Here's a link to the piece I did for this last Sunday's Register, to mark four years into the Iraq war -- longer, as I noted, than U.S. military involvement in World War II. After talking to Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Paul Salem from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a few others, I concluded that the United States is likely to have an influence, and perhaps a small one at best, on the near-future of Iraq. Cordesman put the chances of the "surge" succeeding -- at leading to a modicum of stability, not establishing a secular democratic state that could be a model for other Middle Eastern countries -- at less than 50 percent.
Paul Salem, who works for the most part at Carnegie's Middle East center in Beirut, was somewhat more optimistic. But he said that while the U.S. continued commitment played a role, especially at convincing Iran that the U.S. wouldn't be leaving while Bush is still president, the chief hope for stability in Iraq arises from the active diplomacy of Saudi Arabia, which brought Iranian president Ahmadinejad to Riyadh for a non-nonsense chat and got a commitment that Iran would tone things down in Iraq and Lebanon both. Iran wants to dominate Iraq at the end of the day, but it doesn't want to rule it directly, and domination won't be especially useful if there's still a full-scale civil war going on. But read the whole thing.