Tuesday, December 27, 2005

This Won't Help

I hate to be the prophet of doom and gloom around here, but lately the facts just haven't let me give in to unbridled optimism. Yes, Iraq held elections two weeks ago, and that was a beautiful spectacle to behold and praise, but it seems that every day since the elections has brought a new wrinkle in the Iraqi political/insurgency dynamic that doesn't bode well for the future. As some overly triumphant corners of the blogosphere are wont to overlook, elections, on their own, are less important than the underlying political realities.

First, there were the early results from the preliminary voting tabulations which indicated that the UIA has done quite well again, at the expense of the secular Shiite and Sunni parties - with the latter two groups forming a tentative alliance and threatening a boycott of the government most likely for the purpose of either forcing a new election, nullifying certain of the election's results due to the alleged fraud and tampering or, in the alternative, pressuring the ruling Shiites to make concessions when apportioning seats/cabinet positions in the upcoming government.

As Matt Yglesias has noted, the insurgencies have resumed conducting attacks with pre-election levels of ferocity - proving that there is nothing preventing a "bullets and ballots" approach for Iraq's Sunni population. Part of the "by every means necessary" approach. The Sunni population's willingness to pursue this bifurcated strategy makes finding a broadly satisfactory political solution as important as ever because without one, the violence will no doubt continue.

On Friday, Nancy A. Youssef and Huda Ahmed of Knight-Ridder reported on what will undoubtedly be an additional grievance for the Sunnis/Secular Shiites on the heels of their charges of fraud and tampering:

An Iraqi court has ruled that some of the most prominent Sunni Muslims who were elected to parliament last week won't be allowed to serve because officials suspect that they were high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.[...]

The ruling is likely to dampen Bush administration hopes that the election would bring more of the disaffected Sunni minority into Iraq's political process and undermine Sunni support for the insurgency. Instead, the decision is likely to stoke fears of widening sectarian divisions in a nation already in danger of descending into civil war.

Adil al-Lami, the chief electoral official of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, told Knight Ridder that he would honor the court's decision and that none of the accused Sunnis would appear on the final list of parliament members.[...]

But preliminary results showed that some of the prominent Sunni politicians on the list had likely won seats. Among those who could lose their seats are: Adnan al-Janabi, the second-highest ranking member of the constitutional committee and a top candidate on U.S.-backed former prime minister Ayad Allawi's slate, and Rasem al-Awadi, a National Assembly member and also on Allawi's slate. Five members of the Iraqi Accord Front, the principal Sunni electoral slate, also were on the list.

Saleh Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni politician, said that the ruling would agitate already frustrated Sunnis who are questioning the validity of the elections.

"The streets will tell you their reaction," Mutlaq said.
The article notes that the overzealous de-Baathification was the work of the eponymous committee set up by Paul Bremer at the behest of people like Ahmad Chalabi and others. Apparently, Zal Khalilzad is less enthusiastic about the committee's work than some of his predecessors and has pointed out that "there have been abuses" with respect to some of the committee's purges. Zal also noted that at this point, reconciliation should trump score settling and power grabs. Hopefully, someone is listening because this court order is only going to exacerbate the Sunni population's perception of powerlessness, persecution and marginalization. Regardless of the truth of these perceptions, or the historical context of the Baath Party's savagery, it is best to try to avoid disqualifying popularly elected Sunni politicians. It's just not an effective strategy for coaxing the Sunni population to buy into the political process as an alternative to the insurgencies. To say the least.

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