Most of Iraq has a hot arid climate. Summer temperatures average above 40Â°C 104Â°F for most of the country and frequently exceed 48Â°C118Â°F. Winter temperatures infrequently exceed 21Â°C 70Â°F with maximums roughly 15 to 16 Â°C 59 to 61 Â°F and night-time lows occasionally below freezing. Typically precipitation is low, most places receive less than 250mm 10 in annually, with maximum rainfall during the months of November to April. Rainfall during the summer is extremely rare except in the very north of the country.
Iraq is the birthplace of many of the Earth's oldest civilizations, including the Babylonians and the Assyrians. A part of the Ottoman Empire from 1534, the Treaty of SÃ¨vres brought the area under British control in 1918. Iraq gained independence in 1932. On 14 July 1958, the long-time Hashamite monarchy was overthrown in a coup led by Abdul Kassem that paved way to radical political reforms, including the legalisation of political parties such as the Ba'ath and the Communist Party, both key players in the coup also called the 14 July Revolution. Following the Revolution, the Soviet Union gradually became its main arms and commercial supplier.
In February 1963, Kassem was overthrown and killed in a second coup that brought the Ba'ath Party into power. Internal divisions would follow for the next five years, until another coup on 17 July 1968 led by Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr with Communist support stabilised the party. Relations between the Communists and the Ba'athists ranged from mutual cooperation to violent mistrust, culminating in the purge of Communists from the army and the government by 1978, causing a temporary rift with the Soviet Union. On 16 July 1979, Bakr resigned and was succeded by right-hand man Saddam Hussein, who carefully purged his enemies and became a dictator almost overnight.
The next twenty-five years took a grinding toll on the country. A long war with neighboring Iran in the 1980s cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and subsequent Gulf War caused further casualties, followed by civil war inside the country and a decade of international sanctions.
Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a U.S/UK-led coalition of forces, who removed Saddam Hussein from power. As of 2012, no foreign troops remain in Iraq.