Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Well, What About the Whiskey and Sexy?

Back in May, I made mention of what was then a three-pronged plan to subvert the democratic process in Iraq being carried out by Prime Minister Maliki and his ruling coalition (the "Powers that Be," or "PTB"), with the backing of the Bush administration and US forces. A rough sketch of this plan is as follows (with more details and links available in the prior post):

1. Undertake military/police operations against the Sadrists and other Shiite and Sunni rivals in Basra, Sadr City, Amarah, Diyala and other regions in an effort to winnow the ranks of their respecitve constituencies, intimidate their followers and dislodge their leaders from government positions (with the last objective serving to faciliate fraud and other electoral malfeasance in upcoming elections).

2. Ban the Sadrists from participating in upcoming elections on the dubious grounds that no party that has a militia should be able to participate in elections (other than the parties of the PTB, and even other non-Sadrist parties that aren't PTB).

3. Implement a plan to stagger elections over several days in order to ensure "accurate" counting of ballots, despite objections made by many political factions that such a prolonged process would allow the vote counters more time and opportunity to manipulate the results.

Taking advantage of the success of the first step of the plan, Maliki and the PTB are, predictably, looking to consolidate their gains and ensure a strong performance in upcoming elections despite their dubious popular support:

Iraqi security forces loyal to the Shiite-led government are raiding voter registration centers and taking other steps to discourage participation in upcoming elections, says the head of Iraq's voting regulatory agency. [...]

A drive to register new voters is slated to end next week. However, only about 1 million people had registered as of Wednesday, a low turnout due partly to voter intimidation, according to Iraq's High Elections Commission.

"There are people who don't want these elections and the security forces are collaborating with these people in some places," said Faraj al-Haydari, the commission's chairman.

Opposition politicians such as Ali Hatem, a leader of a group of former insurgents known as the Sunni Awakening, accuse ruling parties of trying to sabotage the elections because they fear losing power.

Among recent incidents:

•Iraqi Army troops raided a registration center in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City and demanded a list of names and addresses of voters, al-Haydari said.

The area is the heart of support for anti-government Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The incident was confirmed by Iraqi Gen. Aiden Qader, the ministry of interior official responsible for election security.

Similar tactics have repeatedly occurred at another registration center in the Sunni-dominated city of Mada'in east of Baghdad, according to Mohammad al-Qinani, president of the Ayn Election Monitoring Network. His non-profit organization monitors 152 registration centers around the country.

•Iraqi troops have either removed, or allowed others to destroy, a large percentage of the 2 million posters distributed nationwide to publicize the registration effort, al-Haydari said.

As indicated by the nature of the incidents enumerated above, the range of anti-democratic actions is not limited to those targeting the Shiite rivals of Maliki/ISCI. Iraqi Security Forces are also being used to benefit the Sunni factions that recently returned to Maliki's government. I warned in April and July of this year that the the return of these Sunni factions could actually be a harbinger of the future subversion of democracy within the Sunni community - if the Sunni PTB's were conditioning their return to the Maliki coalition on Maliki's willingness let the ISF do for them what they were already doing for Maliki/ISCI vis-a-vis the Sadrists. Those concerns were well-founded. The risks for Iraq's long term stability are every bit as real now as they were when those prior admonitions were made:

"Well, what happens if the political system is rigged against those people? I think some of those people might return to violence," [Colin] Kahl said.

Ali Hatem...also predicted violence if the elections are perceived as unfair. A date for the provincial balloting has not yet been set by Iraq's parliament. But it is supposed to be held later this year.

"The governing parties have lost their popular base and they don't want these elections because they're going to lose," Hatem said.

"If there is any fraud in the next elections, Iraq will be a mess again," he said. "This time, we will use force to take control of things."

Well dip me in purple ink and plant me in the Rose Garden!

Then tell me again how the Surge succeeded, how the Iraq conflict is over, how we brought the magic of democracy to the benighted masses in Iraq and how the bright, shining exemplar (Iraq the Model, if you will) is going to inspire a succession of liberal democratic dominoes and, in so doing, extinguish the appeal of radicalism throughout the region.

Don't you know 9/11 changed everything, and we can no longer afford to prop up anti-democratic and unpopular regimes in the Muslim world.

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