The US-led invasion in March 2003 was heralded by many inside and outside Iraq as a new dawn for the country – a chance to build a prosperous, democratic future, free from the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. The reality of the past two decades has been a far cry from this hoped-for ideal.
On paper, Iraq has all the trappings of a functioning democracy, with six elections and subsequent transfers of power since 2005.
In reality, most Iraqis view elections as a mechanism for reinforcing the same corrupt class of political elites who extract billions of dollars each year from state funds, enriching themselves instead of funding essential services like electricity or water, leading to low and declining voter turnout.
When Iraqis have taken to the streets to demand their fundamental rights, they have been met with state-sanctioned violence.
Over the past 20 years, successive governments and their international backers have failed to build a coherent and accountable state. Iraqis continue to face a myriad of challenges, including widespread poverty, poor basic service provision, unemployment and the looming threat of climate change, among others.
This panel, hosted by the Iraq Initiative, brings together Iraqi and international officials and experts to discuss the legacy of the invasion, key decisions made in its aftermath that have led Iraq to where it is today, what could have been done differently, and what the country’s prospects for reform and stability might be over the next 20 years.