Most critical for further political stability is a US military presence during this January's provincial elections, and then for important national elections in December 2009. The latter will help cement the Sunni minority's political stake in Iraq's democracy.
Pressure to approve the pact is driven by the Dec. 31, 2009 expiration of the UN mandate for the US-led occupation. A raucous, televised debate in parliament over ratifying the pact reveals just how much Sunnis still expect of a Shiite-led government.
While the agreement could pass with only pro-government lawmakers, Iraq's future would be more secure if a broad consensus were reached. That may require side-deals by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to further accommodate Sunni demands, such as more representation in government.
US pressure is still needed to help the Sunnis and Kurds find a larger role and resolve difficult problems, such as control of the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk.
But if the pact is approved, it will signify that Iraq is on an equal footing with the US, claiming sovereignty, independence, and a clear rejection of terrorism.
While this rebirth may not ring with historic drama as a decisive military battle might, it signals the blossoming of a religiously tolerant and democratic Muslim state in a region that could use such a model of "soft power." For that, the US effort may have been worth it despite post-invasion mistakes.