In the years since the U.S. invaded in March 2003, Iraq has seen two occupations — one by U.S. forces following the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and another by Islamic State militants after American forces withdrew. Now, after fifteen years of instability and war, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to forge a lasting peace.
That could be almost as tough as fighting the jihadists. Rampant corruption, high unemployment, deep divisions between Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds are just three problems the country needs to overcome, in order to piece together a lasting democracy.
To see how al-Abadi plans to do that, TIME sat down with him in his office, inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, in the palace where Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq until the U.S. invasion in March, 2003. During the discussion, Abadi spoke about the “epidemic” of corruption in his country, what it will take to keep ISIS from regrouping, as well as regional issues such as the war in Syria and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.