October 16, 2005:
The government is getting better at running national elections under the threat of terrorist attacks. The legislative elections lastJanuary had fewer than ten million people voting, and over 40 people killed by terrorists opposed to the elections. This vote, on the new constitution, brought out over ten million (69 percent of those registered), and left fewer than ten dead. There are several reasons for this progress. First, the government is getting better. There are more police, and more of them are trained and reliable. The government has used its experience well, and the country was basically shut down for yesterday's election, making it difficult for terrorists to move around. And apparently the terrorists did not move much, and attacked even less. But another reason for that was the effort by many Sunni Arab anti-government groups to get Sunni Arabs to vote against the new constitution. If the three mainly Sunni Arab provinces could get two thirds of the voters to go against the new constitution, the constitution would have to go back for more revisions and a new vote. Many Sunni Arabs decided that they could live with the new constitution, and turned out to vote that way. As a result, it appears that the Sunni Arabs did not stop the constitution.
All of this is another major defeat for the al Qaeda and anti-government forces. These two groups have not been able to stop any elections, and their efforts are weaker with each round of voting. Al Qaeda's efforts to goad the Shia Arabs into a civil war with Sunni Arabs has not worked either, although it has caused a lot of ill-will and violence in areas where Shia and Sunni live close together.
The anti-government forces have little to sustain them. The October 15 election was just another of many major defeats. And every day, there are numerous lesser defeats. But some of the Sunni Arab terrorists will keep at it, and it will be years before this threat is completely gone from Iraq. That's been the pattern in other Arab countries over the past few decades.