People have often asked whether Iraq is better or worse off after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Many would have said the latter when the insurgency started immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and then the country fell into civil war from 2005-2008. To complicate the matter, Saddam led Iraq down the path of a series of horrible foreign policy decisions, which devastated the economy. In the 1970s, Iraq was a fast growing nation where services and income were quickly rising. Then in 1980, Saddam invaded Iran, which diverted the country’s wealth to the war effort. Afterward it was left with a huge debt, and lots of war damage, but rather then rebuild, the regime decided to re-arm. Those two issues led to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 1991 Gulf War, and then more than a decade of international sanctions. During that time living standards plummeted. That meant that Iraq went through nearly thirty years of economic decline even before the 2003 invasion. Now that major fighting is over, and Iraqis are going back to their normal lives it seems like as good a time as any to compare how the country is doing.

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