United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will visit the Middle East tomorrow, two days after the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War.
Seeing a renewed dynamism in diplomacy in the Arab world, Ban will explore the UN role in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
He is expected to express his support for ongoing efforts to bring about peace and stability in Iraq, Lebanon and in the broader Middle East context.
Stability is nothing but a wild wish in Iraq, with sectarian tensions running high. The US-led war in Iraq has left the country and its people in conflict, bloodshed and tears.
When US casualties reached 2,000, a US military spokesman callously said this was "not a milestone" but "an artificial mark on the wall".
But grim numbers cannot be dismissed.
March 20 has turned out to be another statistic that cannot be devalued.
The fourth anniversary of the war, which was observed in the United States and Europe over the weekend, was an occasion not to celebrate but to protest and ponder.
The war was supposed to be brief, a five-stage plan: go in, topple the Saddam Hussein regime, find Saddam's destructive weaponry, rehabilitate Iraq and leave.
The first and second happened; the third was exposed as a bogus argument; the fourth can at best be described as work in progress; the fifth is not an option in the foreseeable future.
The situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point of internal collapse. All that the US-led security crackdown in Baghdad has achieved is forcing the insurgents farther afield.
This is the nature of a conflict that over four years has riven Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens and sent more than 3,000 Americans home in body bags.
The latest international efforts to find a more comprehensive way of stabilizing Iraq are moving in the right direction.
Next month Iraq, Syria, and Iran along with the US and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council will discuss ways to bring stability to Iraq.
Hopefully, diplomacy can now succeed where military might has failed.
(China Daily March 21, 2007)