Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq, Baghdad is confronting multiple pressing challenges, and difficult questions remain. Iraq’s economic and political potential remains enormous but unrealized, as daunting obstacles constrain its options and chances for success. These hurdles range from political and governmental to economic and budgetary, and from cultural and religious to technological and environmental. Iraq also faces the same post-coronavirus pandemic triple threat the rest of the world faces – high inflation, unemployment, and service disruptions. The new government of Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, with limited political capital, is struggling to strengthen relations with key partners, including the United States, combat corruption, diversify the economy, and cope with high poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity.
At this juncture, it is worth asking again, why did the United States invade? What mistakes did the United States and Iraq make, and what did they get right? Why have sectarianism, terrorism, and violent coercion characterized much of post-2003 Iraq, and what lessons can be gleaned from Iraq’s struggles to manage these issues? What progress has Iraq made in integrating itself back into the region, and what remains to be done on this front? And finally, what are the aspirations of young Iraqis for the future?