The US troop surge in 2007 helped quiet Iraq's bloody civil war. But it failed to deliver on what US officials and officers said was crucial for Iraq's future at the time: sectarian reconciliation. Rather than forging a new national identity out of the horrors of Iraq's war, Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds sullenly retreated to their own sectarian corners, and the country's political parties remain vehicles for ethnic or sectarian interests. The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, as Iraq's various political factions compete for power and influence without foreign troops getting in the way. Here are a few of the major players.
Iraqi Shiite cleric and political powerhouse Muqtada al-Sadr has reversed his promise to quit politics. It now looks like gamesmanship ahead of April parliamentary elections.
In the new Iraq, old sectarian fears remain. Around Baghdad's Green Zone, the fortified seat of government, concrete walls pulled down a year ago are going back up.
In an interview before he was sentenced to death in absentia, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi warned Iraq is on a slippery slope to more violence.
Naseer Mehdawi, Anthony Shadid's closest Iraqi friend and journalism colleague, recalls their friendship and how together they told the story of Iraq.