It's almost July now, and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will present their report about the situation in Iraq, military and political, at some point in September.
I don't know what parameters the two men are going to list statistics for in their report but I expect it to show the results of fighting al-Qaeda and other armed groups in numbers, the progress in building the ISF in numbers, also in numbers and of course the report would include the progress, if any, that our political leaders will have made by the time.
I think what matters more than the way of presentation would be how the data in the report is going to be read and afterwards interpreted into attitudes and actions.
One thing I hope the decision-makers and the media do when they read the report is to not isolate the war in Iraq from the war on terror and al-Qaeda as a whole, and at the same time put in mind the difference between war and nation-building. The latter takes much more time than winning a military conflict but requires different tools.
The results so far have been astounding, and please allow me to say that I'm proud of the change in attitude many of my fellow Iraqis are showing. Even if numbers don't suggest so because the change is happening but it will take time-perhaps beyond September-before this change will show in numbers.
A nation is not a corporation and when we deal with a nation we are dealing with a society; a mass of people with ever changing hearts and minds and that's why numbers alone can't be enough to assess the situation—thoughtful insight and looking at the bigger image are also required.
For over a year the media and many officials were spooking us with the exaggerated ghost of civil war. I wonder what they have to say now! I think their silence is more telling than anything they would've said.
Iraqis are awakening, one very telling example can be seen in the ongoing operation in Diyala; members of the 1920 revolution brigades, once bitter enemies of the US military and Iraqi government are now assisting US and Iraqi military in fighting al-Qaeda even though the majority of the Iraqi soldiers and officers are Shia.
If the change in exclusively Sunni Anbar is good then the change in Diyala is good beyond words.
Another great example that I have personally been in touch with is taking place in a place outside Baghdad. Maybe you remember the story I told you about the area where members of our tribe live. For months unfortunate bloodletting was going on between the tribes, militias and al-Qaeda terrorists in which most of the victims were no more than innocent farmers.
Last week I learned from relatives that two groups of tribes have separately formed two "battalions" of several hundred young tribesmen each; not to fight the other sect or the US or Iraqi forces but to fight al-Qaeda. Even better this step has been taken in cooperation with the authorities in the region and the arrangement will ultimately lead to turning many of those tribal fighters into legitimate law enforcement personnel.
Despite such examples of many promising changes, we have to remain realistic and not overlook the rest of challenges. Uniting against al-Qaeda and even defeating it is not enough to solve all of Iraq's problems and the greater challenge of nation-building still lies ahead.
However, I expect and hope the world to show some gratitude to the Iraqis and Americans who fought, suffered, bled and died ridding the world of thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists, each one of whom could have been capable of murdering as many innocent people as their fellow terrorists did in New York, London or the many cities across the world that paid a high price simply because they don't approve of the ways of those extremists.
The internal struggle for power in Iraq will not end by pacifying al-Qaeda or the militias. It will continue in different forms until we have the correct legislations and institutions that can prevent bloodshed by facilitating peaceful sharing of power and treasure in a way that every individual or group get what they deserve, no more and no less. It goes without saying that these legislations and institutions will need an impartial, competent force to be able to function efficiently.
The impact of successful military operations, aside from people's direct safety, will not be visible immediately when it comes to the aspects of daily life in areas like economy, social life, education, etc. and here comes the role of true political reforms at all levels, from holding local elections to choose new and representative district and city councils to amending the general elections law to allow voters to choose their representatives directly instead of the current slate system. It might be also a good idea to adjust the federalism law to allow turning each province into an individual region within the federal state to avoid the sensitivities that could arise from forming regions on sectarian and/or ethnic basis.
Right there is where we will still need help from the world; not with more soldiers and tanks but with good will, compassion and thoughtful advice and guidance.