Iraq Terrain

Iraq can be divided into four major geographical zones or regions: the desert in the west and southwest, the rolling upland between the upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the mountains in north and northeast region, and the alluvial plan through which the Tigris and Euphrates river flow.

The mountainous and upland regions provide the most natural defense. Avenues of approach are limited in these regions, and the Iraqis should be able to defend this region with a small force. The delta plain and southern marsh lands limit avenues of approach to major road networks. This region is less defensible than the mountainous region and the Iraqis should be able to contain an attack. The Syrian Desert is the least defensible and the Iraqis are vulnerable to mobile operations in this region.

The desert region west and southwest of the Euphrates River is part of the Syrian Desert. Covering sections of Syria and Jordan, this desert is sparsely inhibited and consists of vast stony plains intersected with sandy subregions.

The upland region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is part of a larger area that extends westward into Syria and Turkey. Water flows in deeply cut wadis (valleys) hampering irrigation efforts. This region is predominantly desert.

The mountainous region begins southwest of Mosul and Kirkuk, extending to Turkey and Iran. Mountains range from 1,000 to ,000 meters near the Iranian and Turkish borders. With the exception of a few valleys this region is suitable only for grazing. At lower elevations in the steppes and foothills, adequate rainfall make cultivation possible.

The alluvial plain region begins north of Baghdad and extends to the Persian Gulf. Described as a delta plain interlaced with irrigation canals and intermittent lakes, for years this region was subject to flooding by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. From the late 1960s to the mid70s, government efforts were increasingly devoted to flood control. In southern Iraq, an area (15,600 square kilometers) from Al Qurnah and extending east of the Tigris beyond the Iranian border is predominantly marsh land.

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