Understanding the spatial variations in Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) and its influencing climatic variables is essential for sustainable agriculture and water resources management. However, little published research has investigated the alternation of PET due to climate change in the case of Iraq. The objective of the present study was to analyze the spatial trends in annual and seasonal PET in Iraq. Accordingly, the latest global ERA5-Land dataset of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts for 1981‒2021 was employed. The PET was estimated using the FAO-Penman-Monteith method. The modified Mann-Kendall statistical test was applied to evaluate the significance of the trends in PET, which can separate unidirectional trends caused by climate change from the natural variability of climate. The obtained results indicate that: (1) Over the past four decades, the annual and seasonal PET witnessed a significant increasing trend in almost all of Iraq, except over the alluvial plain located in the eastern and southeastern parts. (2) The increasing trend in PET confirmed the patterns of the trend significance, with the highest increase of 0.28‒0.65 mm/decade in southwest Iraq. (3) Summer had the highest increasing trend of 0.35‒0.65 mm/decade, followed by spring, autumn, and winter. (4) The air temperature was the predominant driving factor of rising PET, showing a strong correlation ranging from 0.77 to 0.88 and a contribution of 26 to 94%, mainly in the south, central, and northwest regions. The reverse contribution of wind speed and surface pressure to PET, particularly in the southeast and southwest, remains offset by the influence of air temperature and net solar radiation. Overall, the PET has risen drastically due to global climate change, indicating the potential for increased atmospheric water demand in the region.