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Iraq: The Aftermath360°CONTEXT

A summary of the events that have affected Iraq since 2003.

After nearly nine years, the Iraq war was declared officially over as the last US forces withdrew on December 18. The war began in 2003 under the Bush administration, when the US and its allies invaded Iraq on the basis that Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, possessed weapons of mass destruction. From then, it took less than a month for Iraq's capital city Baghdad to fall. The war was opposed by many worldwide, and soon gained further unpopularity as the claims that Saddam was hiding weapons and was supporting al-Qaeda were uncovered as false, while the number of deaths increased.

Following the invasion and subsequent occupation, Saddam was captured, tried in an Iraqi court and executed; the US lost its honour through the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse; the Iraqi people elected a new government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; and a three-year insurgency ensued. Barack Obama completed the full US withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, following the end of combat missions in 2010. However, the US embassy in Baghdad still has a significant presence in Iraq and boasts 16,000 staff with several thousand private security contractors.

The Bush administration promised that the war and overthrow of Saddam would provide a better, more stabilized life for Iraqis, while President Obama stated at the end of 2011 that the US was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” Yet, Iraq's present condition seems to negate any sense of certainty and hope these claims once held.

Post-war Iraq is a country deeply affected by frequent violence and suicide bombings, a shortage of clean water, where only 43% of citizens in rural areas have access to safe drinking water, and poor electricity supply and sanitation facilities. Iraq’s is a broken economy, facing sectarian strife and a lack of security.

Sectarian strife has arguably caused a large portion of the political corruption Iraqis are now facing. Prime Minister Maliki, in his second term in office, has been accused by rivals of leading Iraq to a civil war. The root of the problem stems from discord between the Shi'a and Sunni sects. On December 19, a day after the last US military forces withdrew, Maliki ordered an arrest warrant for vice president Tariq al-Hashimi on terrorism charges. Two days later, he placed deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq on extended leave. Both Hashimi and Mutlaq are two of the highest-ranking Sunni politicians, as opposed to Maliki, who is a Shi'a.

Mutlaq, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, openly stated discontent and disagreement with Maliki's current state of affairs: "My advice to him [Maliki] is that he should leave his chair because he is the reason behind all that is happening in Iraq because he turned into a real dictator in this country.” Mutlaq also believes that the way Maliki is running the country “will lead to chaos and a civil war.”

Meanwhile, many Iraqis are asking for political and economic reform, which will not happen without compromise on Maliki's behalf. Others are asking for early political elections if the leaders fail to resolve their current dissensions.