As he marshalled the United States for war in February 2003, President George W Bush declared: "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region."
Since then, Iraq has indeed become a dramatic example for the Middle East, but not in the ways that Mr Bush and his administration envisioned. The release of nearly 400,000 secret US military field reports by the WikiLeaks website shed new light on how destructive the American invasion of Iraq had been--to Iraqis and the region as a whole. The documents emphasise how the Iraq conflict has unleashed a new wave of sectarian hatred and upset the Gulf's strategic balance, helping Iran emerge as the dominant regional power.
Today, nearly eight months after the March 7 parliamentary elections, Iraqi leaders still cannot agree on who should lead the country. Both Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and his main rival, Iyad Allawi, the former premier whose coalition won the elections by two seats, insist that they have the right to form the next government.
As Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish communities argue over sharing power and the country's oil wealth, violence is on the rise yet again. Militants loyal to al Qa'eda are seeking to exploit the current political paralysis and to further destabilise Iraq. On Sunday, gunmen besieged a Catholic church in Baghdad, leaving 58 people dead. On Tuesday, a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad killed at least 90 people and injured several hundred.