Iraq is located in the Middle East. To the north lie Turkey and Iran, which continues along Iraq's entire eastern border. To the southeast, a narrow section of Iraq joins the Persian Gulf. Also southward are Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, while Jordan and Syria lie to the west. Iraq can be divided into three geographical areas: a mountainous region in the far north and northeast; a wide, central and southern plain; and a desert region in the west and southwest.

The Zagros Mountains run from Iran through northwestern and northern Iraq. This rugged range has many peaks over 3,350 metres. Haji Ibrahim (3,904 metres) is the highest peak in Iraq. Although many of the mountains' original oak forests are gone, the Zagros still support maple, hawthorn and pistachio trees, as well as hardy alpine plants. This region also contains some of Iraq's largest oil reserves.

The mountains descend to a central plain. From Turkey and Syria, the great Tigres and Euphrates rivers enter northern and western Iraq and flowing in a diagonal route south to the Persian Gulf. The rivers create a central basin that contains most of the country's arable land. The most northern section of the central plain is a highland area of rolling grasslands, valleys and dry areas elevated up to 304 metres. The plain's southern section is flatter and wetter, home to numerous lakes. Baghdad and other cities are located here. Further southeast is a marshy land full of reeds, saltbush, buttercups and rushes. Near the Gulf, the Tigres and Euphrates meet to form the Shatt-al Arab, a channel that connects the port city of Basara with the coast.

Western and southwestern Iraq contain the Anabar and Al Hajara deserts. These flat, rocky regions support reptiles and sparse vegetation, including rockrose, storksbill and catchfly. Seasonal rains bring new growth and can flood wadis (dry riverbeds). In the far south is a region known as the Neutral Zone, established between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in 1975 to help the nomadic Bedouin people move more easily between these countries.

Although intense human settlement has limited wildlife habitat in Iraq, hyenas, gazelles, wildcats and boars live in some areas. The country also has many game birds and birds of prey, such as partridges, geese, ducks, vultures and buzzards.

Iraqi weather varies between extreme heat and extreme cold. Summers are very hot; some of the world's hottest temperatures have been recorded in the humid marshes near the Persian Gulf. Winters are cold, especially in the mountains and desert, where nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

  Did you know?
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, were built in Iraq by King Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC) for his wife, Amytis, to dispel her homesickness for mountainous northern Persia (Iran).

  Did you know?
Iraq has two important winds. The eastern Sharki wind is hot and humid, while the northern Shamal wind brings welcome cooler air during summer weather.