

  • Babylonians,

  • Hammurabi,

  • Hittites,

  • Neo-Assyrian Empire,

  • Neo-Babylonian Empire,

  • King Nebuchadnezzar II,

  • Persians come in,

  • Cyrus the Great crushes them,

  • then Alexander the great crushes Persia,

  • Parthians take a quick shot,

  • but then quickly are crushed by the Romans,

  • Christianity comes in, mostly to the Assyrians,

  • Middle Ages,

  • Muslims come in and dominate by conquest,

  • Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates,

  • the Islamic Golden Age begins,

  • the Mongols come in and slaughter a ton of people,

  • Black Death spreads,

  • the Ottomans come in,

  • then the Brits come in during WW1,

  • they concoct an Iraqi monarchy,

  • then there was a war,

  • a coup,

  • July Revolution by the Baathist Party,

  • more coup d'états,

  • Saddam Hussein comes into power in 1979,

  • backed up by the US and Russia, he fights against Iran after the Islamic Revolution

  • He then attacked his own people and then tries to invade and attack Kuwait,

  • the US cuts ties and attack Saddam after the war sanctions were put on them,

  • then in 2003, the US and allies come in under the pretext

  • of weapons of mass destruction programs violation under UN Resolution 687-

  • -turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction, but they take out Saddam anyway

  • Then the weird years happen in which they're kind of like:

  • 'yay let's take down the statue of Saddam and celebrate, but

  • ohh crap

  • the Americans are intervening',

  • eventually the US withdraws in 2011 under Obama

  • but then an Al-Qaeda affiliate breaks off and creates a new group

  • that pretty much hates everyone called ISIL (later ISIS)

  • they attack in occupy various cities across the two countries,

  • they get pretty big in 2015 and 16, but soon later

  • they realize they have literally no diplomatic ties or outside relations

  • which are kind of key in conflict,