In the spring of 2003, the United States and its allies invaded Iraq to
remove one of the world's most brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein, from
power. But when the Hussein regime fell, Iraqis wondered whether their
country would hold together, or if it would disintegrate under the force of
long-standing ethnic and religious rivalries. The international community
also watched closely. With the world's second-largest proven oil reserves,
Iraq holds great economic importance for an energy-hungry globe. As one
of the largest Arab states, Iraq is politically important in the Middle East
region as well.Some American policymakers believed that with Saddam gone, Iraq could
become an example of democracy and progress for the other Arab states.
However, a period of sectarian violence prevented that from occurring. Despite
the conflict, Iraqis took steps toward developing a parliamentary democracy,
approving a constitution in October 2005 and holding several subsequent
elections for government officials. In addition, new military strategies have significantly
reduced the level of violence. While the future remains uncertain,
Iraqis hope their country is on a path to peace and promise.
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