Fundamentalist Shiites Will Dominate

Fundamentalist Shiites Will Dominate New Parliament
Secularists Lose Badly
Bush Poll Numbers on Iraq Fall

The American public is not in a mood to be swayed by mere speeches or yet more “milestones” like the election in Iraq. All the recent brouhaha has not improved Bush’s poll numbers.

As always, it is best to click on the link to poll results, which give a comparison between early December and more recently. A solid majority of 61 percent disapprove of his handling of the war in Iraq, and his rating on this matter has actually fallen two percentage points since early December. Likewise, more Americans (52%) think going to war in Iraq now was a mistake than thought so two weeks ago (48%).

Half of Americans think neither side is winning, and 9 percent think that the guerrillas are winning. Together, that makes 59% who think that the US is not winning. That is the key point. Bush had to convince them that the US is winning, or has the early prospect of winning. He failed. They don’t buy it.

The great publicity blitz and attempt to re-cast the Iraq problem as a resolvable one has fallen flat on its face.

The reason for this failure is the grim reality of ongoing guerrilla war in Iraq, with bombs going off all over the country and assassinations and attempted assassinations. Reuters summarizes for Monday, and I have rearranged and categorized:

“RAMADI – A U.S. Marine was killed by gunfire in Ramadi on Sunday, the U.S. military said on Monday.” ATTACK ON US MILITARY.

KIRKUK – Gunmen attacked offices of the Turkmen Front on Sunday in the northern city of Kirkuk. A guard was killed and three others wounded . . . ETHNIC UNCONVENTIONAL CIVIL WAR, PROBABLY BETWEEN TURKMEN (SUPPORTED BY TURKEY) AND THE KURDS, WHO WANT TO DOMINATE KIRKUK– AN OIL CITY. THIS CONFLICT COULD EASILY SPIN OUT OF CONTROL AND BECOME INTERNATIONAL.

“BAGHDAD – Gunmen opened fire on the convoy of Baghdad deputy governor Ziyad al-Zawbai in the southern Amil district of the city, police said. Three of his bodyguards were killed, al- Zawbai and his secretary were wounded.” ATTACK ON HIGH BAGHDAD OFFICIAL, DESPITE HIS BODYGUARDS. RELATIVELY SUCCESSFUL.

“BAGHDAD – An Iraqi police colonel escaped assassination when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives as the colonel’s convoy was passing in the Iskan district. Two civilians were killed. The colonel, two of his bodyguards and five civilians were wounded.” ATTACK ON NEW IRAQI POLICE– RELATIVELY SUCCESSFUL.

“BAGHDAD – Two children were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a minibus they were travelling in in the Mansour district . . .” PROBABLY A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY.

“BALAD – Gunmen killed two Iraqi contractors who were travelling to a U.S military base near Balad . . .” ATTACK ON THOSE IRAQIS CODED BY THE GUERRILLAS AS COLLABORATORS. SUCCESSFUL.

“MIQDADIYA – A car bomb exploded in Miqdadiya, a town 90 km northeast of Baghdad. Four civilians were wounded, one of them seriously. . .”

“BASRA – An adviser to the defence minister said he escaped assassination when a makeshift bomb went off near his convoy in the southern city of Basra. Three of his bodyguards were wounded.” ATTACK ON THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE, HEADED BY SUNNI SAADOUN DULAIMI. FAILED.

If these things were happening daily in Washington, Virginia and Maryland, Americans would freak out. Even just a little sniping paralyzed that area not so long ago. Americans know a war zone when they see one.

Al-Zaman reports continued popular anger over increases in fuel prices ordered by the outgoing government, from Basra to Mosul. Although fuel is still cheap in world terms, Iraqis are very poor and have no visible means of support, so a tripling of this basic cost hurts many of them very badly–especially in the winter. They also view it as a violation of a moral economy they thought they had with the government.

Al-Zaman is reporting early returns for Baghdad. The United Iraqi Alliance is reputed to have 58 percent there, with the Iraqi Concord Front (Sunni) getting 19 percent. Allawi brings up the rear with 14 percent, a disastrous performance given that his list seems to have done nothing anywhere else. The list will likely see its strength in parliament halved.

These results suggest a very strong position for the United Iraqi Alliance. There were [59]* seats at issue in Baghdad province, the largest single lot. If the UIA got 35-40 of them, that is a huge victory. Add those 35 to the likely 70 or so the UIA got in the solidly Shiite provinces, and you have 105. Another 8 in Babil and it is 113. A similar number in Diyala and you’d have 121. Then they may get some of the reserved seats when the reapportionment is done. They will be very close to having the 138 it needs to form a government. They can certainly pick up a few small allies and do it, perhaps without needing either the Sunnis or the Kurds (though they will need an initial coalition to gain the 2/3s needed to elect a president to appoint the prime minister).

In other words, the Shiite fundamentalist parties have won again. The secularists lost badly. Allawi and Chalabi are out of the game. The question is only whether the Shiites align with the Sunnis or the Kurds, or both. See Andrew Arato’s guest editorial if you want the details.


*corrected from 69, a slip of the memory

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