Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: The Association of Muslims Scholars, a hardline Sunni clerical group, announced that it rejects the legitimacy of the elections, insofar as they were conducted under the shadow of occupation. AMS spokesman Umar Raghib disputed the reports of a high election turnout, especially in Sunni Arab areas. He said that turnout was low in Ramadi, Mosul and elsewhere. He maintained that “the popular base for the popular rejection of the Occupation is expanding.”
Az-Zaman reports that 150,000 angry Iraqi Christians in Ninevah Province came out to protest on Monday. The ballot boxes arrived in their areas too late on Sunday, and they say they were promised that they could vote until 10 am Monday to give them time to cast the ballots. In the end, however, the Electoral Commission declined to make an exception for them, and they just won’t get to vote. Iraqi Christians have been the victims of terrorist attacks, many have emigrated, and many fear Kurdish control over their regions.
Turkmen and other groups in Mosul also bitterly complained that often ballot boxes did not arrive in time, or at all, depriving thousands of the franchise.
The Turkish government is clearly very worried about possible Kurdish control of the oil city of Kirkuk.
Whether the Bush administration can take a hint and begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq when a new, sovereign parliament is seated, the coalition of the willing is not willing to overstay its welcome. Hungary has already decamped, and Holland, the Ukraine, Poland and others are drawing down their troops or leaving altogether.
I suggested on the Lehrer News Hour on Monday that now would be a good time for the Coalition forces to simply withdraw from Basra province. There don’t seem to me to be the kind of violent incidents in Basra that require the British presence. Surely the Iraqi forces could deal with it, especially since the Shiites of the south are likely to be loyal to an elected government blessed by Grand Ayatollah Sistani. If foreign troops were removed from Basra, it would be an important step toward full resumption of sovereignty by Iraq.
My article on Iraqi politics after the elections, “The Shiite Earthquake”, is up at Salon.com.
Radical Islamist violence is spilling over into Kuwait. This is a worrisome development. There are rumors that the guerrillas in Iraq are selling their munitions abroad, and one wonders if the turmoil in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq is beginning to spill over onto neighbors.
More comments on the election by me in an interview with David Crumm of the Detroit Free Press.
Robin Wright of the Washington Post, among American journalism’s canniest observers of the Middle East scene, covers the controversy over Bush’s statement on the Iraq elections. She kindly quoted me:
‘ Analysts also noted that the Bush administration initially resisted the idea of holding elections this soon and only succumbed under pressure from Iraq’s most powerful cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The original plan, designed by then-U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, was a complicated formula of regional caucuses to select a national government, which would write a constitution, and then hold the elections. “It was Sistani who demanded one-person, one-vote elections. So to the extent it’s a victory, it’s a victory for Iraqis. The Americans were maneuvered into having to go along with it,” said Juan Cole, an Iraq expert at the University of Michigan. ‘
I’m told Paul Begala quoted the passage on Crossfire. I only bring it up because I think this sort of episode shows the way information is circulating between the blogging world and traditional media.
Speaking of various media, gluttons for punishment can find my recent appearance on C-Span here on the Web.
Apparently I even have views on Squarepants Spongebob, who I am sure is straight.