In the spring of 2003, the United States and it allies invaded Iraq to remove one of the world's most brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein, from power. But when the Hussein regime fell, Iraqis wondered whether their country would hold together, or if it would disintegrate under the force of long-standing ethnic and religious rivalries. The international community also watched closely. With the world's second-largest proven oil reserves, Iraq holds great economic importance for an energy-hungry globe. As one of the largest Arab states, Iraq is politically important in the Middle East region as well. Some American policymakers believed that with Saddam gone, Iraq could become an example of democracy and progress for the other Arab states. However, a period of sectarian violence prevented that from the occurring. Despite the conflict, Iraqis took steps toward developing a parliamentary democracy, approving a constitution in October 2005 and holding several subsequent elections for government officials. In addition, new military strategies have significantly reduced the level of violence. While the future remains uncertain, Iraqis hope their country is on a path to peace and promise. Discusses the geography, history, economy, government, religion, people, foreign relations, and major cities of Iraq.