Mesopotamia . . . Babylon . . . Saddam . . .GulfWar. From the beginnings of Western Civilization to the present day, events in Iraq have been at the center of world change. Iraq lies in the middle of the Middle East and is central to this important region in countless ways. The domestication of many plants and animals first began here. The world’s first urban settlements and civilization originated in Iraq. The hanging gardens of Babylon—one of the original “sevenwonders of the world”—added to the fame of this historic center of Arab and Islamic art, architecture, science, and power. Modern Iraq remains an important Arab heartland, but minority groups—especially the Kurds of northern Iraq—are shaping the character of a newmultiethnic federal Iraq.