Terrible historical irony here, of course. The irrigated floodplain of Iraq was the original cradle of cities and civilization, as well as one of the two great bread-baskets (along with the Nile) of the ancient Middle Eastern world, and well into the 12th century.
Update: a related report from Iraq Oil Report :
Al-Tal district, located 24 km south-west of Mosul, has witnessed a devastating transformation. Sixty out of 150 villages have been abandoned because of drought, the encroaching desert and insufferable sand storms.