In March 2003 US troops and their allies swept into Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. Five years on, Iraq's political future still remains uncertain and volatile.  

The human cost is staggering: more than half a million Iraqi civilians are reportedly killed; nearly four thousand US soldiers dead; while four million Iraqis are displaced.

The much promised Western-styled democracy which saw Iraqis conducting free elections for the first time, failed to bring peace and stability. Instead, sectarian war between Sunni and Shia has divided parts of the country.

The level of violence which subsided towards the end of last year has risen again in recent weeks, killing not just Iraqi civilians but many American soldiers.

With political in-fighting within the Iraqi government still unabated and sporadic improvement on the security situation, how will this sixth year of US occupation of Iraq be different from the previous years? 

Will the upcoming US elections impact on the continued American military presence in Iraq? How will the thawing of relations between Arab countries and Iran affect the internal politics in Iraq?             

Inside Iraq looks back at some of the important turning points in order to discern what lies ahead for Iraq and its people after five years of occupation.

Our guests this week are:

Dr Najeeb Al-Neaimi, former justice minister of Qatar and Saddam Hussein's former lawyer, Dr Imad Khaddouri, an Iraqi scientist, Dr Saad Eldeen Ibrahim, an Egyptian academic and Mirembe Nantongo, US Embassy spokesperson in Baghdad.

Watch part one of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

Watch part two of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

This episode of Inside Iraq aired on Friday, March 14, 2008

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Source: Al Jazeera