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What Is the Difference between Iran and Iraq?

Major Distinctions between the Southwest Asian Rivals


Iran and Iraq share a 900-mile border and three-quarters of their names, yet the two countries have very different histories and cultures.

Many people in the western world, unfortunately, tend to get the two nations confused. (This confusion can be insulting to Iranians and Iraqis, who have fought a number of wars against one another over the millennia.)

With that in mind, here is a quick chart to help you remember: Is it Iran, or Iraq?

Iran vs. Iraq

Country's Name Iran Iraq
Name Translation "Land of the Aryans" "City" - from Uruk (Erech)
Pronunciation "ih-RON" (not "AY-ran") "ih-ROCK" (not "AY-rack")
Also Known As Persia Mesopotamia
Capital City Tehran Baghdad
Ethnicity Predominantly Persian Predominantly Arab
Ancient Empires Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian
Ancient Rulers Cyrus the Great, Xerxes, Darius Nebuchadnezzar, Hammurabi
Religion 90% Shia, 8% Sunni 60% Shia, 37% Sunni
Population 80 million 31 million
Government Islamic Clerical Federal Constitutional
Area 1,648,000 sq km (636,000 sq mi) 437,000 sq km (169,000 sq mi)
Size Ranking 18th in world 58th in world
Invaded by the US in 2003? No Yes
Oil Reserves 136 billion barrels 115 billion barrels
Ski Resorts? Yes No (to my knowledge)
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