(how is the level of violence in Baghdad today? Can you walk the streets today?) Yes, we can walk the streets and Iraqis are walking the streets. When the fast is broken for Ramadan in the evening, you see families out at restaurants and cafes. The biggest transformation has been in cities like Basra, Iraq's second largest city. There are still challenges. Mosul in the north, Diyala province in the east continue to experience attacks, and I have no doubt that extremist groups, if they have a chance to get back they'll take it. (What do you attribute the positive factors to?) There are a number of factors: the surge is the central one because the knowledge that gave to Iraqis that we're pursuing a policy aimed at protection gave them the courage to also stand up to these groups. And then Iraqis started standing up to radicalism as well. (If the two are so tied together, the question of course is what happens as U.S. forces pull back?) this is a time of transition in Iraq and one of the elements of that transition does involve the Sons of Iraq and the Awakening Council. The Iraqi government will start paying them instead of the U.S. military and that's very big. I think the dominant concern is that the Iraqi government will not embrace them but so far the signs are positive in that regard. There are any number of lynchpins out there but this is certainly one of them. (Have you talked to the Iraqi government and tried to push them in the direction of supporting these Awakening Councils?) We have had many conversations with the Iraqi government at all levels and I have to say the Iraqi government clearly understands the importance of this and they're not about to put that at risk. (President Bush has been characterized as being disappointed by the lack of gratitude of the Iraqi people for the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Have you ever heard that from Bush?) Bush has sustained his faith in a new Iraq. The President wants to see a stable, developing, democratic Iraq, and it's not a question of gratitude. The real issue is the effort to see this country come together. (In late 2002 you wrote a memo that warned of ethnic and sectarian upheaval in Iraq if the U.S. were to go in. looking back on that, are you disappointed your words weren't adhered to?) Nice try, Lisa. I'm a carrer foreign service officer and my job is to analyze situations but I don't make policy. My job is to advise.

Related Stories