From the dawn of Western Civilization to the present day, events in Iraq have been at the center of world change. Iraq lies in the heart 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 were established along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what was then known as Mesopotamia. The hanging gardens of Babylon - one of the original Seven Wonders 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 it is also a troubled land. Religious and ethnic strife threaten the country's stability. Today, as a very fragile democracy is beginning to take root in Iraq, much of the future of the Middle East depends upon this country's success.