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.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group responsible for many of the deadliest attacks in the Iraq war, claimed responsibility for last week's bombings in Baghdad that killed 69.
The death toll in a string of attacks in Baghdad, mostly against government and Shiite targets, is up to 68. The attacks follow days of political threats against Sunni politicians by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
A trawl through US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks this year shows growing alarm over Iraq's political divides.
Deadly Baghdad bombings today, which followed an arrest warrant for a top Sunni official, comes just days after the final US troops left the country.
Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has wasted little time since the US departure, with politically motivated terrorism charges against his Sunni vice president and moves to oust other opponents from the government.
The scars of Iraq's painful bloodletting are deep, and a powerful disincentive against a return to open warfare. But Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is moving against Sunni Arabs, his political enemies.
Iraqi elections March 7 will be another major test of the country's democratic experiment.
Iraq elections can now go forward after Kurds and Sunnis agreed to a new, amended law. Obama's 11th-hour call Sunday night was part of a crucial US role in sealing the deal.