updated 8/31/2010 3:54:40 PM ET 2010-08-31T19:54:40

Now that the U.S. has officially ended its combat mission in Iraq, what's next for the war-torn nation? Read a Q&A with NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, who has reported from the Mideast since the war began.

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Video: Engel: Iraq is in a dangerous place

  1. Transcript of: Engel: Iraq is in a dangerous place

    ANN CURRY, co-host: NBC 's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has covered this war in Iraq since it began and also as it ended. Richard , good morning.

    RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Good morning.

    CURRY: So keying off what Mr. Gibbs just said, what kind of Iraq are we leaving its people to write its -- their future with?

    ENGEL: Well, right now I think Iraq 's in a very, very dangerous place. It's very possible they will have another round of civil war . In the end of his comments right there, you -- he was talking about this political accord between Sunnis , Shiites and Kurds that helped to bring some security gains. That accord is falling apart right now.

    CURRY: So how fragile, scale one to 10, 10 being worst?

    ENGEL: Nine.

    CURRY: Nine. Very strong...

    ENGEL: Yeah. I think it's very, very fragile. I think if they don't get a government in the next couple of months, the -- all of the gains from the surge could be wiped out.

    CURRY: Anything positive come from this war?

    ENGEL: Come from this war? Saddam Hussein is gone, and anyone -- any Iraqi will tell you that. Saddam really was that bad.

    CURRY: Hm.

    ENGEL: And every Iraqi suffered in that. And -- but if you ask Iraqis, 'Well, what's happened since then?' and they will complain that the political structure that was created in their country by the United States has failed to deliver on its promises to the people.

    CURRY: Meantime, had the US not invaded Iraq , where would Iraq be today? Where would the geopolitical situation be today?

    ENGEL: If there had been no invasion, Saddam would still be in power. He was probably getting more moderate. He was being welcomed into the -- into -- by a lot of European countries . He was being welcomed into Eastern Europe in particular. He was heading in a direction of accommodation. The sanctions regime that was holding him in place was starting to fail. So I think he would -- it would be somewhat of a basket case, but it would -- it would be -- Iran would be a lot more contained.

    CURRY: Hm.

    ENGEL: So it would be a dictatorship that was trying to break out of its box, but Iran would not be as dangerous it is -- as it is today.

    CURRY: And had the United States not invaded Iraq , would we be done in Afghanistan ?

    ENGEL: Probably. That was a giant distraction of resources, of intelligence assets. That war would probably be over.

    CURRY: Richard Engel with perspective that's very valuable on this war and many other stories. Thank you so much this morning. It is now 7:14. Once again, here's Matt.

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