The U.S. military has said that the most serious fighting in Iraq is over. Meetings are being held to decide who will run Iraq now that Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president since 1979, has been removed from power. But does that mean the war is over and the job of the United States in Iraq is done? Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung answers some questions about what's next for Iraq.
Is the war over?
In the sense that Hussein's government doesn't exist because his senior leaders are gone, the war is over. But armed Iraqis are still shooting at U.S. soldiers. U.S. troops have started working to rebuild Iraq.
What happened to Hussein?
Nobody knows. There is a good chance that he was killed because twice the United States bombed places where we were told he was. But he hasn't been found, so it's not certain what happened to him. His government, however, is gone.
Who is in charge of Iraq now?
Although American troops are in charge, there really isn't a government right now. The United States has a plan to reopen government offices and get the country running again. They hope Iraqis will help them. But there are problems. First, there is still a lot violence in the streets. Until that has stopped, it's hard to get things running again. Second, a lot of the Iraqis who were in charge of such things as schools, trains, and electric and water plants worked for Hussein. The U.S. troops need to know if they are loyal to him before letting them work again.
Also, many Iraqis don't want the United States to run their country. Even if they didn't like the Hussein government, they feel embarrassed that the United States came into their country. They want to run their own country.
What is life like for Iraqi citizens now?
It's hard. There is no electricity and no water in many of the cities. Many of the buildings were destroyed by bombs, so people can't go back to their old jobs. Hospitals were looted so there isn't much medicine.
The United Nations had been giving out food for the last six or seven years, so most Iraqis had enough to eat. During the war, food couldn't be given out in the usual ways. While the bombing was going on, people couldn't open stores or bring food in from the countryside. Lots of food assistance is waiting outside the country, but until the shooting stops, the aid workers can't come in.
Why have the Iraqi people been taking things from hospitals, palaces and stores?
That's called looting. It happens when there is a big upheaval and no one is in charge. It has happened in the United States. The Iraqi people felt a lot of anger at the Hussein government because it had spent so much money on itself, building fancy palaces and buying fancy cars, instead of spending money on the people of Iraq. When there isn't a police force to enforce laws, people sometimes see it as a vacation from the rules. And people lose their sense of right and wrong.
Before the war, President Bush said one of the reasons to go to war was to get rid of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction." Have we found them and gotten rid of them?
Not yet. The Bush administration says they know the weapons are there but that Iraq was so good at hiding them that it may take a long time to find them. Many countries that were against the war thought that Iraq had fewer of these weapons than the United States said and will be watching carefully to see how many are found.
How long will U.S. troops stay in Iraq?
It may be many months before most of the violence ends. Bush would like other countries to send in troops to help set up police forces and an army in Iraq. Some people say it could be as long as five years before there are no U.S. troops in Iraq. Other people say about six months to a year.
The problem of having a peaceful, democratic government in Iraq is a big one. And in many ways, the United States is responsible for trying to make that happen.
Some troops are coming home, such as members of the Navy and some pilots and support troops. But others are being sent to take their place.
Why have U.S. officials been talking about Syria?
Syria has a very long border with Iraq. Bush thinks that some important officials of the Iraqi government may have escaped to Syria.