High Turnout Expected as Iraqis go to Polls
The guerrillas got off some mortars as voting began Thursday in Iraq, one striking the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad where the government offices are. A mortar was also fired in Mosul at a polling station but appears to have missed. A huge bomb was found and disarmed in Fallujah. On the Jan. 30 elections there were numerous attacks that left dozens wounded or dead, but they did not deter a big turnout.
From all accounts,the voter turnout is likely to be good, given that more Sunni Arabs are going to the polls this time than last. Still, a lot of polling stations could not open in Anbar Province, a severe problem for the legitimacy of the voting outcome. (Aboveboard elections of a sort that can be internationally certified require that security permit people throughout the country to vote if they want to.)
The LA Times probably reflects the thinking of a lot of Americans in hoping that these elections are a milestone on the way to withdrawing US troops from Iraq. I cannot imagine why anyone thinks that. The Iraqi “government” is a failed state. Virtually no order it gives has any likelihood of being implemented. It has no army to speak of and cannot control the country. Its parliamentarians are attacked and sometimes killed with impunity. Its oil pipelines are routinely bombed, depriving it of desperately needed income. It faces a powerful guerrilla movement that is wholly uninterested in the results of elections and just wants to overthrow the new order. Elections are unlikely to change any of this.
The only way in which these elections may lead to a US withdrawal is that they will ensconce parliamentarians who want the US out on a short timetable. Virtually all the Sunnis who come in will push for that result (which is why the US Right is silly to be all agog about Fallujans voting), and so with the members of the Sadr Movement, now a key component of the Shiite religious United Iraqi Alliance. That is, these elections lead to a US withdrawal on terms unfavorable to the Bush administration. Nor is there much hope that a parliament that kicked the US out could turn around and restore order in the country.
William Rivers Pitt is good on the contradictory desires in the Iraqi public with regard to the future, as revealed by the recent ABC/Time poll.
ABC News is shocked, shocked to discover that the Pentagon is doing propaganda in Iraq via the Lincoln Group.
The Bush administration has finally turned reconstruction projects in Iraq over to the State Department, taking them from the Department of Defense. Defense had had little experience in this area, and much of the money given it for this purpose has been wasted or, frankly, embezzled. Putting State in charge was something I called for in my April, 2004, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This MSNBC article quotes Republican strategist Vin Weber as saying that the change “a logical move and is part of a long term decision about eventually withdrawing from Iraq.” I see. So when Bush was not planning to withdraw, he gave reconstruction to the Pentagon. It really was a reassertion of colonialism, wasn’t it?
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Jalal Talabani says he won’t accept a second term as president if the office remains, as it is now, largely ceremonial.
Iyad Allawi, the ex-Baathist secularist, warned the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (which controls 11 of Iraq’s 18 provincial governments) against vote tampering.
Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, admits that the Kurds have all along been very uncomfortable with their parliamentary alliance with the Shiite UIA.
Many observers are hoping that in the new parliament, a coalition of Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and ex-Baathist secularists can outmaneuver the religious Shiites and gain 51% of the seats.
I keep pointing out that it is also possible for the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance to align with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party on many issues, producing a pan-Islamist coalition. We’ll see.