Key dates in Iraq's progression to democracy since the US-led invasion in March 2003:
March 20: US-led forces bomb and then invade Iraq, where they allege that president Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction.
April 9: US forces move into the heart of Baghdad, where they topple a large statue of Saddam signalling the downfall of the regime.
May 1: US President George W. Bush announces the end of major combat operations, but the violence continues.
September 3: The first post-Saddam cabinet is sworn in.
October 2: US acknowledges that no arms of mass destruction have been found.
October 16: UN Resolution 1511 legitimises the US-led occupation.
December 13: Saddam is captured.
June 28: The US-led administration says it has handed over power to Iraqis.
January 30: Iraqis go to the polls in the first multi-party vote in 50 years despite a spate of deadly attacks, but disenchanted Sunni Arabs largely boycott the vote.
April 6: Jalal Talabani is chosen to be president, the first Kurd to hold the post in Iraq's modern history.
October 15: Iraqis vote in force on a draft constitution.
December 15: The conservative Shiite United Iraqi Alliance wins most seats in parliamentary election for the first permanent post Saddam government.
April 22: Talabani is re-elected president. Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, forms a government in May.
July: The United States hands over to Iraqi security control the first of the country's 18 provinces
October 11: A law establishing federal provinces is passed.
December 30: Saddam is hanged for the execution of 148 Shiites in the 1980s.
January 10: Bush announces the dispatch of 30,000 more American troops in a so-called "surge" strategy.
September 3: British troops leave the southern port of Basra.
September 1: The US military transfers control of the western province of Anbar to Iraqi forces, the first Sunni-majority province to be handed over.
November 27: Parliament ratifies an Iraq-US security agreement which gives American troops a legal basis to stay in Iraq and sets an end-2011 deadline for their departure.
January 1: The US formally hands control of its Green Zone and other key installations to Iraqis.
- 20: Incoming President Barack Obama says the United States will "begin to responsibly leave Iraq."
- 20: Two policemen are killed in an attack on a school which is to be used as a polling station.
- 28: More than 600,000 police, soldiers, hospital patients and prisoners have the opportunity to cast advance ballots. Election monitors say turnout is "huge" and there are no irregularities.
- 29: Gunmen shoot dead three Iraqi election candidates and two campaign workers.