America's catastrophic involvement with Iraq is drawing to a close. It has been a fiasco on a colossal scale - devastating for Iraq, immensely costly for the US and destabilising for the entire region.
Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki says the US combat troops will leave Iraq by June 30 next year and all other US troops by December 31 2011. That, at least, is the substance of the draft security pact he will present to his government and to the Iraqi parliament for ratification. Its implementation will inevitably need US approval as well. It may not, however, be too early to draw up a provisional balance-sheet of the Iraq war.
* Iraq has been shattered. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and more than 4.5 million driven into exile, or been internally displaced by the Sunni-Shia civil war, triggered by the US invasion. Material destruction has been incalculable.
*The Shi'ites (60 per cent of the population) have replaced the Sunnis (20 per cent) as the dominant community in government and in the army and security services. But sectarian passions have by no means cooled and Iraq's future as a united country remains in doubt.
*The Kurds have achieved virtual autonomy but dare not move towards full independence for fear of a Turkish invasion. Their hopes of including in their domain the oil-rich region of Kirkuk are unlikely to be realised.
*The destruction of Iraq has upset the regional power balance to the great benefit of Iran, which has emerged as the leading power in the Gulf region, able to extend its influence into Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
*The US armed services have suffered the loss of 4,300 men killed and another 40,000 wounded. The financial cost of the war has been put at several trillion dollars. The damage to America's reputation and to its moral and political authority has been severe.
*The US ambition to turn Iraq into a regional ally - allowing it to project power far and wide from permanent bases in Iraq - seems doomed. The vast US embassy under construction in Baghdad - the largest in the world, the size of Vatican City - is likely to remain a white elephant.
*Israel and its friends pressed hard for the destruction of ex-president Saddam Hussein's regime in order to remove any Arab threat to Israel from the East. This ambition was realised, and the Arab world correspondingly weakened. Apparently unforeseen, however, was that the rise of Iran would create an enemy of the Jewish state more formidable than Iraq ever was. Israeli efforts to get the US to attack Iran have so far been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Iraqi nationalism seems to be making a timid resurgence, encouraged by swelling oil income and the increased confidence of the Iraqi armed services. Iraq is shortly to take control of Al Anbar Province from American troops, a highly symbolic transfer of power since this vast but sparsely populated province, largely inhabited by Sunni tribes, was the fief of Al Qaeda.
Another sign of Iraqi resurgence is the recent oil agreement with the China National Petroleum Company said to be worth $3billion (BD1.134bn) - the first such agreement with a foreign oil company since the 2003 invasion.
Many problems remain, however, including the vexed question of the tense relations between Maliki's essentially Shia government and the Sunni tribal Al Sahwa ('Awakening') movement, organised, financed and armed by the US to fight Al Qaeda.
This network of local militias - each man receiving $300 a month from the US - now boasts some 100,000 members. It is beginning to be seen as a dangerous rival to the government's forces, which have recently moved against Al Sahwa, arresting hundreds of its most prominent members. A government's pledge to incorporate into the national army 20 per cent of these 'Sons of Iraq' - as they like to call themselves - seems unlikely to be realised.