An associate wrote an EMail about someone he knew who was originally from Iraq and recently returned for a two week visit with the family and is now back in the States. To paraphrase the EMail:
The person just got back from a visit to his/her middle class Shi'a family and told me almost exactly the same thing "Y" said in an earlier EMail--issues of political alliances being formed is old news. The returning person would be amazed that anyone thinks this is news. The biggest problem in Baghdad these days is the horrendous traffic jams. One comment was it felt strange because for two weeks they did not hear a single explosion.I don't take this to mean that things are perfect, but things are moving in the proper direction. I retain hope and look for continued change. Let us hope that we manage our troop draw down in a way that enhances the changes for long term political success for the Iraqis.
Maliki is very popular among nearly all groups and classes (remember when the US Iraqi gurus were depicting him as inept, a loser, weak, etc.). The traveler commented that the greatest proof of how things have changed is that the Iraqi penchant for continous complaining now centers on shopowner rudeness, poor service in restaurants, social climbing neighbors, etc.
Regards -- Cliff