Noting the U.S. military’s return of Anbar Province to Iraqi control, the Christian Science Monitor’s Sam Dagher reports from Fallujah:

This is a city literally rising from the ashes. While reminders of two major US assaults here in April and November 2004 are inescapable, signs of rebirth are plenty. Men in jumpsuits busily work on construction sites, sewers are being installed, and a hospital is nearly completed. …

In the past two years, a strategy of turning tribal leaders against [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] worked and led to a significant turnabout for the Americans.

Back in Baghdad, the news is equally promising. The Washington Post reports: “Iraq’s main Sunni Muslim political bloc is on the verge of rejoining the Shiite-led government after a nearly year-long boycott, a step widely seen as vital to reconciliation after years of sectarian conflict.”

The realities on the ground in Iraq are slowly penetrating Washington as well. A new assessment requested by Congress reports that the Iraqi government has met 15 of the 18 benchmarks Congress created to measure success in Iraq. Only two of the benchmarks — enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues — are unsatisfactory.

Even fierce critics of Bush administration policy in Iraq are beginning to acknowledge that promises from the left for rapid withdrawal are a mistake. Commenting on Sen. Barack Obama’s promise to immediately begin bringing U.S. troops home if he is elected, George Packer writes in The New Yorker: “He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq, re-energize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Moqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia’s recent losses to the Iraqi Army, and return the central government to a state of collapse.”

Packer then notes encouraging signs from Obama’s advisers:

Samantha Power, before she resigned from the campaign for making an indiscreet remark about Hillary Clinton, told the BBC, “He will, of course, not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a Presidential candidate or a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan — an operational plan — that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground.”

If Obama does become president, he will consult with surge architect Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. Speaking at Heritage before his assignment, Odierno highlighted the importance of securing victory in Iraq:

Let me close by emphasizing that there was much sacrifice to achieve these gains. Let us all nev­er forget those whose lives have been changed for­ever because of injuries and those who gave their lives fighting for the ideals of liberty as well as their loved ones. Their sacrifices were and are not in vain, and because of them the Iraqis have the right to choose their own destiny.

Quick Hits:

  • Sen. John McCain met with Colombia President Alvaro Uribe yesterday to promote a free trade agreement that Uribe says will help reduce coca cultivation in Colombia.
  • Thanks to the disastrous anti-trade policies of Argentina’s leftist government, once supportive Argentina farmers are trying to topple the Peronist government.
  • A video of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid telling Fox Business Network that “coal makes us sick” was the “most viewed” video on YouTube yesterday.
  • According to Rasmussen Reports, 48 percent of Americans say reducing gas prices is the best cure for the ailing economy, while 18 percent endorse a new stimulus plan.
  • Shortly after joining the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama received a discount on a $1.32 million mortgage that saves him $300 a month in mortgage payments.