The capture of Saddam Hussein is being presented by the coalition as a turning point for Iraq leading to reconciliation and political stability.
The hope is that after months of armed resistance, the political will of the violent opposition can be broken, followed by its military defeat. It remains to be seen if this is too optimistic.
Saddam's capture is the moment coalition forces had been working for
Part of the approach will be to put Saddam Hussein on trial in front of an Iraqi court so that justice can be seen to be done by Iraqis. A tribunal for former Baathists was announced by the Iraqi Governing Council only last week.
The unspoken hope, too, is that reconciliation within Iraq can lead to a diplomatic detente in the wider world, thereby improving both the international and domestic positions of US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Themes from Bremer
The themes were evident in the statement from the US administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer.
After, for him, an uncharacteristic moment of triumphalism in which he melodramatically declared "We got him!", he made a much more thoughtful attempt to capitalise on the moment.
"With the arrest of Saddam Hussein, there is a new opportunity for the members of the former regime to end their bitter opposition," he told Iraqis.
"Let them now come forward in a spirit of reconciliation and hope, lay down their arms, and join you, their fellow citizens, in the task of building the new Iraq."
Unsmiling George Bush
President Bush had no smile on his face when he made his comments, whatever he might have been feeling inside.
Instead, his talk, too, was about a new stage: "All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq," he said.
The same point was made in his statement by Tony Blair, who had just spoken to President Bush.
"The shadow of Saddam has finally lifted from the Iraqi
people," he said. "We give thanks for that, but let this be more
than a case simply for rejoicing. Let it be a moment to reach
out and reconcile."
And speaking in deliberately measured tones, Mr Blair also sent a message to Muslims
"The rebirth of Iraq is the death of the attempt to sell the lie that we are fighting Muslims. Muslims were Saddam's victims," he said.
A great deal now depends on how the next stages are handled.
Suddenly, things are looking brighter for the coalition and its supporters in Iraq.
But everyone remembers the euphoria at the end of the war itself.
The tone this time is more cautious. They dare not show their real feelings of satisfaction.
Cult of personality
In assessing the impact of his capture, it is important to remember the domination of Iraq by this one man over 25 years.
The force of his presence and the brutality of his rule ensured that normal politics vanished while a cult of personality developed and war was waged against his own citizens and against his country's neighbours.
He embarked on a weapons programme which saw him develop chemical and biological agents and which, if left unchecked, would have seen him in possession of a nuclear bomb.
Even though the American-led invasion removed him from command, it did not wholly remove him from influence. His spirit hung over the Iraqi people like a ghost in a Shakespeare play.
Saddam's sons were vulnerable to being given away
His capture was probably only a matter of time. That became clear when his two sons Uday and Qusay were killed in the northern town of Mosul in July.
The only surprising thing is that he has been captured and not killed.
He was found in a hole in a house far away from the centres of power.
He was bearded and dishevelled. He did not fight back. He has been humiliated.