As the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein approaches, two conclusions are clear:

First, for all the hardships we have experienced, the people of Iraq and the region are much better off than under the dictator. As the Arab Spring shows, countries emerging from dictatorship always have troubled transitions. But progress is possible when a nation’s destiny is determined by the will of the people, not the whims of a tyrant.

Second, a long-term partnership with the United States is essential for both of our countries. After years of American engagement, we are developing what President Barack Obama has described as “a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

Sometimes we have differences of emphasis, as with Iraq’s concern for an orderly transition in Syria and a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. But Iraq and the U.S. agree far more than we disagree, and, even where we disagree, we know it is possible to find common ground.

Few nations face challenges as daunting as Iraq’s. Under Saddam, Iraq suffered three wars, state terrorism, ethnic and religious conflicts, and international isolation that restricted our energy industry and our entire economy.

Despite these challenges, we have begun to build an inclusive government, with free elections, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society and a free-market economy. Violence is greatly diminished from 2006 and 2007. Our economy is growing again, with our Gross Domestic Product increasing by 9.6 percent in 2011.

We must never forget the service, suffering and sacrifice that made it possible for Iraq to begin to write a new chapter in our history. Untold numbers of Iraqis have been killed or injured. More than 1 million Americans, soldiers and civilians, served in Iraq, with almost 4,500 making the ultimate sacrifice, and more than 33,000 wounded.

Now it is time to stop looking at Iraq as a battlefield and to start thinking of our country as a great nation whose progress promotes regional stability and the growth of global markets. It is time for the international community to strongly condemn terrorist attacks that are targeting Iraqi civilians and press our neighbors to crack down on terrorist groups operating within their borders. We deplore ideologies that legitimize hatred and intolerance and urge other countries to do the same.

Strengthening our partnership with the United States is a cornerstone of Iraqi foreign policy. Indeed, it was my main assignment when I was sent here as ambassador. This partnership begins with security concerns, but it extends to energy, economics, education and offering an example to a troubled region of a successful transition from dictatorship to a multi-ethnic, free-market democracy.

Iraq relies on our own internal security apparatus. But we need to work with the United States to combat terrorism, to equip and train our troops, and to stabilize our turbulent region. With the Iraq-U.S. Strategic Framework Agreement, we are working together to develop a modern military that can defend our country and its borders.

On the energy and economic fronts, the United States and the world community have a stake in our success. As the International Energy Agency recently reported, Iraq is poised to double our current output of oil by the 2030s, emerging as the world’s second largest oil exporter and easing a strained global oil market.

While the energy sector is essential for our livelihood, Iraq is diversifying our economy, encouraging the growth of free markets and welcoming investment from the U.S. and other countries. For all our challenges, Iraq does enjoy advantages including a central location and a young and educated population. As we develop new industries, new businesses and new jobs, Iraqis will find new work, and violent extremists will find fewer recruits.

The United States and the world community will gain greater security as Iraq plays a more prominent role in the Middle East. With our geography and our demography, we are uniquely situated to serve as a bridge between the key powers in our region, including Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and to demonstrate that a diverse society can survive and succeed.

Most Iraqis, whether Shiite or Sunni, believe in a moderate version of Islam. Despite attempts by al-Qaida and other extremist groups, prominent religious leaders are advocating for coexistence, tolerance and moderation.

Yes, we face challenges, from rebuilding our infrastructure to restoring electrical power and drinkable water. But these challenges create opportunities for American companies and entrepreneurs to partner with us and get in on the ground floor of a growing economy.

Together, we can build an Iraq whose free institutions and free markets will be an example to neighboring nations that are also undergoing transformations that are much-needed, long-overdue, and no less challenging.

Jabir Habeb is Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.

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