This chapter provides a brief historical background and a description of major events in Iraq. It also provides basic political, economic, and social data arranged in the following categories: polity, economy, population, purchasing power parities, life expectancy, ethnic groups, capital, political rights, civil liberties, and status. The chapter discusses the progress and decline of political rights and civil liberties in Iraq. Iraq gained formal independence in 1932, though the British maintained influence over the Hashemite monarchy. Saddam Hussein has skilfully exploited the humanitarian disaster in Iraq to create divisions among UN Security Council members and to rally support for a lifting of sanctions. The government makes little effort to block the signal of Radio Free Iraq, which began broadcasting in 1998. An opposition-run, US-backed satellite channel called Liberty TV was set to begin broadcasting into Iraq from London in early September 2001.