This statement from Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a Shiite legislator and former national security adviser, seems promising:
He said a two-week old counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad known Operation Lightning was a success and expressed confidence that the government would have full control of the country within six months.Probably that's optimistic, but one does gets the feeling the people of Iraq are now firmly on the government's side, and that momentum also seems to be swinging their way with the successes of Operations Lightning and Thunder, especially in the perception of Iraqi forces among Iraqis. Every day more Iraqi troops and police are trained, meaning the insurgents get weaker in a relative sense as well as by losing the hundreds that have been arrested. The fact ordinary Iraqis are sending in tips to the gov’t right and left hurts them as well; it appears to be getting harder and harder for insurgents to feel safe anywhere.
I'd say there's a good chance American troop support will fall below 100,000 in 2006, and might begin to be limited to air support sometime in 2007. There are obvious advantages, both symbolic and real, to having Iraqis doing all the ground work. Sunni participation in the upcoming Iraqi constitutional referendum will be a good measure of the insurgency's health (or, hopefully, lack thereof), not to mention another watershed moment in Mideast history. If they boycott the referendum, that’s probably a bad sign. If they turn out heavily against it to the point it is defeated, then at least they’re participating, and while the MSM with its asymmetrical skepticism will doubtless say this proves the whole Iraqi democracratic effort is doomed, I think the Iraqis will simply go back and write another, and take another vote. If the Sunnis turn out in reasonable numbers and support a new constitution, even by a slim margin, then the writing is really on the wall for the insurgency.
I wonder how ordinary Saudis and Iranians and Egyptians and Syrians will react to the spectacle of Iraqis voting on a constitution that enshrines rights to free press, free speech, political assembly, and human dignity? I have a feeling many of them will be asking "Why not us? Don't we deserve those rights too?" I think sooner or later people everwhere realize that democracy and freedom are the right of every human being, and once this realization is made they inevitably demand what's theirs.