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Iraq, Land and Resources

Iraq has an area of 438,317 sq km (169,235 sq mi). It is bounded on the north by Turkey; on the east by Iran; on the south by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf; and on the west by Jordan and Syria.

The northern portion of Iraq, known as Al Jazira, is mountainous. Near the Turkish border elevations reach about 2,100 m (about 7,000 ft) above sea level; in the northeastern part of the country, near the border of Iran, there are higher peaks. The highest is Mount Ebrahim (Kuh-e ?aji Ebrahim or Haji Ibrahim), with an elevation of 3,607 m (11,834 ft) above sea level. Farther south the country slopes downward to form a broad, central alluvial plain, which encompasses the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. West of the Euphrates, the land rises gradually to meet the Syrian Desert. The extreme southeastern portion of Iraq is a low-lying, marshy area adjacent to the Persian Gulf.

Present-day Iraq occupies the greater part of the ancient land of Mesopotamia, the plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The two rivers flow through Iraq from northwest to southeast. They meet 160 km (100 mi) north of the Persian Gulf to form the Shatt al Arab, which drains into the gulf. The chief tributaries of the Tigris are the Great Zab, the Little Zab, and the Diyala rivers. Level terrain separates the Tigris and the Euphrates in their lower courses. In ancient times the two rivers were joined by a network of canals and irrigation ditches, which directed the water of the higher-lying and more westerly Euphrates across the valley into the Tigris. In modern times irrigation canals remain important, and the Iraqi government has built a series of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates for irrigation and for flood control.

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