Thursday, March 04, 2010

More on Iraqi Elections

We're getting down to the last few days before the critically-important elections in Iraq. There are some good articles in the news lately. Today, there's a New York Times article on a Shiite candidate for office. He used to be the #2 guy to Muqtada al-Sadr, who led an extremely violent Shiite faction during the worst of the fighting. This gent has tons of blood on his hands, but the Shiite-led election commission is perfectly happy to have him run for, and probably win, a seat in Parliament. Meanwhile, as described in another New York Times article, they've kicked 515 mostly Sunni candidates off the ballots. The claim is that they had ties to the Ba'ath party. However, that's like kicking somebody off the ballots in Russia because they once had ties to the Communist party. The Shia are using every means at their disposal to rig the elections to their benefit. That's normally just politics, but here in Iraq, politics have blood consequences. If the Sunnis feel like they've been robbed, then there's no doubt in my mind that there will be violence. The question is: how much? Nobody really knows at this point.

Meanwhile, Iran is steadily increasing its clout. They send books to libraries and blankets to the poor and build good will. We build libraries, housing, power plants, sewer systems, fresh water systems, schools, markets, roads, and thousands of other projects worth billions of dollars and are derided as hated occupiers. Although Iran is wielding more influence over Shia politicians, they both take pains to keep it quiet. Iraq and Iran have a long and turbulent history and the people's memories of the war in the 80's, which left a million dead, is still pretty fresh.

One of the dangers of an increasing Iranian influence is that Sunni-led nations like Saudi Arabia will step up their efforts to arm and support Iraqi Sunnis. They're already involved to some extent (not officially: there is no Saudi embassy in Iraq) and are stirring the pot.

Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is, of course, taking advantage of the situation. Al Qaeda is associated with Sunnis and is using the spector of a Shiite takeover of government to try to build its base. Most people don't buy into AQI's extremist views, but if they feel disenfranchised, then there could very well be an increase in AQI support and violence. They launched a nasty, triple-suicide bomb attack in Baquba yesterday that killed over 30 people. We'll see more in the next few days.

So where does that leave us right now? Watching, waiting, and pretty much holed up on our bases. We've already got a pretty low profile, but now the US military and civilian organizations have virtually eliminated our presence outside the wire. We do not want to give any impression that we're doing anything to influence the elections.

Unlike American elections, the outcome of Sunday's voting won't be known for quite a while. I'm hearing maybe the 18th. Since Iraq has a parliamentary style of government, they'll have to form coalitions for the government to function. Since this is Iraq, it'll take forever and will be very, very messy.

I'm due to leave here at the end of April. They might have something in place by then.

1 comment:

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/04/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.